Monday, May 23, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Catastrophe looms. An overlooked character unlocks the secret but no one will listen. And so the worst happens, just as he said. A few folk make it through without being annihilated and existence is strangely renewed as a new day dawns. "Ah" you say, "Harold Camping and his predictions about the Rapture and the return of Christ".

Well, yes, but also the plot of every disaster movie I've seen in the last twenty years.

Lets start with the obvious. We are still here.

But we were still here, as well, when we left the movie theatre after seeing comets hit the earth or the deep-freeze grip the Globe or an enormous shark consume a bathing beauty off the New Jersey shore.

It was such good entertainment.

To some extent, this has been as well. I am as guilty as the next man of having taken it all a little lightly. Spare a thought for those for whom it was deathly serious.

William Miller predicted such a triumphal return of Christ in the 1840's. What followed was known as The Great Disappointment. Marriages had not been entered into. As the date approached, crops had not even been planted.

The Bible is not the sort of book that easily admits of arithmetical calculation. The threats and promises therein cannot simply be lifted out of an ancient book and applied with sticky tape to contemporary situations. You're welcome to try. Nobody's going to promise not to have a laugh when you do.

The distressing thing about Christian catastrophism is the degree to which its disciples withdraw from the the world. Christ engaged that world with love. He didn't merely leave it to its fate. In the words, more or less, of another 1st century rabbi - Yochanan ben Zakkai:
"If you are planting a sapling and someone comes along to tell you that the Messiah has arrived, first go and plant the tree which depends on you for its life. Then brush the dirt off your hands - go and welcome the messiah".