Members of Generation X (b. 1961-81) who were raised in typical, conservative, Evangelical churches in the late 60s and 70s (especially older Xers), grew up on a steady diet of rapture sermons, songs, and even film. I was born in 1967, and somewhere between three and five-years-old, I sang my first special in church. It was The King is Coming:
The marketplace is empty
No more traffic in the streets
All the builders tools are silent
No more time to harvest wheat
Busy housewives cease their labor
In the courtroom no debate
Work on earth is all suspended
As the King comes through the gate…
Accidentally Taking The Sign of the Beast: 666
By the 4th grade, I knew the difference between being a premillennialist and a postmillennialist. In addition to worrying about such things as my first kiss and whether or not I would be the last girl be able to write I Got It! on a note to my best friend (if you don’t get the reference you didn’t read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret) I also had serious concerns about the tribulation and Armageddon. My brother and I had fantastic conversations about what would happen if we accidentally took the sign of the beast.
Nothing could awaken these fears in me more than the song, I Wish We’d All Been Ready, which was written by Larry Norman, the “father of Christian rock music.” The hippie-rapture/end-of-times song was on Norman’s 1969 album, Upon This Rock. Norman, who was part of the Jesus movement within the hippie culture of the 60s and 70s likened the album to a streetfight. The song was re-recorded in the 90s by DC Talk.
I first remember hearing the song when I was about three or four years old. It was also in a songbook tucked inside our piano bench. It was right underneath Dottie Rambo wearing an orange dress. Her picture appeared on the cover of some sheet music for Remind Me Dear Lord.
Sometimes, I’d lift the lid to the piano bench and I’d take out the 70s songbook and read the apocalyptic lyrics to Norman’s song:
Life was filled with guns and war and all of us got trampled on the floor…
Two men walking up a hill, one disappears and one left standing still…
Children died, the days grew cold, a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold…
I wish we’d all been ready…
End Time Prophecy
I spent a lot of time thinking about hell during my childhood and hoping my latest transgression wouldn’t carry me there before I could repent and get saved again. This was weird, but I think my experience was typical for the majority of kids who attended Evangelical churches during the 60s and 70s. We talked a lot about Bible prophecies and signs of the end times, but I rarely heard sermons preached from the Book of Revelation.
In 1985, my friend Eric died in a tragic car accident. We sang a popular hymn, I Know Whom I Have Believed, at his funeral. It is based on a passage of Scripture in Timothy. I didn’t realize then how relevant and poignant it was. So, I caught up with his sister on Facebook recently, and a few weeks ago, she mentioned that it was his birthday. I left her a note about this hymn and how much it has meant to me over the last 10 years since coming to understand exactly what it means. We do not keep our commitment to God. He keeps it. All the years I grew up singing this hymn, I never knew this. I’m very glad I know it now.
I know whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.
Yesterday, we put up the kiddie pool for the kids. I connected the outside speakers to the stereo and got back at my neighbors for all their annoying hot tub parties and barking dogs. JUST KIDDING! I played Nicole C. Mullen’s Redeemer and while the kids splashed in the pool I worshipped the Everlasting from a place of gratitude and love, not hell and fear.
The Demons Dined
Here is a video somebody put together that features a bunch of sad and violent images put to a remake of I Wish We’d All Been Ready. The part about the husband and wife being separated and the demons dining scared the bejeebers out of me. Now, you know why I went to the altar every single Sunday of my life. There’s no way, I was taking any chances. Seriously, I thought about the Second Coming, the end of the world, and rapture almost every day. It was not exactly a Disneyland childhood.
Photo Credit: A sign of New Mexico’s former route 666 by Random Factor via Flickr.