Friday, May 20, 2011

Stories of the Rapture: Media Bias, or Manipulation of the Media

It really ought to be ignored: the claim by Oakland evangelist Harold Camping that the rapture will come tomorrow.

Rapture is a Christian concept that says that, during the End Times, Christian believers will be taken up to heaven while the godless will be left on earth to face a cataclysm.

The concept has a sound basis in the scripture, specifically in Matthew 24, in which Jesus tells his followers about the coming catastrophe:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Exactly when this will happen is another matter. And of course, no Christian leader other than Camping has given the slightest bit of credence to his calculations.

So why pay any attention to Camping?

Our first inclination is to blame the secular bias of the media. Liberal and secular reporters like stories that make Christians look like idiots. A bunch of Christians going to volunteer in a homeless shelter doesn’t fit the template, but a rather cultish crowd with a crackpot eschatology is highly congenial.

Which has a corollary. Any publicity-seeking Christian evangelist can garner a huge amount of unmerited attention by doing something outrageous.

And indeed Camping has gotten a huge amount of attention. Here is a screen capture we did from Google News a few minutes ago. As you can see, there are 1,519 sources on this story.

Interestingly, Christian fundamentalists are often accused of the sin of taking the Bible literally. But Camping isn’t doing that.

Jesus was quite explicit about end times predictions:
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
And of course, Paul told the Thessalonians:
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Both Jesus and Paul have essentially the same message: live as though the end could come at any time, since you are not going to be able to predict it.

Camping should take the Bible literally on this point.

And the media should ignore people like him.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. And the difference between Camping's pronouncements and the Pope's are ..............

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Adam Ryback said...

Here is an example of the Pope's pronouncements:

We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.
Pope John XXIII
Opening Address of the Second Vatican Council
October 11, 1962
source Rorate Caeli

5:24 PM  
Blogger Beta Rube said...

I've been hearing my entire adult life that giving (er... I mean investing) more money in public education will make everything better.

Camping doesn't sound so goofy compared to the folks prognosticating this fantasy.

10:27 PM  
Blogger jimspice said...

"...crackpot eschatology..."

It's identical to conventional Christian thought except Campman puts a date on it.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous John Galvin said...

Remember the Population Bomb? 50% of the world's population would die due to Malthusian depletion of resources. Remember the Coming Ice Age? We'd all freeze to death. Remember the IPCC predicting in 2005 that by 2010 there'd be 5 million "climate change refugees"? Hell, Marx predicted the end of capitalism in about 1890! Talk about your "crackpot eschatology"! I'll take "conventional Christianity", which makes no time-driven predictions, only that the Lord will return, in HIS time. "When the Author walks on the stage, you know the play's over".

9:01 PM  
Blogger jimspice said...

JG, could you please provide a link which suggests the majority of the scientific community ever backed a "coming ice age" prediction?

You can't. Because it never happened. It's another denier talking point which has been soundly debunked and refuses to die.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Rufus said...


I see no evidence that John Galvin ever claimed that the, "majority of the scientific community... backed a 'coming ice age.'" He merely asked if we remember the prediction. Many of us are familiar with article in Time magazine (1974): <>.

It is not clear to me why you were demanding that he shoulder this burden of proof. Do you suppose he thinks that the consensus of scientific opinion is not to be trusted? I think his point was only that we ought to be skeptical of "time-driven" doomsday predictions in all of their varieties.



7:33 PM  

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