Judgment Day 2011 was a bust, as any student of the Bible should have known. But the real culprits in this disgraceful episode are not Harold Camping and his staff, but pastors who have never taught the Bible properly to their flocks.
Judgment Day 2011: prediction
For months, Harold Camping, age 89, has confidently predicted that the Last Judgment would fall on May 21, 2011. Judgment Day 2011 would come as a rolling earthquake that would follow day-to-night “terminator” westward around the world, beginning at the International Date Line. During that earthquake, those who accepted Harold Camping’s message of getting out of the church and getting their devotionals on the radio (his station, of course), would vanish from the earth. This would be the Big Snatch, or the Rapture, that Paul of Tarsus describes in I Thessalonians 4:17.
(The term Rapture comes from the Latin rapio meaning “I seize, snatch, and carry off by force.” Saint Jerome translated the Bible into Latin and used a future passive form of rapio to translate the Greek word harpagesometha meaning “we will be snatched.”)
Judgment Day 2011: (non)-results
Well, the Big Snatch did not occur. Neither did the rolling earthquakes. Camping promised a statement by midnight Jerusalem time, which would have been 5:00 p.m. EDT. Then someone at FamilyRadio.com said to expect the event at 6:00 p.m. PDT (or PST; someone got confused about whether Daylight Saving Time would apply). Camping has said not a word since, and FamilyRadio.com times out when your editor tries to browse it. But someone else, with no obvious connection to Camping or Family Radio, is already selling an “I Survived…” T-shirt.
Cheap merchandising aside, the Judgment Day 2011 campaign has been a disaster, not necessarily for Camping but for millions who believed him. Several people rented billboards to spread the world; others printed roadside signs, the same type of sign that a politician trolling for votes would print. Millions quit their jobs, sold their homes, and timed their savings to run out yesterday. Now they find that the world is going on, and they have no savings, no jobs, and no obvious support.
A debate broke out this morning on Fox and Friends, whether any of those people have standing to sue Camping. One lawyer said yes, citing other cases in which cult figures convinced people to give vast sums, sign away their homes, etc., to them. Others pointed out that Camping never asked anyone to give him their life savings, so the cult-figure analogy does not apply. Standing would be very difficult to show in court, because for standing you need to show that:
- You got hurt,
- Harold Camping and his prophecies hurt you, and
- Harold Camping could make it right with you if the court told him to.
The second part would be the hardest part to prove.
But the real culprits here are the pastors and ministers, Camping’s obvious rivals. Most of them have never tried to teach their flocks how to read the Bible and understand it. Your editor’s own pastor, if he has said it once, has said it a thousand times: No one may know the day or the hour of God’s Judgment on humanity. The very phrase “Judgment Day 2011” is a fallacy. People, including Camping, have set dates before. Not one of those dates has come true. Nor will they. Because God’s Judgment will come without warning. What part of “like a thief in the night” didn’t Camping get? What part of “of that day and of that hour, no man knoweth but My Father in heaven” don’t people understand? And why didn’t the pastors explain it to them?
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Judgment Day 2011: what now?
The people who believed the Judgment Day 2011 hype will now be looking for answers. The atheists have their answer, all right: “Now will you listen to reason and follow us as we build utopia on earth?” That’s no answer, either. (Ask any defector from the former Soviet Union.) The pastors who didn’t teach the lesson in the first place, better have an answer this time. This is their chance to redeem themselves.
Furthermore, Judgment Day might still come at any time. President Obama’s recent Middle East speech could start a war, right in that part of the world that has always been the center of Divine Attention. Now that is worth watching, not some calculation (with no premises to back it up) that Judgment Day will happen on a specific date and time.
Featured image: the Damascus Road, where Paul of Tarsus saw the light. (Photo: CNAV)
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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