May 21, 2011 -- I'm sure you've heard by now that some are saying that the end of the world will take place today, May 21, at precisely 6 p.m.-- that's local time wherever you happen to be, in case you're planning a cookout. This means that you'll be able watch the destruction ripple its way across the globe until it reaches you. Oh, happy day.
The one touting the world's demise this time is Harold Camping, the 89-year-old Christian fundamentalist and co-founder of Family Radio Network, who, by the way, said the same thing would happen in 1994, and when it didn't, he said that he must have computed wrongly. His certainty this time is once again based on his Byzantine calculations about floods and numbers in the Bible that not even Einstein would be able to decipher. He also points to the recent proliferation of earthquakes and tornados as a sign that we're on our last legs. Oh, and let's not forget the added ignominy that gay people are thriving. That's another telltale sign for him that the end is imminent.
The only problem with Camping's Biblical prediction is that it isn't very Biblical. The one certain thing that the Bible says about the end time is that you won't know when it's coming. It will arrive like a thief in the night, surprising everyone. Obviously Camping and his followers think they're privy to insider information that Jesus Himself assuredly would never be given.
Historically, these kinds of end-of-the-world predictions seem to spike in times of financial hardship and global crisis. No argument that we are certainly meeting that criterion. However, more than intent on fulfilling predictions, those adhering to these theories seem to be attempting to avoid suffering or death. To be swept up in the Rapture means that you're released from this vale of tears. Swept up to heaven in the blink of an eye. So much for Jesus saying that we need to take up our crosses. This is to say nothing of the fact that only 144,000 are supposedly going to be saved. That's one healthy block in Brooklyn! Thus leaving a lot of righteous-minded Christians wondering where they went wrong.
Now, I don't like to cast aspersions on anyone's beliefs. But when religion gives way to fear mongering that insults our God-given intelligence, it needs to be called out for what it is: bad Biblical interpretation and bad theology. The world may in fact end some day, but we know not the day or the hour. One thing we do know however is that all of our worlds will in fact end one day. That's why, as Kris Allen sings, "we gotta live like were dying." Because we will. I just don't think that it's going to happen this Saturday. But, hey, I've been wrong before.
Father Edward L. Beck, C.P. is a Religion Contributor for ABC News and the Executive Producer and host of The Sunday Mass on the ABC Family Channel.