2012: Get Rich Or Die Mayan

A few years ago, I took a bus from Trois Rivieres to Montreal. I bought my ticket, stowed my bags, and took a seat. Settling in, I noticed an envelope resting in my chair’s pouch with the words “The Unabridged Truth” written across the front in black permanent marker. I opened it and found a manuscript detailing the oncoming end of days. It was written by “Joe The Carpenter,” and it also provided instructions as to how the reader may access the entire book at the University of New Brunswick library. (Sorry to ruin the suspense, but no, I didn’t look it up.) The manuscript discusses how corporations and capitalists have been destroying the world (which I’m inclined to agree) and that God will now seek his revenge with “fire and brimstone” (not so much). Naturally, the author, Joe the Carpenter, is obsessed with numerology and symbolism – the proverbial indicators of an unhinged mind. But what I also realized reading this is that there is also something twisted about fantasizing about the apocalypse and annihilationism, especially from some kind of supernatural agent.  Which brings me to the most recent epic fail of apocalyptic proportions.

Harold Camping , a retired Civil engineer, is the founder and leader of “Family Radio,” a fringe, fundamentalist Christian media empire worth over $100 million dollars. Like our friend Joe, he’s obsessed with numerology and the apocalypse. But Camping is an especially odd breed because he’s a bastardization of a literalist and interpretist. By that I mean, he’s willing to accept the Bible isn’t a strictly literal text; it speaks in metaphor and requires much interpretation. Which is totally fair, considering Jesus spoke almost entirely in parables. Moreover, I don’t think it’s unChristian nor unreasonable to take the Bible as a metaphor that is trying to communicate transcendental ideas of metaphysics and ethics – but that’s a whole other kettle of fish that I’m not quite willing to fry at the moment. However, where Camping goes off into the deep end is that he also asserts the Bible “absolutely true.” This is a very basic paradox: how can something be open to interpretation and absolutely true? Even the most shallow study of language and metaphor will reveal that once you open something to interpretation, you’ve basically opened the flood gates. Metaphor is infinitely dynamic and can never be pinned down. Not to mention the Bible explicitly states no one can actually predict the Rapture: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36-44).

Then again, no one has ever accused evangelicals of being rational. Accordingly, Camping, who started Family Radio back in the 50s, became increasingly radical about his views on the Rapture, alienating himself from most otherwise friendly southern groups. Eventually, Camping made a loose prediction back in 1994 that the Rapture would happen. In his defense, he did concede at the time that he wasn’t %100 confident in his conviction. Now, fast forward a couple of years and he’s proclaiming with absolute certainty that the Rapture will happen on May 21st, 2011. The difference now is not only social media but a very committed mulimedia campaign. Camping poured millions into this thing, translating his broadcast in different languages, posting billboard signs all over the world, and investing in an army of vans, all preaching his apocalyptic vision.

Militant atheists have taken considerable glee in mocking Camping and co., but I’m loathe to align myself with such a group. I would never directly link an ideaology with a few fringe groups: be it Christians and their Bible-belt neanderthals, or Muslims and their murderous extremists. What interests me is the whole fascination with annihilationism in the first place. After all, the secular population shares just as much a pornographic fixation with this phenomena as the fundamentalists. Uberhack Roland Emmerich has made a fortune rivaling Camping’s making disaster porn. But he’s just profiting on a cultural discourse that is ripe for the harvest. We are obsessed with The End of The World. Remember Y2K? Or how environmental and climate discourse is saturated with prophecies of doom.

On the one hand, one is tempted to chalk this all up to an over-active collective death drive. But I think there’s a lot of laziness and wishful thinking here too. “Any idiot can face a crisis,” wrote Anton Chekov, “it’s day to day living that wears you out.” All the crises that we’re facing today are tediously complex – the economy, the environment, etc. – and it would be much easier if some supernatural force wiped the slate clean for us to start over. I read about one Family Radio supporter, Keith Bauer, in the Globe and Mail.  “I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth,” he said. He was a tractor-trailer driver, who began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he “worked last week, I wouldn’t have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen” (source). And if you think he’s alone, just remember all those people who bought supplies pre-Y2k. Hell, I remember back in High School, some fortune teller predicted a great flood would wash away civilization and a bunch of people I knew slept in lifejackets.

Good question, Philosoraptor. What if Harold Camping was actually right, but for some reason the Rapture didn’t come to pass. What happened? I’ll tell you: it was Macho Man Randy Savage! On Friday, May 20th, Macho Man died in car crash. Note I said “crash” and not “accident.” That’s because Macho Man accepted his fate, knowing it was up to him to stop the Rapture. Macho Man, snapping into Slim Jim, thought to himself, “No Rapture on my watch! I’m coming for you, Jesus.” So, he took one for the team and rode the stairway to heaven to lock horns with the Son of God. Macho Man climbed the top turnbuckle of the Pearly Gates and dropped a flying elbow on the Savior. God saw this awesome display of power and deemed man did indeed had the means to rescue the planet and the Rapture wasn’t necessary. God bless you, Macho Man Randy Savage. Goodnight, sweet Prince.

Sheesh, looks like this Harold Camping follower needs a hug. I guess he wasn’t a nWo fan…

cheers,

-B

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~ by braddunne on May 22, 2011.

One Response to “2012: Get Rich Or Die Mayan”

  1. Yum Chekov!

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