Christian radio host Harold Camping says Jesus is coming back in nine months: May 21, 2011. Then the world will end, according to his calculations, on October 21, 2011. He’s been announcing this on his Family Radio broadcasts for several years.
The good news is that we won’t have to deal with that pesky 2012 Mayan calendar apocalypse.
The bad news is that people are taking Camping seriously.
The Colorado Springs Gazette tells of a woman there who paid $1,200 to buy advertising space for bus benches in the area to help get the message out.
Marie Exley is unemployed but feels it’s important that people have time to prepare for Christ’s imminent return…even though the prediction makes her sad.
Exley has bittersweet feelings about Camping’s prediction.
“There are things I felt I always wanted to do — get married, have a
kid, travel more,” she said. “But it’s not about what I want out of
life. It’s about what God wants.”
Since apparently it’s rapture week here at O Me of Little Faith…and since I got my start as a writer by making fun of End-Times mania, I guess I could spend the next few paragraphs waxing sarcastically about Camping and his failed end-of-the-world predictions and the dumb, complicated mathematical code he uses to arrive at them. After all, he’s been playing up this 2011 date for several years, since Jesus failed to come back when Camping originally predicted it in 1994. (Camping says it’s because he made a mathematical error with that date, but now he’s corrected it. Score one for calculators.)
But today is one of those days when I just don’t find any humor in this kind of thing. Today, Camping’s brand of apocalypticism just makes me sad. His super-confident, trust-me-I’m-an-expert teaching causes people like Exley to spend money she doesn’t have on useless advertising, and it makes her think that this is her last year on earth. It depresses her now, a little — she’s missing out on marriage and a family — and it sets her up for disappointment later, when Jesus doesn’t come back next May.
I’m already disappointed and sad at this kind of reaction, because not only does it play on people’s fears, but it manipulates them because of their hope.
Camping himself has little to lose. He’s an old man. If he’s right about Christ’s return, he’s already lived a full life and he’ll be hailed as a prophet. Camping, FTW! But if he’s wrong — which he WILL be — well, he’ll get through it just like he did in 1994. He’ll blame the math or something and eventually retire. The sooner, the better. He’ll survive.
But people like Exley have much more to lose. They’ll spend this next year in limbo. Why get a job if Jesus is coming back in May? Why plan for the future? Why save anything for retirement, or fall in love, or start a family if the world’s about to fall into chaos? She’ll suspend her life until May 21, 2011, and when Jesus fails to adhere to Camping’s timetable, she’ll have to start over…spiritually, emotionally, and culturally. She’ll look like an idiot. She’ll have wasted a good chunk of money. She’ll have put her hope in something and see it fall to pieces.
Camping’s faith will survive the failed prediction, just like it did in 1994. But what about Exley’s faith? What will happen to the faith of his thousands of listeners who have invested their hope (and money) into this scenario?
We can laugh all we want at the stupidity of End-Times date-setters who are wrong. They’ve been wrong for two thousand years, and they’ll be wrong in the future.
But it’s hard to laugh at the gullible people who believe them. If you want to be mean, you can call them mindless sheep. But don’t forget that they’re also a kind of victim: Victims of hope, victims of religious fervor, and victims of certainty.
[HT: Unreasonable Faith]