faith: The hype of Judgment Day, May 21
I received a text message from a church friend this week. It read something like, “What the heck is going on May 21? It’s judgment day or something, and apparently we’re all gonna die.”
I wrote back that we’ll all be fine and I’d see him in church on Sunday, the 22nd. In the meantime I figured I should look into this claim so we at least know how to explain why we are still alive after midnight on May 21.
Turns out there is quite a bit of hype out there, from billboards to blogs, to facebook statuses to news articles. A summary of the argument they pose for our impending doom on May 21 is as follows:
The flood occurred in 4990 on the 17th day of the second month (biblical month, different from our calendar now). They believe that the judgment of God as it was characterized by the devastating flood will occur once again 7,000 years later (they have biblical ‘evidence’ of this as well). If you add 7,000 years to 4990 BC and subtract 1 for the BC/AD switchover (this is required in their formula) then you come up with the May 21, 2011.
I must be honest, my first reaction to this May 21 hype was, “Great, what crazy group of Christians conjured up this judgment day?”
And then the more I thought about it the more I thought it was just plain sad. Some of these folks have resolute faith that this undoubtedly will occur. Are they stocking their basements with bottled water? Are they calling their loved ones?
Millions of dollars have been invested on ad campaigns warning others that the rapture is coming. In fact on one website, you can buy a T-shirt for $18.90 that says “Rapture Ready.” The tagline of the sale says, “for a very limited time.”
This is not an article in The Onion. This is real people’s belief about the fate of the world. I can dismiss this because I don’t agree, but I can’t dismiss the fact that a group of people are utterly convinced that this Saturday judgment will be violently carried out by God to the entire world. And the people that have this belief share the same Christian faith identity as I do.
How do we share a faith with those whom have such different beliefs about the nature of God and the fate of this world? More importantly, perhaps, is how do we proclaim our beliefs in a voice that is louder than the hype of the judgment day minority? How do we respond to this Saturday with a more compassionate response than, “Great, another group of crazy Christians”?
I suppose we respond with assurance to others that this is not a universal belief of our faith. I suppose we could even re-read the story of the flood and remember that it ends with a covenant God makes with God’s people to never come and have another violent judgment day again. I suppose we could proclaim our beliefs not by fear of rapture or on a billboard but in how we live our lives for today, not the impending doom of a calculated tomorrow.
I suppose we could all just show up, fully alive, at our places of worship on Sunday, May 22, and figure it out together.