Harold Camping had it wrong — again. The world did not end on Saturday. It’s two minutes from midnight Sunday as I type this and the crickets are chirping, the wind is blowing, Poe is snoring and I have a bone to pick.
Nothing out of the ordinary here.
You may have noticed that I was unusually silent the days leading into the Designated Doomsday. If you wondered if that was purposeful, the answer is yes.
I have been greatly disturbed by all of this on many fronts, as I suspect many of you have been.
The only thing Harold Camping had to do to persuade people to abandon their homes, their jobs, their families and yes, part with their monies was to speak with absolute conviction. He, nor his devotees, would even entertain the possibility that they would rise on Sunday morning. The rest of us were dead wrong as far as they were concerned. There’s been an awful lot of snickering in the faith community about Camping and his crew over the past few weeks. My own pastors made jokes about it at church this morning. It would be easy enough to dismiss Camping as a doddering old man were it not for the multi-million business he runs. Family Radio is estimated to worth a whopping $72 million. They took in $18 million in 2009 according to the IRS. I imagine a lot of pastors wish their church’s financials looked as good as Camping’s, heh?
There are two sure-fired ways to get Jesus-people to give you money, a lot of money — scare the bejesus outta them or convince them that God is their Sugar Daddy in Disguise. There is something innate about the way we are wired that makes us both greedy and needy.
The reason Camping was so successful in getting his message out is because he practices what I refer to in Where’s Your Jesus Now? as the Religion of Certainosity — a term I coined. It’s the religion of the masses — people who’d rather be right than redeemed. Camping believed he was right and his conviction seduced others.
A voice of authority is a powerful tool. If you need more proof of that, read Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Whether you claim a faith in Christ or not, I’d caution us to steer clear of belittling those who clung to Camping’s misguided and manipulated teachings. I don’t know if you saw the news clips of the people attending the Camping seminars in preparation of May 21st? If so, perhaps you noticed, as did I, the anxiety furrowed into the brows of the young fathers? Or the tears of the mom crying because her daughters would never know what it was like to marry and have babies? (I tried to find the clip to include here but there were more clips of people bashing Camping than of Camping himself)
These people aren’t nuts. They aren’t whacked. They aren’t even delusional. They are just mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, aunts and uncles, all trying to live out their faith the best they know how. Instead of dismissing Camping’s followers as lunatics, we ought to acknowledge them as people who are seeking a significance not sold by Wall Street.
The problem is that we think we’re smarter than them. In fact, we know we are, right?
Yet, we only have to look to our own recent history as a nation to understand how fear can make us reactionary instead of rational.