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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Second Coming Predictions and the Barnum Factor...

The blogosphere has been in a frenzy in recent days over an end-of-the-world prediction, that has even made it on several local and national news programs (Can you tell we're in sweeps?).

So, let's get this straight, according to an 89-year-old California civil engineer, the end of the world (aka the Apocalypse, Armageddon, the second coming of Jesus, doomsday, Final Judgment, the day we meet our maker in our birthday suits, hopefully holding hands and singing Kumbayah, of course the fire and brimstone might throw a damper on that idea), will be this Saturday.

Yes, you read correctly, it’s not a typo, he says it’s tomorrow!  I'm not sure if that means 12:01am Pacific, Central, or Eastern Time Zone or sometime during the day but stay tuned.  And to think, I was planning on going to Confession in the morning, taking my son to a kiddies party and getting a haircut in the afternoon and going to a barbecue at the house of some friends at night!

Harold Camping, who heads the Christian radio network Family Stations Inc, which is heard in over 65 U.S. stations, with affiliates from Taiwan to Russia, and his organization have reportedly posted more than two thousand billboards around the nation warning of the May 21st end of the world (as REM would add, “as we know it”).

Mind you, this is the same guy, who predicted Jesus Christ would return in 1994.

As far as I can recall (or look up on the Internet), aside from an earthquake in Los Angeles (that I’m sure may have felt like Armageddon to some) and the Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman murder, probably the biggest story in the U.S. that year, was the breakup of Nirvana, after Kurt Cobain committed suicide (You don’t think he thought…? Nah...).

Even as bad as I think the mainstream media is at covering anything related to God and Christianity (unless it’s negative, and I should know, I work in the media), I don’t think they missed the Apocalypse in ‘94.

I’m going to give Camping the benefit of the doubt and think he is sincere in his belief and just wants to warn us so that we should prepare spiritually, sort of like Jonah warns the city of Nineveh in the Bible. And, because the Ninevites take Jonah’s warning seriously, they repented, fasted, and were spared from destruction by God.

But apocalyptic predictions have been going on for centuries. The Seventh-Day Adventists have predicted Armageddon since the 1840’s and the Jehovah’s Witnesses said it would be in 1914 and then again in 1975. 

Look, I’m all for getting spiritually prepared. I think we all should live our lives as if it might be our last day on earth (not that I do live every day as such, as my wife would attest, especially when I’m ignoring the family because I'm writing a blog, but I should). However, it’s not because of the fear of Armageddon. It’s because our judgment day will come one day regardless. It might be sooner than we expect!

As I have written before, a good friend went for a run on Father’s Day last year, suffered a heart attack and died in his car. Several years ago, another friend and co-worker, was getting ready for work one morning, suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away in his bathroom. Both were in their 40’s.

As for the end times, Christ himself says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mk 13:32)

At the risk of sounding a bit righteous (which has never stopped me before), anyone that thinks they know, and those who believe them, or believed the world was ending in Y2K, or now in the year 2012, can fall under the category of, what I've heard referred to as, the Barnum Factor (a phrase coined after P.T. Barnum of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, who reportedly said, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”)

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