Didn’t we just get over this with the whole Y2K thing? And then the Mayan calendar worries came around?
Now, Harold Camping and the most devout listeners of his Family Radio Christian Network, headquartered just to the south of my hometown of Berkeley in Oakland, California, have fanned out across the country, preaching to all who will listen that the Rapture will occur this May 21, less than two months from now, with the events of the Apocalypse continuing through October.
The basis for this latest Armageddon prediction consists mainly of an overwrought series of mathematical gymnastics, applied to a few choice verses of Biblical Scripture. Never mind that these calculations have been dismissed by most non-extremist Christians, never mind that Camping already tried this in 1992, predicting the Rapture for September 4, 1994 (for obvious reasons, I think he goofed that one up). A wide number of people are hearing his arguments, which should be of concern, though not just for the surface-level believing-in-a-con concerns.
Apocalyptic expectation, at its core, can inform much of a religious person’s ethical calculus. Take, for example, President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, who testified at his Senate confirmation hearing, “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.” Put differently–“We don’t actually need to concern ourselves with petty things like environmentalism and sustainability–God will come to bail us out well before that happens.”
One can see apocalypticism warping ethical decisions across the entire historical scope of Christianity–St. Paul himself urged devout Christians not to marry and procreate, so convinced he was of the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ. But when we make the assumption that the earth and its plethora of resources does not need to be made available to our children, and our children’s children, Christians are in fact turning their backs on one of the first divine commandments ever given to humanity by God–the command from God to Adam to keep and till the earth responsibly in the second chapter of the book of Genesis.
Environmentalism and sustainability are not only justified from a pragmatic or humanitarian standpoint–although they are. Concern for the earth, or “creation care” as some Christians have taken to calling it, is in fact a Biblical response to some of the most pressing concerns facing our planet as a result of our overuse of it. Christians, as well as anyone who would consider themselves influenced at all by Scripture, must allow their care for the earth override any apocalyptic expectations they may privately hold. I hope and pray for God to come to earth again, but in the meanwhile, taking this world for granted is not an option.