I was down at San Diego’s Earth Day a few weeks ago, helping to staff a booth run by Christians for Earth Care, and took a break to browse the area. The atheists were there in full force, exposing what they believe to be the idiocy of religion and people of faith. I stopped to chat with them for a bit; it became immediately apparent that they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, but on some points they were relatively coherent . . . and they were enjoying lots of traffic.Then I spied the Day of Judgment guy.
A few hundred yards away was a guy flogging tracts announcing divine judgment on the world on May 21, 2011, and confidently assuring everyone that by the latter part of October 2011 the world will altogether end. I was embarrassed and dismayed. This was precisely the sort of behavior that lent credibility to the nearby atheists’ shtick.
The man behind this Judgment Day scam is a 90-something year old man in Oakland, California by the name of Harold Camping. He owns over a hundred religious broadcasting stations (Family Radio, he calls them) and he believes that all churches are of the devil. He is confident that he can supply his followers with all they need in the way of Christian spiritual resources. Harold was trained as an engineer, and never had any reputable theological education. No problem, really; “the Bible is my university,” he confidently declares. Essentially this means he interprets it any way he wants. There’s no doubt he has made full use of his idiosyncratic freedom to do so.
Most Christians and those even mildly acquainted with Christianity know that Jesus declared that no one, not even himself, knew the timetable for history and its culmination. Only God in heaven knows such things. But as it turns out there is one exception. Harold Camping knows. His explanation is that it was impossible, even for Jesus, to know at that time, two thousand years ago, but now it is possible and Harold, after years of what he preposterously calls “careful study,” has figured things out. I read the brochure where he works out the date. It’s so contrived and ludicrous that it makes palm reading and astrology look like bona fide sciences by comparison. It’s laughable, except that some pathetic souls take it all seriously. And many evidently do–after all, you can’t pay for an international media blitz like this on chump change.
Harold Camping has pulled stunts like this in the past. If his past behavior is predictive of his future response, he will regroup after May 21 and offer a revised date, and his sycophantic followers will coalesce once again around his next bogus prediction. There is an alarming irrationality in human behavior that unscrupulous religious con men always find ways to exploit.
Christians must not only be zealous in their faith, but be educated and intelligent as well. People like Harold Camping dishonor the name of Christ, and undermine the credibility of the faith in the eyes of an observant, reasonable public. Callous entrepreneurs like Camping must know exactly what they are doing. Their consciences are desensitized and their conduct is reprehensible. And for the sake of Christ’s honor, we have to call them on it.