Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of one of the most infamous end times predictions to date. Harold Camping and his Family Radio called on Christians to prepare themselves for the end of the world, the date of this cataclysmic event? May 21, 2011.
Camping stated he had figured out through numerology and probably some complicated algebra problem that the Bible predicted the end of the world and if you looked closely enough you would find the date. This wasn’t Camping’s first trip to the rodeo when it comes to end times predictions. In 1994 and 1995 he made similar predictions, but this one gained some momentum largely in part (I believe) due to the internet.
Any time a Christian minister makes bold predictions it garners national attention. For days leading up to the fateful day, news organizations from around the world held interviews with Camping as well his followers. On May 20, people waited with bated breath to see if anything would happen in Australia. I thought this was interesting that the notion of the end of the world was supposed to start across the International Time Line. The International Time Line is a human construction; Camping was banking that God subscribed to the International Date and even Day Light Savings time to ensure the end of the world.
Of course, May 21, 2011 came and went and nothing happened, we are still hear. Camping tried to revise his claim and stated that May 21 was the spiritual judgment and the physical judgement was to come in October. That date as well came and went. Finally Camping declared that humanity was not supposed to know when the end of the world was going to be and therefore we should stop worrying about it.
In the wake of the prediction, hundreds if not thousands of people spent their money and said their good-byes for nothing. One report came out that a family in New York had racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because they thought the end of the world was coming and no one would come calling for their payment. (Greedy?)
Time Magazine called Camping’s prediction one of the top ten failed predictions of all time. (Read it here)
People have been trying to figure out when the end of the world is going to be for millennia, the newest craze is the Mayan Calendar which goes out sometime in December 2012.
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter when Jesus is coming back or when the world will end; what matters is what followers of Christ are going to do in the mean time. Are we going to sit around and just wait or are we going to try to bring a piece of the “pie in the sky” Heaven here on earth? Brian McLaren (not sure if he is the originator of this quote or not) stated that we needed to stop teaching the Bible as an evacuation plan, but rather a transformation plan. This is was the fault of the May 2011 prediction. While they firmly believed that the world was going to end instead of trying to transforms people’s lives by allowing them to experience the same Christ they had experience they posted billboards and ran radio spots. No billboard, picket sign, radio commercial or even blog post will ever be as effective as personal, one-on-one, communication and contact.
Jesus was with the people. He didn’t sit from a throne and bark orders or look smugly down his nose at the outcasts of society. No, we got his hands dirty and mingled with people who most wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole. He transformed lives with his presence. We have ability as well.
It won’t be too much longer until we get another bold prediction and we will have to re-visit this. But in the meantime, let’s start transforming the world. It’s a big place and we have a lot of work to do.