You’re probably wondering why I bothered to write a column for the day after the world ended. But as a hard-working professional, I can weather the greatest adversities. After work on Friday evening, I decided to sneak in a quick nine holes of golf since the world was ending the next day, and I gotta tell you, I was putting like there was no tomorrow.
This latest doomsday story gained momentum in recent months as the national media focused on Harold Camping, 89, a preacher in Oakland, Calif., who leads an evangelical nonprofit called Family Radio. I’m not sure why it’s called a nonprofit. This outfit raised $100 million over the past seven years and, according to the Contra Costa Times, Camping’s crew owns 66 radio stations and was worth more than $72 million in 2009.
So, Camping must’ve been lapping up all this media attention. His prediction on the arrival of the Rapture was specific: An earthquake would start in New Zealand at 2 a.m. EDT on Saturday, May 21, 2011, and roll around to our part of the world by supper time. Believers would be swept up to heaven and the lamestream media would be dashed into a global conflagration … or something like that.
This was not Camping’s first stab at predicting the Day of Reckoning. He initially said Judgment Day would occur on Sept. 4, 1994. Oops. His bad. After wiggling his antennae, the Family Radio kingpin came up with yesterday as the revised big day. This time he really, really meant it. But now, the day after, he’s looking like a Mariners designated hitter: 0-for-2. This is why some of us would rather watch “Family Guy” than listen to Family Radio.
Camping is not the first preacher with whom I’ve disagreed. Having warbled unappreciated in choir lofts of three denominations over four decades, I’ve heard plenty of eyebrow-raising prognoses emanating from pulpits, though none in Vancouver. But this time, I got more perturbed than usual. As a proud resident of Hazel Dell But The Good Part, I was outraged when this crackpot declared the world would end on the same day as the 47th Annual Hazel Dell Parade of Bands. The fine folks of Hazel Dell would have Camping know, dire prophecies actually stimulate parade attendance. More people decide to go out in style, with one final blast of patriotism.
As a family patriarch I was deeply offended that Camping would predict global death and destruction for Saturday, our daughter’s birthday. Yeah, she might think turning 33 means the end of the world as she knew it, but for this preacher to ruin her special day was just rude. It’s hard to blow out candles when you’re looking out the window for fiery avalanches and listening for tectonic rumblings.
It always bugs me when preachers ignore solid science. No reliable research had justified Camping’s absurd proclamation. Oh, I know, there had been some scientific evidence that geotectonic vibrations had intensified in recent weeks, but I dispatched my investigative aides to look into this, and they discovered the truth. It was just the seismic impact of Kirstie Alley on “Dancing With the Stars.”
When you stop and think about it, the world ends every day in many different ways for various people. I’m sure Arnold Schwarzenegger can give you the exact day his political world ended. And that little nocturnal fender-bender Tiger Woods had a couple of Thanksgivings ago? Karma decided his major-trophy-chasing world ended that night.
Popular songs and immortal lyrics prove that musicians are more accurate than preachers at determining when the world ends. R&B devotees believe the world as we knew it ended on June 10, 2004, the day Ray Charles died. And when Willie Nelson instructed us to “Turn Out the Lights,” he knew exactly what every unrequited lover learns, that “party” in the song is a metaphor for “world.”
There are many ways to ridicule this over-publicized preacher’s apocalyptic crystal ball. But what, you might ask, if Camping was right and a fiery cataclysm engulfed the globe yesterday? Well, if that happened, I hereby promise to write a retraction column for next Sunday. It’ll be hot off the press.
John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.