Was it prophecy profit-cy?

Author: Barrett Rainey

There’s something downright empowering about surviving an end of the world prediction. Today, I feel absolutely in control!

We are now several days beyond 6pm (PDT), May 21, when all of us faced mass extinction. Barb and I were prepared. She was on the couch. I was in my recliner. It’s big green, homely but very comfortable. We’d shared our last thoughts, re-pledged our love and were ready. Looking forward to life on the other side.

But, by 6:05, CNN was still going on the TV and I was starting to get hungry. I hadn’t eaten much in the previous days as I was preparing to disappear in the maelstrom of heavenly judgment. Suddenly a good sausage pizza seemed more important than mankind’s annihilation. Even my own.

What happened? Suddenly I felt let down. We Presbyterians are sort of pre-ordination thinkers. Yet I’d let myself get drawn into watching all those motorhomes with the painted messages running around the country. I’d taken the billboards in our neighborhood more seriously than I should. We were ready to go. Then POOF! Nothing!

Another crackpot. Another false Profit. Er, Prophet. I should have known better. If that old guy was sitting on top of $70-80 million … which the IRS said he was … he wasn’t going anywhere. Which means WE weren’t going anywhere.

But a lot of ink was wasted by newspapers to keep us abreast of the old boy’s ravings. A lot of electronic crap was dished into our living rooms so we’d know the very latest on a story that (a) wasn’t a story and (b) didn’t deserve a mention on an outhouse wall.

Just the latest goofball in a long line of goofballs, preying on the weakest and most gullible of humanity since the first guy looked out a cave and said “Gee, this is too good to last.”

But there are a few sobering things to think about before dumping this one in the garbage. Last week, MSNBC ran a very good feature about a young family torn by these apocalyptic road apples. In the pictures, a good looking couple in their 40’s and three good looking teens, all neatly and fashionably dressed. A very good depiction of what some would like to see the modern American family to look like.

The parents were committed to the profit-cy … er prophecy … that the end was upon us. Even shedding some of their goods. But the kids were unanimously opposed to what their parents believed and what they were doing. Not violently opposed. Just thought Mom and Dad were making a huge mistake. And reasonably said so. I was very impressed with the earnestness of the piece. And the teens.

So much so that Saturday, about 15 minutes after the “apocalypse” failed to show, I got to wondering about that family. As a parent, I wondered what Dad and Mom could say to the kids. What would the kids say to the parents? What had the experience done to the communication and trust that seemed to be so honest in the story?

What the vast majority of us didn’t believe for a second, those parents did and they committed themselves, their kids and their possessions to what they honestly felt was going to be an act of God. What has the experience done to those five people? How many more are out there who acted out of some moral and – to them – religious imperative? What has happened to their family relationships?

It’s easy to blame the media for giving this old man an inch of space on the page or a minute of time on the air. But this is one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations for media types. Motorhomes circling the country with end-times messages; billboards on the Interstates; some 68 radio stations counting down the hours and shoveling the message around the clock; web pages littered with his crackpot blather all neatly wrapped with the latest electronic gadgetry. Hard to ignore.

But there is a very real underlying human element to all this. Many of the most affected folks are very nice people with very heartfelt reactions to being told “Judgement day is coming and you may – or may not – survive.” Those are the people on my mind. What sorts of family situations may change the lives of impressionable people all over the world? Change them for the worse?

As for the “reverend” Camping, I hope there is a special corner of Hell reserved for the old crook. He’s not some nice but maladjusted old man. He’s the latest in a long line of phonies wrapping themselves in the Bible and laughing all the way to the bank while creating very real problems for very real and trusting people.

In Luke’s writing in the Bible, Jesus is asked about the end of the world. When will it come? His answer is good enough for me. I paraphrase here but it was something like “I don’t know.”

Which prompts my question for you: do you really want to know?

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