In Bad Faith 10: May 21st: To Know What Jesus Said No One Can Know

While listening to NPR’s Religion podcast I was surprised to hear that there is yet again another group of Christians predicting the Rapture, when Jesus will rescue the faithful and leave the rest to suffer unbelievable torment. This time the date has been set for Saturday May 21st. Hmmm, some things never change. I guess few remember the anxious days, following Israel’s 6-Day War in the 1970s when Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth was a best-seller, and there were predictions that Jesus’ Return would happen “soon,” it then being “one generation” after the re-founding of the nation state of Israel. It made perfect sense to my not-yet-developed adolescent brain that there would be no future and that it’d all end in a blinding Divine instant. There would be no time to have a family, no time to raise kids, and many thought that there’d be no sense to going to college (and waste four years?!). The world seemed to be going downhill and thousands and thousands were coming to Christ, so it seemed to make sense that the next thing that was going to happen would be for Jesus to take away his church and the world blowing itself up.

Then the years began to slip by and the world continued, such as it was, some years not so great and other years pretty good. I know that Chuck Smith and others continued to talk about these being the Last Days, but we started growing up and having families and setting different priorities than our own personal salvation. It wasn’t that the world had change as much as that my relationship to it and to life had changed. I began to see each year as a gift and my friends as connections, instead of as sinners in need of salvation. Salvation was what we did with each day, accepting the challenges and set-backs and looking for the best in ourselves and bring it out in our neighbors. I didn’t know any better as a teenager and young person, to not know that the world is a pretty big place and that living in fear of Divine judgment or the anxious expectation of Divine intervention wasn’t a very constructive way to live one’s life. It sadden’s me that an 89-year-old former engineer hasn’t figure that out.

Worse than that Harold Camping, president of Family Radio and chief proponent of the May 21st Rapture Date, is changing the course of many, many lives with his numerological nonsense. There’s the couple, Adrienne & Joel Martinez, quoted in the NPR article, saying that they quit their jobs and moved here to Orlando to spend the last days handing out pamphlets, reading their bible and spending time with their two-year-old. And they say that they have just enough money to get to May 21st and none should there be a next day for them. Oh and Adrienne is pregnant with a little one that’s set to arrive in June. Camping has lived his life and when May 22nd comes he’ll come up with another reason why his calculations were off (he previously predicted the Rapture for September 6, 1994). The Martinez family and possibly hundreds of others will probably have a bigger problem to deal with.

Imagine how different the world would be if all of this energy spent on ripping families apart, moving to different cities and days spent on the streets harassing strangers with a false gospel of fear and foolishness; what if that energy was spent on getting to know our neighbors and listening to them when they are lonely or sharing a meal with them when they are hungry, how different would the world be. Too bad Camping hasn’t used his numerology and wealth to feed the hungry, clothe the needy and visit those in dire straits. Maybe, instead of counting the years in books that know nothing of the Gregorian calendar, he should have read what was in the books, the stories about compassion and mercy and love. Engineers [sigh]. I’ve heard whispers on Twitter from some jokesters who are planning on Saturday to leave articles of clothing all over their cities for the laughs. This isn’t funny. That people would buy this stuff and leave their jobs, homes and families, speaks to level of their needs to be loved and heard. This is, in fact, something that we all need. Jesus was all about meeting people at that level. Too bad nobody listened to him until he was killed. Too bad these troubled seekers aren’t listening to him right now (in that he said quite plainly that no one knows the day or the hour of his return). We could all use with strong dose of compassion and connection right about now. May 21st be damned, the only day that counts is the one you are living right now.

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