To press/push the panic button:
To give way to panic in a distressing situation (Dictionary.com)
To become very worried about something bad that happens and react suddenly instead of thinking about it calmly (Macmillandictionary.com)
Pan was a mythological Greek god who was credited with being able to inspire fear and disorder in crowded places. Thus we have our modern word panic: a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals. (Dictionaryreference.com)
We live in tumultuous times. Natural phenomena like tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes seem to be increasingly capricious, widespread, and deadly. The economy in the United States and around the world has been subject to a roller coaster ride—with no “light at the end of the tunnel” evident. Armed conflicts and revolutions are breaking out throughout the Middle East, endangering both world peace—and the oil supply to keep our fossil-fuel-hungry life-style afloat. America’s long-standing position as the all-powerful “leader of the free world” is crumbling before our eyes.
This certainly seems like a logical time for people, particularly Americans, to be subject to panic. And there are plenty of individuals and groups, particularly in the religious world, that seem more than glad to oblige by offering great big panic buttons to push. If you weren’t at the edge of panic on your own about world conditions, they will be glad to send into your home a never-ending stream of articles, books, radio and TV broadcasts, sermons and Bible studies on CD and DVD, blogs, and Youtube videos that will fill your mind and emotions to overflowing with reasons to panic.
One of the most panic-inducing ministries right now is Family Radio, headed by self-made-prophet Harold Camping. Camping has issued an ironclad warning that God will destroy the world on October 21 this year, 2011. He and his supporters are getting the word out via billboards, radio programs, and online. As it says on their wecanknow.com website:
This web site serves as an introduction and portal to four faithful ministries which are teaching that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011. … Learn about the Biblical Timeline of History, the correct method of Bible interpretation, the End of the Church Age and God’s command to believers that they must depart out of the churches. Study the proofs that God has so graciously given in His Word showing us that these dates are 100% accurate and beyond dispute.
As the date gets closer, Family Radio has ramped up its efforts to get out the word:
Outside his office, Camping’s employees were busy hand-washing a new fleet of RVs emblazoned with Bible verse and the proclamation, “May 21, 2011: Judgment is Coming!” Above the passenger side door on each RV, one of those red anti-circles was painted over “2012.” The popular 2012 myth [based on speculation regarding the end of the Mayan Calendar], as Camping dismissed it, at least served as an entry point for his followers to discuss the true Armageddon with the curious. The five-vehicle caravan was headed to Florida the following week. Along the way they’d stop in small towns and big cities to share Camping’s proofs and try to save as many souls as possible.
[From the Last Year on Earth blog by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Justin Berton]
Camping is convinced that 200 million or so people (about 3% of the world’s population) will be saved from the destruction of the world by the May 21 rapture, and will go on that day to Heaven to be with God. Everybody else is left to wait five more months and then become toast. Camping’s proclamations about these “certain” events are based on an elaborate system of mathematical calculations and esoteric and idiosyncratic interpretations of Bible passages. He has come at his “proofs” for the date in a number of ways, but the following seems to be his central reasoning:
The number 5, Camping concluded, equals “atonement.” Ten is “completeness.” Seventeen means “heaven.” Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.
“Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.,” he began. “Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that’s 1,978 years.”
Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days – the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.
Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.
Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.
Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.
“Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story,” Camping said. “It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved.
“I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that,” Camping said.
Perhaps you, as I, do not find these so-called “calculations” all that persuasive. But large numbers of True Believers do. His name is certainly widely known—googling it yields 222,000 hits.
Essentially, Camping has convinced his supporters to see a large number of factors moving inexorably toward a target of the date of May 21 for the rapture, much as a “perfect storm” moves inexorably toward a tragic landfall. (perfect storm: …an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically… also used to describe a hypothetical hurricane that happens to hit at a region’s most vulnerable area, resulting in the worst possible damage by a hurricane of its magnitude.) According to Camping, there’s no denying it is coming precisely when he has predicted, and no holding it back. Once it has come and gone … and all True Christians (according to Camping’s standards) are gone… all that is left for those Left Behind to do, is to wait for the final Perfect Storm to destroy the world on October 21.
Thinking about Camping’s Perfect Storm reminds me of my own family’s recent experience with such a storm. Late on Wednesday afternoon April 27, a mile-wide tornado approached Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and devastated much of the city. This storm front then rampaged across the south and left one of the most widespread paths of death and destruction in American history. Within a short time the same tornado, or another from the same “supercell,” struck northern Birmingham leaving more violent destruction in its path. All across the nation viewers watched astonishing weather reports on TV and the Internet live as the storms moved eastward.
Early in the morning on Wednesday, at our home in Rome in northwestern Georgia, we had experienced a period of high winds that led to downed trees and power poles and widespread power outages. Without power, we followed the progress of the storms throughout the afternoon and early evening on our webphones via news—and emails from friends in Alabama who were experiencing almost continual tornado warnings.
By about 8 PM, we had come to realize that the track of the primary tornadic cell that had hit Tuscaloosa and Birmingham was making a beeline straight for Rome. We began making what arrangements for shelter for the six members of our family that we could without a basement, gathering necessities into the tiny interior hallways in our house. Listening to a transistor radio in the approaching gloom of the evening, we heard that a mile-wide tornado was seen approaching the village of Cave Springs, barely ten miles directly southwest of us, headed northeast at a rate of over 60 miles an hour. At 8:25 the sirens went off in our neighborhood, and the newsman on the radio was issuing the direst warnings he could muster for our location. We headed for the hallways. Just then my cellphone rang … it was a friend in Kentucky who was watching ABC News and was worried whether or not we realized just how dire our circumstances were. The TV screen was showing the path of the tornado as headed straight for a bull’s eye on Rome. When I told him what part of Rome we lived in, he gasped, and said that was in the very center of the bull’s eye. I hung up, we closed all the doors in the hallways, and waited.
To all intents and purposes, every bit of physical evidence indicated that we were headed for our own doomsday. Our own Perfect Storm was about to descend upon us, within less than ten minutes. We prayed and chatted nervously among ourselves, realizing that within 15 minutes whatever was going to happen will have happened.
And then … nothing happened! The winds outside picked up just a little, there was a little thunder and lightning, but no more than during a regular mild summer storm. They extended the tornado warning a bit past 9:15, but by 9:30 or so it expired. We exited our hallways, and soon stepped outside to view the skies … and saw stars! The transistor radio newsman continued his patter, and mentioned tornados spotted to the south and east of us, one touching down at the southernmost point in our county. A part of Cave Springs and nearby area took a direct hit with a tornado on the ground, although without any serious injuries. But Rome … and our neighborhood … dodged the bullet totally. In spite of every bit of clear scientific and mathematic evidence that we would take a direct hit from a disastrous tornado, the front somehow veered in the last couple of minutes before arriving, and missed us entirely.
Harold Camping—and all the droves of other wannabee prophets of our time—have NO clear scientific and mathematic evidence for their speculations. They are spinning tales out of their own imaginations. And yet I am supposed to get excited…and panicked…by their theories and want to jump on their bandwagons. What’s wrong with this picture? If out in the real world even the best of predictions about weather can fail, how much more should we expect that the shakiest of predictions about future events can easily fail to come to pass.
Blustery old Harold Camping (now age 89!) is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. The purpose of this blog is to help you to sort through the claims of the many purveyors of Panic Buttons, and evaluate them calmly in light of the wisdom of the Bible.