Friday, May 20, 2011

Harold Camping and the Tea Party #Rapture

It would be difficult to resist the urge to comment on the people who believe that May 21 represents the end of the world. So I won't. I'm looking forward to this weekend when Doomsday experts will have to pack up their crazy tent and go home. Harold Camping, will face transparent rebuttal from the universe, followed by the abandonment of most of his followers. Like many (but not all), false prophets, he'll become a footnote in the long history of also-ran Messianics and cult leaders.

You have to feel sorry for the friends and relatives of the Rapturists, who have to put up with a futureless nihlism:
Kino Douglas, 31, a self-described agnostic, said it was hard to be with his sister Stacey, 33, who “doesn’t want to talk about anything else.”

“I’ll say, ‘Oh, what are we going to do this summer?’ She’s going to say, ‘The world is going to end on May 21, so I don’t know why you’re planning for summer,’ and then everyone goes, ‘Oh, boy,’ ” he said.
Everyone else knows that their actions have consequences; the Rapturists will not be influenced by possible outcomes of their choices, leaving their friends and family members to manage their affairs as much as they can. This must be at least an annoying burden for the non-believers.

The relationship clearly parallels the dynamic tearing apart the Republican electoral coalition. Radical anti-government Tea Party voters, activists, and elected officials have little to no regard for consequences. John Boehner and classic Republican leadership have an interest in the continuation of the GOP as a viable party. They're like the religious family members of the Rapturists. They share the same belief structure of faith in the free market, but they haven't allowed their ideology to carry them out of this world. They still believe in consequences, but need to appease the crazy family members in order to feel secure in their own belief. Democrats are Kino Douglas here; they're willing to believe in the free market insofar as the belief doesn't actually impinge on the freedoms, dignity, and wellbeing of the country.

Christianity is many things to the Republican party, and while the religion's actual teachings on social responsibility don't seem to factor into GOP policy positions, the rapture framework certainly predicts Republican behavior. The radical anti-responsibility of the Tea Party makes a lot of sense if (and only if) policy doesn't have consequences. George Bush can run up a $10 trillion deficit and launch a recession because the nation doesn't need to survive past 2011. Climate change can continue unabated because it won't cause any problems for at least 20 years (excpet for the record tornado season and flooding this year). Tea partiers are asking, "Why are we talking about paying for Medicare and Social Security in 2035 when the world ends tomorrow?" At least family members of Rapturists will be able to get on with their lives when their loved ones return from the destructive path of self-righteousness. Americans might not have the same luck with the Republican leadership.

Footnote: I vaguely remember a story that George Bush cited the coming apocalypse/rapture as a tenet of his beliefs, but haven't been able to verify that exactly. I did, however, find that Bush White House officials reached out to Rapture preacher Jack Van Impe in 2004 in hopes of shaping contingency strategies based on biblical apocalypse scenarios. Ironically, of course, they overlooked the story of the great flood and totally mismanaged Katrina.

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