I, like many of my friends and fellow Orthodox, had mixed reactions to Harold Camping and his prediction about the impending rapture. We were amused that anyone would be so bold as to claim that which is not to be known, we joined in the myriad jokes after the prediction failed, and we were all saddened by the heart break of those who followed this man. Tragically, as we all imagined would happen, there has already been reported one suicide related to this man.
I find myself wondering why this man and his prediction captured this Orthodox Christian’s attention so much, as well as that of others. I know that one story that really struck me was that of the people who had basically given up their life savings due to this man’s teachings. Is that really what was most important, though? Or, does it reflect my still worldly mindedness. As an Orthodox, we have a fairly narrow definition of what the true faith is, and thus followers of other faiths are, to some degree or another, following false prophets. Yes, Harold Camping is a false prophet, but so are John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen. However, these other people won’t lead one to bankruptcy. Looking at Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, one imagines quite the opposite to be the case. I don’t mean this offend my many dear friends of different faiths – most of whom are sincere and loving people – more so than I have ever been. However, these other prophets are laying out a path that is different than the path to salvation that our Lord established with His Church. How much more dangerous is that than simply losing your money? As a result, do I pray as I should for all of my friends? Do I try to follow the teachings myself, and follow the path with the urgency that I should?
I take this event, and my reaction, as a stark warning to myself that my priorities are still not aligned correctly. Thankfully, the end has not come yet, for I am afraid I am like the servant who shall be found heedless:
Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight,
And blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching,
And again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep,
Lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.
But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God,
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.
Troparion of Bridegroom Matins