In part 1, I summarized John Hagee’s “Four Blood Moons” hysteria, which culminated with its final lunar eclipse four years ago.
So what was supposed to happen?
We need to learn from Reverend Hagee precisely what was supposed to happen and when. Hagee told us, “The coming four blood moons points to a world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015.”
Okay, but that’s rather vague. Hagee said (in a video that is, embarrassingly, still in the Hagee Ministries channel), “God is literally screaming at the world, ‘I’m coming soon.’”
Surely the creator of the universe can do better? “Something is about to change,” according to the book’s subtitle.
Okay, forget it. Hagee won’t be specific because he can’t. Perhaps the purpose of the book wasn’t to enlighten the flock but (dare I say it?) to make money. It turns out that Pastor Hagee wasn’t the first to think up the four blood moons idea, though you wouldn’t know it from his movie, where he claims to have come up with this connection. Hagee loves money like sharks love chum.
Others piled on and predicted financial disaster after the end of the Shemitah year (didn’t happen—the Dow was up on the next trading day). Unsurprisingly, those financial prophets didn’t conclude that their game is groundless. One pundit concluded that God simply didn’t want to make himself predictable. It’s clear that no lesson has been learned, and the next breathless, invented crisis among gullible Christians is in our near future.
One element of this hysteria is a “the sky is falling” attitude. Prophecy-hungry Christian charlatans point to the worrisome news of the moment—Iran’s nuclear ambitions, ISIS, problems in Israel, Ebola, police shootings, droughts and forest fires, same-sex marriage, and more—and imagine that these are the signs of the End.
No, that’s not bad. You want bad? How about the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) that killed between three and eleven million people in Europe? That was bad. Or how about 1942–43 when it looked like the Axis powers might succeed and carve up the world? Or the 1918 flu pandemic that killed up to 100 million people? Or the Black Death in Europe (1346–53), which killed 20% of the world’s population?
Remember when you were a kid in history class, and you asked why you had to learn all that stuff? This is why. It’s so you can immunize yourself from people like Hagee who hope you are ignorant of events like those—events so world-shakingly calamitous that they plausibly could have signaled an end of the world.
Sorry, Christian apocalypticists, same-sex marriage doesn’t compare.
I believe a quote from the Good Book is relevant here.
The prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20).
Wow—that’s tough love. I wonder if pastor David Berzins, who was eager to stone gays to death, might have been happy to carry out that punishment since Hagee obviously wasn’t speaking for God since his prophecy didn’t come true.
Hagee had to walk a fine line. He had to be specific enough to mesmerize his flock into buying his books and mailing in checks but not so specific that he could be easily called on a prophecy when it didn’t come to pass. That was the error that Harold Camping made. He spent $100 million to advertise a very specific date for the Rapture, May 21, 2011. Things became uncomfortable when May 21 came and went just like any other day.
After several years of planning, you could imagine a crescendo at Hagee’s web site on the eve of the fourth “blood moon.” Nope—out of a bunch of ads, a single one read, “The final blood moon is coming . . . are you ready?”
Ready for what? Hagee pretty much ignored the blood moons non-event and moved on to the next apocalyptic message so we can get good and scared all over again. John Hagee has become Pastor Freddie Krueger of the (Nightmare on) Elm Street Church. And like the groundless claims in John Oliver’s much-missed megachurch, Hagee’s far-reaching but empty claims are, incredibly, all legal.
If there were justice where you could pull a stunt like this once but then you’d lose all credibility after a failure, I wouldn’t mind. The problem is, there are no consequences. When Hagee and others tap dance away from their false claims, no one will stone them. Their flock will continue to do what they’re told. Like a stage magician, Hagee will focus his flock’s attention on some new book or outreach. While I wonder how Hagee can live with himself, the whole thing looks like a smart financial move in hindsight.
What’s it like on the inside?
Patheos atheist blogger Captain Cassidy wrote about what it was like growing up as a Pentecostal teenager during the “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” scare. On why this kind of thing is effective, she said that being on the inside flatters one’s ego. You know that you’ve got it figured out and the naysayers will get theirs soon enough, and then who’ll be laughing? Chillingly, she observed, “Fear lies at the heart of Christianity, not love.”
To remind us of how common end-of-the-world prophecies have been in history, I’ll wrap up with this much-mended “The End is nigh!” sign envisioned by Kyle Hepworth. The End has been predicted more often than you may know.
other Rapture scares in the past
look at new Rapture scares
like other folks look at lottery tickets:
sure, they’ve always failed to win in the past,
but this time might be the big payoff.
The problem is that their payoff
happens for the worst reasons
and at the expense of those who disagree with them.
— Captain Cassidy
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 9/26/15.)