The great thing about horror movies is that no matter how awful things look, no matter how terrified we feel, we know with absolute 100% certainty that everything will be perfectly fine in the end. I’m not talking about the movie plot: there’s no guarantee on that. I’m talking about ourselves as the viewers. We know that after about two hours of movie time or so, the credits will roll, the lights will come up, and we’ll get in our cars, go get coffee, and laugh at ourselves for letting it get to us the way it did.
The terrible thing about Harold Camping’s prediction that Christ will return today* is that it turns God’s Judgment Day into the same sort of thing. There are some among us who take nothing seriously about the Lord, and I’m sure they’ll laugh at anyone who wonders about a day like today. Let them. For doubters and seekers there might be instead an entertaining thrill, a delicious frisson of fear to the thought, “What if this is The Day? What if they’re right, and this is Really It for us all?”
I’m picturing someone in my mind who doesn’t know if God is for real, but doubts he’s ready to meet him if he is. The prospect is unsettling, even fearful. And then the thought: what if Camping is right? But he knows that’s just dumb. At worst, it’s a kind of horror-movie fear. No one really believes this is The Day—not even Camping’s own staff. However frightening the thought of meeting God this very day might be, it’s a thrill no more dangerous and only slightly less entertaining than in a movie. He knows in a few hours he’ll be past it. At the end of the day he’ll have his coffee and laugh at himself for letting that “what if...?” creep into his mind: “Silly me, to let myself even wonder about that!”
Silly indeed. Or maybe not. Yesterday morning I was driving on a narrow, shoulder-less two-lane road near our home, where some very foolish driver ahead of me decided to pass the car in front of him. He pulled his pickup truck out and came alongside the other car, so they were fully side by side going southwest. Did I mention this foolish driver was coming toward me? I was only about a hundred yards from both of those vehicles, going northeast at 35 mph. I mashed my brakes, and thank God, the other guy did too, and he pulled back into his lane.
My heart was pounding for a good while after that. This was no cinema scare. There’s no guarantee things will come out right when a driver pulls a stunt like that. Yesterday could have been The Day for me.
It could have been The Day for any of us. Some day certainly will be.
Like other would-be prophets before him, Camping has trivialized the Day of the Lord. This is Camping’s crime: he has turned it into an entertainment piece. He gives the atheists something else to laugh about in Christianity. That’s bad, but it’s not the worst thing. He gives the doubters and seekers reason to laugh at themselves: “Silly me, to wonder about that! I’ll be more careful not to let those kinds of thoughts bother me from now on.”
*The linked page is specific to today, May 21. I have no idea how it will look tomorrow. Today, however, it’s further trivializing—especially the trumpets. The last trumpet will not have flags of the nations hanging from it.