Monday, January 10, 2011
Spoiler alert: Christ did not return in 1988
A writer shares his experience with followers of Harold Camping:
My teenaged years were spent in my father's small Reformed Baptist church in Ohio. We never had thoughts of becoming a mega-church, but we never turned away a new family or two. A sight I remember seeing repeatedly, however, was the tendency for us to suddenly have a caravan of visitors.
There would be nothing for months. Just the regulars would show up. They'd worship on Sunday, fix the roof or cut the grass on Monday, worship on Wednesday, show up for Bible study on Thursday, clean the church on Saturday and repeat.
Then visitors often showed up in groups of three to five families, and there was often a story involved -- a story of being removed from another church. At times, these stories were one of injustice, and in some situations, my father would try to help them heal the rift with their previous churches.
Often, however, it was a case of what I see as a messianic complex. The new arrivals believed they had some truth, the ultimate truth, which would range from a hyper-Calvinistic determinism to a secret knowledge of when the end of the world would come.
We were Reformed, so having some extreme Calvinism enter our doors made sense, but on more than one occasion we had several end-of-the-world prophets. In 1988, the book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 was in circulation. I remember a very large man with white hair and a trademark white suit leading that call. My father welcomed them to the church, but with a warning -- ultimately unheeded -- not to use their views to divide the community.
Spoiler alert: Christ did not return in 1988. That, however, did not stop new predictions for just about every year after. In the early 90s, another group came to our church, followers of a man named Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio and the author of the book, 1994. (Clever titles are rarely the thing of end of the world prophets.)
They were on the move, looking for a receptive church for Camping's end of the world predictions. Things came to a boiling point. Leadership was being interrupted with absurd interpretations of the Bible during morning services. They emptied their bank accounts to pay for large black billboards across the city. They printed pamphlets and bought 1994 by the cart-load.
Read the rest here.