Sunday, May 29, 2011

Left Behind (and Loving It)

Admit it.

For one second, you thought: "Hmm. No Third Kingdom update for a couple of weeks. Is he taking his time or has he been . . . raptured?!?"

I mean, c'mon, how great would that be? I mean, I spend my time and money (not really) typing thousands of words about the relative futility of religion in my life and BAM! I get sucked up into a heaven I didn't believe existed. Merriam-Webster would have to invent a new definition of irony because I would OWN that bitch!

With that said, it occurred to me how ironic it was that I had not spent multiple posts on Harold Camping's National Humiliation Countdown considering how rare it is that someone so clearly illustrates one of many reasons to be skeptical of religion. Seriously, if I were writing a movie about my life, I would have invented Harold Camping so my character could create a career on the back of his doomed predictions.

Truth is, I didn't know if there was anything new I could bring to the conversation that the HuffingtonPost and half my Twitter stream weren't already saying. And then it hit me. The fact that everyone was openly mocking Camping WAS the story!

In my brief lifetime (how many decades is still considered brief?), I've lived through at least 10 Doomsday predictions -- the most memorable being some Nostradamus date that occurred while I was in middle school. Much like the days leading up to May 21, my school was buzzing with theories, fears, but mostly jokes. Were some of us uneasy? Sure. But none of us were contemplating selling our homes or giving away our possessions (mainly because we had little or none of both). In all, the world's end was greeted with a smirk and then semi-amnesia.

But this year was different for two reasons:
1. There simply wasn't as much media back in those days. CNN was an infant, the internet was non-existent and cell phones were for Michael Douglas and exactly 10 yuppie jerks in their convertible Saabs.
2. This doomsday prediction was created by a CHRISTIAN. Which, for most people, gives it validity. Whereas we could readily dismiss Nostradamus (French pansy!) and Heaven's Gate (dirty hippies), Harold Camping had all the right qualifications: an old, white, rich man with a powerful radio station, years of "experience" and a dedicated following. In short, the difference between Camping and T.D. Jakes is a few shades of melanin.

To be sure, when I carefully broached the subject with one of my "saved' co-workers, he shook his head in disgust.

"Why would he say that? Now when the real rapture comes. No one will be prepared."

Do you see the issue I'm having here? Most Black folks I know tacitly accept, if not fully believe, that the rapture WILL happen. But somehow, they just knew Camping's datebook was off. Most of this is, I know, connected to the bible verse about Jesus' return being unknown to man and coming, "like a thief in the night." But how were they so sure that this fairytale prediction was any less true than any other? Are there some mass meetings these Christians have? Oh wait, it's called Church. Point being, for a country that remains  predominantly Christian-minded, why was it acceptable to see supposedly impartial national news anchors greeting each other with a sarcastic "Happy Rapture Day" last Friday? Did they have no doubt?

I submit the answer is yes. As much as I rail against those who claim American Christianity is under attack (PS: Fox News Pundits), I can't help but feel that an eroding of faith is to blame for the collective nose-thumbing (who says that?) to the 2011 Rapture.

But where Mike Huckabee and I part ways is that I don't blame gays or mexicans or even gay mexicans for this. I blame, well, the bible. I think in the comfy confines of a family church, it's much easier to accept, or at least not actively reject, some the bible's more, um, interesting ideas of the world. As my lapsed Baptist wife reminds me, "outside of heaven and hell, you don't really think about the details unless someone presses you on them."

And, thanks to the interwebs and the 24-hour news cycle, the rapture -- which reads great on paper -- was thrust into the harsh lighting of reality and made to stand next to tornadoes, the economy and the release of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Give Me Your Money" and the shit didn't stack up.

Of course, Camping has restructured his prediction but, much like Trump's Presidential run, the horse is out the barn. Ironically, the rapture may truly be the beginning of the end of Christianity as we know it.