My latest article for Christ and Pop Culture — “Are You Ready For This Saturday’s Rapture?” — reflects on Harold Camping’s prediction that Judgment Day will take place on Saturday, May 21, 2011, and what we can learn from him and his followers. The article gets a little more personal than most of my CaPC fare: I grew up during the height of the Cold War and as a child, spent a lot of time reading Revelation and being fixated on the end times. So it’s difficult to talk about the Rapture, etc. without dredging up a lot of memories.
On a related note, Jason Boyett (author of O Me of Little Faith) has written an excellent and compassionate article for the Washington Post about Camping’s predictions and their potential ramifications:
…let’s not forget that these kinds of public predictions have very real victims. Camping’s faith will survive the impending disappointment, as will his ministry and radio empire. He’ll make excuses and set another date. I don’t worry about him; I worry about his followers and their families. When Jesus didn’t come back in 1988, I was relieved, but I also lost a piece of my faith. Belief became harder for me. I’m still dealing with its effects. I’ve written books about the apocalypse and about religious doubt, and there’s no question those two things are related in my psyche.
It’s easy to laugh at the failed predictions of date-setters. God knows I’ve had my share of it. They’ve been wrong for two thousand years and they’ll be wrong in the future. But it’s getting harder and harder to laugh at the people who believe them. You might think they are mindless sheep. I think they are victims of hope, and that’s no longer funny.
Boyett’s article also does a fine job of expressing many of the same feelings I had growing up believing that the Rapture was always right around the corner. Billboard photo via Nikos.