Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When You Care Enough To Think The Very Worst

Remember Rapture Kitty?

On May 2, 2011, The Rapture was supposed to occur.

It didn't. And there were some very disappointed people. Anticipating one's worst fear can lead to actual depression when that fear isn't realized.

The disappointment doesn't necessarily come from embarrassment - looking stupid or crazy is something apocalypticists deal with long before the impending doom. Rather, it comes because they are looking forward to the Apocalypse with JOY: the promised Messiah will come, they will go to heaven and their enemies will go to hell. Yes, joy ... and revenge. They will also shackle off this mortal coil which has been so awful to them. All their worldly woes will disappear.

Famous moments in Non-Armageddon

Perhaps the most notable recent occurrence of apocalypticism (yes, there is such a word, although not, apparently in today's spell check) was the Harold Camping "Rapture" non-event of May 21, 2011. Camping - a host on Family Radio - and not an ordained minister - had previously predicted September 6, 1994 as the return of Christ, then when that did not occur, he revised his calculations and held steadfastly to the date of May 21, 2011. When the Rapture didn't occur, he changed the date to Oct 21st. After that date failed to bring forth the Four Horsemen, he had a stroke. The latest about Mr Camping is that he regrets the "sin" of being so arrogant as to predict what God will decide and is still reading his Bible for more knowledge and repentance (he's off the air).

Then there was David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. Overshadowed by the deadly confrontation in Waco, the history of the Branch Davidians goes back to 1930 when they were ostracized by their parent sect, the Seventh Day Adventists (who also believe in the imminent coming of the Apocalypse).

The Great Disappointment

But the most devastating (and widely believed) - date of the apocalypse -October 22, 1844, was promoted by Baptist lay preacher, William Miller. Miller's prediction, like Camping's, was based on Biblical prophecy and was widely accepted by tens of thousands of Americans at the time - and across denominational lines! By 1843, over one million copies of Millerite papers and periodicals were in print and people were absolutely convinced of Christ's Second Coming. When the day passed without incident, the entire nation called it The Great Disappointment. So eager were people for the Second Coming that overnight, 16 "advent papers" offered different dates. Factional battles sprung up. People changed denominations. The Great Disappointment had, in fact, changed a substantial part of the landscape of America's organized religion.

Why No Concern?

While the previous predictions of the apocalypse were accompanied by dire warnings (Camping's group spent $100 million on advertising), the coming Mayan apocalyptic date spawned only a tepid movie. Stand-up comedians aren't even giving it much air time, although Letterman and Leno had a few words:

     "The Mayans have predicted the world is supposed to end on December 21. If the world doesn't end on December 21, you can bet the next day the malls will be overrun with Mayans trying to buy last-minute gifts." –Jay Leno   
 "December 21, the end of the world, is a Friday. So it means dress is casual." –David Letterman
The answer to the indifference is perhaps that this particular apocalypse is based on the Mayan calendar which ushers in a New Age of Enlightenment. Two words: "Mayan" and" Enlightenment" are particularly anathema to some Christians, in particular the Christian Right fringe of apocalypticists who have their own ideas of The Apocalypse. 

Indeed, the names of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse have changed over the years (from Famine , War, Pestilence and Death) to any applicable ideology.

Therefore, in a sense, it is heresy (or apostasy) to believe in the Mayan apocalypse.

So for reason of indifference (sublime or otherwise), December 22nd will be greeted with dismay by very, very few people and with a hearty "ho hum" by many.