- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Marketing "Judgment Day" has a long history
Beginning about two weeks ago my children were returning home from school with warnings from their Christian friends that the end of the world was coming very soon. According to their friends some radio minister was predicting the "End of the World". Now I didn't take this news seriously and actually put it down as just some wild rumor going about. But they continued coming home with the same dire warnings passed along by their friends, along with reminders that our family, just as all families, needed to "get right with the Lord" if we wanted to be among "the chosen" when the Rapture took place. So I told my kids that history is full of folks who go around saying the world is going end at so and so time, and inevitably these folks' predictions failed to come through. I also reminded my children that they had been raised in a good pagan home and obsession with this end of the world thing isn't something they need to worry about.
"If you need to worry about something," I said, "worry about keeping your rooms clean. Because when and if the time comes that Ragnarok occurs do you really want Odin to see that mess with His one good eye? Hmm?"
They took this with their usual grins and promised not to let rumor get the best of them. And they kept their word. So I forgot all about the Apocalypse/Rapture prediction.. until Friday.
What happened Friday? Why, that same End of the World prediction was all over the news. A certain radio minister -Harold Camping- had indeed announced that he had successfully calculated the exact time the "Rapture" would occur: May 21 at 6 PM EST. Apparently Rev. Camping had gone on to put a lot of time and energy into circulating this prediction, as well as a lot of promoting - a whopping $140,000 worth of promoting. Intrigued, I did a little research into Camping and discovered that this latest Judgment Day scare was not his first. He had predicted the same thing was supposed to happen way back in 1994.This time, however, Camping had enjoyed much more exposure via the internet and mass marketing, e.g. the sign you see above. Suffice to say a lot of good Christians took notice. Not all of them believed it, I'm sure, but it they, along with the media were definitely interested in the hype surrounding it.
On May 21 at 6 PM EST my family did what we typically do; we ate dinner. We had fried chicken, and boy howdy, now that's what I call pure rapture!
Nevertheless, I'm still a little bothered that Camping's hype was marketed efficiently enough that young children in public school systems -at least one I know of anyway- were frightened. Whether the doomsday prophets honestly believe what they claim or whether their motives are more sinister, in the end they can rely on fear to be the one gimmick that has historically guaranteed to get them attention and followers.
Doomsday prophets are nothing new, not for any religion, but Christian denominations seem particularly vulnerable to the worst of them. Back in the year 666 A.D. the faithful were fed morose warnings that the End would come at any time. Of course, this was due in large to the date (thanks to the book of Revelations and the assumed sinister implications surrounding the number 666). The end did not come, of course. Then again in the year 1666 Christendom was reminded to be prepared for the worst. Further along in history the ascetic and kinetically mobile Shakers came along and predicted the end of the world would transpire in 1792. Later on Samuel S. Snow, a Millerite preacher, told followers that the Rapture would happen on October 22, 1884 (this legendary failed event subsequently became known as The Great Disappointment by the Millerites). Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, predicted Jesus would return before 1891. In more recent times the Jehovah's Witnesses have postulated several time-frames for when the Rapture will occur, all based on supposed Biblical calculations. TV televangelist Pat Robertson told his followers to expect the judgment of the world to take place by the end of 1982. On the darkest side of prophecy-mongers our society has had to deal with the likes of Rev. Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson and Marshall Applewhite, all who used ludicrous predictions of the Rapture, the Apocalypse and Judgment Day as part of their indoctrination and propaganda.
I truly believe that most Christians are not gullible and use common sense when it comes to weeding out good leaders of the faith from the bad. Unfortunately, there are still some people who are easily hooked into believing any doomsday rumor they hear. In most cases I think it is a matter of gullibility, though in a few cases I think some individuals are just so bored with life that preparing for some divine event simply provides something to relieve the monotony.
Whatever the case, I do know there was no good reason for any of the children at my kids' school to be scared out of their wits by someone who already had a history of failed predictions. And to any adults who may be presently weighing the pro's and con's of any doomsday prophecies, I just hope they will remember that old adage that is sound no matter what religion you follow: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.