April 26, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

I don't know how great it is, or whether it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes and aeroplanes, but as of today, it is:


until the
Coming Credibility Collapse
of the
Credulous Cult
Captain Camping

Why 25 days? Because 25 is 5 squared, and a square has 4 sides just like there are 4 gospels, and 5 is the number of fingers on a hand, and it was a giant hand that wrote on the wall that Belshazzar's days as king of Babylon were numbered, just like the world's days are numbered, and since Jesus spoke in parables, you should just shut up and take my word for it since it is so obviously biblical.

Also I accidentally overlooked 40 days (which is biblical), then 30 days (which is an even month), and 28 days (which is 4 weeks), so I had to get back on track somehow. So we'll just ignore that.

Are you wondering what the heck I'm going on about? Harold Camping is a Christian radio teacher based in California, who has become notorious for predicting the end of the world. First it was going to happen in September 1994. When that didn't pan out, Camping claimed he had corrected his calculations and it was actually going to be in 1995. The outcome was predictable. Meanwhile, he started teaching that the Holy Spirit had departed from organized churches, and that the only true believers were the ones who stayed at home and listened to him on his radio station, Family Radio.

While Camping's earlier prognostications pretty much slipped under the radar (apart from an unfortunate appearance on the Larry King Show), he has now become infamous for his latest prediction: the Rapture will take place on May 21, 2011, with the end of the world to follow in October. His notoriety this time around is largely due to his followers, now unencumbered with churches, spreading his gospel in public and on social media, which of course did not exist back in 1994. (The commercialization of the Internet is probably the one thing most responsible for levelling the playing field and giving crackpots an equal voice amongst the sane.)

But a .000 batting average predicting the end of the world hasn't stopped his most devoted followers from preaching his gospel of the coming judgment by renting billboards, handing out tracts, and plastering tacky signage all over their recreational vehicles. One billboard even encourages you to "Save the Date!" That's right, you should mark the end of the world on your calendar, just like Fred and Nancy's wedding. (Which you will not be attending after all, as it is unfortunately on May 28th.)

How does Harold Camping come up with this crap? It defies description, but is basically an extreme form of allegorization that involves a lot of number-crunching. Since, as he argues, "Jesus spoke in parables," apparently that means that all the normal rules of hermeneutics are out the window, and he can interpret the Bible to say whatever he wants. I call him "Captain Camping" for his superpowered ability to twist the Scriptures with his bare hands. I've posted previously about the oddball way he arrives at his conclusions. James Swan also posted yesterday on Alpha and Omega Ministries' blog about the apparent backstory behind Camping's "depart out" teachings concerning the churches.

Of course, I have complete confidence that if indeed the Rapture were to happen on May 21, it has nothing to do with the correctness of Captain Camping's convoluted calculations. And if God indeed has the sense of humour that he is so often credited with, I'd like to think that he'd already have nudged the date a few years down the road anyway, just to spite old fools who don't know when to keep their mouths shut.