89-year old retiree Harold Camping, an eccentric old man if ever there was one, recently grabbed his 15 minutes by convincing a surprising number of Americans the world was going to end in a series of earthquakes this past weekend. Mr. Camping also predicted the Rapture would unfold at the outset of the end, at which time the saved were to have been called to Heaven while lesser souls languished Earthbound for five months. Then, he preached, they would be consumed in fire.
It wasn’t the first time Mr. Camping roused the Rapturous rabble: he predicted the same thing years ago and, when the appointed hour came and passed, blamed the world’s failure to end punctually on bad math. He’d simply mis-calculated the date, he said.
This time he must have double-checked the numbers: “I am utterly, absolutely, absolutely convinced it is going to happen” he told reporters for an ABC news affiliate several days before what he anticipated would be the faithful’s last day. Hundreds – if not thousands – of his regular parishioners bought it, and prepared accordingly. Some had the clear-headed foresight to hire services which promised to collect and care for their pets after they themselves were called to Heaven.
Then the time came and the world didn’t end… again. Mr. Camping was “mystified” and “a little bit bewildered” at the rest of the world’s inability to be destroyed by earthquakes and fire, an associate of his told reporters. “It was a very difficult time for me, a very difficult time,” Mr. Camping later explained. “I really was praying and praying and praying, ‘Oh Lord, what happened?’ “
Contrary to Preacher Camping’s opinion, the real question isn’t what happened (or didn’t). Rather, it is: What kind of man prays for the end of the world? And what kind of people follow him? And why did hitherto respectable news organizations validate any of it with so much as one printed word?