After the solar eclipse on Monday, my social media feed was full of friends posting snark about how they had, once again, survived the rapture. Several used a mockup of Facebook’s “mark yourself safe from” feature, to “mark themselves safe” from the rapture. Another friend posted a picture of a mock “Rapture Survivor” punch card, “Survive 9 End Times predictions and the 10th one is free!”

Another friend took a more serious approach, wondering if any prophets of doom ever realize their mistake, and apologize for their error.

I understand the impulse to make fun of these ideas. When the end of the world is continuously predicted, and the world keeps stubbornly surviving, it’s easy to mock prophets of doom and their adherents. But while it might feel good to laugh at the absurd, I’m wondering if a better strategy might be to try to understand where this impulse is coming from.

My tradition, Christianity, came out of a time and place in which life was pretty hard for most people. Jesus and his mostly Jewish followers were a colonized people, under the political and economic thumb of Rome. There was no such thing as a “middle class.” There were no civil rights. Rome tolerated religious and cultural diversity insofar as these diverse peoples submitted to Roman rule. In this context, along came a teacher, Jesus, who invited people to imagine the world not as Caesar would have it, but as God imagines is — a world where the lost, the least, the outcast and vulnerable, were beloved and included.

In this vision, money and position don’t get you privilege, we all are beloved, because we were all made in the divine image.

Obviously, such a vision of justice, diversity and inclusion, while popular, might eventually threaten existing power structures. Which is exactly what happened. As Christianity gained in popularity, those in power eventually realized they couldn’t stop it. So, they (and by “they,” I primarily mean Emperor Constantine) decided to co-opt it.

Thus began the transformation from Jesus’s “Kingdom of God” being about justice and equity, into a vision of the afterlife, as a reward for good behavior after death. This change conveniently allowed powers-that-be to be sympathetic with human suffering and how terrible the world is, while also discouraging impulses for change to existing systems and structures. Christianity thus became a religion about conforming to right belief and getting into heaven when we die, rather than what Jesus and the prophets had described, which was building compassion and justice amongst each other, now. (See Cornell West’s Democracy Matters).

What does this have to do with raptures or apocalypses? If we spend our energy making the afterlife sound good, and popularize the idea of escape from this world, then a dramatic, cataclysmic opportunity to shuffle off this mortal coil becomes a more and more positive thing. And, by the way, who even cares about this world or this life if our main purpose is to get to the next one?

But focusing solely on life after death is not the religion taught by Jesus or the Hebrew prophets before him. They cared about this world. They cared about the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the vulnerable. They didn’t want the poor to only get charity when they died, they wanted the poor to be helped now. When Jesus said “feed the hungry,” he wasn’t imagining some feast in the sky when they died, he meant for the hungry to be fed now. “Welcoming strangers” didn’t mean outsourcing that welcome to God, hoping strangers would eventually be welcome on the other side of this life, it meant us, welcoming the stranger now.

I know apocalypticism is funny to many of us. Myself included, to be honest. But I’m also feeling challenged to tell a different story about what my faith really means. What if we told the story about the radical and prophetic messages of our tradition, that this world is sacred? What if we acted like relationships with each other are sacred, including relationships with people who disagree or believe differently? What if we acted like this life, and this world, really do matter?

Rev. Mark Winters is the pastor of the Federated Church of Martha’s Vineyard in Edgartown.