Small Wonders: The Father knows best

I know I’m a week late, but I just had to chime in on the Rapture. Big disappointment, eh?

I bring it up after the fact because, well, what if Old Harold was right? Hey, the Centers for Disease Control released their zombie apocalypse-preparedness tips before the big day. Maybe they knew more than we did. But Harold Camping sure didn’t.

As proof that the world's latest apocalyptic prognosticator has apparently lost all semblance of the Christian humility he’s supposed to embody, Harold refused to admit he was wrong about his Rapture date. He's now set a new date, this time for the end of the world: Oct. 21, 2011.

I just hope against hope that this column is the last shred of newspaper or computer screen that gives him any more free advertising. But I’m sure I’ll be disappointed.

I enjoyed the ribald posts on Facebook and in comment threads after every news story leading up to the May 21 deadline. I had some fun myself comparing Harold to that creepy doomsday preacher in “Poltergeist 2” — striking similarity.

But, I feel compelled to set records straight for those unfamiliar with biblical events. He predicted the Rapture, not doomsday. The Rapture is when those who profess belief in Jesus as savior are lifted up to heaven. Don't believe, and be left behind (hey, someone should write that book. Someone who can actually write, though).

Then comes the Tribulation, when pagans and tax cheats and anyone who is not a Republican spend a few years suffering on Earth — constant cable outages, bad cell service, reruns of “Jersey Shore,” but worse. Then Judgment. That’s lights out.

So since Harold is apparently incapable of it, as a churchgoer let me be the first to say this to everyone who does not subscribe to the same newsletter that I do:

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that a member of my family — albeit a random cousin from a clan we don't like to talk about — has made such an enormous ass of himself. And us.

My family is big. It includes Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Born-Agains, Progressives and other varietals. We can't be responsible for the outlandish actions of everyone. But I do feel terrible for what Harold did. He's the kind of guy that gives us all a bad name; makes it hard for any of us to be taken seriously.

He's our Uncle Fultie. Every family has one; that distant relative you dread getting stuck talking to at family gatherings; whose breath reeks of bad gin as he brings up awkward and uncomfortable subjects with an air of misplaced wisdom; who’s been on disability most of his adult life for unspoken mental frailties.

Like every family, we have our oddities. From atheist to Methodist to Universalist, you've got them also. To paraphrase my buddy JD, is a person who believes in the Rapture that much crazier than those who drink the blood and eat the flesh of their invisible sacrificed God? Who believe they will be reincarnated as a koala bear or anticipate 72 virgins awaiting them in the hereafter? And for my money, any crazier than having no faith at all?

Every tribe has wingnuts in their toolbox.

To be fair, Harold’s not crazy for believing in the Rapture. Lots of sane people do. He’s crazy for thinking he knew the date for it, causing his flock to make hideously dangerous decisions with their children and livelihoods.

I am embarrassed for and because of Harold. And I apologize on his behalf. We share a belief in the same God, but little more. Yet that still makes us brothers. And if my brother got drunk at the Rubinstein bris, took the scalpel from the mohel and attempted to perform the rite himself, I'd apologize for him too.

Apologizing for Harold's irresponsibility may not sit well with some of my brethren. But we all have a little Uncle Fultie in us. It's not the first time I've said something they disagree with. Won't be the last.

In the end, Harold is no different than any other fringe religious zealot: exploiting people's inborn desire for solace in a morally decaying world; abusing mankind's natural yearning for an answer to our ultimate questions.

I don't believe he meant any harm. He's just gotten carried away with his power. It happens every day, in every family — in the governor's mansion, Oval Office and Capitol Hill; on playgrounds, in classrooms and corporations.

Though the signs of the times are ripe for the biblical end of days — volcanoes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, a Democrat in the White House — it’s best for Harold and all others who think they know more than man or God, and especially the naïve souls who would heed their teachings, to keep these very clear words in mind:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the book “Crooked Little Birdhouse” available on Amazon and He can be reached on Facebook and at

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