End of the Whirled

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Just when I think I’m not going to be able to find anything to comment on this week, a friend sends me an article about how the world is going to end on May 21, 2011. The date for apocalypse has been discovered by a retired civil engineer named Harold Camping who lives in (of course) California.

Never mind that Jesus specifically said (twice!) that no one knows when the end is coming, Mister Camping has decided that he’s smarter than Jesus and is going to be proven so on May 21 of this year. Camping has discovered this, he says, through a careful reading of the Bible. You gotta admire his chutzpa. The Author himself said no one knows when the end of time will come, but this guy Camping has studied the Author’s book and figured it out.

And many people believe him. This very week—as you read this article and wonder (in the back of your mind) whether your keyboard is soup-resistant—RVs from all over the United States are converging on North Carolina (why there, I’m not sure) to spread the word. They’ve also been spreading the word all over the world—from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Little Rock Arkansas, the article says, which (I hate to quibble) isn’t the entire world. Later, it talks about this group sending out missionaries and putting up billboards in Africa and South America, so now I don’t know why Bridgeport and Little Rock were mentioned. Maybe the tourist boards of both those towns slipped the Associated Press a few bucks for product placement. Or, maybe an article about hucksters just couldn’t help but conjure up thoughts of P.T. Barnum and Bill “Bill” Clinton.

It’s easy to laugh at this guy, and lump him in with all the other Bible “scholars” over the centuries who have claimed to know when the end of the world was coming. Men like William Miller, who predicted the end of the world would be October 22, 1844 and was—as far as I can tell without looking up all the particulars—wrong. Or Hal Lindsey, who has predicted the end of the world for pretty much every year since 1969, been wrong every time, and still sells books by the truckload to people who think he can’t possibly continue to be so wrong.

What irritates me about these guys (I don’t say “irritates me ‘most’” because it’s a close horse race for that title) is that every time one of them picks a date (and I’m convinced they’re just doing it at random), it puts another chink in the credibility of people who have actually read the Bible. People who reach out to friends and neighbors not because they believe the world will end tomorrow but because they truly care for their friends and neighbors and want eternal joy for them. Thanks to knuckleheads like these, though, we come off looking like just another charlatan with a pitch.

Now, what if I were somehow convinced that a] Jesus didn’t mean what he said because 2] the world is going to end on May 21 of this year? What would I do? I imagine I would gather my family and loved ones around for a time of prayer.

And then we’d go to that furniture store that offers “six months no interest” and get that new couch we’ve been wanting.