The Rapture went viral–but what does it all mean?

It is bad weather for Camping today…sunny, with no chance of earthquake.

Harold Camping was disappointed; there were no earthquakes today–he had been hoping for a momentous one, signaling the Rapture.

Camping’s prediction that “the Rapture” would happen on May 21st made Christian prophecy crowd out the zombie apocalypse in popular paranoia zeitgeist, becoming a meme, an advertising gimmick.

Camping, a Christian broadcaster known for Open Forum, kicked off a $100 million global advertising campaign financed by the sale of his media properties–after all, he would hardly be profiting from them post-rapture, but don’t worry about his financial state, he has been raking in the donations. Don’t worry about his ego either–after a failed prediction in 1994, he still had the confidence to publicly predict this one.

Eschatology looms large in the minds of believers, non-believers, and every guy who has ever been told “only if you were the last man on Earth”–but why?

Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, is writing a book called “The Architecture of Apocalypticism,” has this to say about eschatological frenzies:

“Problems have become so big, with no solutions in sight, that we no longer see ourselves able as human beings to solve these problems,” DiTommaso said. “From a biblical point of view, God is going to solve them. From other points of view, there has to be some sort of catastrophe.”

The apocalyptic worldview springs from a desire to reconcile two conflicting beliefs.

“The first is that there is something dreadfully wrong with the world of human existence today,” he said. “On the other hand, there is a sense that there is a higher good or some purpose for existence, a hope for a better future.”

Viewing the world as a flawed place headed toward some sort of cosmic correction reconciles these two beliefs, DiTommaso said.

And because believers are certain that their sacred text can never be wrong, failed doomsday predictions only convince them that their own interpretations were flawed, opening the door to new predictions. Historically, those who have predicted doomsday, including the early Christians, have been persecuted and oppressed, so the prospect of a final judgment is comforting, DiTomasso said.

“Despite fire, death and destruction, the god of apocalypticism is a god of order, not chaos,” DiTomasso said. “That’s the reassurance.”

Dystopian and apocalyptic entertainment is popular in times of generalized anxiety, and often parallels an upswing of interest in survivalism. Witness the aforementioned zombie zeitgeist in pop culture*–as well as the also-ascendant vampire trope, and the perpetual super-hero story.**

The supernatural, primitive monster, and the helpless, preyed-upon, drained victim are rendered in stark contrast and strange parallels to our recession-ridden society, troubled by too much tech, looping us back to DiTommaso big-problem theme.


* Even my grandmother noticed it: she called to ask if I had a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and if so, could she borrow it? I didn’t, so I got her a copy…which she gave to me after a two days of reading. Here’s her review: “Too scary, and I had to put it face down on my nightstand…the cover is so gross.”

**Speaking of which, did you know this existed? Hello insomnia.

Religious Tolerance offers a timeline of failed end times predictions.

For some people, the Rapture was a sincerely held anticipation, not an excuse to hold an “Rapture party.” This LA Times story gets their reactions and includes quote from Camping’s daughter and PR aide. The end quote, however, shows another instance of an end-times mistake…, Jim Jones used Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid

Tim LaHaye thinks Harold Camping is trivializing Christian prophecy. Oh really?


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