Newspaper columnists, bloggers and TV and radio talk show hosts had a great time poking fun at Camping’s predictions — before and after May 21. Non-believers also seized upon the moment to scoff at the practice of all religion.
In reality, the faith of very few people — or lack of faith — may have been influenced by the doomsday prediction. But what about followers of Camping and those who suffer from paranoia and other mental health issues?
According to news reports in Palmdale, Calif., a mother tried to kill her two daughters by slitting their throats to protect them from the predicted tribulation. The girls, ages 11 and 14, survived the attack and the mother was arrested. In 1994, after Camping’s first failed prediction, a New Jersey man committed suicide. Many others gave away their possessions and even maxed out credit cards as they counted down their last days on earth.
Catholic Church leaders have consistently stated that while the second coming of Jesus Christ is a tenet of our faith described in the Bible, making predictions of the time contradicts Christ’s own words.
“Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent, even though ‘it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority,'” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church (673).
Jesuit Fr. Gerald O’Collins, a biblical scholar and theology professor at Rome’s Gregorian University, said that believers should have an “active hope” about the coming end times, a hope that “gives us not less responsibility but more responsibility” for life in this world.
Within 48 hours of his erroneous calculation, Camping was back at it. This time he says the world will end in October.
We can roll our eyes and make jokes about Camping and others who issue false claims based on their interpretations of the Bible or other sources. But it’s to our advantage if we do not focus on events such as the rapture but instead approach each day keeping Christ’s own words on this subject in mind.
When asked by his apostles when the end would come, Jesus said, “As for the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Mt 24:36)
Therefore, we are reminded to treat each day as if it were our last. Not by maxing out credit cards or standing on street corners holding placards announcing the end of the world, but by giving of ourselves, loving others and honoring God. Service, compassion and faith: these are our answers to end-of-time predictions. If we adhere to these virtues, we have nothing to fear.