Friday, May 20, 2011

Bonanza Column 237 - The End is Here (or It Isn't)

Have you heard? The end of the world began last Saturday. So by the time you are reading this, presumably there are signs of the end – maybe people have started disappearing, or worse yet appearing, maybe the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (not to be confused with the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame) are riding down Tahoe Boulevard right now.
As you probably know Harold Camping, a civil engineer who is a self-taught biblical scholar has been trumpeting this doomsday scenario on his Family Radio network, predicting Judgment Day on May 21st, a date he arrived at through a series of calculations that assume the world will end exactly 7,000 years after Noah’s flood. Believers (in what I’m not sure – Camping, I guess) are to be transported up to heaven as a worldwide earthquake strikes. Nonbelievers will endure five months of plagues, quakes, wars, famine and general torment before the planet’s total destruction in October. According to the New York Times, Mr. Camping said in 1992 that the rapture would probably be in 1994, but he now says newer evidence makes the prophecy for this year certain.
I don’t expect Camping to be right (it’s Friday night as I write this, so who knows?), and if he is it’s really going to annoy the folks who believe that the supposed Mayan calendar predicts the end in 2012. What is curious to me is how willing some people are to believe something like this. Friday’s New York Times carried a story about a family where the parents are Camping followers (Campingites? Campers?) but the teen-age children are not, and the kids keep trying to make summer plans while the parents say “why bother?” More poignantly, the mother has decided that some of the children will not be saved, and has told them so – not to get them to change their ways, just to let them know what’s coming.
I’m not going to argue the religious or philosophical merits of eschatology. If you believe in an end to the world and a last judgment, that’s your prerogative – religious thinkers are divided on this one right down the middle both within and between various religions. If the thought or fear of judgment keeps you on the straight and narrow, more power to you. But in my understanding, the judgment is supposed to be heavenly in origin, and most of these folks like Camping and his ilk seem to be very interested in judging those around them, particularly those who don’t think as they do. It boggles my mind that a parent could be so caught up in how right someone like Camping is that they will, in effect, reject their own child, but this happens in these doomsday cults, and it happens a lot.
So for me, Camping is in the same camp with Jim Jones, Osama Bin Laden, those crazies that picket servicemen’s funerals because they hate gays, that so-called preacher that finally got to burn his Quran, and all the other religious fanatics who seem to be multiplying these days, and I just don’t see that they’re adding anything useful to the social dialogue.
So I hope this column finds you, on Tuesday or Wednesday, or Thursday happy and healthy and unplagued by plagues, demons, or hellfire. If it doesn’t, well, then I bet on the wrong horse. My bad.

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