Atheists, Christians Eye Rapture Predictions Warily
Weekly summary of world news
Norm Olson May 17, 2011
While Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping warns the world that the Rapture will happen on May 21, the group American Atheists is calling it “nonsense” and advertising a party for “heathens and skeptics,” notes The Christian Post. “The Rapture: You KNOW it’s Nonsense. 2000 Years of ‘Any Day Now,’ ” says the atheist group’s billboard in Oakland, Calif. “Learn the Truth at our Rapture Party, May 21–22.” The billboard is designed to mock “two millennia of false predictions that the world was about to end.” Parties to celebrate “another rapture that wasn’t” are scheduled for Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and Oakland, the latter where Camping’s radio ministry is based. The ad was erected in response to billboards that went up in recent months that say Jesus “is coming again” in May. Spearheaded by Camping’s Family Radio, the ads direct the public to wecanknow.com, where they are told that May 21 is the day that the rapture of believers will take place, and October 21 is the day God will destroy the world. “This is nothing new,” said American Atheists President Dave Silverman in a statement. “Self-declared Christian prophets have a long track record predicting the end of the world. What distinguishes this latest round of warnings, though, is the sheer scale, and the cultural backdrop of ‘gloom and doom’ over everything from the economy to the environment.” Atheists aren’t the only ones rejecting the prediction, however. Christians have argued that predicting the date is unbiblical. No one can know the day or the hour, they say, citing Scripture. “The end of times is something that we all expect and hope for and look forward to, but most Christians aren’t in the business of trying to predict that date. They are working toward that date,” Dr. Thomas B. Slater, professor of New Testament at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview. Still, many evangelical Christians don’t deny that the end times are near. A recent Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service poll, conducted after Japan was struck by its largest earthquake in recent history, found that 67 percent of evangelicals believe natural disasters are evidence of the end times. Pastors are also preaching that the end of the world really is near. Pastor Greg Laurie from Southern California admitted that the “end of the world” message has been preached many times before, but recent events such as the massive earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and the unrest in the Middle East make it evident that the return of Jesus Christ is closer. But again, Christians—except people like Camping and his followers—are not sure when that day will be. In the meantime, while atheists party and “plan a secular future with like-minded people,” Christians are being urged to get right with God and bring people to Christ.
- Former Arkansas Gov. and Fox News talk show host Mike Huckabee said his decision not to enter the Republican race for the White House is largely spiritual, reports CBN.com. Huckabee made the announcement this past weekend on his Fox News cable program. He told his viewers while he believes he would make a good president, he does not feel led to seek his party’s nomination. “It really came down for me to a very personal, a very intimate and—as I explained last night in the announcement—a spiritual decision,” Huckabee said. “Sometimes, people ask me, ‘Does God speak to me in an audible voice?’ And the truth is, no. It’s a lot louder than that,” he explained. “But I do believe that for those of us who are believers, there is a sense of peace.” “And I’ll put it this way, Chris,” he continued. ”Last night, I laid my head on the pillow and had a very good night’s sleep, and I was at peace with the decision.” The 55-year-old Baptist minister insisted that he could have captured the GOP nomination, citing polls that showed he could score strong even in the Northeast and among the less conservative rank-and-file party members. “All the factors say go, but my heart says no,” he said. Huckabee joins Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence on the sidelines of the presidential election. Political analysts say his announcement makes an already wide open Republican field even more unpredictable. For now, Huckabee will wait to endorse another candidate.
- A Lutheran congregation in Edmond, Okla., may be the latest church to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as it voted Sunday to terminate its relationship with the body and become part of another Lutheran denomination. Joe Palmer, congregation president and president of the church council, said with the vote, the church’s ties with the ELCA will officially be terminated June 30, the end of the church’s fiscal year, reports newsok.com. Palmer, 63, said the church’s break with the Evangelical Lutheran Church—the largest and most liberal Lutheran denomination in the country—is rooted in what the congregation sees as the denomination’s departure from Scripture. “We say we did not leave the ELCA. The ELCA has left us as traditional Christians. That’s the crux of the issue.” Palmer said a policy change made at the ELCA’s churchwide assembly in August 2009 “raised the red flag” to church members regarding the denomination’s perceived shift away from Scripture. At that time, the denomination’s leaders voted to allow pastors in same-sex relationships to be ordained and serve in the denomination. However, Palmer said the same-sex issue wasn’t necessarily the deciding factor in the church’s decision to split from its denomination. Rather, the policy change further heightened members’ concerns about the denomination’s questioning of the authority of Scripture. He said church members already had been troubled by debate among ELCA leadership about whether the Virgin birth and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are true, among other things. “This is a humanist agenda, not a Scriptural agenda,” Palmer said.
- A mother is angry that her 16-year-old daughter had a secret abortion arranged by a school counselor, reports Sunday Star-Times and LifeNews.com. Helen, not her real name, found out about the termination four days after it had happened. “I was horrified. Horrified that she’d had to go through that on her own, and horrified her friends and counselors had felt that she shouldn’t talk to us,” she said. She had suspected something was wrong, but her daughter insisted her tears were over everyday teenage dramas. But Helen confronted her daughter’s friends, who said the counselor had taken the girl for a scan and to doctors. “I didn’t know that they could do that.” Helen said teachers could discuss how a student was doing in school or phone parents when their child misbehaved, but would then keep life-changing situations such as abortions secret. Her daughter had since told her the counselor “wasn’t very forthcoming” with advice. The counselor did ask the girl if she had talked to her parents, but never pursued it. Helen said follow-up counseling for her daughter was “nonexistent.” She concedes patient confidentiality is a tricky issue and said her child feared she’d be disowned. “She’s come to realize that’s not the case. But if you’re responsible for them, surely you should be told.”
- Just when it appears Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels found a way to make up with pro-life voters after his “truce” talk on abortion by signing a bill to ban Planned Parenthood funding, the Indiana governor has done it again, according to LifeNews.com. Following the major speech by his wife before hundreds of cheering Hoosiers, Governor Daniels talked with reporters and answered a variety of questions. He later accepted an invitation from dozens of college students to head down the street and share a drink. The students asked him who he might choose as a potential vice-presidential running mate, and Daniels named former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice. Although her foreign policy views and expertise on defense and terrorism are unquestioned, she has upset pro-life voters with her views favoring legalized abortion.
- Pro-abortion Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) announced today he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate. Serving since 1989, Kohl has “racked up one of the worst pro-abortion records, supporting partial-birth abortion, taxpayer funding of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law,” according to a LifeNews.com report. Kohl’s retirement is yet another blow to the Democratic Party, whose hopes of retaining control of the Senate are becoming quite grim. With Kohl’s retirement, Democrats will now have to defend six open seats and reelect 17 Democratic incumbents. Currently, only two Republican seats are open in and only eight Republican incumbents are up for reelection. Overcoming these numbers will be a tall order for Democrats, even with their party’s most beloved figure at the top of the ticket, said the report.
- Key members of the conservative Republican Study Committee introduced a bill to make good on their pledge to “cut, cap and balance” federal spending, reports Vision to America. RSC Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) endorsed the bill submitted last Friday by top-ranking GOP appropriator Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.) that would cap spending at 18 percent of GDP. “It’s simple. Spend what you take in. What the RSC is bringing forward is a cut, cap, and balance approach: cut spending significantly in , cap spending in the midterm, and long-term do a balanced budget that will actually be a game changer,” Jordan said at a press conference led by Kingston on Friday. Kingston explained that his legislation “simply says that revenues and spending will be coordinated as a percentage of GDP–it balances the budget within five years.”
- The ACLU is saying religious symbols on a building that has hosted the graduating class of Neptune High School in Ocean Grove, N.J., for the past six decades, in ceremonies that often have religious undertones, makes the ceremony unconstitutional because it violates the separation of church and state, reports Vision to America. The ACLU’s complaint to the school district was filed on behalf of a woman who attended the ceremony last year but doesn’t live in the district. The religious symbols include two signs inside the Great Auditorium–a wooden, dome structure that was built in 1894 and has hosted eight presidents–one of which says, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD,” and the other says, “SO BE YE HOLY.” A 20-foot-high white cross also hangs from the front of the building. According to the NBC New York website, the ACLU says it is not threatening legal action and it wants the children to graduate in the auditorium, but it wants the cross covered. Another news report, however, says the ACLU will not comment as to whether a lawsuit is pending.
- Increasingly, it seems that the American flag is joining toy guns and dodgeball on the banned-from-school list, according to a report in Vision to America. And the latest story on this front involves The Butterfield Elementary in Orange, Mass., where a teacher told an 11-year-old boy that he may not hang his depiction of Old Glory because it might “offend” another student. The boy, Frankie Girard, had drawn the picture in art class but then found that his teacher didn’t share his patriotism. Says his father, John, “He was denied hanging the flag up. And he asked if he could just even hang it on his desk, and he was told no. He could take the picture that he drew and take it home and be proud of it there.”
- The Committee on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has just published a full critical evaluation of the new NIV Bible, concluding that the latest translation “cannot be considered sufficiently trustworthy in its translation of gender language,” reports The Christian Post. The findings were consistent with the group’s November statement that refused to commend the 2011 NIV (actually copyrighted 2010) due to “gender-related” language problems it previously identified in the TNIV. In the new NIV Bible, the Committee for Bible Translation–translators of the NIV–put back in some passages masculine pronouns, including “son,” “he,” “him,” “his,” “father,” and “brother.” The new translation debuted in March and was promoted by publisher Zondervan as “gender-neutral” and the latest update to the best-selling NIV in 25 years. But those changes were not enough to satisfy the CBMW. The new 23-page review by CBMW found that the latest NIV translation included 2,766 gender-related “inaccuracies” from the TNIV, only a 25 percent improvement from the 3,699 “inaccuracies” of the TNIV.
- A blood test that can show how fast someone is aging–and offers the tantalizing possibility of estimating how long they have left to live–is to go on sale to the general public in Britain later this year, reports bighealthreport.com. The controversial test measures vital structures on the tips of a person’s chromosomes, called telomeres, which scientists believe are one of the most important and accurate indicators of the speed at which a person is aging. Scientists behind the test said it will be possible to tell whether a person’s “biological age,” as measured by the length of their telomeres, is older or younger than their actual chronological age. Medical researchers believe that telomere testing will become widespread within the next five or 10 years, but already some scientists question its value and whether there should be stronger ethical controls over its wider use. In addition to concerns about how people will react to a test for how “old” they really are, some scientists are worried that telomere testing may be hijacked by unscrupulous organizations trying to peddle unproven anti-aging remedies and other fake elixirs of life.
- Voters in the Swiss city of Zurich have voted overwhelmingly against proposals to ban assisted suicide and so-called suicide tourism in a referendum on Sunday, reports bighealthreport.com. Some 85 percent of the 278,000 votes cast were against proposals to ban assisted suicide, while 78 percent opposed outlawing the practice for foreigners. Zurich is home to two assisted suicide organizations, Dignitas and Exit. While Exit helps only permanent residents in Switzerland, many of those coming to Switzerland to use the services of Dignitas come from other parts of Europe where assisted suicide is outlawed, turning the Swiss city into a prime destination for “suicide tourism.” The Evangelical People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union had sought to tighten up Switzerland’s relaxed suicide laws by requiring anyone wanting to commit assisted suicide in Zurich to live in the city for at least a year beforehand. Switzerland’s two main parties, the Swiss People’s Party and the Social Democrats, opposed the proposals.