Going Camping: Apocalypse Now

Going Camping: Apocalypse Now May 25, 2011

Apocalypse, Judgment Day, Harold Camping, End of the World, Christ, Judgement

If you don’t know already, it would seem that the beginning of the end has happened. It wasn’t the end all be all of endings, at least not in the way we were told to expect it. May 21 came and went and the only thing we had to show for it was a slue of jokes about Judgment Day (including many from yours truly). Some people felt like all the jokes were in poor taste and mean spirited. I felt like it was a pretty typical response to something that could cause anxiousness (to some degree, at least) and that it was a fairly lighthearted way to debunk what I saw as not only poor theology but ultimately hurtful theology.

Much like the outcry around Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Terry Jones, there are many people who feel like we have given Mr. Camping too much attention and while I completely see their argument, I also recognize that there will be certain segments of society that will not ignore him, no matter what. For me that places a bit of onus on counter voices (particularly Christian ones) to give a different perspective. So, I mostly made jokes. You know things like, “…might as well go green. Unplug your stuff Friday night. ‘kay?” and a list of jokes ministers could tell in church the day after.

I’m not sure what to make of Mr. Camping.  Part of me believes that this engineer turned Christian radio mogul turned self anointed prophet, who happens to be worth more than $70 million and gave none of it away before the deadline of May 21, is just in it for the almighty dollar. Part of me listens to him and wonders if he might actually believe what he says and feels the slightest bit of sympathy for him (and that same part then wonders if he may not suffer from a mental issue associated with aging).

I suppose I can never speak to his real motivation. He could be trying to save us. He could be trying to warn us. He could be trying to scare us. He could just be trying to empty our wallets. I just don’t know.  What I do know is what effect it is having on people. One lady attempted to kill her daughters to save them from the suffering of Judgment Day. Some people maxed out their credit cards on one last family trip or spent huge chunks of what little they had on trying to tell others about the impending doom.

Whatever his motivation, his outcome is this: he has hurt people. He has taught them that the God of Creation and love is a God of death and fear. He has taught people to doubt that any good can come from institutionalized religion (which, over time, may not be altogether wrong, but definitely wrong in part). He taught them that God is a joke.

There’s a whole lot of reasons why most Christians didn’t believe Camping and even made light of his prediction. The same is true for me, but for me the big one was how his perspective brought more fear than hope. No matter what you think of how the eschatological sections of the Bible will ultimately be played out (or not), one thing is for certain, they are about hope. They are about casting a vision of a future in which those who are oppressed, abused and marginalized in the present will be valued and loved as children of God. Mr. Camping’s ‘vision’ did the opposite.

With that in mind I proposed a Judgement-free Day to follow up Mr. Campings Judgement Day. So, now that he has predicted that we actually are in the Rapture and will be until October 21, I have another proposal. Let’s act like Christ did return. Christ is here with us on Earth and we don’t know who it is. It could be the lady at the register when you get gas or the elderly man at the pump next to you. It could be the man on the street corner holding up a sign or the person driving entirely too slow on a one lane road when you are late to work. It could be a friend, your kids, your partner or spouse… or even yourself.

“Lo, I am with you always. Even until the end of age.” I’m standing up with Mr. Camping an shouting out “Apocalypse Now!” It would be a far, far better world if we not only started acting like Christ could come tomorrow, but that Christ is already here. So, I stand with Mr. Camping even if we don’t agree on the details of it. After all, for all I know, he could be Christ.

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