O Me of Little Faith

If you’ve ever felt out of place among all the exciting, expressive, emotional enthusiasm of a contemporary church service…or an evangelist’s demands that you need to constantly be sharing your faith boldly to strangers…if it simply wipes you out to be surrounded by people all the time,  then you need to read Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, which released this year from Adam McHugh. It’s medicine for churchgoers like me who don’t necessarily feel at home in an evangelical culture that’s biased toward extroversion. So go read it.

Anyway, Adam is a Presbyterian minister and chaplain in Claremont, California, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him over the past several weeks. He was kind enough to help us turn the page, after this rapture nonsense, with something not at all related to Harold Camping. Which is exactly what I needed. Adam is currently working on a second book and kindly gives us a glimpse into his writing process with today’s guest post. Enjoy.


A writer friend once told me that her writing process involved letting her ideas drip down from her mind through her arms and into her fingers. What a beautiful image, I thought to myself, and what a total load of crap. Writing a book is like giving birth to a snarling 8-headed monster. It’s a war, and your mind, arms, and fingers all hate each other.

Elsewhere I’ve said that writing is a spiritual discipline, one of those practices that consciously places us in the presence of God, that opens our souls to being transformed. And if that summons a picture of a monk reading his Bible serenely in a corner, think for a moment about your own process of praying and reading the Bible. If you make it 5 minutes without distraction (squirrel!), boredom, or drowsiness, then it’s been a big spiritual day for you. We must keep fighting to turn and return our attention to the Lord, to muffle the other voices that tell us we don’t measure up, that we’re not being productive enough, that we’re lost, that God doesn’t hear our prayers. The discipline of writing is no different.

Allow me for a few moments, O aspiring writer, to give you a window into the emotional life of a writer, or at least this writer. I’ve written one book and I’m at work on a second, and I’ve identified some patterns in this gnarly, self-revealing process, some phases that I invariably go through.

1. The “Aha” phase. This is the phase of researching, thinking, and interviewing. This is the phase of discovery, as I begin to see things I had not seen before. I have great synergistic moments as I talk with others and we find that we share thoughts, experiences, and hopes. I’ll be reading a book and a sentence or a concept will practically shout out to me. I’ll begin to believe that I have valuable things to say and that others will be interested.

2. The “Pulitzer Prize” phase. This is the phase of conceptualizing, organizing, and outlining. Inevitably I get here and my ego tries to leap out of my body and make itself known. Here I become convinced that my ideas are brilliant and my writing is profound. No one has ever written a book this sublime. Stephen Hawking will read my book and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

3. The “Total Incompetence” phase. This one follows about 92 seconds on the heels of the Pulitzer Prize phase. I’ll encounter the first obstacle in writing my chapter, and my ego will not only find its way back into my body but shrink to 1/8th its normal size. This is where I will question everything I’ve ever known about the world and myself, including why in the world I thought I could write a book. This is where the dark scenarios creep in and I’ll imagine my manuscript sitting in my editor’s trash can, the smoke still floating off the singed pages. Or someone going to review my book and being unable to do so because the astonished tears of laughter keep her from being able to see straight.

4. The “Complete Disorientation” phase. Once I power through stage 3 and finish a draft of my chapter, I go to read it over and immediately move into this phase. My first draft tends to be rough and practically stream-of-consciousness writing. If I don’t know where something should go, I’ll just write it anyway. So it feels like a bunch of random paragraphs that have no organic relationship to anything that comes before them or after. It’s a salad bar of paragraphs, without the hygienic window that keeps me from sneezing all over it. My head will be spinning as I try to read it over. This is the phase where I find myself cleaning my apartment a lot — my manuscript may be a mess, but dammit, my writing space will be clean!

5. The “It doesn’t totally suck” phase. After rewriting several times, I get to a point where I think that maybe there are a few nuggets of insight in here and maybe a few people will actually want to read it. There is a small measure of contentment and sense of accomplishment here. Then, it’s back to step one.

On that note, I’m entertaining this title for my second book:

It Doesn’t Totally Suck
by Adam S. McHugh

So, if that is the bloody portrait of the writing life, why do we writers keep fighting? It’s certainly not because of the money. There are sidewalk lemonade stands that make more money than I do. I keep fighting the good writing fight not because one day I will triumph and what has been hard will suddenly become easy. I can’t say it any more simply than this: I write because I can’t not write. Writing is an irresistible grace in my life. It is a summons, a burden, that has been given to me, and I carry it trusting that God has put it there for a reason.


Read more from Adam McHugh at his Introverted Church blog, on twitter, or in this excellent interview at Psychology Today. It doesn’t totally suck.


Do you have Harold Camping fatigue yet? I’m pretty close. After a few articles and radio interviews about it (thanks, book I wrote six years ago!), I’m growing a bit weary of the subject. But I also realize that people are VERY interested in it. And I like people to be educated, so here’s one last blog post before May 21. I mean, at least one last post about Harold Camping and Family Radio and all the rapture stuff. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back Monday with some more stuff.

Harold CampingThus, here are 21 things you need to know about Harold Camping and his May 21 prediction.

1. Harold Camping is not a trained Bible scholar. He has a BS in civil engineering from UC Berkeley. He has not been to seminary. Of course, neither have I, and that doesn’t stop me from saying Camping is wrong. So I can’t fault him for thinking he’s right.

2. But Harold Camping does describe himself as a Bible scholar. In this interview at Killing the Buddha, he said: “I am a Bible teacher, a Bible scholar. For the last 50 years, I’ve made the Bible my university.”

3. Harold Camping doesn’t have much patience for theologians or trained Bible scholars. Later in the same interview, he states, “…instead of having to go through the screen of theologians who have tried to understand the Bible, I found that it was far more efficient just to study the Bible itself.”

4. Harold Camping doesn’t describe himself as a pastor, either. “I’m not a minister. Not a pastor,” he told KtB. “I am a servant of the Lord, declaring what I have learned from the Word of God.”

5. Harold Camping likes math. This comes from his analytical engineering background. In fact, his declaration of May 21 as the date of the Rapture isn’t based on any divine audible revelation from God but from Camping’s unique mathematical approach to the Bible as a code to be cracked. I couldn’t begin to walk you through it — or understand it myself — but as far as I understand, it has to do with Camping’s estimated date of the biblical flood (May 21, 4990 BC) and the verse in 2 Peter about one day being like “a thousand years” to the Lord and how, back then, God warned Noah that he would destroy the earth “seven days from now” and therefore, Saturday is the 7000-year anniversary of the first drops of the biblical flood. So clearly that’s when Jesus will come back. Never mind that I’ve never heard anyone but Harold Camping say the flood began on May 21, 4990 BC. And I think Peter was using the “thousand years” as a metaphor, rather than announcing a mathematical equivalent.

6. The May 21 events will kick off with a worldwide earthquake which starts at 6 pm at the International Date Line and rolls through every single time zone on the planet, every hour on the hour at 6 pm. Totally not making that up. This comes from Camping’s reading of Jeremiah 25:32 about disaster spreading from “nation to nation.” He gets the earthquake part from Revelation 16:18. Not sure where the 6 pm comes from, but that’s what he says.

7. This isn’t a recent prediction. He mentioned its possibility in his book 1994? in which he suggested the rapture might occur on September 7 of that year. But if it didn’t, he said, then it would definitely happen on May 21, 2011, due to a difference in calculations. So give him credit. He’s got quite a few years invested in this prediction.

8. There’s a lot more to it than the 7,000-years-since-Noah thing. There are tons of other equations and formulas, including one in which he multiples (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) to get 722,500, then notes that Christ died on April 1, 33 AD. Guess what date is exactly 722,500 days after that crucifixion date? Yep. May 21, 2011.

9. Honestly, I don’t know where the 5, 10, and 17 come from. I’m looking at them in a dense explanatory page on the Family Radio site, and they certainly mean something in a metaphorical sense, but I don’t have the patience to try to figure it out.

10. Despite the complexity of his math and the fact that he is basing it off biblical dates few scholars agree with, Camping is absolutely certain he will not be wrong. He has told his followers and plastered across all his billboards, bus benches and RVs that “the Bible guarantees it.” So if it doesn’t happen, it’s not that Harold Camping is wrong. It’s the Bible that’s wrong.

11. Most of his employees feel the same way. Killing the Buddha also has a fascinating interview with Tom Evans, the media representative for Harold Camping and Family Radio. When asked what he’ll do if he wakes up on May 22 and the rapture hasn’t occurred, Evans says, “I’ve said if you boil everything down, it’s really trusting the Bible. If you can’t trust the Bible, then you got nothing. There’s no truth.” For Evans and others, the trustworthiness of the Bible hinges on Camping’s prediction.

12. But not all his employees feel that way. Evans, the media guy, has had a few run-ins with Family Radio employees who aren’t too happy about Camping’s prediction. Also, Ted Cox, the reporter for that article, saw a memo at Family Radio’s Oakland headquarters outlining the company’s holiday schedule for 2011. Thanksgiving and Christmas were both on the list, even though Camping teaches that the universe will no longer exist after October 21.

13. Harold Camping doesn’t care if you quote Matthew 24:36 to him. That well-known verse states, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Camping uses 1 Cor. 2:10-14 to redefine what “no one knows” means, and says that the saved CAN know because they are indwelt by God’s spirit. The wicked don’t know, unfortunately. But even though Matthew 24:36 says Jesus won’t know either, well that’s just wrong, Camping says. Of course Jesus will know. Because Jesus and God are one.

14. I don’t know what Harold Camping would think if you quoted Deut. 18:20 to him. That verse says any false prophet who claims to speak for the Lord — but is proved to be wrong and therefore has spoken presumptuously — should be put to death. I’ve never heard him address this. If you have, I’d love to know what he thinks.

15. Camping, who is almost 90 years old, doesn’t care about his legacy. He thinks that’s a dumb question, because “on October 21 of this year, the whole world is going to be annihilated, and never be remembered. So what legacy am I going to leave to anybody? The only thing is that I hope that there are people who are listening that will begin to plead with God and begin to cry out” (KtB interview). Makes sense, I guess. What good is a legacy if no one’s around to appreciate it?

16. Camping hasn’t been a member of a church since he left Alameda Bible Fellowship in 1988. Not long after, he announced that he had deduced from the Bible that the “Church Age” had ended and it was no longer necessary for any Christians to attend church.

17. Camping says “only a small percentage” of his family members agree with his teachings. He’s got a lot of family members, though. Six living children, 24 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren. Presumably, he thinks a lot of them will be left behind.

18. I’m running out of things we should know. I kind of wish Camping had announced that the rapture would be on May 17.

19. One of the reasons he says the Church Age ended in 1988 was because that’s when worldly music began to enter the church. For reals. Jesus is coming back and it’s Chris Tomlin’s fault.

20. Harold Camping doesn’t believe in hell. One of the things that ought to make him a publishing rock star — if only he were younger and wore better glasses — is that he doesn’t teach that hell is a place of punishment for the damned. Camping is an annihilationist. He teaches the unsaved will be destroyed.

21. Harold Camping won’t apologize for his wrong prediction once May 22 rolls around. Most likely he will say that, because of his efforts — and the efforts of his followers — to warn the world of the May 21 event, God has chosen to withhold his judgment for now. And not long after that, Camping will recalculate and announce a new date.

Now you know. See you next week.



My apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but while supplies last, I’m having an apocalyptic blow-out sale right now at Just in case we all need it this weekend, I’m offering Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse for $5.21 in honor of Harold Camping’s predicted rapture date.

For kicks and/or extra heavenly credit, I’m throwing in a free copy of Pocket Guide to the Bible.

That’s two books for $5.21, which is about what they’re worth once I bespoil them with my signature. Yes, I’ll sign both books and get them in the mail as quickly as possible.

If you’re interested, here’s the order page via PayPal.

This is a limited-time offer, for obvious reasons.

{Update, 8 am, May 17: The sale is over. Inventory is running low and I want to try to get these in the mail for this weekend. Thanks to everyone who made a purchase. Enjoy the apocalypse!}

I brought this up several months ago, but seeing how we’re almost a week away from the big supposed event it seems a good time to revisit the fact that WE’RE ALL ABOUT TO DIE.

Or be “caught up in the air,” as believers. Or be judged. Or at least be made very uncomfortable for a few months. That’s the belief of a handful of religious groups who are predicting that, on May 21 — a week from Saturday — the rapture of believers will occur, followed by no less than the destruction of the universe on October 21, 2011.

They’re led by Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio and a long-time end-of-the-world prognosticator who first predicted the rapture would occur in September of 1994 but was wrong. But this time he won’t be wrong because he has figured out the Bible, he says, and “the Bible guarantees it,” as the above billboard states.

The blog American Jesus has an interview with Gunther von Harringa, who not only has an arch-villainy name but is also the president of Bible Ministries International, a broadcasting ministry connected to Camping and Family Radio. The interview is noteworthy for the sheer confidence and certainty on display.

The interviewer asks von Harringa, “just for the sake of argument,” whether there might be a back-up date in case the rapture does not occur on May 21. (Kind of like what happened with Camping’s 1994 prediction.) Might God change his mind since someone apparently figured it out? Von Harringa replied:

God will not change His mind because He Has given us the accurate date in order for genuine believers to warn their families, friends, and the world at large, as He commands in Eze. 33:7, “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.” There are also no other “back-up dates” because the Bible guarantees this with many proofs and much evidence…it WILL happen, and NOTHING can prevent it.

There is no back-up date because “the Bible guarantees this.” Wow. This reminds me of another major doomsday prediction, when Edgar Whisenant predicted that the Rapture would occur sometime during September 13-15 in 1988 (his best-selling pamphlet was called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988). Whisenant did a big media tour and announced on several occasions that “only if the Bible is in error am I wrong.”

He was wrong.

Camping and his followers aren’t even willing to admit that they (or the Bible) could be wrong. There’s no back-up plan.

At American Jesus, the interviewer presses the issue, asking if von Harringa would be willing to schedule a follow-up interview for sometime after May 21, just in case. The answer was NO.

Because of the utter devastation that will engulf the entire world an interview would be virtually impossible; moreover, by God’s mercy, I don’t plan on being here.

That’s some serious confidence. And I guess we should believe him when he says there is nothing more important than getting this message out (after all, that’s why God allowed us to figure out the date, they say, thus the ubiquitous billboards and signs, and all the statements about how they need to “warn the world at large”). But the fact remains that, for decades, Harold Camping and Family Radio have been buying up commercial radio broadcasting frequencies in major markets like New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. These FCC broadcasting licenses are easily worth millions of dollars. If Camping wanted to sell them, he could. He would have buyers lined up across the country. And if he is right about the Rapture and ensuing “utter devastation” on its heels — if an online interview will be virtually impossible for von Harringa — won’t these licenses and frequencies also be useless after May 21? Won’t radio broadcasts be fairly difficult during an apocalypse?

So why is he keeping them? Wouldn’t those potential millions go a long way in spreading his doomsday message, in a last-ditch effort of billboards and bus benches and bumper stickers? Is it more important to warn the world or to retain his radio empire? Any chance he thinks he might still need those licenses on May 22?

Let me go on the record by saying: Yes. Of course, he will.

This is why: Since the time of Christ, there have been thousands and thousands of predictions of the end of the world. None of them have been correct. NONE. Zero-for-thousands is a horrible batting average, and to think YOU are the only one who’ll be correct, in all the history of mankind, is the Mt. Everest of arrogance.