Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

End of the World

The pastor told me, that year, that he hoped things would move along better now, with all that ripping sadness behind them, behind the church he served. They'd finally rid themselves of a problem that had grown spectacularly through the years, disposed of the radio personality who'd drawn tons of folks to the congregation, people who seem to worship him more than the God the pastor felt worship itself was all about. I remember him telling me, that year, that the crisis was finally over.

Harold Camping was gone. Mr. Camping was no longer teaching adult Sunday School in the small California Christian Reformed Church where he'd done just that for decades, no longer attracting more true believers who'd hear him on the radio--Family Radio--no longer despoiling the theological landscape of the place with his own cockamamie ideas. And gone with him, of course, were those he'd brought to the place, those he'd evangelised locally.

His radio ministry began in 1958, modestly enough, two men simply determining that there was room for some kind of additional Reformed media presence. What happened after that is better determined by a psychiatrist, I suppose, than me, but I'll try. Eventually Harold Camping began believing in himself, believing that his deep and concentrated study of the Bible had led him to conclusions no one on the face of the earth or throughout history had ever uncovered previously. Only he read the Holy Scriptures right. Only Harold Camping knew the whold gospel score.

Like the fact that the world will end on May 21--that's right, May 21, 2011. You don't have much time. You must have seen the stories; they're all over the media, this thin, almost-90 year old ex-engineer, once-upon-a-time construction-company head proclaiming to his devoted followers that he's now got the math right (he made some mistakes in '94, when he previously made the same prediction), but that he's got it all down now--the exact date and time, and that he's convinced, beyond doubt, that it's May 21.

I'll be in the Netherlands. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

He may be right, of course. But then, he may also be utterly and totally daft because the end of the world may come on the 22nd. Or it may not. Or it may not be here for another thousand years. No one knows, not even Harold Camping, who could use more than a couple of tablespoons of bitter doubt.

When Camping departed from the CRC in Alameda, CA, he started to trumpet his belief that God himself had left the church, telling his disciples that the church's glory had departed because the Holy Spirit had left the building; and not just Alameda CRC either, but all the churches in the world. Like Camping himself, I suppose, the Holy Spirit had had enough of deceitful church governments. He and the Holy Spirit got the heck out of Dodge.

Researchers have shown that solitary confinement has disastrous effects on human beings because with no one to talk to, our minds can't bounce ideas around, can't negotiate opinions. We hear only our own thoughts; there are no walls, no barriers, no nay-sayers. And we all deeply need people who disagree. Maybe that's Brother Camping's problem--with no one to question him, his solitary confinement behind the radio mike has led him into believing whatever ideas his mind created. I don't know.

What I do know is Harold Camping's claim for May 21 is no more valid than my saying the end of the world arrive day-after-tomorrow. He doesn't know, even though he's sure he does.

Throughout his half-century of radio Bible study, I don't doubt he's brought some folks to the Christian faith, probably more than I have. I once met a Jewish woman from Toronto who claimed she came to the Lord by way of the mascara tracks left on Tammy Faye Bakker's cheeks by her own prodigious tears. What all of us know is that the Lord doth work in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

Who knows how He'll move next?

No one.

Not Harold Camping either.

Don't believe anyone who says he or she knows.

Sometimes, paradoxical as it seems, true faith needs big fat doses of pure cynicism.


Anonymous said...

"Its working. Its working!! People are noticing me again. All I have to do is scare the He'll out of them."

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer a smile, and the touch of mother Teresa's hand on my shoulder.

Seriously Though said...

I've never heard of him.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if his predicted date coincides with that of the Mayan Calender? Dec. 21, 2012.