Politicians and political activists frequently declare the end of the world will occur if their candidate isn't elected, or if the debt ceiling isn't raised. Some conservative Christians think the end is on the way because of behavior and practices they judge immoral. Somehow the country, not to mention the planet, survives and when "doomsday" passes, the prognosticators live to predict Armageddon on another day.
Now comes radio preacher Harold Camping, the nearly-90-year-old owner of a network of stations he calls "Family Radio." Camping once belonged to a traditional church. He then decided all churches are corrupt and people should leave whatever congregation they're in and listen only to him because only his interpretation of Scripture is true. I believe that is one characteristic of a cult.
Camping paid for a full-page color ad in USA Today, proclaiming May 21 as the day the world will end. According to the biblical standard, a prophet must always be right to be a spokesman for God. Camping falls considerably short of that standard because he has previously declared the world would end on other days, though the last time he left the door open, saying, "I could be wrong." At least that "prophecy" came true.
The late Jeane Dixon fancied herself a psychic. She made many predictions that went unfulfilled. The one prediction that did come true was President John F. Kennedy's assassination and that lucky "prophecy" made her an international celebrity. It doesn't take much to get attention these days.
The earliest recorded doomsday forecaster, according to Isaac Asimov's "Book of Facts" (1979), was written on an Assyrian clay tablet circa 2800 BC. It bore the words "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common."
That guy should have lived to see modern-day Washington, D.C.!
Down through the ages many people have made predictions that the world would end -- in 70 AD (a group of Jewish ascetics with apocalyptic beliefs, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/), the year 365 (credit that one to Hilary of Poitiers), and 500, the year Roman theologian Sextus Julius Africanus calculated the End would come, 6,000 years after his dating of Creation.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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