Dangerous Eschatology

I don’t know many people who took seriously Harold Camping and his doomsday prediction for May 21st.And I’m confident that every late-night comedian is delighted that he has revised his prediction to five
months from now
.(As a side note – Camping’s revision of May 21st being a “spiritual thing” happening rather than a physical event is eerily similar to the Seventh Day Adventists dealing with “The Great Disappointment” of Jesus not coming back in 1844. It’s uncanny how history has a way of repeating itself.)

The whole episode would be quite funny to me as well except that I am pastor.Consequently, I have
to deal with the human carnage that is inherent in this kind of bad eschatology.This weekend I had a conversation with a young woman who was convinced by her Pentecostal church that it was a waste of time for her to attend college because Jesus was coming back so soon. Eight years later she is understandably very hurt with the path that she chose after trusting her spiritual leaders.

I also don’t think the whole episode is very funny to those who gave their life savings to Camping’s organization to put up billboards.

All of the biblical and theological shortcomings of this kind of thinking can’t be addressed in a short blog like this.But what is clear from a pastoral perspective is that Camping is a true “wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). Any belief that makes us less engaged with the suffering of this world runs
contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” NOT, “Get us out of here to Heaven so that we don’t have to
deal with this Earth.”

What is most ironic to me is that those outside of the Christian Beltway seem to intuitively get Jesus’ message more than some insiders do.On May 22nd, one of my high school friends posted on Facebook, “To the ‘A’ hole who spent millions of dollars on billboards across America about the so called rapture that was going to happen yesterday. I hope you feel good about your money spent, personally I would have spent that money on someone who needs help, just sayin.....”

A couple years ago Bill Mahr produced a film that was exceptionally anti-religious.While I thought many of his arguments were straw men, the final scene the movie put in to some perspective for me the tension that many outside of organized religion feel with all the dangerous eschatology that is floating around religious circles these days: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeRcHZqPqW8

For those of us who are insiders – can we agree to corporately repent of all the times that we distracted people from REAL issues with speculation and trivia?Can we repent of ways that we have been so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good?