If at First You Don’t Rapture, Try, Try Again

Posted on October 17, 2011


Five months ago I posted a response to evangelical pastor Harold Camping’s prediction that the Christian Rapture would come on May 21st: Cloudy with a Chance of Rapture.

Once again Camping is predicting the apocalypse is still coming and will actually arrive on October 21.  People have been predicting the end of the world for centuries and what bothers me most about professional predictors like Camping and those Mayans who knew the world would end in 2012 but couldn’t predict the arrival of the Spanish, is that if you really know how the world is going to end, every member of our society knows it’s common courtesy not to reveal endings just like with movies and books.  If you’re certain the other person wants to know how the world ends, you should first say: Spoiler alert.

When someone tells me the world is getting warmer and warmer and we’re all going to fry to death, I always respond, “Thanks for telling me the ending, jerk!  Guess what?  Spoiler alert: The guy in Sixth Sense is dead the whole time!”

I think the religious fascination with endings might not even be the will of any higher power but might actually be an outgrowth of what parents tell kids in church to make them pay attention.

“How much longer before church is over?”
“We’re almost at the end.”
Ten minutes later: “How much longer before church is over?”
“The end will come soon.”
Two hours later: “How much longer before church is over?”
“I want it to end just as much as you do.”

Parents realized saying church was almost at an end was the most effective way to make squirming kids pay attention and the idea lasted into adulthood.  I’m not sure I can follow the rules for another seventy years, but if the world is going to explode in six months, I guess I can sit still in my seat for a little longer.

The Beginning of Days?

I don’t think it’s constructive to constantly dwell on the end.  How do we solve and invest in long-term thirty year problems if we think the end is just around the corner anyway?  I like to think our time period is most likely the beginning of days, and the people two million years from now will laugh at how we figuratively kept clapping and trying to walk out of the theater two minutes after Star Wars had started.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

(John Williams Star Wars Theme Music)

Star Wars

Episode IV

A New Hope

It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won

Audience begins clapping and stands up to leave:  “I guess that’s it.  Man, that was a great movie!  I loved the music.  Let’s go get some pizza.”

Why are we so anxious for everything to be over?  Don’t ring the bell so soon.  Humans still have so much to accomplish.  We still haven’t colonized space!  There might be thousands of inhabited planets out there with reality TV even more urbane and gratuitous than ours.  What happened to all the robot butlers who were going to do our dishes?  Where are the floating cars?  And I still have so much I want to accomplish: I still haven’t watched a single episode of Mad Men despite the raving recommendations of almost every person I know who never reads books.

Camping Keeps Ruining My Weekend Plans

What makes me angriest about Camping’s newest prediction is that he once again had the option of picking a Monday, but for the second time in a year he predicted the apocalypse would come on a weekend so you’re not sure whether to book a babysitter or not.  What if the Rapture comes while my wife and I are at karaoke and the babysitter is raptured and leaves the kids home alone?

You may remember when the Rapture didn’t come on May 21st, I found myself living with the promises I had made while trying to take advantage of people on May 20th.  This time I’m not going to do anything differently except I’ve told the kids not to expect any help on their Halloween costumes until October 22nd, not only because I want to avoid the risk of useless work, but wouldn’t it be embarrassing if one of my kids created a Harold Camping costume and Camping turns out to be right?

Posted in: Columns