I would feel remiss if I didn’t say a little something about Harold Camping’s Judgment Day prediction slated to happen today May 21, 2011. I’m formulating something to say around May 22, too, but in the mean time, I have two personal thoughts of lessons learned: 1) the incredible capacity for anyone to create worldwide hype and 2) my thankfulness for this experience.Amazing Hype
I never would have dreamed that Harold Camping and Family Radio were capable of creating this much worldwide stir over a doomsday prediction that 99% of the world has laughed off as Christian kook-fringe nuttiness at its best (or worst). As a teenager, I remember laughing at this guy’s corny, eerily creepy radio shows that my friends and I would listen to once in a while for sheer entertainment.
But now this Christian Fundamentalist organization that no one has ever taken too seriously whose founder and president has been written off by many prominent Christian teachers/preachers as a heretic and fraud are now more popular and known than ever before! They are all over the news, widely discussed in the blogosphere and are the subject of more Facebook updates and events (like post rapture parties!) than I ever would have predicted. It just blows my mind.
I mean, consider this for a moment… They’ve got hopelessly campy radio shows. They’re using second-rate, blocky billboard signs, have kooks running around with t-shirts, tracts, and posters, and are running an archaic website. If for nothing else, Harold Camping and crew have proved that we can effectively throw slick, cool, hip advertizing schematics out the window. With enough money, intentionality, organization, and a catchy phrase, anyone can get the world’s attention. Of course, I seriously doubt Family Radio will keep all the attention much past May 21, but they don’t expect to anyway. That’s just brilliant!A Reason to Be Thankful
It’s true that one can find something to be thankful for in even the most outlandish things. While I have substantial reasons to believe Harold Camping’s doomsday predictions are dangerously wrong (namely because of his false predictions from 1994 and the clever way he has sidestepped a clear warning from Jesus that no one knows the day or hour of Christ’s coming) I can’t deny that all the hubbub has gotten me to more deeply reflect on the essential Christian doctrine of Christ’s return, the Final Judgment, and God’s creation of the new heavens and the new earth. Part of me has come to hope that somehow all this May 21st stuff would actually be true, even though I think the predictions themselves are bunk.
(On a side note: I’ve thought it would be absolutely wonderful if Christ does return today, but not in the way or in the same spirit that Harold Camping has predicted! Maybe all of God’s people except Camping’s ilk would be raptured. Wouldn’t that be divine humor?? But I digress…)
In my experience, most Christians vastly undervalue, ignore, or are even embarrassed by belief and talk of the End Times. We affirm these things in classic affirmations of faith like the Apostles’ Creed: “[Christ] will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Our Eucharistic liturgy affirms it as part of the “mystery of faith”: “…Christ will come again.” And yet most of us have a hard time living in ready, joyful expectation for it.
No, it never helps that the Christian kooks have given the End Times a bad rap or that so many before have given apocalyptic predictions only to see another normal day come and go. It’s even clear that the New Testament writers expected Christ’s return to happen within their lifetimes. Obviously, we’re still here and still waiting… Well, maybe some of us are.
But I’ve been thinking to myself: Do I really live each day or even each hour as if this is my last here on earth, as if Christ would come at any moment? If he were to come right now, would he find me awake and ready? That’s a question every Christian should be asking, especially if we take Christ’s promises of his return seriously. Paul wrote something along these lines to the church in Rome that is apropos for days like today:
[U]nderstand… the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:11-14)
So, while I have good reason to believe that May 21 will come and go just as May 20 has, I’m not going to poke fun or belittle the day either. If it’s wrong to predict that Judgment Day is May 21, it would be equally wrong to predict that it is not just because we think Harold Camping’s predictions are phony. After all, Christ could return at any time, and we Christians do hope and pray he will return sooner rather than later. I want to live with him forever in his resurrection. I want him to finally set the world aright and to once and for all put an end to the powers of sin and death. I want God’s kingdom of righteousness to reign without end, and I want to be a part of it with the rest of redeemed humanity and creation.
May 21 would be fine with me, and by God’s grace I would be ready. May 22 would work, too, or the day after that. One never knows when the world’s last night will be. But am fully confident that the new dawn is closer than we can imagine. I’m going to live as if it is!