By Charles Redfern
This weekend was the weekend of the un-moment, the weekend of the non-event event, the weekend in which columnists and television hosts frazzled themselves over a looming non-incident everyone knew would not occur – and, when it did not happen, bloggers blogged about how a predominantly silent clique should think twice before it fanned the flames of panic again. Never have so many talk-headed so much for so long about something they all knew was nothing.
I speak, of course, of Harold Camping’s prediction that the so-called “rapture” would sweep born-again Christians off the Earth and into the sky on May 21. I write this on May 22 – and I’m totally non-surprised to be here a day after my un-disappointment. What’s more, I preached at my church of mostly born-again Christians this morning. Almost all were there (a few had the sniffles; a couple temporary heathens played hooky; no one was in the clouds). We all knew Brother Camping was the equivalent of the bearded doom-and-gloom guy with the sandwich board in LA’s Griffith Park – or the poor soul who bundled up in winter clothing in August and marched the city streets where I once lived, screaming, “REEEEEPENT! THE LAWD IS COM-ING!” We’re aware of Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” and, like many evangelical Christians, we doubt all this talk of the “pre-tribulation rapture.” We think Left Behind should be left behind.
Here’s the incongruity: Secular bloggers and talking heads are convinced we evangelicals have the IQ’s of gnats and the herd mentalities of gnus, so we stand in the field like clots of lobotomized deer facing the headlights, awaiting the edicts of our “leaders.” When Camping spoke, we lemmings donned sweaters. Every evangelical was talking about it. All “fundamentalists” were frantic. We couldn’t wait for May 21. But almost all the Christian web sites and publications I saw barely mentioned May 21 – and no one was buying it. We haven’t taken Camping seriously since he designated 1994 as the year of the rapture (to be honest, I had to play catch-up: “Who is this guy?”). Secular writers jammed the bandwidth with their analysis on why the entire evangelical world follows Camping, then other writers responded to those writers and others chimed in. All were talking about how we were talking even though we weren’t talking. I would invoke the “snowball” analogy, but snowballs begin with snowflakes, and, as I understand it, a dust particle should lie at the center of each snowflake. There was no dust particle. There was no center. No snowball should have existed, yet it did. Something surrounded nothing.
A few evangelical writers finally filled the void and, typically, they mourned our tribe’s current intellectual and theological plight. “Why are we dominating ourselves with all this talk?” they asked – even though we weren’t.
I verified our total non-involvement and well-deserved, in-depth apathy when I tabulated results from a series of questions I asked of my own church. Question 1: How many attendees of the First Baptist Church of Meriden, CT, asked me whether “the rapture” would, indeed, happen on that date? Answer: Zero. Question 2: How many expressed any remote concern? Answer: Not one. Did anyone even talk about it? Nein, aside from a passing comment involving such statements as, “How can he say that?”
Those poor brainwashed people.
Perhaps discussion about non-incidents and provable nothingness shouldn’t surprise us. The airwaves and cable lines are now crammed with vacancy and non-events and individuals famous for being famous. Think about Kim Kardashian, for example. What is she famous for? The obvious answer is that she’s … uh … “shapely.” But why her? Shapely women live and thrive from coast to coast and, sorry Kim, but many have “talent.” What does Kim do for a living? Does she punch a clock? Is she a waitress? An administrative assistant? A paralegal? No. Has she been in a critically acclaimed movie? None of it. Kim Kardashian is invited onto talk shows because she’s been to other talk shows. She goes to parties because she’s been to other parties. She endorses products because she’s famous – and she’s famous because she’s done … absolutely nothing.
Not that I dislike Kim, of course. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if she’s kind to pets and cares about our lakes and streams. She might even give her spare clothes to the Salvation Army. There might be a huge difference between Kim the individual and Kim the sociological phenomenon. It’s just that Kim the phenomenon is a snowflake with no dust – and yet she’s there, forever before us, like this huge un-moment through which we have just passed.
And therein lies the moral of our story: The next time you’re told that “all” evangelical Christians are succumbing to group think and are heading for the cliff, remember Kim the phenomenon – or Paris Hilton, or someone like that. There might be nothing there.