Recently, a preacher named Harold Camping predicted a precise date for the so called Rapture. As is always the case the forecast date came and went with no cataclysmic results. Of course, Camping was loudly chastised by many other preachers, despite the fact that many of them also predict imminent doom for mankind. Their primary criticism was Camping audacity in being specific in his prediction, opening the whole idea of a future God ordained catastrophe up to ridicule.
When a litany of dire predictions emanate from many pulpits, some are bound to speculate about the specifics, especially men who feel a divine calling to speculate. When the most impressionable among us hear this litany, they feel obliged to embrace the speculation of these called men and react in ways that later seem irrational. That is the way anxiety affects us all though, just in varying degrees. No one is totally rational in the midst of fear and worry. Therein lies the reason why many reject the theology of Orthodoxy. It’s too fearful and depressing.
Given our theological conditioning, ours is a society that abounds with people whose adopted role is that of warning mankind. These spokesmen perceive dangers here, there, and everywhere. Undoubtedly, these words of warning are seen by the initiators as an act of benevolence. Being the bearer of fearful words thus becomes a mark of moral uprightness and a benevolent spirit. Whether or not these calls for vigilance are well intended, the actual results are rarely benign.
Fear inducing stories are sold as a public service in all aspects of life. Many such warnings are promoted for something no more noble than the profit motive. Surrounded by these countless warnings, each person is challenged to formulate a measured response to a multitude of proposed dangers. Where does informed caution end, and speculative paranoia begin? I’d suggest that caution generally involves managing aspects of my own life which are, in fact, manageable. Paranoia, on the other hand, entails trying to control someone else’s life or aspects of my own which are not mine to control. It’s admittedly a fine distinction, but one worthy of constant consideration as we address every warning we receive as a “public service announcement”.