Rapture

Like the earth itself, Al Gore seems to be taking a lot of heat lately. Perhaps this is because folks on the left are not supposed to talk about the End Of The World. Maybe it is the particular means of apocalypse that is so disturbing to Gore’s critics: Humans are usurping the divine right to end it all, and, worse, they are doing it in the one way that has been explicitly ruled out in Scripture. Does this eschatological trend signal a disturbing theology of the trickster God who promises not to bring about another flood, but then mischievously stands by while we gradually accrue the power to bring it on ourselves?

Walking along the beach this morning here in Balboa, California (approximately six feet above the current sea level), I was thinking a bit about the Rapture — or, rather, about the extended millennialism that seems to have captured both the Red and Blue popular imaginations.1 Obviously, 9/11 looms large in the contemporary American psyche. Is it that we are so fragile that the deaths of 2,986 people could shake us so? (We have lost 2,529 soldiers in Iraq alone so far.) Or was it just the shock of the assault itself, reviving deep-seated fears of sudden sneak attack that had been inculcated throughout the Cold War? Whatever the case, it certainly has had us all thinking about The Big Picture.

In retrospect, we were foolish to assume that just because the COBOL programmers came out of retirement to get us through y2k without much harm, all our own millennial fears would swiftly fade into hibernation for another 1,000 years or that, unlike the cultists, we were ourselves immune to End Of Days thinking.

Now, in his slideshow Al Gore famously presents maps of a hypothetical United States under the influence of dramatically higher sea levels.2

So, this got me wondering: What would the country look like after the Rapture?

For this experiment, I decided to go with the winner-take-all Electoral College system, which results in a simple dialectic: Red states = Apotheosis, Blue states = Left Behind (sure, it’s not fair, but it’s in the Constitution).

Blue State-only US Map

Admittedly, after the Second Coming, you’d have to gas up your hybrid car before you left on that cross-country trip, since there would be a long way between service stations. Otherwise, it doesn’t look that bad. The post-Rapture US population drops by (you guessed it) almost exactly half, to 140 million,3 and, needless to say, there is a lot of elbow room in the Great Plains states. After the Last Judgment, the percentage of Americans with High School degrees increases by one and with BA degrees by two. The median household income goes up by about 10% and the poverty rate drops from 13% to 12%. Perhaps the best news is that the Final Reckoning is disproportionately favorable for the Federal budget (and not just because the Bush cabinet is gone): total transfer payments to the states decline by more than the expected half (Red states currently receive about $8000 per capita, while folks in the Blue get only $7250 back from their tax bill). So, if those of us Left Behind can just mosey on up to higher ground (the Rockies should be pretty empty), we might make it through the ongoing millennium in fine shape indeed.


  1. Let’s not forget to include here the prospect of the President’s seemingly imminent destruction of the American experiment in democracy and limited government. []
  2. As Jon Stewart recently pointed out to Gore, this would have taken care of the Florida problem back in 2000… Gore replied, “I won Florida”. []
  3. I decided to use 2000 figures for this, since that matches up with the original Red/Blue divide and, of course, the census data was much easier to calculate. []

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