Tuesday, May 17, 2011

About This Saturday (Or: Why This Day is No Different From All Other Days)

This Saturday is going to be a big one, folks.  Rhea’s final graduate school project for this semester is due.  According to the weather report, it’ll be the first rain free day for us here in suburban New York in about a week.  Oh, and also, THE WORLD IS GOING TO END!  Seriously: hide your kids, hide your wife, ‘cause they’ll be rapturing everybody out here.  It must be true: some group who can afford to buy billboard space in metropolitan areas says so.  To wit:

I stole this image from a fundamentalist website, thus guaranteeing I’ll still be here come Sunday.
If you have absolutely no idea what I’m on about, congratulations: you would appear to live a life completely free of religious cult doomsday nonsense.  If you’d like to sully yourself, NPR has a well-written and pithy article on the whole mess available right here.  This entire kettle has been stirred courtesy of Family Radio, a fundamentalist Christian network headed by Harold Camping.  Camping is no stranger to the end of the world; in fact, he first predicted the rapture for September, 1994.  Obviously needing to backpedal, he now claims that he hadn’t yet adequately completed his study of the Bible at the time.  A decade and a half or so of solemn research (and time for the majority of the population to conveniently forget his botched first prediction) passes, et voila: no more Ned Flanders types to bail us heathens out after Saturday, fellow sinners!

Obviously, I think the whole thing is malarkey, just as I’d imagine any rational, thinking human being would.  If there is a god, and she suddenly decided she was bored with this fishbowl, I don’t think she’d really feel some great urge to make an appointment.  It’s also a perfect, all-purpose excuse: “Sorry, teach, but I didn’t do my book report because I thought the world was going to end and that Mommy and Daddy and me and Spot were going to ascend into the air to go and live with Jesus.  Can I hand it in tomorrow?”

For the most part, I think that sneering irreverence is exactly what Camping and his boogeyman-Jesus cult deserve.  There is but one fly in the cheap-yuks ointment, however, and it’s typified by the following quote from the NPR article linked above: “[Joel and Adrienne Martinez] decided they wanted to spend their remaining time on Earth with their infant daughter…’God just made it possible — he opened doors. He allowed us to quit our jobs, and we just moved, and here we are.’”  That right there is what makes Camping more a despicable charlatan than an amusing crackpot.  Come Sunday, when all of us are still right here, Camping can put his nose back in the Bible and, ahem, recalibrate his calculations and begin the entire charade anew, much as he did in 1994.  He will have no worries as a result of the world still being around with its entire population intact: his radio network will still likely be worth most of the $100 million it’s currently valued at.  The Martinez family, however, will wake up on Sunday to find themselves jobless, penniless, and far from home.  What answers will Camping offer them then?  Will he share with them a small piece of his fortune in order to get them back on their feet by way of reparation for misleading them?   Or will he retreat completely from public view, tail between his legs, essentially offering the Martinez family and others like them two fingers and a simple message: “Sorry ‘bout that.  Thanks for praying, thanks for playing.”

Generally, I like the idea of people like Camping operating in public: better to be an easily identifiable whack-a-loon than a wallflower holed up in a gun tower, waiting for who knows what to set him off.  I just wish there were some simple way to hold them accountable for their irresponsible messages.  Perhaps the Martinez family will sue when all is said and done.  Lord knows they’ll have a case.

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