Sunday, May 29, 2011
Latest Newspaper Column:
Well, they did it to me again.
You may remember how bummed I was back in 2000 when the Y2K bug didn’t cause the complete collapse of civilization. I wrote at the time that I’d been getting all psyched up to grab my assault rifle and engage in a grim, bloody fight for survival in the smoldering ruins of civilization. After gearing up for that, it was kind of an anticlimax to just have to go in to work on Monday.
So you’d think I’d know better than to get all psyched up again for the end of the world as predicted by Harold Camping.
In case you missed the story, Camping is a California radio preacher who predicted that the world was going to end last Saturday promptly at 6 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time). Specifically, at that time, all good Christians were going to be taken up to heaven.
Immediately following this event, we’d have massive worldwide earthquakes that would make the recent Japanese temblors look wimpy, and the entire planet would be plunged into chaos (even more than it usually is), with everything culminating in the destruction of this world, the triumphal return of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of a new heaven and Earth on Oct. 21.
Camping claims to have backed this up with biblical passages, combined with actual math. The math part may explain why I found his theory incomprehensible.
Although Camping had previously (and, it appears, incorrectly) predicted the end of the world back in 1994, a startling number of people bought into the prophecy. Some quit their jobs. Some sold everything they owned and gave away their pets. One deranged woman even tried to slit her own throat and the throats of her daughters to keep them from having to live though the “coming tribulation.” Fortunately, the kids survived.
Well, 6 p.m. came and went, as did 7, 8, 9, and so on. Everybody stayed put. No earthquakes, no seas turning to blood, no Four Horsemen, none of the stuff that you’d expect to see after even a cursory skimming of the book of Revelations or a few Grade-B horror movies.
Once again, I felt a little let down. I didn’t totally believe Camping, of course. And let’s face it, it’s not that I, heathen that I am, was expecting to get taken away Saturday if the whole thing was true. But there was a part of me that was looking forward to a lot of free stuff lying around.
When the Final Hoedown didn’t begin as scheduled, you’d expect the “prophet” who originally predicted said Apocalypse to mumble some vague excuse, grab the collection box and hop a plane to someplace with no extradition treaties. This is not, however, how a pro like Camping plays the game of big-time preaching. When he gets caught, he doubles down.
After some time in hiding — sorry, meditation — Camping announced that the Day of Judgment actually had come and gone on the 21st, but it was a “spiritual judgment,” unseen by humanity, and performed, as it were, behind closed doors. The end would still come as scheduled on Oct. 21. Perhaps more time was needed for all the heavenly department heads to sign off on the final paperwork or something.
I’m sure Pastor Camping has read the Bible more times that I have. I’ve only read it cover to cover twice (I know, that surprises a lot of people). Well, I confess, I cheated a little and skipped all the “begats” the second time. Which is why I’m somewhat bemused to find that I apparently know some Scripture that the good minister seems to have missed.
Passages such as Matthew 25:13: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man comes.” Or this one, from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” And then there’s this, from Matthew 24:11: “And many false prophets shall arise and lead many astray.”
But perhaps the most appropriate quote comes from the Book of (P.T.) Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”