What happened? Or, more to the point, what didn't happen?
Harold Camping has been predicting for some time that the world would be Raptured on May 21, 2011, at 6:00 PM local time. The event would be accompanied by massive earthquakes, opening of graves, and other signs of divine judgment.
It didn't happen. Harold Camping was wrong.
However, he at least was well-practiced. He had previously predicted the same sort of thing to occur in 1994. Does anyone remember the great Rapture of 1994? No, I don't either.
Now all that is left to do is to deal with the fallout. His followers are going to have to come to grips with having followed a false prophet. Some will undoubtedly leave the Christian faith because of the huge failure of Camping's prophecy to arrive as promised. Some will hunker down and continue to believe him. And some, shell-shocked and disillusioned, will stumble around to find something to replace their shattered hope. That might be a return to a different thread of Christianity. It might be a movement into another faith all together. No doubt there will be a great variety of responses.
I have only two real comments about all this, aside from a general conviction that this gives non-believers new ammunition to snipe at us "delusional" Christians. This, even if we didn't give Camping any credence.
First, just because Camping went through intricate calculations to derive his May 21 date, and just because nothing of note happened that day, does not mean that we shouldn't expect judgment of our actions in this world at some time in the future. I'm not sure that Revelation will play out like a movie script - my own notion is that it's a particular piece of apocalyptic literature to strengthen and encourage Christians in the first century, nothing more. I don't see it as end-times prophecy to be taken literally. Nonetheless, we are accountable to our fellow human beings and to the Lord of us all in how we care for his creation - the earth, and the living creation on it, which includes our brothers and sisters in the human race. This is an article of faith that most Christians have no trouble believing, and I'm certainly among them.
Second, Harold Camping committed a grave sin by being obsessed in his calculations of the day of Judgment. He displayed a god-sized mass of pride. Pride goes before a fall, we're told. In my mind, pride is the mother of all sin. This pride said that God was too slow in arriving to take his followers home, that merely being ready and doing the work Jesus assigned to us wasn't fulfilling enough - we had to know when we would go home. So Camping attempted to dictate to God - is there any other way to put this? - when and how it would happen. And he failed miserably - his exegesis was flawed, his prophecy was nuts, and he has cast the gospel of Jesus into disrepute. Shame on him.
Harold Camping committed a grave sin by being proud. But then, so have I. And so have each of us. Pride is the name of what we tried to do in Eden when we were just Adam and his wife Eve. That hasn't changed. And it's for that very reason that we're still here. God isn't done with us yet. It's his wish that all should come to salvation. There's so much work to do, and to be done. We may have a long wait until the last day does arrive. And the best way to spend that time - however long it might be - is to get back to doing the job we were given.
So enough of Harold Camping. Let's get back to work.
(I've been collecting bits and pieces about Osama bin Laden and his demise. I haven't forgotten about the ambivalence surrounding his death. More on that in the next post.)