It's almost a week after the saints weren’t raptured to heaven when Harold Camping claimed they would, unsurprisingly. Instead, an Icelandic volcano has blown its top and disrupted air travel and a monster tornado has leveled Joplin, Mo., killing more than a hundred people and leaving thousands homeless.
Almost a week after the saints weren’t raptured to heaven when Harold Camping claimed they would, unsurprisingly, the Great Tribulation hasn’t begun and the Antichrist still hasn’t appeared.
Instead, an Icelandic volcano has blown its top and disrupted air travel, a monster tornado has leveled Joplin, Mo., killing more than a hundred people and leaving thousands homeless, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered California to address its severely overcrowded prisons and President Barack Obama muffed his toast to Queen Elizabeth.
Also, many important events happened that didn’t make the news: the sun continued to rise and set; people continued to go about their daily and weekly routines; grass and trees continued to grow.
In short, life went on, for most of us … and ended for many of us … just like it has from the beginning of time and will do until the end of time. Whenever that will be.
If you think about it, curiosity about the end of the world, which in Camping’s case has become either an unhealthy obsession or a convenient way to separate gullible or fearful people from their money, is understandable.
We all know that nothing lasts forever, and none of us will live forever. It would be strange if we never wondered how long our lives –– or a building, a nation, a planet, a star and even the universe –– will last.
Where quite a few of us go wrong is in an unbalanced and counterproductive focus on those things. We’re born with a need to find and try to understand the reason and the order that is behind and within everything that exists. We’re frightened and confused by things that either are or seem to be pointless or random.
And sometimes, when we can’t figure out the how and why, we make up a story that explains the inexplicable for us. We convince ourselves that we, or someone else who may be smarter or more powerful or more charismatic than we are, have the answer, have the true story that tells us why things are the way they are and how things will end.
That’s the seductive attraction of false prophets of doom like Harold Camping, Al Gore, Hal Lindsey, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Herbert Armstrong, Joseph Rutherford, Charles Taze Russell, William Miller, Thomas Malthus and on and on.
False prophets and their followers generally exhibit a remarkable excess of enthusiasm, and they often are incapable of really admitting when they are wrong. This is true whether it’s a religious false prophet like Camping or a pseudoscientific false prophet of “climate change” like Gore.
In the case of William Miller, he made two false predictions of the second coming of Christ in 1843 and 1844 before he learned his lesson. Unfortunately, most of his followers could not bring themselves to believe that they were so dreadfully wrong about something so important. Rather than reject the 1844 guess as Miller had done, they decided that they were right about the date but wrong about what was supposed to happen on that date. Soon some of them were again trying to find out when Jesus would come back.
It’s much the same with Camping. This wasn’t the first time he has confidently made false predictions, and he has already set a new date — Oct. 21.
Foolish as Camping and his followers are, I find them to be more objects of pity than of scorn. In purporting to know what the Christian religion says can’t be known they’ve brought needless trouble on themselves and others. Besides, in my youth I lived in that same glass house, so I have no business throwing stones of mockery.
However, I do feel safe in predicting that on Oct. 21 the world will end for millions of people. Just like it ended on Sunday for the victims of the Joplin tornado, and will end for millions of people today, tomorrow and the day after that.
Someday, it’ll be our turn. We’re all going to die someday and will face the Judge. Trying to predict “the end” is a dangerous distraction from that inescapable fact.
Instead of a foolishly focusing on a future we can’t know or control, we should live now in such a way that we’ll be ready to meet the Judge whenever he issues his summons.
Community editor Jared Olar may be reached at email@example.com.