Blood Moons and End Times

Blood moons are spectacular.  We mark our calendars and stay up late to watch them. For some of us, they are magnificent celestial displays with an explanation grounded in science.  But for Christians who read the Bible literally, blood moons are signs that humans are about to face the wrath of an angry God—a signal that the “End Times” are surely upon us as prophesied in the Book of Revelation:

12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (KJV)

Three Reactions to Blood Moons

As one who grew up steeped in the culture of such Christians and who heard many sermons about the moon “turning to blood,” I witnessed three kinds of reactions.

Those who viewed themselves as saved and standing in the grace of God accepted without question—with a resignation either joyful or weary or anxious—that God’s return to judge the living and the dead was imminent.  They spoke the truth as they’d heard it all their lives, but their eyes sometimes reflected the fear they tried to hide.

Some of those in the pews who had not yet been saved listened in terror, their eyes filled with a fear in direct proportion to the persuasiveness of the preacher who stood before them.  When the pastor invited them to the altar, they either jumped from their seats and ran to the altar or squirmed uncomfortably and then shuffled to the altar.  The end result was the same.  They now believed they had been saved from the fate they otherwise might suffer.

Some people, though, sat stock still in their seats, eyes filled with the sorrow of knowing they could never accept the inconsistencies of a Bible they’d either read or heard about all their lives.  A few of them actually got up during the prayer before the altar call and left the church.  Others managed to make it to the end of the service and left the church thinking that the damnation of their souls was inevitable.

The Real Danger of Moons that Turn to Blood

Though I long ago left that world behind for a church that does not read the Bible literally and that welcomes those who struggle with the questions it raises, I have a special affinity for the those people who fear for their mortal souls.

My mother was one of them.  In the years before she died, we often talked about how hard it was to free oneself from a lifetime of flawed theology.  Though she knew on an intellectual level that it made no sense for God to send a woman to hell who sang hymns as she worked, believed in God with all her heart, and followed the example Christ set more than most Christians I knew, she lived with the fear of eternal damnation all her life.  When I tried to reason with her, she wanted desperately to believe me, but she said, “It’s really, really hard to let go of something that’s been beaten into you every day of your childhood.”

What’s even more sad is that she believed she may have caused the damnation of her children’s souls.  When one of my brothers died of an opioid overdose, she agonized and told me that she wished she’d taken us to church and was happy that I’d found my way on my own.

I was thankful she didn’t live to see the death of a second of my brothers in a car accident that resulted after using heroin. He was her youngest child, and he tried valiantly to free himself from addiction.  He found his way to a megachurch that rescued him from homelessness after his release from jail for stealing money to buy heroin.  But he couldn’t accept the church’s teaching, and in the months leading up to his death, when I tried to convince him that not everyone viewed God as the fundamentalists did, he told me, “Well, if there is a God, he must hate me.”

Who Will Save Them from the Blood Moon?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that third group of people in the wake of this week’s blood moon.  When I have the opportunity to hear their stories, I will try to share the Good News with them, just as I did with my mother and my brothers.

I get impatient with former fundamentalists who turn their backs and walk away, refusing to engage in a conversation because they think it will turn into a futile argument.  I also get impatient with lifelong progressives who dismiss as stupid all those who can’t walk away from a literal interpretation of holy texts.

I’ve learned that I can ask questions, even of the people in the first category, who trust that they’ll be safe from the “wrath of the Lamb” in the last days:

  1. We grew up in farming country. Have you ever seen an angry lamb?
  2. Do you know that there have been many blood moons since Christ walked the earth—that there already have been two in just the last five years?

Just this week I asked a cousin the last question. This is the question he asked me in response:  “Is your weather cold enough for you?”

I smiled.  There was a time when he and I might have gotten angry with each other. Now I like to think that we’ve come to a place where we can at least hear each other and move on.  And I know that some of our damaged friends and relatives who have witnessed our conversations on social media have now heard a message that I only heard because I was fortunate enough to stumble into a church with a different approach to faith.

The pastor there took the time to hear my anguish and to say to me gently that there was nothing wrong with leaving a church and finding another way to God.  Even more importantly, years later, when my father died and I was trying to work my way through my anger at evangelicals, the pastor said to me with a smile, “You know, that church is part of what’s made you who you are, and that’s not such a bad thing, is it?”

I’m thankful for a pastor who helped me realize this:  My cousin and I both grew up hearing about the same wrathful God—he even moreso because his father was a preacher who taught him every day of his life to read the Bible literally.  Since then, our faith journeys have taken very different paths, but we share a bond of blood that can’t be severed like an artery because of debates about blood moons.

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