We're still here -- we hope -- if the Rapture didn't occur

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The predictions of the end of the world didn't come to pass. Or did they? Do we really know?

By Steve Doyle

Were you like me around dinnertime on Saturday evening? Did you look at the clock and wonder?
Surely I wasn’t left behind, was I?
After all, radio evangelist Harold Camping had been saying that the Rapture would begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, that a series of Heavenly orchestrated earthquakes would crash across the country and that we all would be headed Home.
Well, some of us.
Certainly, if that had happened, I was hoping to be included.
Alas, Camping now is saying he was wrong. Or I guess he is hoping he was wrong, otherwise, well….
For me, I surmised his prophecy had not come to pass because my children remained beside me, and God surely wouldn’t leave their innocent selves behind.
Then on Sunday my parents called after returning from a getaway. Whew.
But didn’t this little prediction give you a second’s pause to take stock and wonder what would become of your bets on the Preakness? Who would feed the dogs? Who would take care of everything you would be leaving behind?
Did it make you wonder at the oxymoronic CNN poll that asked: “What will you do if the world ends on Saturday?”
If nothing else, wasn’t this great fodder for the Sunday morning sermonists?
“I ask you, brothers and sisters, I beseech you: What if he had been right?”
Good question, because none of us, not even Harold Campipng, really knows the answer.
Surely such thoughts have been circling through the minds of people who live or have lived in Joplin, Mo., or Tuscaloosa, Ala.
In a time when our climate is changing faster than forecasters can predict and we can respond, isn’t there some question about the pattern that harkens the scenario of Revelation?
I’m no theologian, to be sure. My religious education came in the classroom of the front-porch swing, in the car en route to church each Sunday and at the feet of teachers such as Russ Barker, Bob Donovan and Rudy Patton at Dover Baptist Church.
My understanding of what I have read is limited to the words and mental images they create, absent of the vision to translate them into the dealings of mankind and the signs of the Apocalypse.
I just know that today I feel it must be a little closer than it seemed a few years ago.
The horrors of hurricanes such as Andrew, Camille and Katrina were bad enough.
The tsunami that ripped apart Southeast Asia just after Christmas 2004 was overpowering, only to be outdone by the devastation of the earthquake/tsunami double tap on Japan.
And now we have what appears like a nuclear winter strung across the landscapes of Tuscaloosa, Joplin and elsewhere, perhaps the most overwhelming images since Sept. 11, 2001.
I have traveled through and spent some time in Tuscaloosa. I know it to be a sprawling college town that now has a huge stripe of death and destruction pealed from its surface.
I have seen the immediate reports from Joplin, where a meteorologist from The Weather Channel arrived right along with the storm and saw the city bodies-in-the-street fresh from its murderous meander.
I’ve heard the story of the kid in Joplin who arrived home from high school graduation and was ripped from his seat belt and through the sunroof of his Hummer into some corner of oblivion, not yet located by family who were with him at the time.
I’ve read in Sports Illustrated the incredible account of the football player from the University of Alabama who was huddled with his girlfriend in an interior closet of his home, only to be torn from her grasp and tossed hundred of yards into a field across the street. He lived to find out that his girlfriend had died of a broken neck.
I’ve heard the story from the hospital in Joplin where witnesses say a 300-pound man was sucked out of the window.
I’ve listened to the audio from a cellphone video taken by some guys wedged inside a cooler at the rear of a gas station/convenience store as what sounded like a fleet of freight trains stripped away the building around them.
I’ve marveled at the stories of survival from those who endured.
But no matter what I hear and read and imbed in my heart and soul, nothing seems quite translatable or clearly explicable.
Horrific, devastating, terrible, shocking, sickening…the mind’s thesaurus is bare of adequate adjectives, these scenes and recollections so naked in their simplicity that they bring both tears and stunned disbelief in a first siege of emotions.
And then I think of the forecast of the Rapture, of what I know about the day the Bible tells us that believers will go home to Heaven and leave behind those who were turned away.
Maybe some of those people in Tuscaloosa and Joplin already have made that journey.
Maybe what we have seen in a head-shaking light, of one man’s perceived far-out prediction, is not so far off base?
Maybe our jokes about the Preakness bets and our comments to coworkers about not seeing them on Monday weren’t jokes after all.
Maybe this is a fragmented process that doesn’t happen all at once but in great but simple displays of God’s power?
I ask you, brothers and sisters, what if he had been right?

Read more of Steve Doyle’s columns at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.