On Saturday, May 21st, some people are going to be embarrassed, confused, possibly devastated. Some may even abandon their faith or walk away from the church.
You probably know why. Family Radio preacher Harold Camping has predicted that the rapture will occur on May 21, 2011 and the world will come to an end when Christ returns on October 21, 2011. (To learn more, see Micah Burke’s list of resources at Alpha & Omega Ministries).
Most of the articles, tweets and status updates I have read on the topic have either mocked Camping and his followers or condemned him as a false teacher who is leading people astray (one refreshing exception is “11 days until Judgment Day (and I’m not laughing)”). One church has displayed on their sign: “I’m going to laugh on May 22nd.” The pastor told a reporter, “During Sunday’s service we’ll all have a smile on our face.”
I get the mocking response. I’ve made my own share of lame jokes about not paying my mortgage this month and running up my credit cards. I don’t knock people for making fun of Camping. His “Save the Date” campaign is tailor-made for mockery. But…
What about the people, who knows how many, who truly believe the rapture will occur Saturday? They will be hurting. I can guarantee you that if they go online Saturday all they will find is people laughing at them and Camping (I can see the tweets now).
Do you know someone who believes they will personally be raptured along with other Christians this weekend? I do. As it is with most things, your approach changes when you know someone personally involved in the matter at hand. I know this is why I will have a sense of sadness rather than hilarity when I think of Camping and his followers this weekend.
Let’s consider these folks this weekend. They need encouragement not derision (Camping, on the other hand, will rightly be taken to the woodshed). These believers ought to press on with their study of the Word, not abandon it altogether. Let’s help them press on toward the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ.
Before you laugh at them on May 21st, remember, you still have your Left Behind series and end-times charts on your book shelf. You just haven’t saved the date yet.
[Update – See also: Harold Camping and the apocalypse of my youth by Jason Boyett]