Wednesday, May 25, 2011

End-of-World Predictions Revised: Stay Tuned

Well, darn.  It seems we haven't dodged the end of the world quite yet.  Christian talk-radio guru and end-of-the-world authority Harold Camping has now decided he was a wee bit off with his May 21 eschaton predictions.

The real end is going to be on October 21, it turns out.  What happened this past Saturday was a "spiritual judgment" of the world, in which we all got judged whether we realized it or not, while no one got physically raptured.  The real, entire, whole-shebang end of all things is going to happen on October 21, with a cataclysmic finale to history.

Darn.  And here I had girded my loins for the tribulation, when I discovered my feet were still inside my shoes and I hadn't been raptured.  I was absolutely certain the five months of tribulation had begun bright and early Sunday, when I happened to be in a public place seated beside a woman who took a call on her cell phone.

The horror of it!  The pain, like having needles stuck into my eyeballs!  And when her first words blared to the invisible person at the other end of the line were "Where are you at?"--not "Where are you?"--I knew.  I knew that God had designed specific tribulations for each of us, tribulations calculated to cause each of us the maximum pain possible in the five months left to us, based on our individuals needs, likes, dislikes.

My tribulation was to be a daily dicing of my nerves by one grammatical solecism after another, all delivered in trumpet-voices by people talking around me on cell phones as if I weren't there: sentences scattered with meretricious prepositions or adverbs--"Where you at?" "partnered up" "listen up"--or objective forms of pronouns used as subjects of clauses--"I hold whomever did this responsible"--by people who clearly never finished 8th-grade English, where the rule drilled into us over and over back in the days when schools really educated was that the case of the pronoun is governed by its use in the clause that is the object of a verb or preposition.

"Glee" last night was tribulation added to tribulation, as two characters said something like, "I'll always put you and I first."  And as one character after another licked his lips in that bizarre neo-macho exchange that has come to pass for acting in American television and movies: male lip-licking and tongue-protruding as studly self-declaration in lieu of language.

Yes, I just knew the tribulation was underway for me already, and am rather disappointed to discover that I'll now have to endure the linguistic solecisms and the grotesque substitutes for real acting without any purificatory end to the suffering.  Just plain old garden-variety suffering like the suffering we all court every day by drawing breath and living among other people.  And with our own sorry selves.

And as I listen to Harold Camping natter on about his now third absolutely fine-tuned prophecy of when the end of things will happen, I wonder what it says about us Americans, that this kind of pseudo-religious discourse occupies such a central place in our culture.  And clearly moves so many of us.  And engages so much mainstream media attention.  And can get people to quit their jobs and shlep around expensively produced pamphlets and carry expensively produced signs to try to frighten other folks into submission to God the Terrorist.  In huge media campaigns to promote biblical idiocy.

Biblical idiocy that infantilizes the American people, and makes us stand out in the global community for our gullibility, our ability to swallow the most ludicrous lies imaginable if those lies happen to carry a "bible-based" label.  So that we never quite grow up as human beings and take adult responsibility for our lives, and recognize our responsibility for and to the lives of others with whom we live in the human community.

Will a third wildly wrong prediction of the end finally convince us to stop paying any attention at all to these hucksters, and to their countless clones who employ the airwaves to inform us that God sends tornadoes to punish gay-friendly areas (please just ignore the recent horrific storms in the heartland),* or uses earthquakes to remind us of his (always "his," in the imagination of those promoting these ideas) power to swat us down when we cross the line?  

Will we grow up, one of these days?  Before the real end eventually arrives?

*Remember how, when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America voted in 2009 to ordain openly gay ministry candidates in committed partnered relationships, detractors claimed a tornado brewed itself up instantly and plowed through Minneapolis right to the church in which the ELCA passed this resolution?  But this past Saturday, as the Minnesota legislature voted to give voters the right to amend the state constitution and enshrine anti-gay prejudice in the constitution, another tornado hit Minneapolis.  

What are the chances, do you imagine, that radio preachers are now going to announce that Minneapolis was being punished by God with a tornado for this legislative act of homophobia?  Or that those solidly Republican bible-belt areas of the nation being devastated by tornadoes and floods this spring are under divine punishment for opposing health-care coverage for all citizens and social safety nets for the poor?

Maybe it's time we grew up and stopped imagining God uses the weather to deliver wallops to those she likes and dislikes.  Reckon?

The graphic is from Doug Blanchard's wonderful blog Counterlight's Peculiars.  I'm naming this rapture picture  "White Flight."

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