This week the media has given much attention to a prophecy by Harold Camping that the world will come to an end on May 21, 2011; which is, as I am writing, tomorrow. I couldn't help but think of the contrast of Camping's prediction and the events of September 11.
September 11 really happened. It had all the feel of the end of the world as we knew it. The question Alan Jackson poses is one that still resonates with us today.
Camping's prediction concerning May 21st, does not depict a real event for that day - it is a false prophecy. It has the media's attention today but will quickly fade as the next day begins. Years from now no one will be asking, "Where were you during Armageddon on May 21, 2011?"
This begs the question, why is the secular media bringing such attention to it; especially, when they clearly do not believe it to be true? Some would say it is intended to ridicule or mock Christians; however, I don't think that is the case. More likely it's just economics. End of the world - apocalyptic - prophecies sell. People love a good "end of the world" story.
In other words, it simply boils down to plain old marketing. Don't think Apocalyptic groups are unaware of this fact. Many of them have found that a well devised end-time prophecy actually helps with recruiting. Think about it.
How many people had actually heard of Camping prior to all the attention he is getting from this prophecy. Without question, it has helped him add new recruits, while strengthening the commitment of those who were already followers.
Part of the appeal is also due to these prophecies generally including some guarantee or hope of survival being found only through membership in, or association with, the group. Their leader is the only one who knows the "truth".
While reason might indicate that making a false prophecy should disqualify the leader and be bad for business, that is not necessarily the case. Many groups making a false prediction concerning the end of the world will make subsequent false predictions. The masters at this are the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Even Camping has found a false prophecy is not always "disastrous" and can be easily, even if not credibly, explained away to one's followers. For, on May 22nd, this will not prove to be Camping's first missed prophecy as he had once predicted Christ would return to earth on September 6, 1994.
How should such prophecies be regarded? After all, the Bible does teach that Christ will return. This is a belief that the Church has always held to and proclaimed to be true. In fact, Jesus was pretty clear about his return when he said:
"...about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father". (Matt 24:36)
Seems to me that based on what Jesus said, the only day we can know with certainty is the day he will not return is any day proclaimed by a man as the one on which he will return.
I think it is safe to say we will have plenty of opportunities to ask, where were you on May 22, 2011? I plan on being in Church with my family and later watching an NBA playoff game. My guess is Mr. Camping will not have time for such as he will be busy working on a revision to this latest false prophecy.
My prediction, there is more to come...
If you love these end-time prophecies don't despair more are on the horizon. Next up is the Mayan Prophecy set for December 21, 2012.
Want to know more about Camping and Family Radio. Check Out These Links:
Listen to Harold Camping Defend his prophecy, stating with absolute certainty that things will not be as usual on May 22 which he refers to as the second day of judgment.
- Brief Overview of Camping in Huffington Post: 5 Facts About The May 21 Judgment Day Predictor
- Interesting Washington Post Online Interview with Dr. Doug Weaver of Baylor University discussing how Camping arrived at the May 21, 2011 prophecy. Also, includes discussion of other apocalyptic groups: Interview with Dr. Doug Weaver
- For those who want to know the background on Camping, the following will provide extensive information about Camping prior to the renewed interest generated by the 2011 prophecy: Apologetics Index Harold Camping
- Finally, here is Camping's website complete with ticker counting down the days to the end of the world. However, with only one day left you better visit it quickly: Family Radio Worldwide