Dear Harold,

What part of Matthew 24:36 don’t you understand? 

Sincerely, Jesus. 

Harold Camping can’t be a stupid man.  His eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, and he’s tried several times to set the date of His arrival, including his May 21 prediction, one he was so sure of that Family Radio sought to buy up billboard space around the world to cry out the news.  He’s been on the airwaves for five decades, offering his teachings to world audiences.  He has a degree in engineering fromBerkeley.  By no means is Harold stupid, and yet, in the weeks leading up to the fizzled fulfillment of his latest prophecy, he’s been mocked by most, or at least by most people I know. 

Being a man of God, he no doubt knows his Gospels, which begs one to wonder, if Jesus Himself said this 

But on that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven, but my Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)

then who the hell does Harold think he is to arrogantly try to do what the angels themselves cannot do and declare he himself knows the hour of our Lord’s arrival? 

This is not the first prophecy of this kind, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last, for Christians have been trying to predict the Second Coming since Jesus ascended.  It’s also not the first outlandish declaration Harold has made, apparently cutting-and pasting scripture to make it fit his growingly erratic world view.  As the story goes, Harold believes he can do what only God can do because he considers his predictions the “unsealing” of special knowledge:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (Daniel 12:4,9)

This is the sort of thing that turns many people away from religion and erodes the faith of many others, the notion that a Pharisee can take scripture and completely disregard it when it becomes inconvenient.  The Bible is the unerrant word of God UNLESS IT DOESN’T FIT MY AGENDA.  Even the words of Jesus Himself can be tossed aside at leisure, even though the very definition of Christian is to be one who emulates Christ, who cherishes His words, who follows His example.  Harold’s methodology gives the entire religion a bad name, and it fuels the growing belief that Christianity is a sham, a cynical game of control and hypocrisy, with passages to be taken out of context or taken out completely as it suits the presenter on a given day.  Somehow the words of Christ do not apply to Harold because he said so, and for his audience on Family Radio, that’s good enough for them. 

I don’t dismiss Harold as a doddering old man, an evangelist gone haywire, I don’t cast him aside as senile or foolish.  Truly, I consider Harold with disdain, even anger.  He is the ultimate dicktease, using the most beloved name in recorded history, the deep inner desire in all who call themselves Christian to see their Savior in all His splendor finally arrive, rid this world of the mediocrity and corruption and true evil we’ve done to it, and take us all in His loving arms and take us away, and for what? 

I don’t know of anyone who believed in Harold’s prediction, obviously there were plenty who believed in it fiercely enough to engage in a major advertising campaign, but none of them were in my circles.  I didn’t believe it.  I believe in Jesus, His own words, and the all-too-obvious truth I’ve come to have faith in, that once you shed all the dogma, all the history, all the theology and manipulation and madness conjured by men and monsters, all the false idolatry and true wars, there is still something good and decent, a pristine kernel, great and pure, untouched by the fingers of imposters, unblemished by centuries of neglect, and that, my friends, is Jesus Himself, His deeds, His words, His acts as His feet touched His world.  As such, when He tells me 

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:7) 

I tend to set aside all men, all prophets, all charlatans like Harold.  We are in an age of literacy, there is no need for middle men, no used car dealers trying to sell us a lemon and call it salvation.  We all can find the Lord for ourselves, and as such, I don’t let anyone, no matter how high he’s risen in society, stand between me and my Jesus.  I am empowered, as are all who read the Gospels for themselves and discover that what one shares with Christ is not a religion, but a relationship. 

So why can’t I just go along with the mocking crowd, laugh at Harold and not feel more?  I feel that Harold is doing all Christians a great disservice by stringing them along like this, giving one bogus prediction after another, because it gives a certain segment of believers a false hope.  It plays on that one aspiration we all share once we start calling ourselves Christian, and that is the desire to see our Lord, to know our faith is valid, to understand that the hard work, the devotion, the heartache, was not in vain.  Harold pulled that string, and we all were yanked, even those who mocked, even in the slightest, they too held their breaths when they woke up on Saturday morning, hoping, just so minutely, that maybe, incredibly, he was right. 

I don’t see the Second Coming as a validation of faith, that’s perhaps what others seek, but not me.  For me, the event means cleansing, erasing, the end of the old, the wicked, the corrupt, and the start of something new.  It means, no matter how bad we wreck this planet, no matter how cruel we’ve all been to one another over the years, no matter how man has bastardized the Gospels and done the most evil things imaginable in His holy name, we get a do-over.  Everything before is a Mulligan, and with fresh eyes, with revelation and enlightenment, with everyone on the same page for once and no more doubt as to who governs the universe, we can do His work, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  

And if He doesn’t come as I live, I’ll come to Him as I die, and that’s fine by me.  

Harold owes the Christian world an apology, not for being wrong, but for being arrogant in the first place, for tweaking the most precious longing in all our hearts, for spending his life on a fool’s errand and taking so many of God’s children along for the ride.  Worse, to call himself a Christian, and to completely ignore the word of Christ, would have been called heresy in a different era.  He is everything we’ve come to despise in American evangelism, the excuse many give to losing their faith, the taint that too many point to as the epitome of all things Christian.  How many followers did he dupe, how many listeners to his radio show gave their savings so billboards could go up all over the world, how many souls rejoiced at the possibility and broke at the reality, and how many atheists pointed a finger at him and snidely said THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR BELIEF IN AN ABSENT MESSIAH AND THE SNAKEOIL SALESMEN WHO PIMP HIM.   

Ultimately, all he did was paint another strange chapter in modern Christianity, and he is destined to be ridiculed along with Fred Phelps and the God-Hates-Fags crowd that boisterously pickets the funerals of dead soldiers and says killer tsumanis are God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuals; with Jerry Falwell and those who believe Tinky Winky and Spongebob Squarepants are pushing the gay agenda on toddlers; with Pat Robertson and the politicos who have made Jesus into a wedge issue and sought to do the very opposite of Christ’s teachings in driving people apart; with Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar and the rest of the prosperity preachers who push the materialist line that your financial success is 100% proportionate to your salvation and that your poverty is proof of your lack of faith; and with Franklin Graham, who has inherited his father’s legacy but not his father’s inspiration and would rather use his position to strut on Fox News instead of postulate on the Gospels. 

This silly zoo is Harold’s deserved fate, even he has to know it to be so, he’s not a stupid man. 

When a prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:22) 

Well, maybe not stupid, but after a lifetime of preaching, certainly no longer worthy of anyone’s attention.