“End of the world” can’t end well
I admit to my share of jokes at the expense of Harold Camping’s followers, who anticipate Rapture on May 21, 2011. Recent news reports about their doings leave me more concerned than amused.
Harold Camping says the Rapture is coming May 21.
Camping has spent the last few years recalculating the date of the “Rapture” — an end-times belief that Christians will be swept up to Heaven alive before the world is destroyed, an idea which gained popularity in the 19th century — after his failed 1994 prediction. He asserts that the correct date is May 21, 2011; a worldwide earthquake will herald the event, and the planet will be plunged into chaos until its ultimate destruction on October 21, 2011.
Anyone “left behind” on May 22? Sorry, time’s up, no further chance at salvation, Camping says. If you survive the following six months, it’s only to see the world destroyed and be cast into eternal torment in Hell.
Most mainstream Christians are ignoring Camping, or, like me and other humanists, shaking their bemused heads and wondering how anyone can believe such nonsense. Other folks are planning “End of the World” parties, knowing that May 22 is going to be a rough day . . . they may wish they’d died, given their hangovers!
Brian Haubert (right) and Kevin Brown hand out Judgment Day pamphlets in Palmyra, N.J. Image: Barbara Bradley Hagerty/NPR
What of Camping’s followers? There are more than a few, and they’re not taking his latest prediction lightly. They genuinely believe that if they are not Raptured on May 21, it means that their god has rejected them
. Take the case of 33-year-old Kevin Brown, one of Camping’s flock who has abandoned his wife and several young kids to “spread the word”:
On May 21, “starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone, there will be a great earthquake, such as has never been in the history of the Earth,” he says. The true Christian believers — he hopes he’s one of them — will be “raptured”: They’ll fly upward to heaven. And for the rest?
“It’s just the horror of horror stories,” he says, “and on top of all that, there’s no more salvation at that point. And then the Bible says it will be 153 days later that the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever.”
“God says, ‘Do you love husband or wife over me? Do you love son or daughter over me?’ There is a test. There is a trial here that the believers are going through. It’s a fiery trial.”
As May 21 nears, Brown says he feels as if he’s on a “roller coaster.” What if he is raptured but his family is left behind?
“I’m crying over my loved ones one minute; I’m elated the next minute,” he says. “It’s all over the place.”
[Brown adds] “If I’m here on May 22, and I wake up, I’m going to be in hell,” says Brown. “And that’s where I don’t want to be. So there is going to be a May 22, and we don’t want to be here.”
What will people like Brown think on May 22? Many of us hope these folks will see the light — that the prophecies are just the modern-day interpretation of millenia-old writings. Some probably will. What of the others?
Brown may reach a different conclusion. Might as well off yourself, right? Why watch your loved ones suffer and die and then go to Hell, when you can short-cut the process and end up in the same place?
Fair enough, I suppose. But Camping’s followers aren’t all grownups living in splendid isolation from the rest of the world. Some, like Brown, have left their families behind. Abandoned them, if you will. Others have brought their spouses and children along for the ride. Check out Joel and Adrienne Martinez:
“Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans,” says 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez.
She thought she’d go to medical school, until she began tuning in to Family Radio. She and her husband, Joel, lived and worked in New York City. But a year ago, they decided they wanted to spend their remaining time on Earth with their infant daughter.
. . .
Now they are in Orlando, in a rented house, passing out tracts and reading the Bible. Their daughter is 2 years old, and their second child is due in June. Joel says they’re spending the last of their savings. They don’t see a need for one more dollar.
“You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that,” he says. “What’s the point of having some money just sitting there?”
“We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left,” Adrienne adds.
Here we have a pregnant woman, due in a month, who has voluntarily chosen to have no resources to care for the infant. Or her two-year-old. The children didn’t choose this life.
Neither did Arianna Ramrajie. She’s 7, and on the road with her family, warning nonbelievers that the world is going to end soon. The psychological damage inflicted upon this child is already evident:
On May 21, the sun will “turn red like blood,” the Earth will open up, bodies will be strewn about and “some people will die for eternity,” she says.
Arianna Ramrajie, 7, right, and her sister, Breana, 8, hope to be Raptured but fear they will be damned. Image:John Couwells/CNN
“It scares me a little bit because some people are going to die, and I think I’m one of them,” she adds. “I’m trying to do good things, but I’m afraid I’m doing something bad.”
Arianna is 7, after all, and being good all the time cannot be easy. Her father stands next to her, nodding his approval.
Her father approves of her terror at “dying for eternity” because she might have done “something bad”. This is nothing but child abuse.
Camping’s followers don’t think the world will end May 21. They only believe that’s the Rapture. They can’t imagine that they will wake up on Earth May 22. But they will.
Those who do not then reject Camping’s prediction will be faced with sure knowledge that their god has rejected them, and that they will spend the next six months in Earthly torment before being sent to Hell for eternity.
What happens when these true believers, in despair, decide to short-cut their loving god’s Plan for their Earthly and then eternal torment? Some may simply leave their children behind to suffer as the world descends into anticipated, but unrealized, chaos.
What of those who think beyond themselves? Will they not wonder who will take care of their children, and what’d be the point anyway? Wouldn’t it be merciful to . . . Yeah, and the dog, too. Don’t want Rover to be eaten by roving hordes of starving sinners or something.
If I were Kevin Brown’s wife, I’d think long and hard about what sort of “mercy” her husband might wish to show her and her children come May 22. Then I’d take appropriate precautions–like a restraining order, at least–until October 22.