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I’ve been warned

April 28, 2011

Perhaps you’ve heard about the day of rapture… May 21st! Mark your calendars! I was walking on campus when I ran into one of several visitors to campus handing out flyers proclaiming THE END OF THE WORLD IS ALMOST HERE! HOLY GOD WILL BRING JUDGMENT DAY ON MAY 21, 2011.

I spoke with a petite, pleasant-looking woman in her 40s with reddish-brown hair. I asked her if she really believed that the rapture would happen on May 21st. She said she did. Absolutely.

I asked her what she would think on May 22nd when there was no earthquake and when all the people she knew the day before were still around. She said that wasn’t a possibility. The Biblical evidence is perfectly clear.

She talked to me for a bit longer and I listened politely until I needed to excuse myself to catch a bus. Most revealing were the very last words she called out to me as I was walking away, “I know it sounds foolish.” Not quite the words end a discussion with when you’re trying to make your point.

Did it sound foolish to her? I wondered… was there a part of her that didn’t completely believe what she was saying?

When I was on campus again later, I looked for her because I wanted to know her story. If she truly believes the rapture will occur on 5/21, did she have a job that she subsequently quit in order to “warn the people?” Does she have family and if so, what do they think? Is she a local, or did she travel all the way here from Oakland, California, where this doomsday prediction originated? What convinced her that this incredible story was true? But I never did see her.

I also wanted to get her contact information so that I could be in touch with her on May 22nd. I’m really curious about what rationalizations she (and other rapturists) will come up with. If history is a guide, the non-event will become spiritualized. They’ll say, oh, the rapture happened just as predicted, but in a spiritual sense. What, did you think—people would literally float bodily into the sky?! No, no, no! God actually sealed the souls of the righteous to him yesterday, while the others will be left behind. And the earthquake, well that was metaphorical for the great divide between the saved and the damned. You’ll see that we’re right! You’ll see!

Alternatively, they could say that they had misinterpreted some number or other in the calculations. It really depends on the excuse the leader of this movement, Harold Camping, offers up.

That’s the nature of faith: it is fortified by disconfirmation.

Incidentally, they have on their website an article called “Gay Pride: Sign of the End,” so not only are they deluded, they’re homophobic. You can read or listen to the article, which I don’t necessarily recommend, but if you do visit, you can make a donation while you’re there. Of course!

Now, this might not necessarily be an event you’d think of talking about with your kids, but now that I’ve been warned, why not do some warning of my own? I’ve been warned about the impending rapture, and this is an opportunity to warn my kids that not everything adults tell them is necessarily true. Oh, there are other points to be made for sure. I need not state them here—the key is to open up a dialog and to ask them what they think.

I’ve personally marked my calendar, so that when we’re all still alive and well on May 22nd, we can again marvel at some people’s credulity and drive home the point that prophecy is not a good reason to think that something is true.

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