Yesterday (May 20) I blogged about Harold Camping’s prediction that Christ would return today (May 21) and the world would end soon afterwards. My main thrust then was against Christians such as him and Edgar Whisenant (88 Reasons Why Christ May Return in 1988) and others who ignore Matthew 24 and try to identify the day or month or even year of Christ’s return. They Christianity a bad name.
But part of the fault lies with the mass media that sensationalizes these false prophecies and tends to smear all Christians, especially evangelical Christians, with the same brush–as fanatics if not lunatics.
Yesterday a local TV news program came to my house and interviewed me on camera about Camping’s prediction and asked me to comment especially about its historical context–earlier such failed predictions. I talked briefly about William Miller and the “Great Disappointment” of 1843/1844 and about our own local apocalyptic sectarian history–Victor Houteff and the Seventh-Day Davidians and their offshoot the Branch Davidians. Houteff and his followers and successors have been predicting the “end of the world” (as we know it) for decades. (The TV station edited me out of the story!)
Tonight’s network news programs featured stories about Camping’s apocalyptic predictions. Why? A slow news night? Do people not remember that this happens frequently? Is it really news?
One of my main complaints is about news programming on television; it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find sustained news there–even on networks allegedly devoted to news! I remember the birth of CNN and how it aired 24 hour news programming. Now so much of it’s air time and similar networks’ air time is devoted to fluff–especially celebrity gossip. I have to think that Camping’s obviously spurious prophecy is just grist for the media’s sensationalizing mill. It’s not newsworthy, folks. Why not just ignore it?
Somehow or other we evangelical Christians need to get across to the media moguls that this is not our scene. As a whole we are NOT into date setting, rapture speculation, apocalyptic sensationalism. Yes, we have our fringe that’s into that. Every religious movement has its lunatic fringe. The Roman Catholic Church has its Penitentes and secret societies. Baptists have their funeral picketers from Kansas. Even the Lutherans have their fringe in the Apostolic Lutheran churches of the Iron Range (followers of a 19th century Scandinavian prophet). Maybe we evangelicals have brought this on ourselves, however, by reveling in our success and due to our triumphalistic tendencies.
I urge evangelicals to make clear to all who will listen that we DO believe in the return of Jesus Christ, but, as a whole, we DO NOT believe in staring into the sky waiting for it to happen. For the most part we agree with Luther who, when asked what he would do if he knew Christ would return tomorrow, said “plant a tree today.” In other words, carry on as always living as disciples of the crucified and risen Lord.