I encountered a new cultural artifact the other day. It’s been around longer than I have, but apparently, few people in my circle practice this art. I was recently made aware of something called a rapture letter. The idea is that a Jesus-person writes one of these for each of their friends or family members who hasn’t been formally introduced to Christ, explaining that in case of rapture, they’re going to peace out and be seen around these parts no more. The letters elaborate on why the person is gone, and what the still earth-bound human needs to do as a last-chance effort to avoid hellfire and brimstone. Rapture letters are left in semi-conspicuous places in order to reach those who need them the most upon the departure of the believer.

Initially, I laughed at the idea. It sounds pompous. After my initial amusement, conviction set in because in all truth, it is a last-ditch effort to prosthelytize to a person who needs Jesus (because we all do). But leaving them lying around the house just sounds weird. Imagine having letters stashed on bookshelves, in the shed, garage and on desk that say, “Open only in case of rapture”. That’s an invitation for mockery if I’ve ever seen one. On the other hand, there’s no way on earth you can give somebody a sealed envelope and tell them, “Open this if I mysteriously disappear and all you find is a pile of my clothing resting in right beneath the space previously occupied by my body.” If someone handed me something like that, I’d be holding it up to a bright light, trying to read its contents expecting to see something along the lines of, “Jake, you know I’ve always loved you, but…”

It also goes to say that these things should be said by the living to the same. I had a scary experience once when I started working with youth. I was handed a notebook containing letters written to profess a teenage girl’s affection for me. I remember opening the first page, thinking, “What the heck is this?” and immediately slammed it shut, chased the human down and gave it back after seeing the first couple of lines she had penned. Of course, she was pissed at me, but there wasn’t any way at all that I was about to write anything back in the spiral-bound confession. I had to say to her face, “Nope. Never. Not going to happen in this universe or any other. Sorry.” (Of course, I was nicer, but felt the need to be excessively clear with this point.)

I guess I feel the same way about rapture letters as I do with tracts… I think they’re utilized by spineless humans who know what they should do, but don’t have the fortitude to accomplish it in person, but… it works for some people, so in spite of my overwhelming desire, I genuinely can’t complain about it.

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Have you ever heard of rapture letters and if so, have you ever written one?

What are your thoughts on giving or being the recipient of one of these?