Evanston news delivered free to your inbox! 


May 21, 2011, 6 p.m. is history now. No one, as far as I know, has been en-Raptured, so it is back to the drawing board for the prophets of judgment day.

My initial reaction on hearing about the end of things was amusement – a kind of “here we go again” tickle left over from past predictions. I also felt stunned and confused trying to understand how so many can get hog-tied by their faith just because some preachers lead them to believe they, the preachers, know the mind of God. And finally I was left with a tangible anger at the way such would-be prophets use the Bible as some kind of Ouija Board or DaVinci Code challenge to solve the greatest mystery in the saga of creation.

Laughter is easy for those who never take such predictions seriously. Brown-robed figures with hairline halos carrying “The End Is Near!” placards are cartoon clichés, while the comic book violence in Armageddon movies prompts guffaws more than chills. As the time approaches, jokes abound, then multiply like Al Capp’s schmoos once nothing comes to pass. Someone asked me just before the 21st if I were ready for the Rapture. I replied, “That happened to me three days ago. I am hurt that you haven’t noticed.”

My confusion is about how faith works and the need in so many to get theirs right, to feel themselves among the saved. Some seem to forget that faith is an inside job, like happiness. If anyone gets caught up in an other’s believing, they can be had – as so many were recently. The phenomenon is beyond gullibility, because even false prophets can touch into mystery to manipulate the questions that define our humanness. I for one can admit to catching myself thinking, “What if it is true?”

Why anger? That surprised me when I named it, and I needed time to figure that out. What I came up with was a question: Why can’t the Bible be taken simply for what it says? Not literally, please, but just for the truth of its teaching. Its message is quite clear, in both Old and New Testaments: Believe and obey, do good and avoid evil, love one’s neighbor and oneself, judge not, forgive and go and sin no more. Where is the mystery in all of that? The Bible’s history and stories are not meant to tell us what we cannot know but rather to teach us what we can be – and become.

The only information Adam gained from the tree of knowledge was that he was not God, nor could ever be. We, the descendents of his humanness, have enough to do figuring out the meaning of life. As for the end of things, someday we will all know when, sooner or later.