The last suppertime

Ed
Ed Smith
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So, it didn’t happen. The world did not end last Saturday as Harold Camping confidently predicted it would.

Just the same, aside from those who were absolutely sure it was going to happen, Harold’s followers, there were those who just weren’t sure.

Were you checking your watch around 6 p.m. last Saturday, and not just out of interest in the whole cock and bull story? Were you braced for tremors in the floor of the house, or rumblings coming out of the hills?

And did you relax only after midnight when it was obvious it wasn’t going to happen that day? Don’t feel bad — you were with at least 50 per cent of the population. As I write on that same Saturday night, it’s only 9:39 p.m. I wonder. …

Over such a vast time period, it wouldn’t be that unexpected if he were to be out by two or three hours. Or two or three days, for that matter. Or weeks. Harold’s mistake was in not making his prediction more open-ended.

Let’s face it, people. We are so wicked a generation that the idea of being smashed into the ground by a deity who’s had quite enough of his “special creation” isn’t exactly that far-fetched.

What would you do if you were God these days and had to face the fact that you’d created Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Or Tiger Woods? Or the president of the International Monetary Fund? My God, they’re all at it. On the other hand, we have to learn to condemn the sin and not the sinner. Relax, boys.

By the way, did you know that a lion will never cheat on his mate, but a Tiger Wood? (Sorry about that.)

I’m going to say something which you may regard as being totally stupid (quite apart from what I just said), asinine and silly. Actually, asinine and silly mean pretty much the same thing, but putting them together lends emphasis to what I’m about to say.

You may be thinking that the Great Rapture Scare, as it will come to be known, is all over and done with, so nothing I say this week is relevant. You may be right. On the other hand, you may be wrong.

Truth is, I have feelings of empathy toward Brother Camping and all his little Campers who believed implicitly in what the man was saying. I’m even a little concerned for their welfare.

By now, you will have heard if any of them went off the deep end. I hope you’ve heard nothing of the sort.

Here you are totally convinced of an event promised for more than 2,000 years. The fact that 99.9 per cent of the world thinks you’re crazy doesn’t concern you at all. You absolutely know it for sure — this will happen at 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011.

Your leader has told you so, and he’s infallible. He cannot be mistaken. Besides, he’s based it on the Bible.

Perhaps you saw the interview with the man who had quit his job, sold his house and otherwise severed everything that tied him to the material world. He was so sure. What, the interviewer asked him, if it doesn’t happen? But it will, the man answered. But if it doesn’t? It will! But if not? (Even more emphatically) It will!

As 6 p.m. draws nearer, your nervousness and excitement grow. OK, so it hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world 6 p.m. local time. Some little glitch in Camping’s calculations, no doubt. But it is still going to happen here!

But now it’s the day after and, to your incredible disbelief, nothing has happened. Jesus was coming to deliver you out of the coming tribulation via the rapture and he didn’t turn up!

What do you say? What do you feel? What do you think? And what do you do now? You have nowhere to live and you’ve given away everything you own. You have no job. You have no money.

Perhaps your mother will have some sympathy for you, but hardly anyone outside the Family Radio circle will. You know the rest of the world is laughing at you. Those whose relief is almost palpable that it didn’t happen are laughing harder than anyone else.

Perhaps even worse, your whole belief system is shattered. It’s one thing to lose confidence in a human being who led you down one mother of a garden path. It’s quite another to lose in an instant your faith in God, something you probably grew up with and embraced your entire life.

I feel for those people. What happens when a mountain is removed from your life? Quite apart from having to rebuild your life from scratch, most of these people will have to rebuild their faith the same way — if they can.

I wonder if they’ll blame Harold Camping, or if he’ll have some “plausible” reason things didn’t work out as he predicted. Is he ultimately to blame?

A friend was suggesting that he should be held accountable for the more extreme measures his followers felt driven to take.

Other Half disagrees. That would be the same, she says, as holding Jesus responsible for the deaths of the 12 disciples. They believed what he said, and as a result left everything behind and died terrible deaths as martyrs.

Or, for that matter, Christ could be held responsible for Camping himself and, by extrapolation, Camping’s followers. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Camping fully believed his own predictions.

Many have suggested this was another scam designed to bring more money into his “non-profit” Christian ministry. It’s worth some 72 million bucks.

Camping takes no money from the ministry. What he did take was gullible people searching for a faith in which to anchor their lives, and then drain them of everything they believed to be true and sacred.

He isn’t the only clergyman guilty of that particular sin.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is   edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: International Monetary Fund, Christian ministry

Geographic location: Springdale

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  • Terry
    May 29, 2011 - 01:06

    All someone would have to do is a little research to see all of the previous times that people have used numerology and symbolism from the Bible to establish a date. Anyone using research and some critical thinking skills could see there was nothing to fear.

  • Tiffany
    May 28, 2011 - 15:55

    Well written and insightful article, Mr. Smith. You've eloquently grappled with some very compelling philosophical issues surround this whose May 21st fiasco. Actually one of the better editorials I've read on it.

  • Danny Haszard
    May 28, 2011 - 11:27

    Harold Camping sounds like he plagiarized Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah Witnesses are a spin-off of the second Adventist which all came from the Millerite movement.American war of 1812 army captain William Miller is ground zero for Jehovah's Witnesses. Yes,the "great disappointment" of Oct 22 1844 has never died out... it lives on in the Jehovah's Witnesses. The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1842) failed they said that he came "invisibly". Watchtower reckless predictions of the (1914) (1975)..... second coming of Christ hardens skeptics in their unbelief and provides new fodder for cynics to mock the Christian faith. --- Danny Haszard been there