The Common Good
July 2011

Judgment Day 2.0

by Ed Spivey Jr. | July 2011

Eventually, a Rapture prediction will come true, right?

Whew! That was close. Looks like May 21 passed without incident, despite being the date that millions -- okay, dozens -- of Christians believed would be the day of the Rapture, their last Saturday on this Earth. It's possible God got busy on the weekend and forgot the prophecy that Christian broadcaster Harold Camping has been preaching for years. On the other hand, the large billboards that Camping's Family Radio Network put up around Nashville, Tennessee, should have reminded the Almighty -- on God’s occasional drives across Interstate 40 -- to double check the apocalyptic calendar.

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Camping made news in 1994 when he and his followers staged a highly-publicized Rapture event, gathering to wait for the heavenly hosts to lift them off to heaven, after getting clearance from air traffic control (to avoid mid-air collision with other ascending believers). But the group eventually dispersed because, well, Jesus didn't make it. He could've been busy, or maybe got tied up in traffic. One never knows.

Camping later admitted he had made a miscalculation -- hey, you try to get this stuff right every time! -- but now claims to have developed a new method of determining the Last Day, one that uses an elaborate mathematical system to decipher clues hidden in the Bible. (Bible math is not an area with which I’m familiar, which probably explains why I blew that section on my SATs.)

And -- no foolin' this time -- Camping discovered the actual date of Jesus' return is May 21.

Which is why I got a haircut on May 20.

You want to look your best when Jesus comes back and renders judgment, and I figured a little trim might take the sting out of a wasted life. "You have sinned many times, my son. But I like the sideburns."

I also briefly considered renting a limo to drive Jesus around in, figuring his interest in Palm Sunday donkeys might have waned in the preceding two millennia. Jesus knows how to communicate in a cultural context, so what better way to re-establish authority in the 21st century than in a stretch Hummer? ("Help yourself to the minibar, Sir, because I've got my hands full up here with this traffic. Some of these cars don’t appear to have drivers!")

More important, I updated my résumé, in case Jesus had any afterlife assignments for me. (If I can't actually earn my way into heaven, I was hoping to do work-study for awhile.) Unfortunately, having the same job for almost 37 years means my entire career fits on only one page, not including cover letter. So I bumped it to a second page by elaborating on my long and distinguished Little League baseball career, between the ages of 11 and 12. (And why not? The life lessons learned in Little League have stayed with me for decades. In our weekly editorial meetings, for example, I still keep my knees bent and my legs slightly apart so I can make the play at either first or second. I also frequently chant "heybattabatta" during quieter moments in the discussion.) Plus, listing my appearance in the all-star game beefs up my "accomplishments" section that otherwise only listed "used to speak a little French," which doesn't strike the valedictory tone one aims for in a successful résumé.

Aside from Camping's updated prophecies, the majority of Judgment Day predictions -- including those from early Mayan evangelicals -- still place the start of the End Times in 2012, a more reasonable assertion that fulfills the principal rule of all predictions: It hasn't happened yet, so who are you to say it won't? But if Newt Gingrich somehow wins the nomination for president, I'll set aside my skepticism, pack an overnight bag, and follow any Rapture-spouting preacher to the closest abandoned drive-in (for easier pick-up).

And when I'm standing before the Almighty, I'll try to remember to look humble and stay calm, especially if a Mayan walks over and says, "Told you so."

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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