Eight years ago, almost to the day, I announced that should the End Times happen within eight years, I would toss my atheist ways like a worn-out Mr. Coffee and convert to Christianity (BW, Opinion, "Apocalypse Now ... or When for Christ's Sake?," May 14, 2003). And not just any old Christianity, either. I promised to join up with one of those super-hillbilly sects that still believes the world was created a few thousand years ago, that the dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers and mastodons died out during Noah's Flood without making enough of an impression to get a mention in the Bible, and that God, Himself, told George W. Bush to run for president.
However, my part of the bargain depended on the Rapture and all that Armageddon blah, blah, blah coming to pass in the time allotted. The flip side of the arrangement was, if it didn't come to pass--meaning, if after eight years, we were still sitting around waiting for the End of Days like a bunch of sophomores praying for a prom date--then all the preachers would have to quit preaching about it. My exact words were, "So, Misters Ministers, do we have a deal? Eight years to either put up or shut up, and if the world doesn't end, you find yourselves a new line of work and never, ever talk about it again. Even the Boy Who Cried Wolf had the sense to give it up after the third false alarm. And you guys have been false alarming us for hundreds of years."
I decided upon that particular topic at that particular time because, as you might recall, eight years ago, people were grabbing up those "End Times" books like they were how-to guides on getting a condo in heaven. It was also close enough to 9/11 that many Americans were still seeing that horrid event as an omen, complete with images of Satan hiding in the smoke billowing out of the twin towers. (I went with the eight years because the Chunnel had just been completed after eight years of construction, and I reasoned that if puny human endeavor could accomplish such a wondrous feat as a tunnel under the English Channel, then given the same time frame, surely God could wrap this thing up once and for all, if that were really His intention.)
I have never forgotten the promise I made, even after eight years, though I had about decided my chances of having to make good on it diminished with every passing, un-Rapturey day. Which was quite a relief, frankly. To tell you the truth, I was not looking forward to losing my Sunday mornings listening to some guy in a green suit sermonize on the Southern Pentagelical Fundacostal Evanmentalist Heebee Jeebees while I waved my arms in the air like some drunken football ref trying to catch a cab, all while outside, the world was being snuffed in a cataclysm of fire and barbecued sinners.
Until a few days ago, I thought I had it licked. The expiration date was about to come and go, and here it was. The world! Still! Sure, we've lately had more than the normal share of omen-ish disasters--earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, droughts, floods, dead fish and Donald Trump. But the way I figured, we have more to fear from global warming than from a god who's out to foreclose on the planet.
In the face of so much failure to deliver, I was all set to write a column calling on Revelations thumpers to do the honorable thing and get out of the plate-passing biz. Not that I seriously expected them to do the honorable thing. After all, scaring the sense out of Bible Belters must be a sweet gig, yes? You work one day a week, get free grub from those potlucks the Ladies Auxiliary is always throwing, say whatever stupid thing crosses your mind about gays, Hollywood, science, everyone smarter than you--and then to top it all off, you're tax exempt. So no, I didn't anticipate that thousands of televangelists would be hitting the job market because I had demanded they either produce or get off the pulpit. I was just happy that I didn't have to start listening to them.
And then comes this May 21 business. You hear about that? Uh huh, the world is ending on May 21. That's in three days. (And if you waited until the weekend to pick up a Boise Weekly and read this column, you might as well not bother because chances are, you're already screwed.) It's all the idea of one Harold Camping, another cultural curiosity coughed up by California. I don't believe he's a real minister, but he has his own radio show and evidently, that's all some people need to know.
Camping has determined from his Biblical studies that May 21 is exactly 7,000 years after the big flood. And for some reason, 7,000 years is important, but don't ask me why. I gave up Bible studies about the time I started reading Henry Miller.
In spite of this being the second time Camping has predicted The End--his first stab at it was for 1994 (and as near as we can tell, he was wrong)--it appears he has convinced a lot of people this is the big one. And I have to admit, it's sort of spooky, isn't it? May 21 is exactly eight years and one week from when I issued my challenge. What if being off by a week is God's idea of being fashionably late?
I know one thing, I'm not starting next week's column until Sunday. No sense in wearing out brain cells on something that'll never be seen. And I'm thinking about going in for one of those payday loans and taking the wife on a Friday Jackpot run. I can think of worse places to meet my maker than at a blackjack table.
Oh, speaking of time running out, don't forget to get your name on those petitions: recalltomluna.org and rejectthelunalaws.com. Look for signing events all over Idaho come Saturday, May 21. You know ... if come Saturday there is an Idaho. Still.