White House Exploring 'Rapture' Contingency Plans
The White House is reportedly exploring contingency plans in the event that President Bush and other prominent Christians are 'raptured.' But succession plans are complicated by Vice President Dick Cheney's poor health and the fact that Representative Tom DeLay, like President Bush, will be summoned to heaven along with millions of other Christians.
Party leaders address presidential succession, security needs in event that President Bush, other believers are summoned to heaven.
By Deanna Swift
WASHINGTON, DC—What if the rapture, the much-anticipated event in which God summons his faithful followers out of this world, happened on George W. Bush's watch? Until recently this seemingly far-fetched question was the stuff of Christian message boards. But with the White House well known for putting faith front and center, officials are reportedly at work on a contingency plan spelling out how to run the country in the event that President Bush and other top-ranking Christians are 'raptured.'
White House officials are said to be concerned by a recent up-tick in the Rapture Ready Index, a self-proclaimed prophetic speedometer of end-time activity that monitors such seemingly disparate factors as the crime rate, unemployment, wild weather and the "mark of the Beast," evidence of activity related to the antichrist. The Rapture Ready Index recently reached 157, a high for 2004, pushed upwards by a new CUNY study showing that the number of Pagans in the US has skyrocketed of late.
The "mark of the Beast" category was also upgraded as a result of a nation-wide push to replace bar codes product labels with radio tags.
Who will rule?
For the White House, the possibility that the dramatic events described in Thessalonians 4:13-18, in which "the dead in Christ will rise, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord," presents an obvious dilemma: if President Bush is summoned to meet his maker, who among the "left behind" can govern the country?
According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, if the president is incapacitated, dies, resigns, is for any reason unable to hold his office, or is removed from office, he is to be succeeded by his vice president, in this case Dick Cheney. But top White House officials have expressed concern that Cheney's health may make such a transition impossible, especially after the shock of witnessing his boss disappear through the ceiling of the Oval Office.
Next in the succession chain would be Speaker of the House Tom DeLay. But the Texas firebrand known as "the Hammer" is, like President Bush, a born-again Christian, meaning that he too is likely to be raptured. With DeLay unable to serve, the honor moves to the president pro tempore of the senate: 81 year-old Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who, at 36 years and counting, is that august body's longest-serving senator.
Security vs. tribulation
But Republican Party officials are already expressing concern that Stevens may not be up to the task of seeing the US through the turbulent years of Tribulation, a seven-year long period in which the antichrist takes advantage of the Christians' absence, and makes a treaty with the Jews, enabling them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and to reestablish their ancient liturgical system of animal-sacrifices.
"We're preparing for tough times ahead," said an administration official. "We don't know what's going to happen or what to expect." He notes that the White House is being helped in its efforts to plan for the post-rapture period by Professor Lee Clarke, a Rutgers University sociologist and the author of Mission Improbable: Using Fantasy Documents to Tame Disaster.
A number of senators have also expressed misgivings over the possibility that Senator Stevens may use the confusion of the Tribulation period to divert excessive discretionary spending, known as pork, to his home state of Alaska. Since Stevens became chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 1997, per capita federal spending in Alaska grew by more than 50 percent, to nearly $12,000 last year, by far the highest in the country and almost double the national average. "We're talking about a guy who is basically the King of Pork," said one senator. "Is this really who you want running the country during a period of floods, plagues and unprecedented violence? The people of Alaska may survive the seven years, but what about the rest of us?"
Ready or not, here he comes
Of course there is always the possibility that the rapture won't happen during President Bush's term, if at all. But millions of Christians, including many of those who recently voted to give the president a second term, are convinced that the rapture isn't just coming, but coming soon.
In a recent poll of Christians conducted on leftbehind.com, the online counterpart to the popular Left Behind series by Reverend Tim LeHaye, more than 50 percent of respondents said that they expected the rapture to happen any day. Nearly 3 in 10 either had unfinished business or didn't want to end their earthly good times just yet. Many Republicans are probably feeling the same way these days.
Deanna Swift can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org