Compasssion

While I have enjoyed some of the rapture-related humor floating around recently (and even cracked a joke or two myself, it must be said), in the time since it didn’t happen I’ve come to feel mostly compassion for those people who so desperately believed (and sometimes desired) that the end was finally here, and have seen their whole picture of the world at least dented, if not shattered.

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About Erik

Husband, father, biblioholic, singer, drummer, Pagan, UU
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14 Responses to Compasssion

  1. Aj / Melia says:

    I agree with this and was saying something similar a couple of days ago. It is painful when your beliefs are shattered like that.

  2. And, really, there is only so far that one should go in ridiculing the beliefs of others. In fact, ridiculing religious beliefs is best done as a form of protest against powerful entrenched institutions, like the Catholic Church, or against popular political figures, such as Sarah Palin. But when it comes to individuals who happen to be “end-timers”, most of them are decent human beings, and their beliefs are really no more nutty than those of the average Christian who believes that Jesus rose from the dead (ie, that Jesus was some kind of a benign Zombie). And the general belief that Jesus is “coming back” is still a solid, accepted feature of mainstream Christianity. In fact, early Christians (who are often held up as exemplars for how modern day Christians should act and believe) were united in their belief that Jesus was coming back very soon, and that one could interpret “signs” of his imminent arrival.

  3. Definitely. One of the saddest stories I heard was about this guy who believed so fervently that he quit his job, cashed in his insurance policies and 401k, emptied his bank accounts, etc. so that he and his family could travel the world in the months leading up to the rapture and see all the great sights one last time. Now, of course, he’s broke and uncertain of what he and his family are going to do. But the truly impressive thing about it is he doesn’t feel angry or cheated – even at Harold Camping – and admits he’s only got himself to blame. He also said that this gave him the incentive and opportunity to see all those things which he had been dreaming of his whole life. I think that’s a really cool attitude to take, though the situation itself is still pretty sad.

  4. Holy crap, Sannion, that is a great story. I mean seriously, if you are going to believe some crazy shit, then you should really believe it, and not fuck around! Who is this guy, and where did you hear about hero? I think he is my new hero. To be honest, I’ve always have a fondness for the really “out there” fringes of Christianity. I mean anyone can fake speaking in tongues, but how many people are ready to dance with a freaking rattle snake?

  5. Definitely with you there, Apuleius. I mean, his beliefs might be silly but he at least at the conviction to stand by them. I’m not sure where I saw the mention of the fellow – there’s been all sorts of news coverage and blog posts about it, and I wasn’t at home when I read it so I can’t simply check my browser history. However Yahoo!News has a story that mentions a fellow who took his family to see the Grand Canyon and expresses a very similar sentiment:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110523/ts_yblog_thelookout/doomsday-prophet-followers-flabbergasted-world-didnt-end

    I wonder if it’s the same guy and the details simply got garbled, if there have been multiple people like this or if it’s purely apocryphal and thus will change with every telling.

  6. Kullervo says:

    I mean anyone can fake speaking in tongues, but how many people are ready to dance with a freaking rattle snake?

    I have recently become obsessed with Appalacian snake-handling. Just wanted to put that out there. I wish I still lived in Tennessee where I grew up so I could visit a snake-handling church service.

    As to the topic, on the one hand, I don’t really think the Campingites are worthy of ridicule ebcause my understanding is that there really weren;t very many of them. I mean, this one crazy preacher predicts the apocalypse and buys up a bunch of ad space to promote his ideas. If not for the internet, nobody would even know about this that didn’t live in a city where the ads ran, and even in those places, most people wouldn’t have bothered caring.

    So it’s not like we’re talking about

    On the other hand, while I do see the value in enforcing norms by social opprobrium, I often feel like our whole culture has gotten to the point where everythign revolves around mockery. And it’s not even really useful devil’s-advocate-divine-fool mockery. At best, it’s mockery for mockery’s sake and at worst, it’s extremely cruel. And it’s so ubiquitous, I’m not sure what purpose it serves at all other than vapid entertainment.

  7. The thing that weirds me out about the whole situation is how much attention it’s received. Harold Camping certainly isn’t the only Christian who longs for the end and believes in a literal rapture – not by a long shot. Nor is he the only one who has made a concrete prediction about it. Walk the street of any big city and you’ll see dozens of preachers with signs proclaiming their own favorite date. And yet he’s gotten a ridiculous amount of attention – hell, there was a huge concert/anti-rapture party downtown on Saturday, to the point where I couldn’t even set my street oracle thing up for lack of room. So what makes him so special? Is it merely the fact that his group purchased so much advertising? Did he hit a nerve? Was it purely an internet meme gone wild?

  8. Kullervo says:

    Was it purely an internet meme gone wild?

    Yes.

  9. Re: snake handlers. Have you see the History Channel documentary: “Hillbilly: The Real Story”? It’s two hours long, and includes segments on moonshiners and the NASCAR, snake-handlers, and an amazing piece of genuine labor-history focusing on the coal miners of West Virginia. And it’s narrated by Billy Ray Cyrus.

    And I think it is right on the money to focus on how small this particular cult is. That makes it even more pointless to mock them for beliefs that are perfectly consistent with, and in no way more ridiculous than, the beliefs of 2 billion “mainstream” Christians.

  10. Erik says:

    Wow, y’all had a great discussion while I was out of the room! :) The only thing I really have to add is a comment I saw somewhere (no idea where, now) over the weekend, to the effect that the main lesson we can take away from all this is that our culture still puts way too much stock in the words of old, white Christian men… whether or not it’s justified.

  11. Kullervo says:

    Have you see the History Channel documentary: “Hillbilly: The Real Story”? It’s two hours long, and includes segments on moonshiners and the NASCAR, snake-handlers, and an amazing piece of genuine labor-history focusing on the coal miners of West Virginia. And it’s narrated by Billy Ray Cyrus.

    No, but now I want to.

  12. Erik says:

    You both might like this as well:
    Holy Ghost People, a documentary from 1967 that filmed a snake handling service in the hills of West Virginia and features interviews with the church members. I have a friend who teaches anthropology of religion and shows it to her 101 classes every year.

  13. Kay says:

    Does the extra “s” mean I should have extra compassion? ;-)

    That said, I joined in the mocking to some extent. But as I said in my blog post, in mocking the rapture and end times beliefs, I was making fun of myself. And in having compassion for what those beliefs did to my life so many years ago, I have compassion for what it is doing to lives everyday. It sucks and I hate it.

  14. Erik says:

    Does the extra “s” mean I should have extra compassion?

    Alwayss! :)

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