Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21-Save The Date (Or Not)

Straight from my New Zealand friend, head of Spritzophrenia , I have relative confirmation that no earthquakes have happened and that nothing out of the ordinary has occurred in a place that is no doubt waking up around the time I actually post this.

Many Christians would agree with non-Christians that this predicting the date of the end of the world is nonsense. But they’d also argue that being able to tell the exact month, day and time by mathematics is unbiblical. Jesus himself says in the Bible, Matthew 24:36 specifically, that no one but God would have that specific information. Even Jesus is not privy to this information by a Christian consensus. As I mentioned in an older post about this whole Rapture and doomsday hoopla, “Faith, the Future and 2011”, the head of this ministry predicted the world would end in 1994, but there would’ve been little chance of me hearing even a peep about his claims 16 years ago. Camping, not surprisingly, simply said his math was off and recalculated. Now he apparently also knows that in October, things will go from bad to worse. The months of tribulations will end in what is presumably described somewhere in Revelation about the world being completely destroyed. Most Christians would probably disagree with Camping in the same way they’d disagree with young earth creationists who say the Bible enumerates a 6000 year history through the calculations of Archbishop Ussher, putting a precise date and time of the creation of the world which is still thrown around to substantiate this argument. The same Christians who’d condemn young earth creationists on their willful ignorance of scientific facts you can find through multiple disciplines would say Family Radio makes Christians look more fanatical than they actually are. My parents are pretty private about their beliefs and discuss these issues in private as well. It’s that sort of individualist practice of religion balanced by a sense of community that enables modern Christians to appear more sophisticated than they may actually be. The communal aspect is what binds them to a status quo they fear to break and become defensive of when people challenge it. The individual aspect is admirable, even if it can be as unjustified as any atheist who doesn’t learn and contemplate their nonbelief. Just saying you don’t believe means nothing if you don’t justify your nonbelief. I imagine most Christians have just as much of a problem with Family Radio as atheists and agnostics would, but for different reasons. Christians seem to be more concerned with what is an ever degrading public relations problem, with the continued coverage of the Catholic sex abuse scandals in Europe and many so-called “Christians” demonstrating hypocrisy on family issues (Newt Gingrich anyone?). Put all that into a pot and then add apocalyptic/millenialist groups like Family Radio and it’s no wonder Christians either strongly denounce them or try to ignore them, so as not to give them the satisfaction of getting public attention. But curiosity usually gets the best of us and so we come to coverage in a separate article of the group’s behavior just a few days before Armageddon.

It’s easy to call this a fringe group or a cult, but if anything, they’re an interesting study in what might be considered New Religious Movements, similar to what happened in Japan post World War 2. In the wake of 9/11, a tragedy of similar gravity with our country being invaded, but not brought to its knees, inspired many people to speculate that the end times are near. In America, though, people claiming the coming apocalypse have existed since the 19th century at the earliest. What was called the Great Disappointment happened in 1844, with the Millerite movement, which apparently then branched off into Seventh Day Adventism groups. What happened back then is likely to happen this time, throwing people into further despair or, with some of the members of Family Radio, a kind of solemn acceptance. Some of the members have left to be with their families, while many are still persisting, turning away the media, since according to them, it will be pointless to cover it. Some of these people allegedly don’t take the prediction seriously and are going to work next week anyway. This brings up a twofold consideration. It’d be one thing if the earthquakes and such happen, but not a single person in the world mysteriously disappears. But it’ll be another thing entirely if neither the earthquakes nor the “twinkling”, as one person put it jokingly, happen at all. It’s one thing to predict the end of the world, but to be as specific as Camping is with events is another: a series of earthquakes, dead bodies strewn everywhere, etc, and all the believers apparently going up to be with God secretly in the destruction. It’d be one thing for nothing to happen to anyone, but the prophecy of earthquakes to be vindicated, since they could just claim they weren’t part of the elect, which is involved with their Calvinist theology that God has preordained both the saved and the damned. But if nothing happens out of the ordinary, they’re going to be at least a temporary laughingstock and the target of questions as is usually the case with journalism. It’s not like anyone could change their minds, and they’re about the same size as Westboro Baptist Church, only without the inbred family vibe you get from the latter. The explicit prophetic aspect of this group distinguishes it from WBC in that there’s a set time before they have to regroup, though I hope the results of a failed prophecy from a man who’s on his last legs (almost 90 years old) might change the minds of some of these people and perhaps turn them towards a strong skepticism about these sorts of claims. Part of the difficulty with skepticism for many people is that it involves a kind of thinking we’re not used to. It has to be practiced and few things ought to be taken for granted except principles that work consistently. Once you start creating exceptions to your skepticism about religious claims, it tends towards a partiality that negates what might have been an initially credulous argument. Whatever happens on this “doomsday”, skeptics will remain. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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