Sunday, February 27, 2011

Camping at the End of the Universe

I travel a lot, and that means a lot of in-car time; time with a radio and a selection of unknown stations.  I bump into Christian stations often, and sometimes I stick around to listen.  This past Thursday night was one of those nights when I ran into one of my Christian favorites:  Family Radio.  The program that time was a live call-in Q&A session with Harold Camping.

For those of you unfamiliar with Harold Camping, he is the leader of Family Radio, a network of four satellite channels, over one hundred AM and FM radio stations, and two television stations, and in 40 different languages worldwide.  More significantly, a cornerstone teaching of the Family Radio ministry is that the Rapture will occur May 21, 2011, and the end of the world will be October 21, 2011.  That's what makes his ministry so fascinating to me, in an amusing way.

Let's get back to the show...

This was the order of three calls which came in while I was listening.  I'll use quotes, but this is paraphrasing based on my memory:

Caller #1)  "You are going to get a whole bunch of enemas on May 22."
Camping)  "Huh?  What?  May 22?  I'm not sure, uh, what do you mean May 22?  Oh dear, we seem to be having some problems.  Well, thank you for calling and sharing.  On to our next call."

As you may imagine, I had a few good chuckles about that.  But seriously, calling in and harassing a host like that is just immature and rude, even if it is funny.  The thing to keep in mind here, though, is that the perpetrator of this heckling call was a Christian!  No, I can't be 100% certain, but atheists don't tend to heckle Christians like that.  An atheist doesn't argue that someone has picked the wrong date, but rather that they have picked the wrong god, which would pretty much be any of them!

Caller #2)  "I don't know what to do, Mr. Camping.  I have called you several times before to try to get you to stop spreading this false doctrine, Mr. Camping, but you just keep on teaching it."
Camping)  "Which doctrine is that?"
Caller #2)  "Well I guess we are going to have to wait until May 22, Mr. Camping, and see what you do then."
Camping)  "Oh, well, by what authority do you have to say that there will be a May 22?  Can you point to verses in the Bible to make a case that there will be a May 22?  On what authority can you say that?  I have many, many passages in the Bible which collectively all point to May 21 as being the day of our Lord's Second Coming.  Tell me, by what authority do you have to say that there will be a May 22?"
Brilliant!  Just brilliant!  Camping's defense is impenetrable, at least to the Christian.  Despite it being Christian doctrine that Jesus could come back at any time, none of them really seem to live that way, at least not by majority.  They all assume life will go on; day in, day out.  Even those who believe that His Coming is soon, you don't find them emptying their 401k's and giving all their money to the poor.  Yet this caller, despite knowing for certain in his heart that there would be a May 22, could not refute Camping's claim, because who really knows when Jesus is coming back?

Caller #3)  "Hi Mr. Camping.  You know, I am so excited by these Times.  The Bible says that there will be scoffers in the End Times, and callers like that last one just seem to be more and more proof of that.  I am so happy that Jesus is coming soon.  Thank you so much for your ministry."
Camping)  "I can understand that you would be happy that the time is near for Jesus to return, but the Bible tells us that this is going to be a time of great mourning.  All of our loved ones who are unsaved will be destroyed by God's wrath, and those who are already dead will be raised from the grave for final destruction in a final shaming of them.  Oh no, this will not be a time of happiness.  We should be mourning the coming destruction of all of those people and trying to spread the Word as much as we can before that time."
From these calls, I got a new respect for Mr. Camping.  I mean, I gave him some street cred before just for being an engineer by training, even if it was in target building (civil engineering).  ;-) 

Here, Camping handled his scoffers professionally and did not get angry or flustered or retaliatory.  He kept on in his sonorous, steady voice.

Beyond that, though, Camping's motivations seem to shine through, particularly with that last caller.  He's not some quack cult leader in this to stroke his own ego or pad his pocketbook or simply get famous.  He's not bubbling over in the stupor of impending holy glory.  He's genuinely concerned for the imminent fate of the unsaved, and so he is just trying to do what he can about that by spreading the Word.

I get the sense that he's the kind of believer who, upon waking up on May 22 in his own home, is going to first think that he failed God in some way and therefore was not Raptured.  And so, in a way, I admire him.  Even if his beliefs do not align with reality, he is one of the few who is actually compassionately trying to obey the convictions of his faith.

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