Saturday, 21 May 2011

Apocalypse Now

A hilarious sect of American evangelists led by 89-year-old Harold Camping is preparing for the world's end, billed to take place today. Some time this Saturday, claims Harold, Jesus will return to Earth and save his believers. But the sinners among us are doomed to die horribly in a massive earthquake, beginning in New Zealand and spreading across the globe. It'll reach the USA about tea-time - a chilling threat indeed.

At his age, from a personal viewpoint Harold may be on the money. But the end of the entire world? Harold also believes today is exactly 7,000 years since the animals stepped onto Noah’s Ark. Hmm. He arrived at this date through intricate calculations based on the bible; his supporters are certain he's correct.

It's easy to poke fun at Harold. Enjoyable, too. But he's not the first deranged person to predict a gloomy global future.

William Miller is perhaps history's greatest false prophet. In the 1840s he claimed there'd be a Second Coming and a world engulfed by fire during the year beginning 21 March 1843. He circulated his beliefs through public gatherings, posters and printed newsletters. Moved by his message, as many as 100,000 'Millerites' sold their belongings and took to the mountains to wait for the end. When nothing happened, Miller changed the date to 22 October 1845. Waking up on 23 October, he unabashedly explained it all away yet again and formed the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Quite so.

In February 1963, Pentecostal Church founder William Branham claimed he'd met with seven angels, and predicted Jesus would return to earth during 1977 when the world would end. But in December 1965 Branham crashed his car and six days later, on Christmas Eve, he died. The Coroner's verdict? Act of God.

Jehovah's Witnesses claim only they will survive the Day of Judgement - a truly Christian viewpoint.
At first they predicted the Apocalypse would occur during specific years; in more recent times, prudently their prophecies have been less precise. However, they maintain high anxiety and brand loyalty in their followers by constantly stressing the imminence of the world's terrible end.

If old Harold's right I'll miss tomorrow's Match of the Day, which I'd been looking forward to. I might as well commit the sin of gluttony; what's the point of freezing any of the huge pan of curry I've just made? And there's some vodka and three bottles of wine in the cupboard which I'm damned if I'm leaving to the earthquake. If the world hasn't ended by tomorrow morning, maybe it'll just feel as if it has.

No comments: