MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The billboards proclaim the troubling news: May 21, 2011 — Judgment Day Begins. It’s the latest in a long history of end of days predictions. Most of us enjoy living.
So why would someone want to predict the end of life?
“It is absolutely going to happen,” said 89-year-old Harold Camping, owner of a network of Christian radio stations.”There’s going to be a huge earthquake that will make the big quake in Japan seem like a Sunday school picnic.”
But if the engineer turned Bible scholar’s past history is any indication, this prediction will be as wrong as the 1994 prediction that the world will end.
“As long as history has gone on people have been predicting the end of the world,” said Bill McDonough, director of the masters in theology program at St. Catherine University.
“There’s sort of a God’s on my side sort of thing,” he said. “This stuff happens around the turns of centuries, it happened around the millennium, and it happens around scary times,” McDonough said.
John Watkins, an English professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied apocalyptic predictions, said they come in cycles.
“We’re in one now: biggest recession since the 30s? Must be the world is coming to an end,” Watkins said.
In 1533, Michael Stifel, a German friend of Martin Luther, got his followers to sell their stuff. When the end didn’t happen he was locked in prison so no one would kill him.
In 1844, American Baptist preacher William Miller predicted Oct. 22: A day now known as the “Great Disappointment.”
In 1993, David Koresh went to Waco, Texas to wait out the end.
Some think when the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, that’ll be it.
“For every text you squint and read it backwards, you will find five texts that say we don’t know when the end of the world is, and our job isn’t to get too worried about that,” said McDonough.