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Chez Pazienza

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The End of Daze

Posted: 05/21/11 06:49 PM ET

So the Rapture turned out to be a bit of a bust.

There are no monster earthquakes, no oceans turning to steam, no fire shooting up out of the ground and, most sadly, no heathen dead rising from the grave to walk to earth in search of brains while Christians ascend skyward on beams of light. It would be easy at this point to do a traditional post-mortem point-and-laugh because that's always what this thing was deserving of -- but there's still something overwhelmingly sad about the fact that there are those out there who sold everything they owned, jettisoned their childrens' futures and wound their lives down to this singular point in time not only because they truly believed that earthly concerns wouldn't matter anymore after today but because not having absolute faith in that notion would damn them for all eternity. These people are now, for lack of a more diplomatic descriptor, thoroughly screwed.

But there's no sense in letting something like that eat you alive from the inside out; there have always been suckers out there and there always will be, gullible souls so desperate for a cure to a life that simply offers too much incomprehensible mystery that they're willing to swallow any form of snake oil peddled in their direction. You can't save everyone, nor should you try -- an ironic statement, certainly, given the topic.

Still, there's something really worth pointing out in the wake of the non-Rapture. While it was easy for most of us to handily dismiss the lunatic predictions of Pastor Harold Camping and his merry band of messianic misfits, what shouldn't be forgotten is just how unremarkable their basic belief-system is. Sure, even a lot of hardcore Evangelicals ridiculed Camping's assertion that Jesus was going to appear out of the sky today, but make no mistake: Whether they choose to say it loudly and publicly right now, as far as they're concerned the only thing Camping got wrong was the exact date. There are millions of people still going about their business today convinced that at any moment they can be beamed up to heaven while the rest of the Earth falls into a period of tribulation that ends in its ultimate destruction. And by the way, these people aren't considered crazy -- they're just called faithful, and deserving of having that faith respected and lent credence by the rest of us. It's fascinating that, really, the only thing that puts Pastor Harold Camping and his followers one step over the line into the world of the insane outlier is that they thought they had figured out the time of Jesus's return, not that they believed absolutely in the notion of a divine entity called Jesus -- or that he would magically appear to us -- in the first place.

If you need it put in more reductionist terms it can be summed up like this: Believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of the creator of the universe who will eventually return to Earth equals not-crazy; believing that you know when Jesus Christ will make that triumphant return equals crazy. See how, well, crazy that is?

When you look at it in those terms it's kind of astonishing how one belief is considered legitimate in our society and worthy of respect -- and one is considered outlandish and worthy of ridicule.

No, the Rapture didn't happen today. But that doesn't mean a whole lot of people won't go on believing that it will happen eventually, that the Bible really does "guarantee it." And that belief is deserving of no less dismissal than the one for which we've all had such a good time mocking Pastor Harold Camping over the past couple of weeks.

 

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