Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oh Noes! Duh Apocalypz!

In case you haven't been paying attention, kids: the world is going to end on May 21 at 6 pm. At least that's what Harold Camping, an Oakland-based preacher and radio program host says.

For months now Camping's followers have been on the road trying to warn everyone of the impending Apocalypse.

Now don't think this means that if you planned on dinner with friends Saturday night or catching Hesher Sunday afternoon, you need to find a way to that before the weekend. You can relax. According to the schema Christian fundamentalists have of the end of the end of the world (including Mr. Camping), it starts with what's called the Rapture, when all Christians are swept away into the heavens. Camping estimates that only 2% of the world's population will rapt up to bask in the Divine Presence.

Given the math, and given that I'm pretty sure only my friends read this blog, odds are that you, dear reader, will still be around on Monday morning. And here's the bitch of it all: eliminating 2% of the population probably won't do anything to reduce traffic during the morning commute. No, we the damned will still be here (some of us taking care of the pets of the saved*), hanging on for a further 153 days until the world ends completely on October 21. During that time all sorts of fun stuff is supposed to happen: some of us will become "Tribulation Saints" and fight the Antichrist (at right is an Italian Renaissance depiction of the Antichrist**), the Jews will return to Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple and embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior--although if they're going to do the latter, I don't understand why they would bother with the former. Then Jesus comes back, and there's a huge-ass battle at a place called Armageddon, a.k.a. Meggido.

In short, cancel your vacation plans. This summer and fall is going to be busy.

Camping's Apocalypse is running on a tighter schedule than your traditional Christian fundamentalist outline of the End of Days, but he's got all the right events on the calendar: the saved vanishing, the rebuilding of the Temple, and a big battle with the Most Evil Guy Ever. If you ask any fundamentalist Christian where they came up with this timeline of events, they'll probably tell you, "It's in the Bible." Well, not exactly.

I grew up Presbyterian (a non-fundamentalist church), and while I no longer belong to any faith, by virtue of attending a Presbyterian church throughout my youth I have heard the entire Bible read out loud at least four times. And since I studied English in college I was occasionally obliged to read parts of the Bible (bottom line:knowing chunks of the King James Bible is a big help in understanding a lot of English & American literature written before 1940 or so; as a text, the KJV's cultural influence tops Shakespeare).

I would say I know the Bible a good better than the average person. And the bottom line is, most people who call themselves fundamentalist Christians don't read the Bible. They have no idea what's in it. If they did their heads would explode. They would have to start caring about poor people and minorities and stop voting Republican.

I've actually cited Scripture in arguments with fundamentalist Christians. It drives them nuts.

But anyway, back to the Apocalypse. The current roster of events for the end of the world exists almost entirely because of the work of a nineteenth-century Anglican priest named John Nelson Darby (whom I've always wanted to call Charles Nelson Darby, which then makes me think of Charles Nelson Reilly...). Darby was so obsessed with the end of the world that he devoted a considerable amount of time to selective and creative reading of passages in the New Testament to put together a coherent timeline of events leading up to the Last Judgement. Darby had a particularly good time with Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, which Darby (and modern fundamentalists) consider a sort of coded AAA travel guide to the Apocalypse.

I myself was taught in Sunday school that Revelation was just allegory written to lift the spirits of Christians during a period of persecution in the reign of the Emperor Domitian. If you've never read Revelation yourself, give it a try. It's a trip. It starts out with the narrator having a vision of seven candlesticks in the sky and a guy with flaming eyes and a sword sticking out of his mouth.

Then things get weird.

But I digress. Let's get back to Harold Camping. He admits he has predicted the coming of the Apocalypse twice before, but this time, he say's got it right. How can he be so sure? Business Insider has the math.

But if Camping's wrong again, he can take consolation in having company. Here's a list of Apocalypses that weren't.

*Seriously. Click on the link.

**And clearly up to no good—as is usually the case with Antichrists.


3goodrats said...

Thanks for clearing that up! I'm tempted to sign up as a volunteer pet caretaker with After the Rapture Pet Care...

Danielle said...

I assume one requests payment in advance.

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