I spent the greater part of my childhood actively fearing the end of the world. It began at my first Christian concert.
My friend David invited me to his church’s screening of the brand new VeggieTales movie about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – aptly rebranded for children as “Rack, Shack, and Benny.” For those of you unaware of this Christian cultural phenomenon, VeggieTales was (and still is) a hugely successful show for children which takes Bible stories and re-enacts them with animated fruits and vegetables to comedic and soulful effect. It was a perfect plan for a Saturday afternoon. David and I usually spent our weekends playing video games (Metal Gear Solid, if you remember), so we were long overdue for an outing. They popped popcorn and gave it to us kiddos – but we weren’t allowed to bring it into the sanctuary, where the viewing would take place. And as the sun set, so lights came down, and we watched.
The silly songs… the heartfelt message… the dancing veggies…
The lights came up, and the portly pastor told us that the tour bus was waiting out in the back for anyone who would be joining in for the “main event,” as he described it. I turned to David, who shrugged. We turned to our neighbor – “We’re going to the Promise Keepers concert. [A Christian band I can’t possibly remember] is playing. It’s like 12 bucks. Back by midnight.”
I used the church secretary’s phone first to call my Mom. She had no issues – I needed to graciously borrow the cash, and knock loudly on the door when I got back. David’s parents didn’t “give a crap,” according to him. And we were off to The Spectrum.
Nosebleed seats, but we didn’t care. I leaned over the railing and looked at the heads below. David dared me to spit over the edge, but I said no. He gave me a piece of popcorn still stuck in his jacket pocket, and I threw that. It missed, and no one noticed.
The band only played a few songs – all praise songs, meant to be sung together with arms raised. And then they thanked us all and left the stage. Even at 13-years-old, with my limited concert experience, it felt short and certainly not worth the 12 bucks. Then, the speaker stepped out, dressed full on in black with a strap on microphone hanging at the side of his mouth. I didn’t know this, but “Christian concert” actually meant “church service in a stadium” (a true phenomenon – most concert tours with Christian bands feature a sermon). I thought this would be a good time to go get a hotdog, but one of the leaders shushed and pushed – back to your seat.
He immediately dug into the Rapture and how the end of the world would unfurl. He started in Jeremiah, where the first prophecies stood, then a passage in Daniel, then some so-and-so signs in Matthew, and then on to Revelation. A giant black-and-white clock hung above the stage, inching closer to midnight with each passage he read. We marveled at the megalith tick-tocking right in front of us, wondering its purpose. He wrapped it up once we hit the faux midnight – times almost up, he said. Where will you end up when the world comes to an end?
I did not realize until later that this was a cheesy rip off of the “real” Doomsday Clock – which scientists use as a representation to show how close we are to global destruction (it currently sits at three minutes to midnight). But anyway, this notion scared the shit out of me. I instantly became obsessed with this idea, that without warning, it all could just end, straight into the Judgment Day. How did a night that began with dancing vegetables end with the weight of the world on my shoulders? Church. That’s how.
I imagine that the men and women of Jeremiah had the same feeling…
While this may feel like the apocalypse to our Jeremiah-era Bible characters, we all know that it isn’t even close. Let’s just wait for Revelations for the real thing…