On May 21, 2011, if your Rapture-prattling neighbor, co-worker or relative (God help you) suddenly disappears leaving all worldly possessions behind (barring kidnapping, murder, alien abduction, panicked flight, or entrance into the witness protection program), then Harold Camping was finally successful in perfecting his revelation equation. But if Camping and cohorts are still among us on May 22, then not only does Camping have some ‘splaining to do, he’ll have more recalculating to do. I’m praying he has some refunding to do because I hope the suckers who made donations for the copious billboards, radio programs, flyers and other ephemera demand their money back or sue his twice-failed-at-prognosticating self into eternal bankruptcy.
Since Harold Camping isn’t the only fellow making hay in the highly lucrative Rapture industry, if, or when, Jesus does return, I hope he/she brings his/her longform birth certificate, affidavits from the three wisemen, a circumcision certificate (if relevant to current gender), and a host of attorneys to sue, for libel, slander and defamation of character, every single last God-talker running an End Times Con. According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus said that “no one but the father” is privy to the 411 on the final 911. So anyone who says he’s got the inside dope on THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT is lying. If I were a lawyer I’d help Jesus pro bono. The Camping suckers would have to pay me because I don’t “suffer fools gladly.”
But alas, I am not a lawyer. Even if I was, since the US Supreme Court recently added to their ever-expanding, corporate-butt-smooch rulings by imposing serious limitations on class action lawsuits, it seems likely that folks will just have to wait for divine justice to recover their unwisely invested Rapture-retirement funds. Actually, they’ll have plenty of company while they’re waiting, because when you look at:
• the Molochian/Ferengian/Randian adherents on Wall Street who steered much of the world’s economy into an iceberg, not only without repercussion, but with rewards for their perfidy and/or incompetence,
• the members of the Bush/Cheney torture regime who have not only gotten off scot free, but have sailed smoothly into professorships, book deals, lobbyist jobs, and taxpayer-funded retirements and security details, and
• Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who claimed he was reliably on board the USS Stare Decisis and then jumped ship on established law in the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision, leading a privateer’s charge for power and plunder on behalf of corporations and the wealthy and against the interests of about 98% of this nation’s citizens,
it appears that most of us, having been forced to walk the plank and now treading water among the flotsam and jetsam, are left with waiting for divine justice. Not to mention being left behind to drown or be eaten by sharks if Captain Bligh Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan gets his wish to sell off the USS Bounty for scrap.
I’ve said it before and I’ll most likely say it again: I wish Jesus would return, and soon. Those who have read my Easter weekend postings know I’m talking about butt-kicking Jesus. The one who’ll show up with the words “Whatsoever You Have Done to the Least of These, You Have Done to Me” printed on his/her T-shirt and The Golden Rule (as stated by thirteen different faith traditions) tattooed on both arms.
I’m talking about the guy who kicked the moneychangers out of the Temple and confronted the hypocrisy of certain scribes and Pharisees calling them “serpents” and the “brood of vipers,” who spent time with the poor and the reviled, who traveled through Samaria when other Jews shunned the Samaritans, who ministered to the sick and the needy, who believed in mitzvahs, in community and communion. The guy who would have found Ayn Rand to be seriously in need of having her demons driven into a herd of swine.
But my wishing doesn’t make it so and the good news is that there is a silver-lined cloud in Camping’s gestalt for the 97% of us who constitute the unworthy. Camping, as opposed to the diabolically-inclined Rapturists, does not send the “unraptured” to Hell. Those not fortunate enough to receive God’s grace on May 21, 2011 get annihilated five months later when the world ends on October 21st. For Camping, that’s it. There’s no Hell, no eternal suffering, no lake of fire, no pitchforks and no demon-torturers, just massive death as life ends and existence ceases for the unsaved soul. Which you have to admit is a better deal than what the “fire and brimstone” guys are offering. Better dead than eternal dread as it were.
Beyond the fact that Camping also predicted THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT for September 6, 1994, one of the things I’m having a bit of trouble with is the odds on this whole Rapture thing. Camping and his followers claim that around 200 million people (approximately 3% of the world’s population) will be raptured. Those aren’t great odds. But there’s a silver lining to that particular dark cloud as well. Camping’s odds are better than some of the “Left Behinders” who believe that only 144,000 folks are going to fly the friendly skies when the Big Day comes. As you might suspect, that claim is open to interpretation; go ahead, google number of raptures or 144,000 rapture. I can wait.
As you can see, there’s plenty of argument and confusion about how many and who and whether there is Pre-Tribulation Rapture or if the Rapture happens only after the Tribulation has commenced. For the sake of this argument, let’s use one popular confusion that the total number of rapturees is 144,000. Based on an estimated world population of 6,915,302,960 as of April 29, 2011, that’s only a .208% chance that you’re going to be among the chosen. As world population rises, the odds get worse. Now, if you’re in the No-Pre-Tribulation Rapture camp, then you have to be Jewish to qualify for rapturing since the rapturees consist of 12,000 individuals from each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Which would seem to make Christianity’s concern with rapturing misguided, unless you get creative in defining Who’s Who in the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Which happens, just ask the Mormons, or the Christian Identity Dominionists or some of these groups. Is it any wonder that I’m fairly convinced that, like the poor, odd ideas, loopholes and convenient interpretations will always be with us.
Still, Rapture odds are better than the odds of winning the Big Money in most lottery games. It’s no wonder Republicans want to privatize state lotteries (see here, here, here, here). Oh hell, just google republican lottery privatize and you’ll get a boatload of results with lots of interesting information, such as: much of the revenues produced by state lotteries go into funding schools, social programs like home-delivered meals for the elderly and disabled, mental health programs, jobs and economic development programs, and other things that the GOP and social conservatives really hate. Frankly, I don’t think it’s wise to rely on folks’ fanciful dreams, desperate hopes and gambling addictions to fund things designed to improve people’s lives. And if lotteries are privatized, where do the profits go? I’m doubtful they will be going to fund grandma’s lunch or computers for Mrs. Wilson’s fourth grade class. Call me skeptical.
So, what are the lessons of this wild ride with End Timers, butt-kicking Jesus, creeping corporate dominance, perfidy, gambling, GOP privitization wet dreams, Samaritans and the Twelve Tribes of Israel? First, it seems that you have better odds of storing up treasure in heaven with an End Timer than you do of storing up treasure on Earth playing the lottery. On the other hand, End Timers are notoriously bad at predicting the End of the World and we’re right here, right now, living on planet Earth and it’s good to act collectively to make life less hellish. Consult the works of Thomas Hobbes if you don’t believe me. Second, there’s no guarantee you’re getting into Heaven; or that Heaven exists for that matter. Third, relying on games of chance is probably not the best way to generate government revenues. I think we’d be better off just taxing folks and corporations reasonably and effectively and running our governments honestly and efficiently for the benefit of all citizens. Radically practical, I know. But then I don’t have a monstrous Randian/Dominionist religious agenda that I’m trying to impose on a nation founded on the notion of freedom of, and from, religion. Finally, perhaps we should harken to the words of Jesus and “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” and keep church and state comfortably separated, for both of their sakes. But that’s a-whole-nother set of arguments and confusions. Go ahead, google it.