Bogus Prophecy

Have you sold your belongings? Are you going out on a party binge tonight? Have you said good-bye to all your friends? You may only have one day left. According to the Harold Camping, founder of the Family Radio network, tomorrow, May 21, is the beginning of the rapture. This means that Jesus will return tomorrow and all the people who are elected for salvation will disappear. Thus begins a time of tribulation that will conclude with the end of the world on October 21 of this year. Of course, many of us liberal Christians probably can make longer term plans as we are not guaranteed to be among the chosen.

I am more worried about the people who are going to disappear. I will definitely steer clear tomorrow of any car with the bumper sticker: “CAUTION: In case of the Rapture, the driver of this car may disappear.” It is easy to make fun of such a prediction. There are some funny on-line sites, like the Facebook event entitled “Post-Rapture Looting.” It is healthy to just laugh off such hubristic and mis-guided predictions, but there are very real consequences to such actions.

The problem with the prediction, of course, is that it is totally bogus, to use the sort of theological language this deserves. When will Christians finally learn that the book of Revelation was a metaphorical warning to first century Christians of what could happen due to the socio-political situation? As Pope Benedict XVI remarked: “The seer of Patmos, identified with the apostle, is granted a series of visions meant to reassure the Christians of Asia amid the persecutions and trials of the end of the first century.”

Since then Christians have repeatedly sought to interpret Revelation into the future with ridiculous and tragic results. These escapist pseudo-prophecies are particularly popular during times of social turmoil. Every era has at least one example. One of the most famous being the “Millerites,” tens of thousands of people who sold their belongings because William Miller said the end of the world was come in 1844. Harold Campbell himself first predicted that the rapture would come in September, 1994.

Unfortunately, there are many people who evidently believe Campbell, and thousands appear to be giving him money and even taking to the streets to support his cause. His Family Radio Network is a multi-million dollar operation that has been warning of this prediction for two years. This sort of movement breaks apart families and ruins people financially. I pray for all these misguided souls that they may find a more productive source of hope in this scary world.

Tomorrow night I plan to drink a toast to the continuing of God’s great creation and the never-ending process of bringing about God’s realm. A realm that is not some pie-in-the-sky by-and-by, but a community in which we may someday have a real revelation of compassion and everyone may love their neighbors as themselves.

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