Great American Road Trip: DocuCommentary

My newest Meet MythAmerica Youtube DocuCommentary is titled “Great American Road Trip.”

The very first coast-to-coast cross-country auto trip in America was accomplished in 1903 by a hardy and intrepid traveler named Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson. After Dr. Horatio proved it could be done, Americans rushed to embrace the Road Trip as part of the guaranteed promise of American Freedom!

This “Great American Road Trip” DocuCommentary introduces Jackson and his adventure, and then traces the history of that uniquely American “Out on the Open Road” experience of freedom through the twentieth century. The video is part fun pop culture nostalgic reminiscing, part solid American cultural history lesson, and part invitation to introspection.  You are invited to pack your virtual suitcase and join the caravan as we head out to Get Our Kicks on Route 66.

(Once you press the Play button below, click on the “full screen” icon at the bottom of the video screen to get a better view of the pictures. )

 

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Buck Rogers & Flash Gordon Go Grocery Shopping: DocuCommentary

keedoozleyoutubetitle
My latest DocuCommentary video is now up on my Meet MythAmerica Youtube channel. Titled “Buck Rogers & Flash Gordon Go Grocery Shopping,” it is subtitled, “The Curious Saga of Clarence Saunders and His Keedoozles.”
I have been fascinated for some time by the life story of this extremely influential American innovator, who might best be described as a mashup of P.T. Barnum, The Great Gatsby, and Steve Jobs. Yet it’s a safe bet that most Americans are totally unfamiliar with his name! I’d never heard of him myself until about three years ago. I am convinced his bio could be spun out into a terrific script for a Hollywood movie, or a TV mini-series. But until someone jumps on one of those opportunities, you’ll have to settle for this informative and entertaining Youtube mini-bio.
Click the link below to open a new tab on your browser and watch the video on Youtube. Be sure to click on “Full Screen” view when you get there, for the best viewing experience.
 
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Ruby’s Shoes

Today, September 8, is the anniversary of the birth of Ruby Bridges in 1954.

ruby1

problemIn

In honor of her birthday today, here’s a link to my short bio of her from my Meet MythAmerica website. She was such a BRAVE little girl back in 1960, standing up all alone to the deeply entrenched segregation of the time in the Deep South! And she grew up into a lovely woman who has continued to speak out for justice and equality in America.

Read her story in

Ruby’s Shoes

 

Pam Dewey

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We Need to Talk…

stevenson1ted

Bryan A. Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, and is a professor at New York University School of Law. He has gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system. Stevenson has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. [Wiki]

stevenson2ted

In an extremely articulate, passionate, dynamic, well-received TED talk from 2012, Bryan Stevenson addresses issues related to racism in American history… and now. You are encouraged to give a listen to

“We need to talk about an injustice.”

This video has now had over 3 million views. And deservedly so. This man makes sense.

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Labor Day’s Roots: In Pullman Hell

This post is being written during America’s “Labor Day Weekend.” If you live in another country, you may assume that YOU may not know much about America’s Labor Day, but that American’s surely know where the holiday came from. Your assumption would be wrong.

I am convinced most American’s are clueless about when and why such a holiday was established. I certainly was until I did the research for the blog entry linked below from my Ameriquotes blog. So whether you are American or not, welcome to the seldom-heard “backstory.”

The Birth of Labor Day: Rooted In Pullman Hell

You’ll find out who Pullman was, why he had his own personal Hell, and how it is related to our cheery modern holiday…which is mostly celebrated in the 21st century by going to WalMart and other stores for Labor Day Specials, and then going home to have a final outdoor barbecue for the season.

laborday1915 Chicago

Labor Day Parade, 1915, Chicago    10,000 garment workers marched in this parade

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“On the Trail of a Major Story”: Docu-Commentary

A new Docu-Commentary video is now available on the Meet MythAmerica Youtube channel. If you find it interesting, PLEASE SHARE THE LINK with your friends!

Description:  Major Ridge played a major role in a major episode in our American Saga. Yet the majority of Americans have never heard of him. “On the Trail of a Major Story” is a Docu-Commentary exploring the fascinating major part the Major played in American history.

Once you press PLAY on the video below, there will be an icon in the BOTTOM RIGHT corner of that screen to make the video “Full Screen.” Once you press PLAY, be sure to click on that Full Screen icon for the most effective viewing experience.

 

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Brain Pain–Part 4: Imminent and Inevitable

This blog entry is fourth in a series documenting the application of the Theory of
Cognitive Dissonance to a variety of issues throughout American History.
See the introductory entry “Dealing with Dissonance”  for a detailed overview explaining the background and basics of the theory.

kidheadache

Cognitive Dissonance:
The feeling of mental discomfort and agitation in your brain
created by attempting to hold two contradictory beliefs
inside the same brain at the same time

The previous entry in this series, Brain Pain—Part 3: The Delta Dawn Syndrome, explored some of the aftermath of the “Great Disappointment,” a term applied by historians to the circumstances surrounding the failures of the prophetic speculation of Adventist preacher William Miller in 1843 and 1844. When Miller’s prognostications that The End was coming soon, when all believers would be caught up in the air to be with the Lord, proved false, many of his followers became totally disillusioned and went back to what they were doing before becoming involved in the Millerite movement. Some stayed with the movement for a while after the 1843 speculation failed, accepting Miller’s eventual explanation that the timing was just off a bit. In fact, as suggested by the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, some became even more enthusiastic about convincing others to join the movement, in spite of the initial failure. When the ultimate failure came in the fall of 1844, many of those people gave up also in great disillusionment.

But even then, some continued to keep coming up with excuses.  Just like Delta Dawn in the popular country and western song from the 1970s, they ended up living in a perpetual delusion, that “any day now” Jesus actually would return and take them away.

Others, unable to accept that level of self-delusion, chose to reevaluate their expectations for just what event was to have taken place on the prophesied date. A popular explanation for many false prophecies came into play in this situation…”something important” really had happened on the expected date. They had just mistakenly thought it would be something that they could experience on Earth. No, it had happened somewhere in the supernatural realm, “in Heaven”! And now they just had to diligently proclaim that message to maintain their position as “the chosen people.”

I had intended after that blog entry to write one that would give a brief overview of some of the individuals and groups that continued the long line of speculative prophecy from the mid-1800s on up to the present, and how they had continued to deal with the cognitive dissonance each time the prophecies failed. But then I remembered…some years back, I already had written such an overview, for another of my blogs, with just a slightly different emphasis. I decided it would be silly to “reinvent the wheel,” and instead just share that earlier information:

 

While many predictions of the end come from Biblical or other apocalyptic texts, at one point in 18th century England, actual events pushed people to believe the end had come. In the summer of 1783, a strange and horrible blight hit England. The skies darkened and a sulfurous fog spread through the country. In Gentleman’s Magazine, a visitor to Lincoln observed: “A thick hot vapour had for several days before filled up the valley, so that both the Sun and Moon appeared like heated brick-bars.” … By the end of the year, nearly 23,000 people had died from respiratory failure. In addition, the blight destroyed crops, creating famine and food riots. For the superstitious, the answer was obvious. Reverend John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, reported, “Those that were asleep in the town were waked and many thought the day of judgment had come…Men, women and children flocked out of their houses and kneeled down together in the streets.” (source)

Over 200 years later, we are still here. So the day of judgment hadn’t arrived, even though it sure looked that way to the people of England that summer. And once they actually discovered the source of the “strange and horrible blight,” and gradually found out the extent to which it was affecting not just England but virtually the whole Northern Hemisphere, it didn’t do anything to quell their fears… it just made them worse.

The truth, while just as lethal, was more geological than theological. These deadly events were the result of volcanic eruptions of the Laki Craters in Iceland in which an estimated 120 million tons of deadly gases were released into the atmosphere — 100 times more than were released in 2010 during the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, also in Iceland. Clouds of sulfur dioxide and fluorine drifted across the Atlantic, and mixing with atmospheric moisture, produced sulfuric rain.

You may remember those reports about that unpronounceable volcano in 2010… it caused a disruption in air traffic over parts of Europe for a few weeks, eventually messing up over 300 commercial flights.

That 2010 Icelandic event, and those widespread air traffic problems, seemed like a big deal at the time, I suppose. But let’s put it in perspective against some of the “fall out” of the 1783 Icelandic eruption:

The Laki volcanic fissure in southern Iceland erupted over an eight-month period from 8 June 1783 to February 1784, spewing lava and poisonous gases that devastated the island’s agriculture, killing much of the livestock. It is estimated that perhaps a quarter of Iceland’s population died through the ensuing famine.

… In Norway, the Netherlands, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, in North America and even Egypt, the Laki eruption had its consequences, as the haze of dust and sulphur particles thrown up by the volcano was carried over much of the northern hemisphere.

Ships moored up in many ports, effectively fogbound. Crops were affected as the fall-out from the continuing eruption coincided with an abnormally hot summer. …

The British naturalist Gilbert White described that summer in his classicNatural History of Selborne as “an amazing and portentous one … the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.”

“The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. At the same time the heat was so intense that butchers’ meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic …”

Across the Atlantic, Benjamin Franklin wrote of “a constant fog over all Europe, and a great part of North America”.

The disruption to weather patterns meant the ensuing winter was unusually harsh, with consequent spring flooding claiming more lives. [In North America, the winter of 1784 was the longest and one of the coldest on record. It was the longest period of below-zero temperatures in New England, with the largest accumulation of snow in New Jersey and the longest freezing over of the Chesapeake Bay. There was ice skating in Charleston Harbor, a huge snowstorm hit the south, the Mississippi River froze at New Orleans and there was ice in the Gulf of Mexico. (Wiki)]

The eruption is now thought to have disrupted the Asian monsoon cycle, prompting famine in Egypt. Environmental historians have also pointed to the disruption caused to the economies of northern Europe, where food poverty was a major factor in the build-up to the French revolution of 1789. (Source)

The upshot of ALL of the various types of results of the eruption? “The eruption has been estimated to have killed over six million people globally,making the eruption the deadliest in historical times.” (Wiki)

I hadn’t even ever HEARD of the Laki eruptions before this week! Most people probably haven’t… high school history books are much more intent on cataloging wars and politics than natural disasters. The only volcano event I ever remember studying from my school years was the one that destroyed Pompeii. Yet if you lived back at the time in 1783, those descriptions sure sound to me as if it would have been totally reasonable to consider that God was tired of putting up with all the corruption of mankind, and had decided to pull out all stops and get started toward The End of the World. Could Armageddon be far behind??

There have been numerous other historical periods in which it indeed would have seemed to those alive at the time as if the End was Nigh and things were lining up with the Book of Revelation. Consider the Black Death of the 1300s.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60 percent of Europe’s population and reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in the 14th century. The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover.

Again, it is certainly understandable that folks might think this situation was a sign of God’s displeasure with all mankind, and that He was about to step into history and end the age of mankind’s evildoing. A common sight during this period was the groups all across Europe called Flagellants, who seemed to feel that if they did enough “penance” by beating themselves in public they could either stay God’s hand … or at least make Him more favorable to seeing that their personal destiny was Heaven rather than Hell when The End came!

The peak of the activity was during the Black Death, then called the Great Death, which began around 1347. Spontaneously Flagellant groups arose across Northern and Central Europe in 1349, except in England. The German and Low Countries movement, the Brothers of the Cross, is particularly well documented – they wore white robes and marched across Germany in 33.5 day campaigns (each day referred to a year of Jesus’ earthly life) of penance, only stopping in any one place for no more than a day. They established their camps in fields near towns and held their rituals twice a day. The ritual began with the reading of a letter, claimed to have been delivered by an angel and justifying the Flagellants’ activities. Next the followers would fall to their knees and scourge themselves, gesturing with their free hands to indicate their sin and striking themselves rhythmically to songs, known as Geisslerlieder, until blood flowed. Sometimes the blood was soaked up in rags and treated as a holy relic. [From the Wikipedia.org Flagellant article]

These people really took their conviction about the Imminent and Inevitable reality of The End seriously! As have others since the time of Christ in every era when horrible natural and political and religious disasters (such as the Inquisition) have occurred. The prophetic Bible passages that speak of “wars and rumors of wars” and “pestilences” and “famines” are general enough to SEEM to fit many times in history.

Who could blame people during the Great Depression … and its Dustbowl… for thinking the End was Nigh?

Who could blame people in the midst of the Holocaust of World War 2 for thinking the End was Nigh?

Also throughout history, there have been men (and a few women) who have preached that The End was imminent and inevitable even though no specific horrible signs and conditions were prevalent right at the moment. They instead based their conviction on “scholarship” … or at least pseudo-scholarship. They declared that they had found irrefutable evidence in the Bible itself, mixed in with mathematics and secular history, that “revealed” a specific date—or time frame, such as “within this generation” or “before the next decade”—for “The Return of Christ” and/or the End of the World (as we know it.) Sometimes this meant a destruction of the physical world, sometimes it meant an end to man’s rule and the beginning of an earthly millennium under the rule of Christ and “the Saints.”

It is odd that many people could become just as adamantly convinced of The End under the influence of a persuasive teacher and his “theories” as in the presence of something tangible like the Black Death. But indeed they could, to the point of giving up everything to dedicate their life to “the cause” of spreading the theory of their chosen guru.

One of the most effective such gurus in the past couple of centuries was William Miller.

From the profile of Miller on my Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion website:

William Miller was a Baptist “lay leader” in New York state who began studying Biblical prophecy in earnest around 1820, and developed elaborate theories about the timing of the Second Coming. He attempted at first to present his theories to the ordained ministers in his area, hoping that they would preach them to the public. But his attempts to convince others to spread his ideas were mostly ineffective. So in 1831 he reluctantly started preaching about them himself. In 1833 he published his first official pamphlet on end-time prophecy. And in 1836 his book Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843was published.

Miller based his prophetic scenario in particular on Daniel 8, in which the prophet Daniel, in vision, hears two “saints” talking about some of the events he saw earlier in the vision:

Dan 8:13-14

13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

Miller accepted a popular theory proposed by many Bible students of his time (and still popular in many circles today) that a day in prophetic passages is almost always intended to stand for a year in fulfillment. (This theory is based on passages such as Ezekiel 4:6.) And thus he taught that this prophecy would be 2300 years in fulfillment. He believed that the 2300 years started in 457 BCE with a decree from Babylonian monarch Artaxerxes allowing those Israelites who had been in captivity in Babylon who wished to, to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Temple. Thus Miller was convinced that the “cleansing of the temple” (which he believed to be symbolic of the Second Coming– the second “Advent of Christ” when He would “cleanse the earth”) would occur at some point between two spring equinoxes: March 21,1843, and March 21, 1844.

Miller also established to his own satisfaction a number of other alleged “proofs” of this chronology from comparing other Biblical passages and historical events.

By the early 1830s, he was circuit-riding small-town New England with an illustrated series of lectures, and within a decade he was preaching in the major cities of the Northeast and leading the most popular millenarian movement America has seen. (The Disappointed, p. xv)

Conservative estimates indicate Miller and his associates presented his theories ultimately to hundreds of thousands of people in America (Miller himself claimed to have spoken to over 500,000 people, in over 4,500 meetings), along with large numbers overseas, particularly in English-speaking countries. Many main-stream church leaders strongly criticized his teachings. Many newspapers ridiculed his ideas as fanaticism and his supporters as fanatics, while at the same time appreciating the fact that sensational stories about his meetings increased the sales of their papers.

When Jesus didn’t come by March 1844, Miller “adjusted” his theory to add a few months, aiming at October 22. That, obviously, didn’t pan out either. This led, among his supporters, to what has since been dubbed “The Great Disappointment.” In part they were disappointed that Jesus didn’t return as promised. But many were also disappointed because they had made some foolish, irreversible choices—such as giving away all their possessions, or giving up jobs, or not planting crops for the 1844 season, because they were SO convinced that The End was imminent and inevitable.

But True Believers are hard to keep down. Retaining the label “Adventists,” indicating their belief that the second “advent”—”coming”—of Christ was surely going to be very, very soon, many kept “playing the numbers,” trying to come up with a new date.

From Brief History of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Field Guide website:

In spite of the 1844 debacle, by the early 1870s, a number of Adventists had begun speculating on a date again, this time 1874. Although most abandoned that notion when the date came and went with no noticeable event, one small group came up with an ingenious way around the problem. They declared that He had, indeed, “Come again,” but that it wasn’t a “Second Coming,” but rather an invisible second “presence.” One of the primary publications promoting this unique perspective was The Herald of the Morning, published by Adventist Nelson Barbour.

In 1876, Charles Taze Russell joined forces with Barbour and became chief financial backer of the magazine, as well as assistant editor. Barbour and Russell declared that Christ’s invisible presence of 1874 was to be followed by the literal rapture of the Saints to heaven in 1878.

When this date too passed, Barbour and Russell had a falling-out, and Russell left to start his own rival magazine, taking Barbour’s mailing list from which to gather subscribers. Thus in 1879 Russell first publishedZion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, the forerunner of today’s Watchtower magazine. And there were shortly a number of Bible study groups forming around the teachings in this new magazine, with members viewing Russell ultimately as their “pastor.” However, Russell did not at the time advocate a central organization to govern these groups. Each was autonomous, and referred to as merely an “ecclesia” (congregation) with the members calling themselves merely “Bible Students.” Although all the Bible Students looked to Russell as a spiritual leader, he was not the “head of a denomination.”

In 1881, Russell formed the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as the official sponsor of his public ministry. Although it had a board of directors and such, the actual power in the organization was totally Russell’s. This Society published the Watchtower magazine and Russell’s other writings and books. And it eventually sponsored his public lectures around the world, and paid for his sermons to be published … as paid advertisements … in papers all over the world.

Russell continued to make date-connected predictions, including dogmatically stating in print in 1889 that the absolute farthest date possible for the continuance of the world’s society before Jesus’ direct intervention to bring it down would be 1914. When WWI started that year, Russell’s followers were ecstatic, believing it to be the beginning of the fulfillment of his predictions. But as the war drug on, and finally ended, it became obvious that this was just one more Great Disappointment. And once again excuses had to be made and explanations invented that would maintain the integrity of the rest of Russell’s teachings in the eyes of his followers in spite of this utter failure in the realm of dogmatic speculative prophetic pronouncements.

After his death, Russell’s successor, Joseph Rutherford, dubbed the Watchtower followers “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The JWs eventually ended up insisting that The End would surely come in 1975, a year they decided was “6,000 years after Creation.” They were joined by Herbert Armstrong’s Radio Church of God (which was renamed the Worldwide Church of God in 1967) in settling on this date (although the number-crunching done by Armstrong to come to that date was different). By the 1960s, the two groups had hundreds of thousands of readers of their literature convinced that The End was imminent and inevitable by 1975. And when that date passed, there was more great disappointment—because once again many folks made foolish, at some times irrevocable, life choices based on their convictions. But, as predicted by the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, a significant proportion of the followers and supporters of both groups accepted the “apologetics” offered by their leaders for the failure, and doubled down on their efforts to get more people to join.

It wasn’t just “fringe religious groups” that have pushed the paranoia about the imminent and inevitable End to come soon.

In 1970, evangelical author Hal Lindsey (well, actually “ghost writer” Carole C Carlson, who later got minor billing as “co-author” but who likely did most or all of the actual writing …) created a best-selling non-fiction book titled The Late Great Planet Earth. It ticked off claims of “increased earthquakes, famines, droughts, wars” etc. as being evidence that the End was Nigh. Lindsey’s theological/prophetic speculation theories even lined up to a certain extent with that of the Worldwide Church of God of that time, expecting the Common Market of the time to morph into the “Ten Nation Beast Power” of Revelation. And all within the next decade.

 

At one point, he settled on the year 1988 for The End, because that was 40 years after the founding of the modern nation of Israel. But of course that date came and went with no prophecy fulfilled. And, of course…to this day, Hal Lindsey is still promoted as a “prophecy expert” in many religious circles.

And Lindsey wasn’t the only evangelical author peddling paranoia.

In a 1975 book titled The Vision, author Dave Wilkerson claimed he had received a direct, divine revelation in 1973 that … taDA!… the End is Nigh, as could be seen by current conditions at the time. His book contained many specific declarations of what was “soon” to happen. (None of which actually happened, but which got him a reputation as a Prophetic Voice in The Modern Church. Why, I’m not sure. He continued for the next 30+ years, up to his death in 2011, to issue regular “prophetic words,” sometimes with very specific predictions, that never came to pass either. I’m not sure what some folks’ definition of “false prophet” is…)

 

 

Then there was Edgar Whisenant.

Whisenant had been an unknown Bible student until 1988, when he wrote and distributed two short books, titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 and On Borrowed Time.

The two books were often printed “back to back” as shown in this example. Their message was that the Rapture of the Church was to occur on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hoshana, in 1988, sometime between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13. The 88 “proofs” of this were based on a collection of dates and calculations from Biblical and historical factors.

Whisenant had no doubts about his date, stating: “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.” During one interview he made a declaration that dramatically demonstrated his level of confidence: “[I]f there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88.” (End Time Visions, Richard Abanes, p. 93)

Although many religious leaders in the US discounted Whisenant’s predictions, quite a few got on his bandwagon, including Paul and Jan Crouch, and their Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) ministry.

They went so far as to alter regular programming on September 11-13. Instead of airing their nightly Praise the Lord television talk show, they ran videotapes of prerecorded shows dealing with the Rapture. For non-Christians who might be watching, the revised programming included specific instructions on what to do in case Christian family members or friends disappeared and the world was thrust into the tribulation. (ETV p. 93)

Eventually, 300,000 copies of 88 Reasons were mailed free of charge to ministers across America, and 4.5 million copies were sold in bookstores and elsewhere.

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. 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 during Rosh Hashanah of 1989! Whisenant published his discovery in The Final Shout–Rapture Report 1989. “The time is short,” he said. “Everything points to it.” This publication was subsequently retitled The Final Shout–Rapture Report 1990 and has since been re-titled yearly as The Final Shout–Rapture Report 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and so on. He continues to revise his date annually. (ETV p. 94)

It would appear that Whisenant finally gave up. No Whisenant website exists, and he and his 88 Reasons have now entered the lore of false prophecies of the 20th century.

 In spite of the perennial failure of the prophetic speculations of men like Lindsey, Wilkerson, and Whisenant (and other pundits such as Jack Van Impe and John Hagee), huge numbers of Christians in America and around the world are perpetually sitting on the edge of their seats, expecting prophecy to be fulfilled imminently.  

They feed on every tidbit put out by their favorite religious prophetic speculators on the Internet, in print literature, and on TV and radio. Even formerly disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker jumped on the paranoia bandwagon with his re-born ministry!

Bakker used to teach that Christians would be “raptured” to heaven before the Bad Times came. But he’s changed his theology now and thinks Christians should expect to have to “survive” the Great Tribulation by their own efforts. So he’s selling “survival supplies” … everything from generators to WAY-overpriced food in big ol’ buckets,  via his TV program and through his website to make it easy for people to prepare for the imminent and inevitable. 

Bakker’s regular viewers and supporters seem to have no problem now thinking what they may “used to” have thought was unthinkable—that they will likely very soon be facing a world in total chaos. And if they can only endure through that–with the help of a stash of Jim’s Survival Supplies– they will find themselves seeing the Second Coming of Christ.

In spite of the fact that so many specific predictions over the past two centuries have failed miserably, that didn’t stop popular “Hebrew Roots” teacher Monte Judah from predicting, in 1996, that the Great Tribulation would definitely start in February or March of 1997. Monte had this to say:

Because I teach people to look for specific things, I am criticized as a “datesetter.” But in defense of the argument, I remind people that I didn’t make the Middle East Peace Accord of 1993 happen, nor did I select the Feast of Booths by the mouth of Zechariah. I am drawing a conclusion based on a Scriptural understanding. Further, I have openly called all men to examine my words and scrutinize them. If what I say does not happen, then brand me as a false prophet, listen to me no more, and heap the ridicule on to prevent others from making the same mistake. But I would remind you in accordance with the Scripture not to despise a prophetic utterance until it has  been proven false.

The irony of this whole situation is stunning. I call for the testing of all prophets. I have made my message and its measurement clear. If the altar is not stopped in Feb/Mar of 1997 in Jerusalem, then throw me on the trash heap. But if the altar service is stopped 3 1/2 years after the peace agreement, will you then trust God to deliver you?  Will you believe the other prophecies that follow? [from the Field Guide profile of Monte Judah.]

But of course, Monte changed his mind after the prophecy failed, and to this day wants people to still look to him as a great Spiritual Leader with “prophetic insight.”

The same is true of Michael John Rood, who decided in the early 1990s that the JWs were wrong… the 6000 years “of man’s rule” weren’t up in 1975—they would be up on May 5, 2000. And the Great Tribulation would start immediately, with Christ returning to set up His Kingdom in 2007. And … whaddaya know!… even though HIS elaborate predictions didn’t pan out either, he still persists to this day attempting to gather followers for his “prophetic ministry” and presenting himself as having an inside track on the Plan of God. [See the Field Guide Profile of Michael John Rood.]

The supporters and followers of all these men, and hundreds more … no, probably thousands more since the time of Christ… keep being convinced generation after generation that their chosen guru has “cracked the Bible Code” and they can be absolutely certain that the Second Coming and/or the End of the World is imminent and inevitable in their own lifetime. And thus they are ready and willing to believe that horrible, formerly unthinkable conditions will soon be on the earth, “worse” than any other time in history. They are willing to give time and resources sacrificially to spread this message and convince others to get prepared for these now “thinkable” horrors that are surely, definitely, positively right around the corner. And when those “prophecies” fail, just as the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance has long predicted…many if not most such gurus just make a few adjustments and set up shop again…and have no problem hanging on to many of their old supporters and gathering new supporters.

But I am convinced that they have it all wrong. I am convinced that they should go back to preaching that people should be preparing for the now unthinkable. Because what is now unthinkable for many “prophetic speculation” addicts as the possibility for the near future is what you see in the vivid illustration in the frame below:

No, that isn’t an “error” in the frame above. It’s a … “picture of NOTHING!”

WHAT IF the reality is that … NOTHING of big End Times prophetic import may happen for years, decades, or even generations to come? WHAT IF really, really bad economic times happen in America … just as they did in the Great Depression… but this doesn’t bring on the End of the World?  What if a variety of natural disasters occur, such as the 1783 eruption of Laki, but life goes on—just as it did after that disaster? What if even persecution comes on Christians from various sources—just as it did in the Inquisition—but this doesn’t bring on the End of the World?

I am concerned that millions upon millions are not prepared for that! If people really want to have the Bible as their guide to life, it does have some suggestions what its readers should be doing while waiting for The End. It might be good for them to go back and read those.

Because there isn’t one Bible passage that suggests that “calculating the date of the End” is the job of Christians. But there are plenty of passages that don’t just suggest, but come right out and say that the Christian’s job is to be salt and light in the world, no matter how unsavory and dark it gets. And other passages that say feeding the hungry and taking care of the needy is also their job.

I’d hate to see my generation of Christians being that totally self-absorbed, hermit group that hunkers down because they insist that Jesus must come on their schedule. And it must be soon. Very soon. Because being Salt and Light is just too much work. What a shame on those Christians if it ends up being mostly altruistic, open-hearted agnostics and atheists and secular humanists who are willing to do the grunt work of “ministering” to the needy of the world.

Now that’s a thought that ought to be causing Cognitive Dissonance in the minds of Christians, who have considered themselves to be the Hope of the World!

Posted in cognitive dissonance, Millerite movmement, prophecy, Uncategorized | 1 Comment