Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thank you Harold Camping, for reminding us
I was awakened this morning by some small brown finches singing a delicate and delightful song outside my bedroom window around 5:30 a.m.
Normally, I might shut my bedroom window and complain about the racket, but this morning I lay in bed listening closely to the birds chattering about their day. It was nice to hear their indifference to the End Times countdown that Harold Camping, a radio preacher from California, foisted on humanity for the last six months.
I knew, when birdsong woke me, that the day was as routine as any other spring day; that the world had not ended, and that we had a lot to be thankful for. The long-awaited Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the End of the World would not be happening today.
There would be great disappointment among Camping's followers. For sure, they could feel let down and deceived; again. They will be embarrassed and subjected to ridicule and finger-pointing. I hope they can take the ribbing in stride. I find their faith in Camping stirring and, although misguided, their belief in the immanent return of the Christ inspirational.
It is good for the rest of us to remember that End Timers are not wishing damnation on the rest of humanity (although that is a subtext of their message that we all need be wary of). They are awaiting the salvation of humankind and a glorious reign of the king's peace on Earth for 1,000 years.
In this era of our endless wars, their fervor for the end of the world should be seen as both hopelessly naive and wonderfully optimistic. You can understand, living in a broken world such as ours, that such a simple solution to our global problems and worries as the return of Jesus Christ has appeal.
Camping's track record was suspect from the very beginning. He made the same claim in 1994, thus matching William Miller's ineptitude at deciphering the mysteries of St. John's Revelation and prognosticating Christ's return. But we all have a lot to thank him for. If he didn't fill us with trepidation, at least he made us appreciate all that life has to offer, especially the small things like the birdsong of finches.
His misguided mistake and failure as a prophet should remind all of us of lessons we constantly forget and of daily pleasures we frequently take for granted. The world has not ended. Let us rejoice! And let us commit ourselves to its preservation and recognize God has asked us to be stewards of the Earth, that it is our only home, and that we have a responsibility to our children and their children to keep it clean and habitable.
This day, in which the world did not end, should renew our sense of obligation to be better stewards and to find ways to negiotate our most fervant religious convictions with others who do not share them. No one knows how or when or even if the end will come. We should do everything in our power to make sure the end never comes. I believe with my whole heart that is what Christ himself would ask of us.
I say that as a Christian, one who believes the Apocalypse should never happen and who who yearns to know the mind of Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and Hindus in their understanding and appreciation of God and the world God has given us.
So today, of all days, be glad and give praise. Listen carefully to what the finches have to say. Smell the flowers. See the majesty of the mountains or take a walk on the beach. Hug your children. Cut the grass or wash your car. Be glad and soak up all of it.
Rejoice! The world has not ended!
And say a small prayer of thanks to Harold Camping for reminding us of all we might have lost.