Friday, May 20, 2011

WKRP In Cincinnati And The End Of The World


With Harold Camping's End Of The World happening Saturday, I thought I'd share some other End Of The World predictions, six of the biggest actually, that failed to come true.

1. October 22, 1844
Who: Samuel S. Snow, a preacher in the Millerite movement, led by the Baptist preacher William Miller

How he came by this date: A prophesy in the Book of Daniel states "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (Dan. 8:14). If you convert the days into years, and if you start in the year 457 BC – the year that Artaxerxes I of Persia decreed that that the city government of Jerusalem shall be re-established – then this takes you to 1844. Using the Karaite Jewish calendar, Snow pinned the date down to October 22.

What actually happened: Thousands of people gave away all their possessions, only to be surprised when the world did not come to end, and the day came to be known as "The Great Disappointment." The Millerites splintered into several religious groups, the largest and most mainstream being the Seventh Day Adventists, and the smallest and most unconventional probably being the Branch Davidians. Millerism has also influenced the Bahá'í Faith.

2. December 21, 1954
Who: Dorothy Martin, a Chicago housewife and student of Dianetics, a set of practices developed by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.

How she came by this date: Through automatic writing, Martin came in contact with beings from the planet Clarion, who told her that the world would be destroyed by flood and that the faithful would be rescued at midnight by flying saucers (or so she said).

What actually happened: Martin's followers, many of whom quit their jobs and gave away their possessions, gathered in her home to await the aliens. (Martin's husband, a nonbeliever, slept upstairs through the whole thing.) To avoid being burned by the flying saucer, her followers removed all metal from their persons, including zippers and bra straps. Midnight came and went and the group became increasingly agitated. Finally, at 4:45am, Martin said that she received another message from Clarions informing her that God was so impressed by her groups actions that He changed His mind and decided to spare the earth.

The group was infiltrated by a psychologist named Leon Festinger, who used his observations to develop the theory of cognitive dissonance.

3. October or November 1982
Who: Pat Robertson, who in a 1980 broadcast of "The 700 Club" said "I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world."

How he came by that date: Robertson has said that God told him about pending disasters on numerous occasions (including a West Coast tsunami in 2006, and a terrorist attack in 2007 – neither occurred). "I have a relatively good track record,” he has said. “Sometimes I miss.”

What actually happened: The world didn't end in 1982, but "WKRP in Cincinnati," did.

4. September 5 - September 27, 1994
Who: Harold Camping (hmmm. Why is that name familiar? Thinking. Thinking.)

How he came by those dates: He interpreted a reference in John 21:1-14 to the disciples being 200 cubits from the shore in the Sea of Galilee as meaning that there would be 2,000 years between the birth and the second coming of Jesus. He estimates that Jesus was born on October 4, 7 BC. He said (then) that he actually could not tell the exact date because of Matthew 24:36.

What actually happened: Nothing. To his followers he explained that what he actually meant to say was that the church age would end in 1994, a truth claim they still believe. Basically, that means that you cannot be saved unless you're a part of Camping's church.

5. 1806
Who: The Prophet Hen of Leeds, a domesticated fowl in Leeds, England, who in 1806 began laying eggs that bore the message "Christ is coming."

How she came by that date: As you will see in the next paragraph, the answer is "the hard way."

What actually happened: Charles Mackay's 1841 book, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," describes it thus:
"Great numbers visited the spot, and examined these wondrous eggs, convinced that the day of judgment was near at hand. Like sailors in a storm, expecting every instant to go to the bottom, the believers suddenly became religious, prayed violently, and flattered themselves that they repented them of their evil courses. But a plain tale soon put them down, and quenched their religion entirely. Some gentlemen, hearing of the matter, went one fine morning, and caught the poor hen in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. They soon ascertained beyond doubt that the egg had been inscribed with some corrosive ink, and cruelly forced up again into the bird’s body. At this explanation, those who had prayed, now laughed, and the world wagged as merrily as of yore."

6. September 11, 1988
Who: Edgar C. Whisenant, author of 88 Reasons The World Will End In 1988

How he came by that date: The 88 "proofs" of this were based on a collection of dates and calculations from Biblical and historical factors. When nothing happened by the end of September 13, Whisenant revised his prediction, suggesting the rapture would come at 10:55 AM on September 15. The date was big news, and even TBN got on board, airing taped broadcasts all day of "What to do if you miss the Rapture." (Possibly where The Left Behind series got the idea,) When that failed, he revised it to October 3. Even when that date passed, Whisenant remained undaunted: "The evidence is all over the place that it is going to be in a few weeks anyway," he told Christianity Today.
After his "few weeks" had transpired, Whisenant finally saw his error. He claimed that he had made a slight miscalculation of one year because of a fluke in the Gregorian calendar. Jesus was actually going to return on September 11, 1989!

What actually happened: Turns out he was wrong. ....................................88 times!!!!
Ironically, Whisenant died in May of 2001, just short of a resurgence in interest for his date. Just think, he could have rewritten his book, 2001 Reasons.

Citation: Some of the above information is from The Christian Science Monitor


Dan said...

This is truly the most enjoyable post I've read in some time! Way to go!

Steve said...

Hmmph. Make that seven!