Sunday 22 May 2011
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
It’s Sunday evening. I’m still here. If you are reading this you are obviously still here. Yesterday was not Judgement Day – only Saturday. Saturday: excellent and fair. Yes, there was no Rapture; Jesus did not come; the righteous - actually more the deluded and self-righteous – were not lifted bodily into heaven, leaving behind little piles of clothing, here, there and everywhere for the rest of us. The end, after all, was not nigh.
The Book of Matthew warns against false prophets in the form of ravening wolves. Actually I think stupid prophets are far more of a danger; prophets like Harold Camping, who runs a network called Family Radio Worldwide, which he used to broadcast the coming Apocalypse, an announcement supplemented by a billboard blitz. “We learn from the Bible”, his website says, “that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people. On the first Day of Judgement (i.e. yesterday) they will be raptured into Heaven because God had great mercy for them.”
I imagine Camping assumed he would be first upon whom Holy God would bestow his mercy, the first to shuffle off his mortal threads, because that same Holy God seemingly granted him, and him alone, access to the divine Mind. One begins to appreciate the concern of the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation that the Bible in the wrong hands was full of potential pitfalls; that a subtle message was capable of being misread and misinterpreted, capable of misuse by all sorts of charlatans. But Camping is not a ravening wolf; just as silly ass preaching to a lot of deluded sheep.
We’ve been here before; we’ve seen this kind of silliness to which American fundamentalists in particular seem to be prone. One of my earliest articles was a piece I called Christian Whackos and Mooning Messiahs. This concerned one Christine Darg, another American evangelist, who was convinced that Jesus would make his reappearance on earth at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Certain of the time and the date, she even set up a webcam to record this earth-shattering event. Time passed. Jesus did not come. No Jesus, just lots of profane mooners, anxious to record their arses for posterity. It was the appearance of everyone but Jesus, all those bare backsides, which caused the camera to be removed just as quickly as it was put up.
Yes, it’s funny; people like Darg and Camping are beyond ridiculous, a parody of faith, literal-minded to a numbingly stupid degree. Derision is the best way of dealing with them, and the poor fools who are taken in by their pretensions, pretensions which verge on the comically sacrilegious.
One other way, of course, was to be smart enough to see a potential business opportunity, to be as smart as the atheist in New Hampshire who set up Eternal Earth-bound Pets. Apparently he has more than 250 clients, convinced that they were off to heaven, who paid up to $135 (£83) to have their pets picked up and cared for after the vanishing. “They would be disappointed twice”, he told the Wall Street Journal, “once because they weren’t raptured and again because I don’t do refunds.”
I can only laugh.