Saturday is another predicted day of the Rapture, this time by Harold Camping and Family Radio. A once small movement gained traction with ad campaigns on respected news sites, billboards in cities and finally news stories everywhere treating this like a world event. It's only the latest in a long wave of prophecies that are supposed to wake people up but instead turn them off to religion and show why fear is still a factor.
During the Cold War, many people lived in fear of the world ending. They built bomb shelters in the 1950's and 60's and had drills. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a doomsday scenario unfolding as it was one of the closest moments to nuclear war. Yet the world didn't end.
1968 was one of the scariest years for America. More U.S. soldiers died in the Vietnam war than any year, assassinations of respected leaders, low trust in government and race riots threatening to tear the country apart were some of the reasons people feared the world was on collapse. Yet the world didn't end.
Several graphic novels have discussed the world ending for several years. In 1983, millions of Americans watched The Day After, a TV movie of the aftermath of nuclear war that scared folks at the height of Reagan-Soviet Union war games. Inner cities became destroyed due to crack and White flight. REM made that classic song that I borrowed my picture from. Yet the world didn't end.
In my lifetime, people thought the world would end on December 31, 1999. You remember the Y2K frenzy? Computers would crash and technically would take us back to 1900 instead of 2000. People built bomb shelters, drained personal funds and started being scared as early as the mid-1990's. And what happened that night? My sis and I threw confetti on our front yard and woke up having to clean it up.
Yep, you guessed it the world didn't end. Notice the trend here?
As a Christian, I'm a firm believer that Jesus will be coming back at some point. But I'm also a firm believer that man will not know the day nor the hour according to Matthew 24:36-37. I'm frankly bothered that Camping, a former Sunday school teacher who's 89 years old, has ignored this verse.
Camping tried to predict the end in September and December 1994 and was proven wrong. He says that he has made reinterpretations studying the Bible closer but no amount of research can counteract what Jesus said. We can't use the Bible to figure out the date world's ending because that would prove God to be a liar.
From a faith perspective, most Christians believe in the end times and that you should be living every day trying to get your life in order. However, we don't know when our last day will be so it's important for us to strive make every day our masterpiece and live right so when that time comes, we're set in our salvation.
I believe that being scared or buying into doomsday theories like Saturday or 2012 is counterproductive to how I see God. God wants all to accept him freely without compulsion and if you scare people into being Christians, you won't truly allow them to appreciate who God is.
Doomsday prophecies like this from the church will also turns folks against religion and assume we're all crazy fanatics. This is also false. I learned this past week that judging all of Cleveland for Cavs fans being overzealous haters of LeBron James. A friend of mine there reminded me not every Clevelander is irrational and I had to apologize to her. In the same way, judging all Christians as fanatical fundamentalist fools because of this is also wrong.
Many people of faith are far from ignorant and we know how to use our faith to make rational statements/beliefs. We see Camping and cringe because we know the damage this can do to the faith in this 24/7 media cycle. I'm already seeing jokes upon jokes and I feel hurt that my faith and the faith of others will be a punchline because of this.
The media doesn't do a good job by us by giving these folks a major platform to speak their mind and inspire fear. In the old days, these kind of radicals would be given minimal space and left on the fringes. But in a society where we are less-read, less able to critically think about stories, the media fails us by relying on fear to gain attention instead of giving us context. Telling the story in simplified ways feeds into us being afraid and that sparks irrational decisions/snap judgments.
It's ironic that this is the same week where Stephen Hawking said that heaven is a myth and a fairy tale. People will crack their jokes and spit in the face of religion if Saturday comes and goes without incident. It's nothing new. What matters is that people of faith use this to spark intelligent dialogue.
I don't buy into any theories about predicting when the world will end. Don't fall for the okie-doke. I believe we're living in the last days but I don't get caught up in predicting the date. All I can do is take it one day at a time.
Saturday. The Mayan prophecy of December 21, 2012. The Doomsday Clock. All of these are man-made distractions that are fascinating but not gospel. Every prophecy gets played up and we buy into the hysteria. Haven't we learned by now? I think most of us want to know so we know we can get our act right right before that date while partying like crazy until then.
There's a difference between believing the world will end at some point versus trying to predict when the world will end. It's cool to be fascinated by these things - I was fascinated by the Left Behind series and so many people either love or fear the Book of Revelations - but I feel that sadly too many exploit a doomsday date for fear and hysteria instead of positive reasons.
All I do is remember is what the rest of Matthew 24 says.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
From a Christian perspective, I'll only agree with Camping that the world will end at some point so we should live vigilantly. But how many times will we let someone try to predict the actual date when before we stop drinking the Kool-Aid and believing the hype? At the same time, ask a Christian how they feel about this instead of assuming we're all irrational Kool-Aid drinkers.
It's all the more reason why I feel like Sunday will be an interesting day in churches and discussions around the world. At least until the next doomsday prophecy whips people into this all over again.