Until a few months ago, I doubt most Americans had any idea who Harold Camping was.
At 89 years old, Camping, a Colorado-native, won’t likely be remembered as the construction tycoon who built a business from nothing and then cashed it in for millions. I doubt he’ll even be remembered as the president of Family Radio, a Christian radio broadcasting company heard all over the country.
No, Camping will most likely be remembered as the aging Bible-based numerology crackpot who warned the world the rapture was coming May 21, 2011, only to have his prediction irrefutably exposed as rubbish May 22, 2011.
After months — actually, it’s more like years — of warning the citizens of the planet Earth God’s judgment would begin with terrible earthquakes and natural disasters of a never-before-seen magnitude all around the world, Camping’s doomsday prediction was a flop.
Bear in mind, Camping certainly isn’t the first doomsayer to put an expiration date on this world. The belief the world will someday end is a large part of many different religions. Unfortunately, however, there doesn’t seem to be a date stamped on the bottom of the world like that can of yams that has been collecting dust in most people’s pantry.
So, out of what I can only figure is the fear of the unknown, many turn to numerology, where self-proclaimed holy men take dates and other details from the Bible and transpose them into digits in some crazy formula that will — according to them — spell out the date when our little third rock from the sun will go south.
Honestly, Camping’s claims hold little more validity for me than the crazy guy on the corner wearing the billboards that say “the end is near.” And while, at first blush, I’m tempted to say Camping’s followers — many of whom gave away their belongings, quit their jobs and yanked their kids out of school for the supposed rapture — I simply can’t bring myself to do that.
The truth of the matter is people are looking for hope. They are looking for some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, whether it comes with the end of the world or some other less-than-real event. And while hope is always a good thing, it can breed desperation, which certainly isn’t a cardinal value.
For many, religion — regardless of which one — is a source of hope and strength. The idea God is looking down on us, caring for us and hoping we will make the right decisions for the right reasons is a major part of most people’s lives.
Unfortunately, there will always be those wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Whether it’s Oral Roberts crying for an extra $1 million so God will let him stick around a little longer, or Jimmy Swaggart trying to explain to a California Highway Patrolman why he was cruising on the wrong side of the road with a prostitute in the seat next to him, the list of con-men willing to prey on people’s hopes and fears is longer than my arm.
Those duped by Camping’s prophecy will most likely head home and chalk the entire episode up to a lesson learned. They will begin the arduous task of trying to repair the damage they caused in their lives — financial, emotional and even spiritual — so they can move on.
However, like most emotionally invested doomsayers, Camping recently emerged from his post-apocalypse silence to let the world know the rapture has been somewhat “postponed,” with the end of days now set for Oct. 21, 2011.
Many Christians will clamor to make preparations for the October doomsday — my daughter is less than thrilled with Camping’s choice of dates, since that will be her 12th birthday. And, as the date once again passes without incident, I’m sure Camping will have a back up plan to explain the discrepancy.
For many people, knowing when the world will end is an all-too-real situation. Well, not the whole world, but their world. For many terminally ill patients, they see a movie trailer and wonder if they will still be alive when that film hits theaters. That is reality, not prophecy.
It’s a weight no one should have to bear, whether the end is heralded in by cancer or the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It changes who you are, what you do and how you treat people, and not necessarily for the better.
Either way, it’s this writer’s opinion the American people need to start trusting their own instincts instead of subsidizing them with the musings of a crack-pot radio evangelist.
Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org