Well it is now well into Sunday, May 22nd in some parts of the world and Harold Camping is sitting at his abacus, desperately trying to figure out just where he went wrong. In the words of one of my near-and-dear Facebook friends: Cheer up, Harry! It’s not the end of the world!
Oh wait, that was a little awkward wasn’t it?
If you are anything like me, you are sick of hearing about this whole rapture business. From the Judgement Day billboards to the fanatics that quit their jobs to pass out fliers; from the Tweets giving shouts out to Kiritimati for first-hand accounts of people floating in the air to the endless postings of worldwide earthquake hotspots – now that the hour has passed, it’s time to let it die (no pun intended).
But before we do just that, I think it’s time to sit back and question just why Rapture Fail 2011 captured the hearts and minds of so many people, and on a global scale at that. While only an approximate 2 or 3% of the world’s population actually believes in the The Rapture Doctrine of Camping’s radical Evangelical sect (with even fewer having subscribed to his actual prophecy this time around), it seems that everyone and their mother has jumped on the rapture bandwagon to capitalize, poke fun at, and gossip. Predictions about the end of the world are nothing new. We all remember the grocery lines right before Y2K, and the 90s were not exactly free of believers in the imminent apocalypse, either. In fact, as far back as the 1800s (just shortly after the origins of the birth of belief in The Rapture Doctrine) doomsday predictions based on subjective interpretations of the Bible were being talked about. Something tells me, though, that even if the Internet and Twitter were around for the failed predictions of William Miller, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the other pre-Facebook civilizations, they wouldn’t have been standing around Tweeting, gossiping, and throwing parties. So why now?
There are a number of possibilities over just why now, more than ever, the buzz of Harold Camping has had such a phenomenal impact on what we talk about, the three most probable being: (1) subconscious fear, (2) subconscious atheism, and, (3) a disdain for cult mentality. What I think really has happened here, though, is the same thing in the viral nature of Rebecca Black parodies, Bin Laden death photoshops, and the ongoing controversy over just why Obama’s long form birth certificate was submitted in PDF. In these trying economic times, when unemployment is at an all-time high, gas prices continue to soar, and families finding themselves struggling just to put food on the table, people are just as succeptible to parodies as they are to belief in such nonsense in the first place.
Okay that was awkward too. While economic hardships are just as probable as fear, atheism, and a disdain for cult mentality, what I really think this whole rapture business is all about is this: people just don’t take anything seriously anymore. With all the viral puke that flows through the Internet; the virtual (read: fake) lives we are able to compose for ourselves ala Facebook, Twitter, and the like, and the massive mindset of failure that the above economic state has put our contemporary culture in, who would?
The good news is that the world – even some that believe in The Rapture Doctrine (but probably not Harold’s) – were able to get a chuckle out of the events that unfolded as May 21st came, and went. The world needs a little levity once in a while, and I’m sure Mr. Camping is considering using that as an excuse come Monday morning when he’s expected to be on air at his usual time. While there may been some earthquakes in various places of the world (earthquakes which happen hundreds of times a day), Camping’s predictions most certainly did not come to fruition.
In the words of one late-night Tweeter, after New Zealand was either spared from the rapture, or proven to be entirely full of sinners: “Yeah, there were some earthquakes no one felt, and the world is still crazy, but it ‘aint like people were flying into the air and shit.” That’s right, Twitter user. People weren’t flying into the air.