Not the end

21 May

Last time I wrote about May 21, I admitted that I felt a little bad for those people foolish enough to sell their worldly possessions and await the apocalypse. Today I experienced another twinge of sympathy reading this article about Harold Camping’s disappointed flock. One of the men interviewed for the piece was Keith Bauer, a 36-year-old trucker. “I was hoping,” he said. “I think heaven will be a lot better than this earth.”

What a thing to say. I get down on this planet a lot—well, mostly the people on it—but I can’t imagine thinking we’d be better off after the Second Coming. (In part, because if such an impossible event were to occur, I know I wouldn’t be saved.) But I was sorry for this man, reading his lament, knowing that he’s broken up inside because the world didn’t end. How sad for him, you know?

And then I just felt pissed. Because the paradise Bauer (and all of Camping’s followers) imagine is one in which I don’t exist. We sinners will be tortured and destroyed while the righteous few ascend to a higher plane. Seriously, fuck that. How could I experience even a moment of concern for this man’s feelings? His salvation is at the cost of my existence. I’m part of what makes this world a place to be saved from, and the reason—according to Camping—that God is so livid.

For most of us, for anyone reading this I’d hope, we recognize how backwards that is. As several comedians and Twitter humorists pointed out, we’d be the ones benefiting from a post-Rapture Earth. I don’t want to live alongside anyone who condemns me to eternal damnation. Go ahead and spirit away Camping and all those who spew hate—it wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but it would make day-to-day life a lot less annoying.

I wish the anticlimactic reality of May 21 were enough of a slap in the face to faith-based idiocy. It won’t be. There are always more lunatics on the fringe, and we continue to let their voices be heard. Sure, I’m as guilty as anyone of tweeting jokes about the Rapture and, um, writing Harold Camping-centric blog posts. But in my mind, there’s a difference between mockery/analysis and legitimizing insanity. The news has been reporting on May 21 as if the billboard plastered around the country were anything more than drivel.

All distinctions aside, of course, I’m still perpetuating the conversation, which either makes me a giant hypocrite or completely un-self-aware. So why am I talking about Camping’s Rapture? I guess for the same reason I talk about anything—it got under my skin. I felt something, not fear or dread about the end of the world, but compassion for people with no compassion for me. And I want to smack sense into them. I want these assholes to know that the world is a shitty place because they are part of it.

But I can’t get through to them, even if any did somehow stumble onto this blog: my words to them mean as little as their words to me. We’re forever at odds. Buying all the billboard space in the U.S. wouldn’t change that.

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4 Responses to “Not the end”

  1. Michael Oberst May 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Louis- you write very well. But just to make it clear, guys like Camping give Christians a bad name. Guys who claim they want to get away from everyone else are missing the point of Christianity. Yes the Bible says Heaven is Better than earth -by a lot- but it also says nobody (not even ministers from oakland) will know when its coming. Thats how I knew it wouldnt happen today. Because if some dude is going around saying he has God figured out, hes wrong. God isn’t a math equation. And the Bible tells christians not to judge others, that people should never decide where themselves, or anyone else will go after they die. So when some old guy from Oakland goes around dropping knowledge that is only half true, AND contradictory to the book he lives by, he makes all Christians look like snobby douche bags.
    The point I’m trying to make is that this guy isn’t following the word he lives by very closely. Christians shouldn’t make non christians feel like they are a part of the world that they want to get away from. In other words: hes doing it wrong.

    Anyway, great article, I like reading the stuff you write.

    I also like stealing your tweets. A lot.

    • Louis Peitzman May 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Michael. Of course I recognize the distinction between Harold Camping/Harold Camping’s followers and Christians as a whole. That’s why I made sure not to lump the two together in a post. When I say “faith-based idiocy,” I’m referring to, well, idiocy. It’s not an attack on faith itself or on the Christian religion.

      I’m going to assume you’re kidding about the tweet stealing. Nervous laughter!

  2. Valentineomine May 22, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Love it! So true & insightful!

  3. Jennifer McB May 22, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    I agree. People who don’t want to hear it won’t be the ones to listen. People who are convinced that they’re right have little reason to believe they are wrong.

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