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41 percent of all Americans believe the Second Coming “probably” or “definitely” will happen by the year 2050. Images of the rapture that believers have posted on the Internet suggest a growing gulf between those who rise to Heaven and those who stay on earth. In one image, svelte, well-dressed adults rise to a blue sky. Perhaps the rapture speaks to shared and understandable anxieties about an earthly economy, it occurs to me. For many congregants, well-paid, union-protected jobs through which a man could support a stay-at-home wife are gone for all but a small elite. Given automation and corporate offshoring, real wages of high school–educated American men have fallen 40 percent since 1970. For the whole bottom 90 percent of workers, average wages have flattened since 1980. Many older white men are in despair. Indeed, such men suffer a higher than average death rate due to alcohol, drugs, and even suicide. Although life expectancy for nearly every other group is rising, between 1990 and 2008 the life expectancy of older white men without high school diplomas has been shortened by three years—and truly, it seems, by despair. In their tough secular lives, life may well feel like “end times.
Arlie Russell Hochschild (Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right)