distal muse

observations, opinions, ephemera, and views


May 18, 2011

Rapture Ready

This weekend, it’s supposed to be all over.  Harold Camping of the Family Radio evangelist organization has announced the Rapture for May 21st—at six P.M.

In my own little patch of interest, the SFWA Nebula Awards will be given out this weekend.  If Mr. Camping is right, this will be the last of these.  Going out in grand style, that.

I don’t have a lot to say about this other than it’s silly.  It’s one more reason that makes me wonder about the people who follow this kind of nonsense.  I can’t help but think that, beneath all the sanctimony and babble, a lot of these folks are just, well, unfortunate.  Wishing for it all the Be Over so they don’t have to deal with reality anymore.  Unfair, perhaps, but from my encounters with folks like them over the years I’ll stand by it.  This is the ultimate “grass being greener” thinking and I no longer get angry at the absurdity but feel sad at the wonders they pass up spending so much time anticipating the end of wonder.

On the other hand, I have a pile of work that will take me a lot longer than the next three days to get done.  It would be pleasant, at least for a short while, not to have to worry about it.  But at some point I’d start to resent the interruption.

I asked some Jehovah’s Witnesses once if they ever thanked Zoroaster for the very idea of the Apocalypse and they returned blank stares.  What?  Zoro-who?  After all, they keep coming up with new predictions for something which, according to their founder, Charles T. Russel, should have happened back in 1914.  (This was his final guess after previously predicting Christ’s return for 1874, 1878, 1881, and 1910.)  They got that one wrong, but Russel’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (who gave the movement the name Jehovah’s Witnesses) revised the date to 1916.  Later it was moved up to 1918, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1984, and 1994. 

William Miller, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists, had predicted the Rapture for 1843 using a complicated bit of figuring based on Daniel.  He revised it to 1844 when the January 1st rolled around and everyone was still here.

More recently, Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer and self-taught Biblical scholar, published a little book, 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988.  He gave 300,000 copies away for free, but sold 4.5 million.

There were dueling predictions about 1994, one from Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in L.A., who claimed June 9th.  Our Mr. Camping held out for September 6.  Obviously he’s revised that estimate.

Still, the one to bet on by virtue of it having been figured by a true mathematical genius remains Sir Isaac Newton’s prediction that 2060 is the year.  No sooner than, Newton claimed.

But then there are the words of Mr. Whisenant to keep in mind: “Only if the Bible is in error will I be proved wrong.”  Might turn out to be that he was the shrewdest of the bunch—unless some of them play the stock market and contrive to short stocks that might fall as Rapture approaches.  For myself, this Saturday is another coffee house at which I’ll be playing music and indulging a different kind of rapture.  Oh, and it will be in a church, in case you’re wondering.  The once-monthly event takes place in a Methodist church in the neighborhood.  So if it comes, I’ll be doing something I love, and that wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

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