No doubt about it.
Which is amazing if you stop and think about all of the important religious events and trends that made it into the headlines this week.
But it was the story of the week. You knew it had totally jumped the shark when even Doonesbury had enough time to ramp up and get in on the mockery.
So, keeping in mind all of the editors and producers who fell in love with the Harold Camping story, let those of us who are traditional Christian believers recite the following (yes, it’s from an Orthodox site) together, along with millions of Catholics (even Stephen Colbert), Eastern Orthodox believers, Anglicans around the world, Lutherans and a host of others for whom the word “creed” is not a joke:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. …
If you know the rest, please, by all means, continue.
The point is that millions and millions and millions of Christian believers happen to believe in the doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. That is not in dispute and, well, it simply isn’t news.
It also isn’t big news that a small group of believers forget about Matthew 24:36 and centuries of traditional Christian belief and decided that they had decoded the flight plan for the return of the Lord. Sadly, this happens pretty often and it is sure to happen again.
So, the question is WHY was this the story of the week?
Well, a reader named Brett should win some kind of prize for pointing us toward this meditation about this past week in journalism. It’s from The New Republic and it was written by one Tiffany Stanley, who noted that for her the whole media “schadenfreude” about this story finally “turned sinister.”
Here’s a large chunk of what she has to say, but you must read it all.
We feel superior, knowing that even though they told us we were heading for death and destruction, now, they get theirs.
While some news stories have been nuanced and evenhanded, others have opted for smug superiority and cheap laughs. The Daily Beast featured “Your Guide to the End of the World,” with such salient tips as “Where’s the best place to weather this sucker?” (Note: avoid fault lines.) In its “comedy” section, Huffington Post made an exhaustive set of lists, from “9 Ways to Tell the World is Over” to “21 Reasons Why May 21 is NOT the End of the World” (on the latter: “Justin Bieber wouldn’t let it happen”). A blog item on NPR — under the headline, “The Rapture supposedly starts tonight” — invited readers to take a quiz on who is most likely to be left behind. (By an overwhelming majority, politicians will feel the fiery furnace; journalists, surprisingly, are more likely to be spared, at least ahead of bloggers and those who talk on their cell phones.)
Do the end-timers seem ignorant? Yes. Are they insane? Possibly. But should our reaction to them be chuckling glee or something more like sadness? … Laughing at religious fanatics is nothing new. And, at some level, there’s nothing wrong with it. But this story didn’t just take off in popularity because people wanted a quick laugh or some insight into a quirky subset of our country. There’s a cruelty underlying our desire to laugh at this story — a desire to see people humiliated and to revel in our own superiority and rationality — even though the people in question are pretty tragic characters, who either have serious problems themselves or perhaps are being taken advantage of, or both.
All I can add is this. What. She. Said.
Once again: It was the story of the week. And again I have to ask: Why?
IMAGE: Ancient icon of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.