Sunday, May 22, 2011

Harold Camping & His Lie (Updated May 23)

With May 21st come and gone, it's easy to make light of the people predicting the end of the world yesterday.  As I was doing a little research for this entry, though, I came across the Facebook "Wall" of a young person (not the one pictured in the photo above) who had been publicly proclaiming this terribly misguided prediction.  She had been very much caught up in the lie and had obviously invested a great deal of her time and energy (not to mention credibility).  From scanning the most recent Facebook entries, I was struck with what a wedge its obviously created within her family.  A family member had posted a comment that included the following excerpt: "your Dad and I love u and will always..."  (See part of her response at the bottom of the page.)

This sentiment reminded me that, while there is an element of the ridiculous here in the larger picture, the close-up picture shows many brokenhearted (albeit, very gullible) people and broken families.  It makes me all the more angry at Harold Camping.  In fact, here's a copy of a letter I sent him late last week.  (It's been edited at a couple points.)

Harold Camping,

Given Christ's stern message of Matthew 24:36, you're placing your supposed special knowledge above the very words of Christ.  Besides joining a long list of thoroughly discredited spiritual prognosticators, you're either denying the deity of Christ or you are declaring Him a liar; not a good position for a man claiming to be a minister.

When May 21 comes and goes, I hope you will pause before making yet another foolish prediction to your misguided followers.  Should you pause to take spiritual stock of your life's mission, I think you may begin to recognize yourself for what you are: a common false prophet, preaching an old lie (dressed in the cheapest of "new clothing") to the most gullible.

I urge you to seek forgiveness--as well as real reconciliation with the Christian faithful--before the opportunity to do so becomes impossible;Christ does not look kindly upon those who lead His sheep astray.

Like many other people, I've been following this tragedy of sorts for the past few weeks.  It's hard to watch some people running off a precipitous credibility cliff.  In the particular case of Harold Camping, though, it wasn't particularly hard to watch.  Two things that made this issue of particular interest were the Premillennial Dispensationilist view as well as the danger of religious organizations centered on an individual--as opposed to Christ.

As a former Evangelical Protestant before becoming Catholic, I was reminded in one sense of issues we had struggled with in the past--only much more extreme, of course, in the case of the Harold Camping situation.  The whole Premillennial Dispensationilist view points to how easy it is for some to get carried away with these end of days predictions--which each new generation thinks has arrived.  Of course, a literary example of this is the whole Left Behind series.  While I enjoyed listening to Jerry Jenkins in-person a few years ago, his books paint a picture unsupported by either Scripture or Christian tradition.  

In fact, the Protestant view of rapture most often would have Christ coming not twice, but three times!  (For more details on the history of this dangerous line of thinking, read Carl Olsen's Will Catholics be Left Behind?)  Lastly, the Catholic understanding of end-times also doesn't usually hold to a view of the Church being taken away before the period of tribulation.  After all, this view diminishes the suffering of the Christian faithful in centuries past; why are we too good to suffer for Him today?

To a lesser extent, the controversy also reminded me a bit of what happened when a loved pastor of our church at the time decided to leave.  In the wake of his departure, the small church of the Lutheran Brethren tradition almost fell apart.  An older retired minister within the congregation tried to insert himself into the pulpit, and things seemed to get worse from there.  It was almost as if the church was more about the personality of the ministers than focus upon Christ.  It was a sad time, and we left the church. While I'm sure there are many Catholic examples of churches experiencing hardships and struggles at the departure of a loved priest, it doesn't seem to go as far as the rifts and divisions created in Protestant circles--e.g. new churches aren't usually the result!

At any rate, that's all for today.  I hope you have a great week.  A special thank you to those who prayed for our family's health struggle this week.  We are happy to have her back home safe and sound.  God's protection was evident throughout the entire struggle. We thank Him for that most sincerely.

Updated (May 23)

Below is a letter from someone who still believes that May 21 was indeed the start of the end.  It sheds some light on the reasoning of their thinking...and it couldn't sound like much more of a cult.  Please pray for the young person who wrote this.  She's obviously bright and kind, and enthused with her faith; what a waste.

"Hi Karl,

Actually, no one was misled. May 21, 2011 was the beginning of Judgment, spiritually. I am saying this off my own studies. All of the timelines lead to that date and God did save a great multitude of people by the end of May 21, 2011. The door is now shut for salvation.

The problem with the "prediction" is that all of us believed that all of the key events related with Judgment Day (a 5 month period) would occur simultaneously in one moment ie. the earthquake, rapture etc. That's where human error came into play. But God is perfect and Judgment Day is here, spiritually. As the other events unfold over the next 2-3 days, the rest of the world will see the truth. Everyone needs to pay attention but they won't...then sudden destruction will come as spoken of in 1Thes5:4

They cannot see it now because it was only the spiritual part of the Judgment. That's why it looks like a "failed" prediction. But God is perfect and does everything in His perfect will and time. We are all watching in the Bible, praying as He reveals His perfect plan.

I hope that helps."

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