A few thoughts on May 21, 2011 AKA “Judgement Day”

I am sure you have seen the billboard/s in your town. The clipart inspired brown signage with words boldly proclaiming”Judgement Day, May 21″ complete with a penitent and praying silhouette, a very cool gold sticker saying that “The Bible Guarantees it” and the broadcast time for the local sponsoring radio station.

Photo: chrisyarzab

Now I will admit that I have done little research into this campaign and there is a part of me that is slightly impressed by the marketing campaign that is obviously in play. And yes, I hesitate at giving it more play here in my blog, but good gravy . . . their messaging is everywhere, so much so that even my non-church friends are asking me if it’s true.  If you want to click over the Family Radio, feel free, but the message is pretty simple . . .  time’s up and you had better get your act together.

As a progressive Christian, I will admit that the whole judgement day part of my faith gets short changed. While I would love to dismiss those Christians who see the world primarily through this theological lens as bat$!#% crazy, I must remind myself that different manifestations of the church are simply that . . . different. After all, God’s judgement and an understanding that Christ will return some day are both part of our Christian tradition and both demand us to deal with them in some way at some point.

So what about this May 21st prediction of Judgement Day when the world as we know it will come to an end?  Dude, that’s less than a month away. Commencement planners everywhere are shaking in their caps and gowns with many graduations scheduled for that Saturday, students are hoping it’s true so they can blow off any finals papers, and yes, my mother’s birthday is just after the 21st, so being let off the hook for a present would be awesome ;-)

Good golly, I don’t know.

What I do know is that regardless of how the particularities of “Judgement Day” play out, be it  in my lifetime or millennia from now, there is something about living a life knowing that at some point we will see the face of God and have some words. What God will say, how God will judge and where Jesus will be in the mix is all up for debate, interpretation and, obviously, different level of emphasis. But for now, whether God’s judgement of me comes May 21, 2011, sometime in 2012 or at the end of my earthly life, I will choose to live faithfully and boldly, trusting that I am listening for and following God’s calling and prodding in my life. I figure if I am faithful in my interpretation and my actions – not always right, but always faithful – then God will be well-pleased. That’s seems to be the best any of us can do.

Hmmm . . . I think I’ll still get mom a present, just to be on the safe side.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sht-Stillherethanks/100002503321549 Sht Stillherethanks

    Be part of something big regardless of the curve balls life
    throws: http://www.stillherethanks.com
    …. We’re stillHere…thanks!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for this comment and my apologies for not picking up on it before. 

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Quick clarification . . . Are you talking to me or to folks in general?  Many/most Christians have give up this way of thinking about God in the world, so just want to be sure you were not making assumptions about me ;-)

  • David H-T

     Very nice.  Thanks.  Here’s my own progressive Christian take on this Rapture stuff.  Peace.  http://www.body-mindandspirit.com/2011/05/rapture-wizard-of-oz-and-our-eternal.html

  • Rod Greig

    I strongly suggest everyone read “Why People Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer, of the Council for Critical Inquiry organization. 

  • Diane D’Angelo

    Here’s a challenge for you: give up the notion of ”God the Father” as an old white guy with a flowing beard who’s been keeping a list of all the good or bad things that you’ve done. My hunch is you won’t turn into a psychopath.

  • Patrick

    Judgment day is not 5/21/11. As detailed as Harold Camping’s studies are, the conclusions are all wrong. Harold Camping comes from a very legailistic point of view and seems to know very little about God’s love and grace. And Harold’s interpretation of the bible doesn’t give the claim the status of “biblical authority.”

    Do these people really think that he’s the only Christian on the face of the earth that got this right? The people promoting this aren’t coming to the same conclusion; they’re just repeating what Harold Camping said. Don’t these people study the bible for themselves?

    If anyone is interested in seeing counter arguments, please go to my site where I’m examining the Judgment day teachings of Harold Camping. http://www.judgmentdaytruth.com

    When nothing happens on 5/21/11 I hope these people are honest enough to admit their mistake and humble themselves before the world and apologize for promoting this false teaching.

    I’m genuinely concerned for the people that do believe it. A lot of people are going to be devastated when this doesn’t happen. That is when, fellow Christians, we’ll need to setup and help restore the faith of those who were misled.

    Patrick OToole
    patrick@judgmentdaytruth.com

  • Rodgreig

    I once believed in the Bible, but then I investigated to find out who actually wrote it. I found out it was written many years after the purported life of Christ, by people when never knew of him, nor had any way of finding out what he did or said. Add to that, the fact that there were at least a dozen or more historians and philosophers whose writings never mention such a person nor any of the stories told about miracles and resurrection from the dead. It’s all myth based on worship of the Sun and the 12 constellations.

  • Jack Wellman

    Great work my friend. I have heard much about the Dec. 2012 too from some non-believers and I tell them that that number IS significant…just read Revelation 20:12 and make em’ think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bill-Thacker/1437259872 Bill Thacker

    Bruce;

    Thanks for the courtesy of your reply. It was unfair for me to complain about your article. At least you *did* talk about these doomsday nuts, and you made it clear you don’t share their belief. The other religious bloggers, people who find plenty of time to criticize atheism, were mum, so your article was the only place to express my point. I apologize for scapegoating you.

    But I have to ask… is your gentle technique *effective* against fundamentalism? Prop 8 passed despite your fine speech. Your mild rebuke won’t rein in the doomsday cult, either. If the morning of May 22nd brings news that hundreds of those people have committed suicide, will your light-hearted treatment of the topic still seem appropriate?

    It *is* about tactics and strategy, and I doubt that yours are effective in this case. (I’m sure they work great for other cases, though.)

    And it may also be about goals. My main goal is making the world better. Is that yours?

    When I listened to your Prop 8 speech, I noticed something odd: your “I confess…” statements. Confession is an act of contrition, someone admitting they *know* they were wrong. And especially in religion, a genuine confession demands forgiveness. When you confess on behalf of Christianity, I’m expected to forgive Christianity, lest I be thought petty.

    But you can’t confess for someone else, Bruce. The Christians you were criticizing feel no remorse and don’t think they’ve done wrong. You must know that. Was your goal really to denounce fundamentalists, or was it to win forgiveness for Christianity.

    I think your speech would have been better if you replaced every instance of “I confess for…” with “I condemn.”

  • Rodgreig

    When I decided I wanted to become a minister, and took lessons from a revered pastor of mine, I became discouraged when he told me–and I’ll never forget the exact words–”Rod, you will learn that Jesus was just a man–perhaps the most influential man who ever lived, but just a man.” That started me on a search for more, and wound up with my giving up the idea of becoming a minister, and believing the return of Jesus is a myth.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Bill – thanks for commenting. not sure who you are talking to, but NO ONE is off limits from criticizing, especially as you say all people of faith are basically in the same boat.

    Some of us “moderates” your word, not mine, simply choose to interact in a different way than maybe you would want us to. Sure there is time for righteous indignation as well as gentle prodding.

    As far as OUR disagreement, it is REALLY about God or is it about tactics and strategy . . . both of which run the gamut within and outside of faith traditions.

    And just in case you think i am a total softie: http://www.reyes-chow.com/2010/08/proposition-8-verdict-rally-speech-poll.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bill-Thacker/1437259872 Bill Thacker

    When atheists say, “religion is myth and people are foolish to believe it,” we usually get this response:

    “You shouldn’t criticize religious moderates. They are your allies against religious extremists. You should respect them and work with them for that common goal.”

    OK. Here’s religious extremism at work. A small group of lunatics has launched a nationwide campaign telling people that nothing matters after May 21st. This encourages incredibly reckless behavior:

    - “The world ends next month. Let’s quit our jobs and liquidate our savings so we can make the most of our remaining time.”

    - “The world ends next week. No point paying my bills. I may as well charge all my cards to the limit, too.”

    - “The world ends tomorrow. I may not have been good enough to get to Heaven. Maybe if I kill an abortion doctor God will love me more.”

    So, religious moderates… ALLIES… I’m looking for you to step up. Do something about this. I don’t know a reasonable way to critize *their* beliefs without also criticizing *yours*, because you both have identical evidence (none).

    You claim to be experts at distinguishing between reasonable and unreasonable faith. So get to it – tell the world these people are unreasonable, dangerous lunatics. Make it clear that you think they’re wrong. Do something to stop them from harming hundreds or even thousands of people.

    And please, let us atheists know how we can be your allies in this mission.

    Bluntly, so far I’m disappointed. The reaction of religious moderates to this story looks more like tolerant amusement than condemnation. Bruce Reyes-Chow clearly doesn’t agree with them, but apparently respects their right to behave stupidly, saying “different manifestations of the church are simply that . . . different.” He laughs off the chance to criticize them, “Good golly, I don’t know.”

    I count that as a religious moderate who is defending the extremists, not fighting them, and one less religious moderate who deserves my respect.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for this concise explanation of the May 21t date. While I am not sure that I would read scripture in the same way or draw the same conclusions about connects between texts, this is helpful to know how folks are coming to this date.

    If you could answer a very honest question on my part, what happens if it is not true? Or . . . should it not come true would you be willing to come back here for some dialoge about it? And if it DOES come true . . . well, I will be the first to blog a mea culpa.

  • Anonymous

    Major notification found in the Bible….please check this out…God tells us….

    For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights;and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. Genesis 7:4

    In the sixth hundreth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. Genesis 7:11

    This flood was in 4990 BC ( see The Biblical Calander Of History, by Harold Camping )

    About Five thousand years later, in the New Testament..while speaking about the flood

    But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. II Peter 3:8

    May 21st, 2011 is seven thousand years from the year of the flood AND it is the seventeenth day of the second month according to the biblical calander ( Jewish Calander )….Check it out!!

    This is not man’s prediction.. This is God’s Word.

  • Desiretheword

    Really, I find just the opposite to be true. When the return of the master is imminent then you are watchful of opportunities to share the good news. As far as the cares of this world that you mention I think that messiah said to not Get caught up in those and to focus on the work of the Father.

  • Desiretheword

    Well between the “progressive” christian and the “mystic” Christian that you wrote about, both give bad names to the faith one, Reyes chow doesn’t understand or believe scripture at all, and the other proclaims hidden knowledge due to his “super spiritual” state that only ” true believers” get to know. Both of you portray the faith in a less than accurate light. Mr Reyes all you have to point out is that Jesus himself told us that ni man knows the day or hour and that the prudent believer needs to always be ready, because He comes as a theif in the night.

    That doesn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t be aware of the season that is upon us know! We are in fact living in the last days.

    Suggestion to both parties, believe what the bible says and don’t add absurd ideas to the text that simply are just to further your own agenda.

    One of the Way

  • Jack

    Actually the the book was titled “1994?” with a question mark on the cover. Inside the book camping explained if its not 1994 it will be 2011.

    He also responded to this inside the book and to several callers who asked the same question.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Bruce – It is my hope to be there, not sure about the Angel Island trip.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Charles . . . so I am just going to ask, do you think that I am one of those “modern hip pastors” of which you speak? If so, I could argue back at a few of your assessments about me, but if not, someone else will have to take up the fight.

  • bruce chapman

    just returned from Easter Vigil service @1st Pres., Tallahassee where judgment came by way of a risen Christ who greets the ladies at the tomb, “Greetings! Do not be afraid.” Love casts fear out. Every day is judgment day in the phenomenology of hope…Hope ur well, B R-C; c u in Berkeley, eh!?! Are you going to Angel Is. with us?

  • Charles

    The doomsday preachers like the old dude advertising 5/21/11 as the end of times have always been around. Nothing new. These guys are one sided and angry fellows that is for darn sure, but ya know what – at least they pick their side and stick with it. It’s annoying but it’s not pacifying. When I hear modern hip pastors speak today, they all seem to take the approach of self deprecation in order to get their point across. The usually just focus on themselves and how God uses them in special ways, they always make fun of their hangups so people will like them – they make sure everyone thinks they are “awesome” because they tell everyone the same thing – even kids. It would be refreshing to hear someone argue against this and take a stand for living and not rapture. If the world were coming to an end at this time, wouldn’t it be better to say that love is what you need to focus on and if it doesn’t happen, then you know what is important.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    I would, just to be on the safe side.

  • The General

    Should I be working on my sermon on 5/22?

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    For what it’s worth, as I understand it, May 21st won’t be the end of the world, per se. Just the date of the Rapture. The world will end a few months (but not, oddly enough, a few years as per the Left Behind books) later.

    At any rate, if they’re right (don’t hold your breath on that), then at least we won’t have to listen to them any longer after May 21st….

    (Just had the admittedly snarky thought. What if they’re “right,” but it’s a completely different group that gets Raptured, and they get stuck here with the rest of us un-Raptured folks?)

  • Anonymous

    At least the guy with the sign knows how to spell

    JUDGMENT.

  • Matt

    oh man…I’m so embarrassed. May 21st is my son’s 4th birthday party. I simply said, “Jesus will come back before I spend $1000 on a Lightning McQueen Cars cake.” It got overheard, misunderstood, and one thing led to another. However, Jesus is invited so if he shows up he can have a cupcake.

  • Anonymous

    @abdulla – I deleted your second comment because it was a duplicate of this one. I will leave this reply for now, but would ask that you change your rhetoric and refrain from calls of violence if you wish to be welcome here. Please see my comment policy. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/breyeschow/read-me/my-comments-policy/

  • Charles Stanford

    I remember a man telling me one time that he had seen a sermon title advertised locally that said, “I Saw the Devil Fall from the Balcony.” Intrigued, he went to hear the sermon. It was a stewarship sermon! I figure this Judgment Day stuff is something similar, but I do appreciate your take on it and the insights that come from you about it. Charles

  • Davisfolk

    Having been brought up to expect an imminent rapture at any moment, I find this phenomenon to be more than just an attempt to take judgment and the Second Coming seriously. When we live under the threat of an imminent return, too much that is worth valuing about Christianity is thrown out the window – the long, slow processes of sowing peace, caring for the earth, building trust, cultivating friendships, fighting poverty, etc. The gospel gets reduced to “Repent!”; Faith gets reduced to fire insurance; and ethics gets reduced to what is only at hand here and now. I find it to be more sinister than just a really bad latest guess.

  • http://profiles.google.com/abdullanoor meet abdulla

    TO ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE
    1- GOD WAS BORN 2011 YEARS BEFORE
    2- GOD DIED SOME YEARS LATER KILLED
    3- GOD’S MOTHER WAS A JEWESS
    4- GOD DRUNK WINE
    5- GOD HAD A FATHER
    6- GOD ONE BECAME A MAN
    7- GOD’S WIFE WAS MARRY OR GIRLFRIEND
    8- A CARPENTER MARRIED GOD’S WIFE
    9- GOD SPLIT INTO THREE 2011 YEARS BEFORE
    10- GOD RID A DONKEY AND WANDERED IN ISRAEL 2000 YRS BEFORE
    MESSAGE: WT THE HEL IS YOUR GOD!
    ALL CHRISTIANS SHOULD DIE ON 21 MY 2011
    OR COMMIT SUICIDE LIKE UR GOD ON 22 MAY 2011

  • http://profiles.google.com/abdullanoor meet abdulla

    TO ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE
    1- GOD WAS BORN 2011 YEARS BEFORE
    2- GOD DIED SOME YEARS LATER KILLED
    3- GOD’S MOTHER WAS A JEWESS
    4- GOD DRUNK WINE
    5- GOD HAD A FATHER
    6- GOD ONE BECAME A MAN
    7- GOD’S WIFE WAS MARRY OR GIRLFRIEND
    8- A CARPENTER MARRIED GOD’S WIFE
    9- GOD SPLIT INTO THREE 2011 YEARS BEFORE
    10- GOD RID A DONKEY AND WANDERED IN ISRAEL 2000 YRS BEFORE
    MESSAGE: WT THE HEL IS YOUR GOD!
    ALL CHRISTIANS SHOULD DIE ON 21 MY 2011
    OR COMMIT SUICIDE LIKE UR GOD ON 22 MAY 2011

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Thousands — perhaps millions of times — human beings have predicted a religious end to the world. And yet, stubbornly, it keeps failing to end.

  • eda goff

    Saw the signs, thanks for clearing up the confusion. I thought they were having a service on the 21st to talk about judgement day. Boy, I missed the mark. I better get ready….. not spiritually but physically. I have a lot of plans for that day, not the least of which is my 28th wedding anniversary. If my anniversary is on “Judgement Day”, I’m going to have to plan for a bigger party. I also agree with being faithful is not always right in our interpretation, but my faith is unwavering.

  • Janet Bohren

    To live each day faithfully and boldly, that is a good challenge.
    Thanks for this blog Bruce. It was fun to read and also thought-provoking. Janet Bohren

  • Adri

    I certainly agree. What is the difference between a guarantee and a threat? Love doesn’t completely close doors when faced with differences.

  • http://joshuarudd.com Joshua Rudd

    Yeah, I was expecting Judgement Day to be yesterday – April 21, 2011, but I guess Sarah and John Connor really did stop Skynet from getting activated this time around.

  • Anonymous

    While I am all for being confident in the faith, I think for many this “guarantee” language does not feel like there is room for anyone who might feel otherwise or approach faith in a different way. Thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous

    THIS year . . . sorry ;-)

  • Adri

    Bruce:
    What you write in the end is so important to me – we need to realize that faithfulness is about the whys and continuing journey and not about being “right.” This has become my mantra in life and in ministry: I will always attempt to be constantly discerning in all I do, for I feel that constantly seeking God is what we’re all called to, individually and together. We cannot know what God’s plan is, but we can constantly be in communication through the process of discernment. It is that willingness to be continually seeking that is faithfulness (and thus “faith”) to me. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Pastorbill101

    I thought it was May 21st 2012 not 11? I guess I had better get busy and change my Easter Sermon. Here it comes ready or not?

  • Megory

    I have been listening to Harold Camping and Family Radio for years – always scratching my head and wondering why people need this particular brand of belief. Remember when he said the end of the world was in Sept 1994? Very few people took that prediction seriously. Why now? More believers? A different era? We need to put our fear somewhere? As a Christian, it is hard to think seriously about end times when I am just managing to get through the not-the-end-times, also known as life in general. But boy, are people hyped about this one. Thanks for reflections, Bruce. And yeah, get your mom a birthday present.