A Disappointing End of the World

What we can learn from the false predictions of Harold Camping and company.

Well, clearly the rapture didn’t occur on May 21, and the apocalypse hasn’t kicked off as popularly predicted. It seems that Christians must be resigned to sticking around just a while longer.

That is, if we weren’t already. I can only imagine the disappointment among “Bible scholar” Harold Camping’s followers. Some sold everything to help fund his evangelistic push to spread Camping’s prophecies across the globe. I encountered some of Family Radio’s missionaries personally earlier this year, whilst staying at a hotel in Potts Point, Sydney. About two dozen Americans, T-shirts emblazoned with Family Radio’s May 21 doomsday message, breakfasted beside me every day for a week before heading out onto Sydney streets, presumably to tell Australians that the world as they knew it was ending in about six weeks. Disappointingly, despite my not-so-discreet attempts to attract their attention, not one of them looked in my general direction, nor did I observe them make actual eye contact with any other guests. Having never heard of the May 21 thing, I was bursting with curiosity.

Now that their deadline has been and gone, I wonder what Camping’s followers will do with themselves? As some of them have spent all their personal finances and resigned from their jobs prior to the 21st, it might be presumed that quite a few are in for a rough time. How disconcerting to think you’re leaving in spectacular fashion, definitely ... and then find that, in fact, you’re staying around indefinitely. A friend of mine who also observed the group at the hotel wondered out loud, "How would Camping's tribe deal with it if the prophecy did not transpire?" Would they not be traumatized? Post-non-event, I think they quite probably are, amongst other things. Maybe a little perplexed; angry, even? They’ve lost out quite substantially, and not just their money. They have lost credibility certainly. Their faith? Perhaps even that. And what a terrible thing to lose.

For Christians, and for the general populace of earth, there’s nothing to do other than to get on living. No doubt many a sermon was probably preached the following Sunday with Matthew 24:36 as the central Scripture. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” News footage of hecklers in Times Square shows many are braying, “We told you so.” I certainly hope there is more of the former than the latter. It’s no good rubbing it in. It all begs the question: has this changed anything for modern Christians? Now that we haven’t been raptured, again, what now?

In the end (pardon the pun), perhaps no harm has been done, save only that the unchurched sector of the world might consider Christians a tad sillier than they did before, if that’s at all possible. All the efforts of Camping and company do not seem to have produced a spiritual revival of any description, nor mass repentance, or any other forwarding of the cause of the One whose name they supposedly bear. But then, I am referring to Christ, whose purpose on earth was always clearly articulated. What Camping hoped to achieve, one can only speculate. It’s certainly disappointing that the name of Jesus Christ has been linked with that of Camping, and that as a result Christianity generally may be married more inextricably to widespread concepts of religion equating to judgement, punishment and to a vengeful, arbitrary God. I wonder how many of those who believed Camping’s teachings repented from their sins toward a God of love, and how many hedged their bets, kowtowing in fear to a vengeful deity? What good has Camping’s campaign done? Or perhaps it should be asked, what good has he undone? The evidence of Camping’s ministry may be in the fruit produced from here on in.

Will churches be filled with genuine converts to Christianity? Or will church counseling rooms be crowded with traumatized clients? Hopefully, the worst damage will prove to be a few more skeptics, and considering that Camping is the proverbial tip of the iceberg where Christian cults are concerned, that may not be such a bad thing.

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Post-unapocalypse, if He were here, what would the Jesus of Christianity do now? I believe He’ll be doing exactly what He has been all along; inspiring and teaching people through the Scriptures and by His Spirit to love and serve their neighbor as themselves; feed the hungry, provide for orphans and widows in their distress, house the homeless, mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep, set the captives free and preach the good news of the Gospel. If there is a lesson to be learned, perhaps it’s that generally Christians would do well to be less concerned with an imminent return of Christ, and more concerned what what we are doing to facilitate Christ’s love and His message on earth, in the here and the now.

Jo Hilder is an Australian writer, musician, artist and blogger, as well as a regular contributor to the Burnside Writers Collective website. Her website is www.johilder.com.



Jo commented…

I've sensed similar things in my walk. There have been times I've run across things that were not definitive but due to the way it was communicated to me it seemed more dangerous than something that is clearly wrong.I'm just generally unsure if they realize what they are doing...and wonder where I may be doing the same things.

Nice to be aware of these things, just not to the point where it stunts what we need to be doing.

Great point!


Jo commented…

Where I said, "I will say though that it isn't always about that..." I meant regarding pride. For me the pride issue can come after I realize some error on my part. It can be a challenge to do the right thing. Alot of that challenge can come from how I felt I was seen and treated at the time, but I do know I am to do the right thing anyway for I am to base my actions foremost on my relationship with God.


Anonymous commented…

I have to say that I held my breath on Saturday, not because I thought that Camping was right but there was just a little niggling, what would happen if Jesus did come back, am I really ready? The answer to that is a big fat NO! I don't think any of us are really prepared for what's to come. Read the OT and see how people react to God, Rahab describes the Cannanites fear of God by using the term "melting"(in the NIV translation). That fear was based in part on the parting of the Red Sea, an event that had happened 40 years before. When Elijah went up against the 400 prophets of Baal and God set the altar alight, the fire burned up the saturated altar including the stones. I don't think the second coming is necessarily going to be a walk in the park regardless of what side we're on. That is worth considering.

As unflattering as all the media attention has been some good has come out of it. John Dickson from the Centre for Public Christianity here in Australia wrote a very good article for the ABC pointing out why Camping was wrong. He was quite gentle in his approach, expressing concern for those who have followed Camping's predictions. I was even given the opportunity to explain to an old school friend Camping's predictions and why I believed that he was wrong (not a full explanation). That was an amazing opportunity for me, given that this friend thought that I was expecting the end of the world to happen simply because I am a christian. I was also able to give her advice on how to explain it to her kids as they were quite scared about what they'd heard.

I think the thing that saddens me the most was not Camping's false prophesy but the reaction of the world. So many of my unbelieving friends were more concerned that their weekend plans were about to be thwarted rather than having a healthy respect for a great and powerful God that will sit in judgment one day.

Finally, I liked the last sentence. Let's get on with the job at hand, what God has called us to do. If we focus on the race, rather than the prize (although that can be good motivation) then we are more likely to win. Yes, Jesus is coming back some day soon, and I know that on that day I want to hear Him say to me "Well done good and faithful servant" because I was focussed on doing what He was calling me to do.


Jacob commented…

I don't imagine members of the Camping camp losing their faith entirely, though some might. There are plenty of other folds that could welcome them, many "ordinary" believers they could feel at home with, who also devote large amounts of time and money to a cause that derives from faith in the supernatural. The difference between these groups of believers is of degree, not of kind.


Colorandlife commented…

A lot of Christians are making fun of Harold Camping, but interestingly - they're
NOT making fun of the OTHER religious leaders who have done the same exact
thing Heres the list and their prediction dates...

Hal Lindsey 1982, 1988, 2007, 2048; Jack Van Impe 1975, 1992, 2000, 2012;
Ellen G. 1843, 1844, 1850, 1856; Joseph Smith 1891; Pat Robertson 1982; Lester
Sumrall 1985, 1986, 2000; Benny Hinn 1993; Kenneth Hagin 1997 to 2000; Jerry
Falwell 2010; John Hinkle 1994; Louis Farrakhan 1991; The Jehovah's Witnesses
1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975, and 1984.

If your Pastor has any books of Tim Lahaye, Hal Lindsey, or Jack Van Impe,
theres yer sign

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