Racial Rapture: Mass Incarceration as Distorted Christian Eschatology

“The proliferation dispensationalist rapture discourse, the victory of late-Capitalism during the latter period of the Cold War, and mass incarceration intersect through offering a racialized disappearance of dark bodies from society as the solution to perceived social crisis. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Bryson White Garrett Evangelical Theological School Contact Me

About this dissertation fellowship

The proliferation of prisons in the United States has been investigated across academic disciplines, and has seen an increase in literature from the fields of religion and theology. Scholars from the field of theology such as, James Logan, Mark Lewis Taylor, Richard Snyder, and Rema Veseley-Flad, have put forth robust accounts of the theological underpinnings of what is popularly termed “mass incarceration”. Yet, analysis of this social problem requires further interventions from the field of theology. This dissertation argues the proliferation of Rapture theology in the post-Civil Rights United States informs the emergence of mass incarceration—as the Rapture and the prison—function as theo-political responses to the changing contours of U.S. life; which, provides the “disappearance” of people from public life as a solution to perceived crisis. Within this framework, those that uphold the sacralized oppressive social order are represented by those disappeared into the sky, and those that become marked as socially expendable representing the eternally damned are disappeared to the prison. I argue that the rapture is a racial eschatology that has implications in the political sphere of U.S. life. I theorize that carceral space, as eschatological space, functions as the foreshadowing of eternal damnation for dark bodies that have been marked outside of salvation within a cultural theological imagination organized around whiteness. The prison is a spatial site in which black flesh and eternally damned flesh are fused.