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Nolan's Pop Culture ReviewA Tale of Two Preachers, Part 1: Harold Camping
POSTED BY NOLAN B. CANOVA, April 7, 2011    Share

Long-time readers are well aware that, despite the fact Ye Olde Editor no longer practices any religion (although I do think of myself as spiritual, just so you know), I follow with great interest how religion, its leaders, and its see-sawing momentum impact popular culture. I realize that these troubled times allow for greater vulnerability in a population that desires answers and meaning, and that there is a growing pool of high-profile religious wack-jobs ready to capture that public's fancy--and a few of their dollars--for better or for worse.

End of the World, May 21, 2011?
I'll start with this one even though I don't personally know anyone who takes it all that seriously, but it has garnered notable attention in the media regardless.

For centuries, Christians have held firm to the belief that Jesus Christ would one day return from heaven to save the world and supervise a Final Judgement. There are as many versions of this tale--the "Second Coming"--as there are denominations of the religion. There are also quite a few documented cases of religious leaders who took it upon themselves to publicly predict when the end would come, usually with a gathering of a congregation involved to, basically, wait for Christ to arrive so they can all say "Hi!" together.

Enter California preacher Harold Camping, an 89-year-old former civil engineer who speaks to his followers via the Family Radio Network about his prediction, based on his Biblical mathematical formulas, that the End of the World begins Saturday, May 21, 2011.

The "mathematical formulas" depend on his interpretation of some Bible verses, along with a rather gigantic leap of faith regarding how literallty they are to be taken (especially in this context) and then applied to the calendar. The nuts-and-bolts of this can be found online, so I won't go into them here (they strain logic, anyway) except for a couple of illuminating examples. First, it assumes a Creationist Earth only about six-thousand years old. And that phrases such as "a thousand years is like a day unto the Lord" means the week of Creation is literally seven thousand years long, minus the thousand year reign of Christ's return and....we're there.

OK, there is much more Biblical math involved to arrive at the specific May 21st date, but you see where I'm going. Best as I can understand it from his literature (or "tracts"), the "Rapture", where all saved Christians vanish from the Earth to be spared the Tribulation, is what actually happens in May, with Christ's return to follow a few months later. Confusingly, the May 21st date is also used for the Second Coming itself. I've heard a lot of End-Times chronologies before, but this one is unique and rather speedy (where is the 7-year Tribulation?).

The best part, to me, is his complete blow-off of the pivotal Biblical verse where Jesus says something to the effect of (this is from memory, folks) "I shall come like a thief in the night. No man shall know the day and the hour of my return except my Father in Heaven." Camping says this doesn't apply(!) because it refers to the unenlightened...or something like that.

Apparently, the good Reverend tried this stunt before in 1994. When Christ failed to return, Camping told his gathered flock that his math must've been faulty, and he would review Scripture for a more accurate interpretation.

He's actually gotten some folks to quit their jobs and drive around the country promoting the May "event".

I don't know about you, but I'm fully confident I'll be going to work as usual Sunday, May 22nd. And I'll be listening to the radio that whole weekend to (A): listen to the first live exclusive interview with Jesus Christ, or (B): listen to the first live exclusive interview with Reverend Camping explain how he fouled up again.

If it's the latter--and I think it will be--I look forward to his revised figures and new campaign launch.

Then again, if he decides to lay low for a while--and he should--someone else will eventually come along with a new date for the Second Coming that just can't miss.

In Part 2 of "A Tale of Two Preachers", we look at a much darker case, that of Reverend Terry Jones, and the twists and turns of how burning the Koran gained him international notoriety and possibly a bid for martyrdom.

"Nolan's Pop Culture Review" is ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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