After the Rapture

Well, the end of the world has come and gone and I’m pleased to report that the dead aren’t risen and Game of Thrones is on HBO tonight. But, after all of the jokey links and comments I’ve seen and shared on Twitter and Facebook this week, I got to thinking about why this was such a press-stopper, given that 99.999 percent of the world did not fall for it, nor would we. This was the publicity-grabbing show of a religious freakazoid and we were all happy to oblige him. Why is that?

I think it’s a combination of things. We’re big on disaster lately. Movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow rake it in; shows like The Walking Dead are huge hits. Maybe it’s because disaster is easy to imagine in a world where scientists are all warning us about global warming and the magnitude of natural disasters does seem to be up with all of the recent flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

But I think there’s another element to this: The rapture isn’t just about the pious getting their eternal reward. It’s just as much about the sinners getting their earthly torment. How mean-spirited is that? “I’m joining my lord in heaven while that awful next door neighbor dies in an earthquake, hah!”

These are people who can’t just rest assured that Christ will save them — they find the idea of salvation oh so much more delicious if they know that the unsaved will be left with fiery deaths and a zombie apocalypse to contend with while they wait in queue to be assigned their harps. So, maybe a lot of the snarky response to the rapture was spawned by an urge to respond to the insulting premise.

I’ve never taken Jesus in as my lord and savior, and it’s not going to happen, not even on my death bed. I believe that he likely existed, and said lots of good things. like “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and that golden rule of “Do unto others…”. I just stop short of the miracle birth and resurrection stuff — I’m far too good a Unitarian for that. So that makes me all the more dismissive of these people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus while they snicker at the idea of their fellow humans writhing in a fiery hell. I think that anyone who would condone the mass suffering of others as a fitting counterpoint to their eternal reward as pretty undeserving of that reward in the first place.

So here’s my take: the rapture is a hoot, and those who wish to be raptured are morons who deserve every bit of the ridicule that they received this week. If Christ is their teacher, they’ve never passed the first grade. Here’s my real question for those who would welcome an apocalypse as their reward:

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2 thoughts on “After the Rapture

  1. David Geilhufe

    I look at it as a lesson in viral fundraising. The organization (a nonprofit, by the way) needs to run a campaign.

    They think about what topics might engage their target donors. They also need an aspect that will build their list by going viral. They know from past campaigns that the rapture works pretty well.

    End result = they make a bunch of money & Peter Campbell promotes their message and their URL. Their target donor reads the word “moron” and, though they don’t believe a word of the “rapture” they feel aligned with the organization and click on the donation button on the website.

    Now, these guys badly need to do a little A/B testing because they are probably leaving 10% or more on the table since their donation experience is pretty bad.


    1. Peter Campbell Post author

      I don’t know, I think I’d take this as a “how not to market virally” campaign. If Camping took in a lot of money, the feds better be looking into that, because telling people “you’ll no longer need your earthly possessions come Saturday” and then saying “I’ll take them off your hands, particularly your cash” is all sorts of illegal, I’m sure. And promotion (by people like me) that their message is ridiculous isn’t all that valuable. I mean, I’ve seen examples where bad press is good press — we saw a disgruntled employee get an expose in a local paper about how inept San Francisco Goodwill was at pricing donations while I was employed there. But those who read the article saw a description of an org that was very mission-focused, to the point (at the time — we got better) of being not so good at running our business. Those who didn’t read the article saw a Best Buy-like circular for the bargains available at our stores. By the same token, the headlines about employee graft at San Jose’s Goodwill in the 90’s were a disaster for all of the Bay Area Goodwills. So Camping went viral, yes, but it’s not the sort of viral campaign that’s going to help him in the long run. It’s a banner for how ineffective he is at what he does, no matter how lightly or deeply you look into it.

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