Saturday, May 7, 2011

Are You Rapture-Ready?

We're coming down to the final stretch, folks! As I mentioned back in January, radio evangelist Harold Camping has predicted that the Apocalypse will begin on May 21st - two weeks from today. At that time the Rapture will take place, during which all good Christians will mysteriously be taken up into Heaven. The world will then end in October months before the much-vaunted 2012 even has a chance to get rolling.

This week Camping's followers arrived in Washington, DC to proclaim the "awesome news" that the world is ending. They keep using that word, but I don't think it means what they think it means.

The unexpected and potentially rotten news that the world will end on May 21 rolled into the District on Thursday morning, plastered on a caravan of five recreational vehicles that parked near the Washington Monument.

“Have you heard the awesome news?” the side of the RVs asked, in big bold letters. “The End of the World is Almost Here!”

As if the message weren’t scary enough, the dozen or so occupants of the RVs — vanguard of a national campaign funded by a fundamentalist Christian radio network and fueled by bus ads and Internet buzz — wore highlighter-bright yellow shirts that said “Earthquake So Mighty, So Great.” They offered pedestrians handouts saying there was “ marvelous proof” that “Holy God will bring judgment day on May 21, 2011.”

The Rapture, they warned, is upon us.

Now, In order to accept Camping's prophesy we have to ignore a couple of inconvenient facts. First of all, this isn't the first time Camping has predicted the end of the world. His original guess was in 1994, and well, we all know how that turned out.

This is not Camping’s first end-of-the-world prophecy. In a 1992 book, he predicted that the world would end in 1994. When he woke up in 1995, clearly something had gone wrong.

“It’s just like anyone who invents something or comes to a truth or any technician — they don’t immediately make a finished product,” he explained. “I did not come to the finished product until three years ago. It was at that time that God showed some exquisite proof.”

Actually, the Bible has some pretty stern words for prophets whose predictions don't come true, but apparently Camping's followers either aren't familiar with them or don't realize he's essentially by definition a false prophet. Jesus says he'll come like a thief in the night, right? So that no man might know the hour? For almost two thousand years this was what Christians believed, until Dispensationalism came along in the nineteenth century. Then all of a sudden that statement was apparently rendered meaningless, even though the Dispensationalists claimed to be Biblical literalists. In fact, the Dispensationalist interpretation contradicts the Bible in many places.

Second of all, despite what many modern evangelicals believe the Rapture doctrine is not Biblical. It's derived from a juxtaposition of several passages which probably don't mean that on May 21st Christians will start vanishing or taking flight or whatever is supposed to happen. In fact I was discussing this very point with a friend over the weekend - one of the quotes that is supposed to support the Rapture idea is a line about rising up to meet Jesus "in the air" when he returns. What I was wondering is whether or not Greek, the language of the New Testament, used the same word for "air" and "spirit" like Hebrew does. Apparently this is indeed the case, so "in the air" might not even be the right translation. It could just as easily mean "in the spirit," which makes a lot more sense as a response to Christ's return than spontaneous levitation.

Of course, for me it doesn't make much difference - no matter what happens the Christian God is not going to be "Rapturing" a bunch of Thelemites unless the evangelical interpretation of their scriptures is very, very wrong. So I suppose that means we get their stuff, right? After all, Jesus did tell the rich man that he should give everything he owned to the poor because it was more difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. So on May 20th it would seem that the only possible course of action for wealthy true believers is to donate everything they own to the less fortunate. And if they don't do it their faith must be pretty weak, right? You kept your stuff, no Rapture for you!

If your faith is truly strong you can also arrange for pet care, since animals apparently don't have souls and can't be Raptured. There's an actual business that will do this, After the Rapture Pet Care, and with the big event only two weeks away there's little time left to get it done. As a business idea this concept is brilliant so long as you can staff your company with people who are too damn evil to be taken up into Heaven but who nonetheless love animals. Check out the picture from their web site of the poor dog looking up into the sky as everyone is Raptured away. It's heartbreaking - you know, if there were any chance of this really happening. The After the Rapture folks have apparently hit on the winning formula of starting an insurance company that collects premiums but will never have to pay out any claims.

So on the evening of Saturday, May 21st here's my recommendation. Party like it's 1999 and at the stroke of midnight have a long, hearty laugh at the expense of Camping and his gullible flock who doubtless at that moment will be despairing that they weren't good enough to get into Heaven. That is, until they see the news the next day and realize that nobody anywhere actually vanished. Then they'll turn on false prophet Camping like a pack of wild un-Raptured dogs.

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Frater Serpentis et Aquila said...

This is a good, humorous post.

I especially like the after rapture pet care bit. They must hire only non-Christian staff, then. I can't imagine whose brilliant idea that was.

Even the idea that the rapture could or should occur two weeks from now is actually extremely incongruous to the procession of prophecies that are supposed to occur before the beginning of the reign of the Antichrist, things that could in no wise be crammed into the next two weeks whatsoever.

Ah, well.

Ananael Qaa said...

Dispensationalists are just weird. The Millerites, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and a number of other groups including Camping's have tried to use the same methodology over and over again and have encountered nothing but failure every time. Maybe it's time somebody wised up and realized that no matter how you tweak it, those timing formulas don't work.

For example, what all of the variations have in common is that they equate a "day" to a thousand years based on a couple of passages to that effect in scripture. The problem there is that in ancient Hebrew "thousand" was also the word for "many." It could be used to mean a literal thousand or any number larger than that. So if what the passages really mean is "a day is to God as a whole lot of years are to man" the timing method is pretty much shot to hell. There's no way you can set a date on that basis since all the numbers could vary by more than an order of magnitude.

And by the way, this does apply to Camping's prediction. They were in the Twin Cities on Friday as well as DC and a friend picked up one of their flyers. Sure enough, they're making their prediction based on the same old method outlined above that dates back to William Miller.

nath99 said...

Did anyone see the picture of the controversial billboard that was recently put up by another spiritual group near Family Radio’s headquarters? It directly challenges them about May 21. Here is a picture of it:

Ananael Qaa said...

That's hilarious.

"Our date's the right one!"
"No! Our date's the right one!"

And the battle of the rodeo clowns just accelerates from there. At least, that would be the most amusing outcome.