Monday, May 23, 2011

Poor Souls

Item 1 - Harold Camping's 'Rapture' prediction ends in tragedy; teen believed dead.
Item 2 - Retired MTA employee sinks $140,000 into a recent Armageddon ad blitz.
I'm sure a more than casual Google search would reveal many more tragic stories.
It's easy to mock these people, to be sure, but I want to draw a moral equivalence for you.
Imagine that Harold Camping is a mortgage banker. Imagine that these people are looking to buy a home.
If we're going to mock these people and say they made bad choices, well, it's true, they have. But it's also because someone dangled an irresistible promise in front of them. In this case, eternal salvation (and given my background, I can certainly appreciate why that has such appeal), in the case of a mortgage banker, a beautiful home for easy monthly payments.
In my opinion, Harold Camping ought to be as culpable in the eyes of society as Goldman Sachs or Bank of America or any number of people who destroyed people's lives (not to mention a global economy but that's a different equivalence).
Sadly, he'll get off scot-free to ravage another family's bank account or kill another teenager. Or to further damage the name of Christianity.
I don't want to get into a long and involved discussion of religion vs. atheism here, but let me pre-empt commenters a little by saying that Christianity is not one religion or group of religious nutjobs like Harold Camping. The large majority of people of faith, be they Christian or Jew or Muslim or Buddhist, simply want to be left alone to live their lives with whatever hope for a better world to come, including yours truly.
What people like Camping and evangelicals do embarasses us, too.
I had a sense of the power religion has on me yesterday, as I sat front pew in my church for a memorial mass yesterday. You may recall my mom died earlier this year, and since much of her social circle was not living locally (and the weather being as savage as it was), we decided we'd wait until the Spring, until after the celebration of the Resurrection, to have a service.
The beauty of the poetry, the reflective memories of my childhood spent running up and down naves and aisles helping my folks out, and the power of an authoritarian God sitting in judgement of us all, crept up on me then smacked me upside my head like a tubesock of iron bolts.
I comprehend the very deep emotional, almost visceral reaction church has on me because the rational side of me can step back and watch, and then analyze later on. It is, for me at any rate, not unlike the reaction I have while looking at a beautiful landscape or a portrait. Not identical but both reactions could be described as "beatitudinal."
But I digress...Camping and his ilk, despite protestations to the contrary, do not have the well-being of humanity in mind when they attempt to scare and bully people into conforming to a behavior they deem appropriate, no matter how benign the reasons. The ends do not justify the means, and Mr. Camping next time ought to shut his mouth and make private preparations and moreover, trust that Jesus will see fit to warn those who matter.
Keep it off our streets, Camping. You're killing children.