On Facebook yesterday, I wrote that I had heard enough jokes about the Rapture to last until the end of time. Padre Mickey Dresbach top me by noting that people were making such jokes like there was no tomorrow.
But now for a somewhat more serious take on the culture moment that transpired by not transpiring this past weekend.
First, as Susan Russell writes, the Rapture ho-ha was not a shining moment for American Christianity:
When the Crazy Christians take over the airwaves and dominate the popular media with their latest scheme to make Jesus look bad – as they have this week -- what gets left behind is the message of the one who loved us enough to become one of us in order to show us how to love each other. What gets left behind are the core Christian values of love, justice and compassion. And when the dust has settled and the jokes are over, the collateral damage of Judgment Day Gone Bust are all those folks who now have even more evidence to convince them they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one. And who could blame them?
From the “we’re going to heaven and you’re not” foolishness of Harold Camping to the homophobic hypocrisy of “Family Values” candidates like Newt Gingrich to the “protect marriage” driven actions of the Minnesota legislature once again turning gay and lesbian families into sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics … no wonder Jesus wept. And no wonder so many people looking for spiritual community won't touch Christianity with a barge pole.
Meanwhile, Ted Anthony of the Associated Press tries to put his finger on why the transparently ridiculous utterings of such fringe-y figures as the Family Radio crowd achieved such widespread attention:
Bloggers blogged and blogged again. Newspapers editorialized about it - and some took Camping's money and ran his advertisements, which also appeared on billboards in many countries. Cable news anchors spent big chunks of Saturday chatting about it - about not just the believers, but about we, the people, and how we might behave if the end was (to employ a word rarely used elsewhere) nigh.
"For every generation, there's been somebody who's saying, `Oh, the end of the world is going to be, say, April 11, 1985.' So when that happens every generation, it's kind of hard to take seriously," said Jory Burson, 27, a multimedia producer in Stillwater, Okla.
But, she added: "I do think that people stop and consider all the tragic events that have happened recently - the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, things like that - and, I'm speaking of my Christian friends here, that they might think maybe there's an element of truth here. But I think it makes people stop and reflect on tragedies and think about how we're treating the world and how the world's treating us."
As Anthony points out, many of those who helped make the rapture a hot social media topic had their tongues placed firmly in their cheeks. However, Robbie Jones of Public Religion Research Institute points to the unsettling fact that 52 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats believe that "the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of Biblical end times."
So the notion that much of the country is a little bit crazy is still in play.