An Open Letter to the Disappointed
To Everyone Who Hoped and Waited for Saturday’s Rapture,
By now, I’m sure you’ve realized that Harold Camping’s prediction of the Rapture and subsequent end of the world was wrong. You, who may have given up everything in support of Camping and his ministry, have experienced what the followers of William Miller eventually came to call “the great disappointment.” Christ did not come back, and for that I’m sorry.
I know that you and those who agree with you have been mocked and ridiculed by nearly every facet of American society. Those of you who had the courage to leave everything and wander the country spreading a message you so fervently believed in were probably ostracized by many. Maybe somebody even had the audacity to text you a quick “I told you so” this morning; that is, of course, if you didn’t already sell your phone.
I have to admit today that I was one of those theologians who laughed hysterically at Mr. Camping and his predictions. I took pot-shots at him in many personal conversations and in various forms of social media. And while I still hold to the eschatological views I held then, I wish to apologize wholeheartedly for my arrogant, smug, dismissive attitude.
This is a day when I have few words. You have been wounded beyond measure. A man whom you fervently trusted and looked to for wisdom has broken that trust by being so incredibly wrong on an issue of such great importance. You have every right to be angry and hurt at such a betrayal. You have every right to hold Harold Camping accountable for his actions. And if you choose to do that, I will be right beside you, demanding justice and restitution for what Mr. Camping has done to those who trusted him.
But when the time comes to move forward, I will also be right beside you. When Sunday, May 22 rolls around, I will be in the pew of my local church, and I invite you to join me. I invite you not out of any smug sense of my own vindication, but because I want you to see that, despite the failure of our human leaders, the Church carries on.
I would invite you to keep the faith because there are many churches out there wherein you can explore a fuller, incarnational eschatology that is so much more than the escapist dualism promised to you by Harold Camping. I would invite you to return to our faith communities sharpened by the events you have witnessed in the past year, perhaps even jaded by them, to help us understand not only the persuasive power of such apocalyptic rhetoric, but to help guard our pulpits against it in the future.
I have to admit that I have not met any of you, but there are many among you who are the bravest people I have ever heard of. While friends and co-workers were hedging their bets, you risked your entire well-being for something you believed in. You sold your possessions and campaigned to tell people about what you believed was their impending doom. I could never do that. Never forget that you are brave people who have simply been taken advantage of.
Harold Camping is going to issue some kind of statement explaining why Saturday was wrong. He predicted the end in 1994, and he was wrong then. I encourage you to use that courage again and not listen this time. Do not fall for the same tricks and mathematical juggling. Do not let him explain away concepts with complicated exegetical squirming. Learn from this, and move forward into a better future.
Come and learn that God does not desires us to be escapists, but to understand that the incarnation of Jesus was the beginning of the end, and that the kingdom ethic is a form of eschatology that is staring you in the face right now. Do not await some kind of escape to the Kingdom of Heaven where everything will be bright and beautiful, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near to you. The Kingdom of Heaven is among you. You don’t have to go away to experience the goodness of Christ. The end is certainly coming, and the end is certainly now, but in a vastly different and disturbingly beautiful new way than any of us would have ever expected.
You have been so brave. Continue to be brave and keep the faith
With sincerest hope,