I started writing this on October 6.
Don’t know why.
If it happened on October 7, like they said it would then there wouldn’t be anyone around to read it.
Or publish it.
Then, on October 7, I waited.
And into the night.
It didn’t happen.
What was “it”?
Why the end of the world, of course.
According to the eBible Fellowship, an online church, which is the latest thing in churches I guess, we all should have been burned to a crisp that Wednesday.
But we weren’t
End of the world predictors don’t have a good track record. The world is still here.
Still, they keep on predicting.
My first brush with the “Get Right It’s Coming” crowd was back in the 50s in front of the courthouse in my home town. In those days the village was still a market center and folks from the countryside came there on Saturday to shop.
A flat bed truck was pulled up, taking three parking slots, which on a busy day made the driver no friends. But they weren’t there to make friends. They were there to warn those gathered that the end was near. A string band and gospel group got things started, and when the crowd got big enough the preacher took the stage.
With wild hair and a wilder expressions, she yelled and screamed and hollered a warning of the imminent destruction of the courthouse, the jail, two dry goods stores, two drug stores, two groceries, the bank, and everything else she could see from where she was.
She never said precisely when this would happen, but left no doubts that happen it would – soon.
Then she climbed down, packed up, and got out of town before “it” did.
I did not know at the time, but she was one in a long line of prophets who foretold the approaching doom.
Back when the year 1000 was about to roll over, a lot of Christians thought that was about as long as the earth would last in the shape it was in, and that Christ was all geared up to return. Some even sold their worldly goods, which they would not need when the Lord appeared.
Only He didn’t.
Then someone said they had miscalculated and he was actually coming back in 1033.
Flash ahead to 1524, when London astrologers decided that something in the constellation Pisces (a water sign) meant the earth would go under in another great flood. Some folks headed for high ground. A couple built “arks.”
That one didn’t work out either.
The list goes on.
On May 19, 1780, members of the New England Shaker sect, looked up at a darkening sky and began spreading the word that the Day of Judgment was at hand. Celibacy, they said, was the only path to redemption. The sky, darkened by forest fires and fog, cleared. Celibacy never caught on.
Then there was William Miller who, after intensely studying the prophecies in the Book of Daniel, concluded that Christ would come to judge the living and the dead between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When those dates passed, Miller recalculated and told his followers that October 22, 1844 was the date, for sure.
Instead it became known as “The Great Disappointment.”
But wait, there’s more.
Through the 19th and into the 20th century others came forth to warn that the end was near. God’s judgment might get us. Or maybe a computer glitch.
Surely you can remember all the gloom and doom over Y2K, and the prediction that everything was about to stop working and life as we know it would end.
Did you buy any bottled water just in case?
And then there is the popular “Left Behind” series of books that tell of those who were not “caught up” when the Rapture occurred.
“What would you think,” a Rapture advocate once asked, “if you read in the morning newspaper that thousands of people had just disappeared, believers gone to meet the Lord.”
Well, I thought, I’d think enough journalist were “left behind” to get out the news.
All of this reminds me of the Monty Python skit where believers gathered on a mountain to await the mighty wind that would end it all.
One disciple asks the leader of the little group, “will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth?”
The leader answers him “no, it will not be so mighty, which is why we have climbed up on this mountain to be safe, you stupid twit.”
Then, when the end did not come the leader sighed and said “same time tomorrow?” And everybody went home.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I started writing this on October 6.