Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
I am endlessly entertained by the human ability to draw others into their own grand delusions. Among this most entertaining group is the lowly-regarded but highly amusing quacks in what is probably the world’s second oldest profession, doomsday prophet.
Doomsday profiteering has gone mainstream these days. By golly almost every other show on the History channel these days involves the apocalypse. “Apocalypse Man”, “Life After People”, and every other episode of “The Universe” involves at least one grisly scenario on how the world might meet its end. But these days the entire doomsday industry revolves around the fanciful and highly extrapolated idea that the end coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. Leaving aside the embarrassing fact that the Mayans failed to predict their own extinction centuries ago, Mayan doomsday prophecy is all the rage.
This kind of thing can be very frustrating to “Bible Scholars” such as Harold Camping. Camping scoffs at the very notion of December 2012 being the date of the big ouchy. Says Camping, “That date has not one stitch of biblical authority, it’s like a fairy tale.” What a relief. Not a chance says Camping, because the end will come on May 21, 2011; a full eighteen months earlier.
Now before you run out to buy that big screen TV with a payment plan that doesn’t require any payments until June of 2011, you should know that Camping has made this prediction before. Back in the early 90’s Camping and his followers were convinced that the end was coming on Sept. 6, 1994. So they all went out and bought the latest in lightweight cellular phone technology (6 lbs) only to have to pay off their Discover Cards on September 7.
Camping, a civil engineer by trade who now runs an evangelical radio station, admits his math may have been a little off in ‘94, but this time—This Time—he has got it for sure. Camping makes his prediction based on some pretty irrefutable logic.
The number 5, Camping concluded, equals “atonement.” Ten is “completeness.” Seventeen means “heaven.” Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.
“Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.,” he began. “Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that’s 1,978 years.”
Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.
Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.
Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.
Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.
And bingo! May 21, 2011. As we all know, so sayeth scripture…
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father and that weird little engineer guy from California.”
You may be skeptical, but follower Rick LaCasse in on board. Sure, Rick was one of the dudes stuck with the six pound cell phone and a credit card bill back in ‘94, but that doesn’t have him down.
“Evidently, he was wrong,” LaCasse allowed, “but this time it is going to happen. There was some doubt last time, but we didn’t have any proofs. This time we do.”
Would his opinion of Camping change if May 21, 2011, ended without incident?
“I can’t even think like that,” LaCasse said.
Can’t even think like that. Exactly.