Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Leftovers' Promotional Song, Retrograde by James Blake (video), and What is The Rapture?

If you're haunted by the song played in HBO's promotion of its new drama The Leftovers, I'm not surprised. James Blake's Grammy-nominated song, "Retrograde," has that eerie, otherworldly, and soulful wail that may appeal to those with mystical leanings. And the video for the song seems as apocalyptic as the premise of The Leftovers itself. The story focuses on a small town years after the world experiences a "rapture-like" event.

Rapture-like means that the event in the television show will not be quite same event as the Christian belief it alludes to, "The Rapture." The Rapture is a prophecy in the New Testament of the Bible that some sects of Christianity embrace (usually sects who believe in a literal interpretation of scripture). But even among literalists or fundamentalist Christians, the Rapture doctrine remains controversial.

If you've ever watched movies about the Christian apocalypse featuring Armageddon and the Antichrist, then you may have already heard of The Rapture. Also, if you're old enough to recall the popular Left Behind book and movies series of the mid 1990s, then you may already be familiar with the concept or belief. But if you've never been to a church that teaches this prophecy,
you'll find the associated scripture I Thessalonials 4:13-18:
(13) But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.

In that passage, Paul first tells believers that those who die in Christ (sleep in Jesus) will rise again and return to Earth with Jesus. You may have heard that part before, "the resurrection of the dead." The stickier part comes in the next four verses, 15-18. Paul writes that when Jesus returns, people will hear an archangel shout and a trumpet blast. Dead believers will rise from their graves (No, not like zombies), and those believers who have not died will be snatched up, too, following them to be with Jesus. After that all hell breaks loose on Earth, and those left behind will endure the reign of terror of the Four Horsemen, the reign of the Antichrist, Armageddon, and destruction over a seven-year period called The Great Tribulation.

The Leftovers, however, complicates this belief, creating greater tension. In the show, two percent of the world's population vanishes, but the circumstances otherwise do not fit with typical beliefs of the Christian Rapture. It's not even clear that the disappearance has anything to do with any god or religion, and those left behind have to deal with with the loss and a disruption of their belief system, whatever it may be. The television show is based on a novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta.

If you watch this show, which premiers next week, June 29, on HBO, and expect it to follow traditional speculation about The Rapture, then  you'll be disappointed. But if you're one of many people fascinated by end-of-the-world scenarios or dystopian tales, then tune in.

I'm contemplating whether or not to recap the show each week with commentary. Recaps take up a lot of time, but we'll see. The show could, after all, be a dud.

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