I’m getting real tired of reporting on Harold Camping and the “rapture-ready” crowd. Monday, the 89-year-old self-appointed prophet emerged from seclusion to announce why the Rapture didn’t occur as scheduled on Saturday, May 21st.
From the Associated Press:
Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.
The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God’s judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there’s no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.
“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”
This is not just a denial of being wrong, it’s a classic example of how the faith-based handle cognitive dissonance, the discomfort caused by holding two or more conflicting ideas at the same time. The reason I call it “classic” is that when psychologist Leon Festinger described cognitive dissonance theory back in the 1950s, he used the example of the “Great Disappointment,” what a similar group of Christian cultists, the Millerites, said after their prediction for the Day of Judgment, October 22, 1844, passed without incident.
In fact, Harold Camping’s excuse for Christ’s Second Coming no-show on May 21, 2011, could almost have been lifted verbatim from the Millerites’ Great Disappointment handbook. One group, which eventually became the Advent Christian Church, claimed that Jesus did return and make his judgments, but that he did so invisibly and was conducting his reign on Earth the same way until the time of its destruction. Another group, the one that later coalesced into the Seventh Day Adventists, explained that the October 22, 1844 date marked a heavenly event and that the sanctuary to be cleansed was there rather than on Earth. Neither group questioned the infallibility of the Bible about the prophecies or anything else.
Even the reaction of other Christians to the Millerites in 1844 sounds familiar. Here’s a quote from a letter William Miller himself wrote about a month after the “Great Disappointment” (source: Wikipedia):
“Some are tauntingly enquiring, ‘Have you not gone up?’ Even little children in the streets are shouting continually to passersby, ‘Have you a ticket to go up?’ The public prints, of the most fashionable and popular kind…are caricaturing in the most shameful manner of the ‘white robes of the saints,’ Revelation 6:11, the ‘going up,’ and the great day of ‘burning.’ Even the pulpits are desecrated by the repetition of scandalous and false reports concerning the ‘ascension robes’, and priests are using their powers and pens to fill the catalogue of scoffing in the most scandalous periodicals of the day.”
I started this piece by saying how tired I was of writing about Camping and “rapture-ready” Christians. What I should have said is how great my disappointment is that so few in the faith community have learned anything from 1844 to date. The tiredness comes from my expectation that very few will learn anything from the 2011 non-rapture either. And it’s not just whether or not anyone predicts another date for the Rapture that bothers me. It’s the lack of examination they give to the concept itself. The idea that people think God returning to reward a fraction of the human race and condemning the rest to destruction and perhaps an eternity of torment is a good thing, a thing devoutly to be wished for, fills me with disgust.
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