COLUMN: End Times: Do Doomsday predictions tarnish religion?
Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing the world's long-standing fascination with predicting The End, and why America may be particularly fertile ground for this obsession.
Tomorrow’s the day earthquakes will shake the world, true believers will ascend, and the End Times will have begun. At least that’s what Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicts. Not all of his staffers share his belief, according to media accounts. But some have gone on a spending spree in anticipation of the end.
What’s the effect of these End Times predictions on religion? I wouldn’t be surprised if it gave atheists something to snicker about. Just more reason to be “good without God.” But these predictions also concern devout Christians. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Baptist mega church in Dallas, Texas, gives three reasons why he’s concerned about predictions like Camping’s:
First, these predictions “give non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible.” When nothing unusual happens tomorrow, it will just add to the interpretation that the Bible is wrong.
Second, some people make “foolish decisions” when they buy into a prediction of the end of the world. Some people quit their jobs, abandon their families and friends, and give away their assets, as we discussed Wednesday. Others make extravagant purchases or run up huge bills. These are common patterns when it comes to Doomsday predictions.
Third — and to Jeffress “the most harmful consequence of Camping’s false prediction” — is that it distracts religious people from the Bible’s true message. “It discourages people from making the necessary preparation for the real event when it actually occurs.”
Do you agree with Jeffress’s analysis?
Do you share his three concerns?
What do you think people will do as we pass through this weekend?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook.