As someone with a long history in evangelical Christian culture and who still heads to church when I get the motivation together, the whole Family Radio May-21st-as-the-Rapture debacle is a little bittersweet. I enjoy mocking the absurdities of religious culture nearly as much as anyone, but on the other hand, it almost seems too easy.
After all, Harold Camping and his Family Radio crew don't seem to be doing this to take money from their followers and they're not putting Nikes on and adding phenobarbitals to their applesauce either. Some of the true believers seem to be making foolish economic decisions in the process, and there will likely be a bunch of wildly disappointed people on Sunday, and that probably happens more often that we'd think. I mean, sure, the actual Bible says no one will know when Jesus will return other than God, but I mean, maybe Harold Camping's second guess at the Rapture might be right. It seems like Billy Ray Cyrus canceling his show at AVA on Friday night must be some sort of sign, you know?
I'm an REM fan, so I appreciate that they'll make a few extra bucks from the inevitable airplay of "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". Some good has to come out of this whole thing. However, if you're looking to get a head's up on what's supposed to happen on May 21st, the San Francisco Chronicle has an appropriately snarky FAQ:
Q: Who gets to ascend to heaven?
A: Those who accept Christ as the messiah. Even Jews are invited, says Camping, but only if they accept Christ - which would seem to make them no longer Jewish.
Q: How many will be Raptured?
A: Campbell estimates 200 million. The remaining nearly 7 billion face a grisly fate - crushed in the quake, burned by sulfur, turned into pillars of salt, etc.
Q: Why May 21?
A: Camping calculates May 21 is exactly 7,000 years from the date of the Noah's Ark flood. In his book "Time Has an End," Camping writes. "The year 391 B.C. is the year when the Old Testament was finished, and 2,011 + 391 - 1 = 2,401, or 7 x 7 x 7 x 7." There you have it.
Q: Any other reason?
A: Yes. Gay Pride and same-sex marriage. Camping says God will punish America and the rest of the world for Gay Pride and same-sex marriages, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with fire and brimstone in the Old Testament.
Q: Will the Earth end on May 21?
A: No. The Earth will stick around for a few more months of "chaos and awful suffering" before being obliterated Oct. 21.
To provide balance with the other side of the story, we provide a preview of the 1972 film and Christian youth group classic, "Thief in the Night":