Friday, May 20, 2011

Timely Questions for Reverend Harold Camping

Dear Reverend Harold Camping:

You must be very busy, what with the Rapture coming tomorrow and all, but I’m hoping for just a minute of your time. Actually “a minute of your time” is exactly what I want to ask you about. Because what’s really extraordinarily clever about your Bible calculations is that you’ve not only figured out God’s super-secret plan to Rapture the Earth on May 21, 2011, but also that he’s going to do it one time zone at a time. According to press accounts of your discovery:

the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand . . . will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone.

Not only was it smart of God to come up with that cool plan for phased destruction--I mean, Rapturing the whole Earth at once would be kind of unwieldy, especially the Christian parts where there are so many souls to collect--but it’s especially neat how he wrote down the whole plan in code all those thousands of years ago in the Bible. Pretty funny that he tried to throw us off the trail with that whole “but of that day and hour knoweth no man.” He sure fooled me, but he didn’t fool Harold Camping!

I do have a couple of questions, though.

No, I’m not going to ask “what about Daylight Saving Time.” Please. Obviously because God knows everything, he knew that we humans were going to invent Daylight Saving Time, so he factored that into his Bible code.

And same goes for the whole time zones / standard time concept. Sure, in Biblical times and for practically all of human history time was reckoned locally based on the position of the Sun. But again, I’m sure God foresaw that one day there would be railroads, telegraphs, and a corresponding need for uniformity. And because His plan was to Rapture Boston and Cincinnati at exactly the same moment, instead of the 52 minutes apart that 6 p.m. would occur in those cities if we still used “Local Apparent Solar Time” like Abraham and Jesus, God just coded that into the Bible, too.

But here’s the thing. Not to second-guess God or anything, but actually doing it the old fashioned way would kind of make more sense. Because you can totally see how a continuously moving wave of destruction, travelling at an equatorial velocity of just over 1500 feet per second so as to hit each spot at “true” 6 p.m., would work.

Whereas the whole-time-zones-at-a-time model presents some difficulties. Take for example a town that straddles the Texas / New Mexico border. When the Doomsday earthquake flattens everything on the Texas side, will it be made up of some kind of special shockwaves that know to stop at the state line? And what if it turns out that I’m one of the saved, and I get Raptured while straddling the border? Do I risk the right half of my soul being “left behind” for an hour?

And actually, speaking of Daylight Saving Time, did God make clear how your calculations should deal with places that don’t observe it? Like if I’m in Arizona do I get an extra hour, even though Armageddon is already in full swing due North in Utah? But if I step onto the Navajo reservation, which does observe Daylight Saving Time, then I’m toast? What if I’m a member of the Hopi nation, so my land is within the Navajo reservation, but my tribe keeps with the rest of Arizona in not observing Daylight Saving Time? Supposing I’m off the reservation at 5:15, and I want to get home before the Rapture to make sure I didn’t leave the oven on? Will God understand that I’m only passing through Navajo land to get to the Hopi section, and give me the extra 45 minutes?

Even apart from Daylight Saving issues, it seems like the Rapture is going to have to do some jumping around. If you look at a world time zone map, it’s pretty complicated. For all kinds of political reasons you’ve got places where it can be 6 p.m. already even though somewhere to the East still calls it 5 p.m. (Or 5:30 or even 5:15.)

And then you’ve got places like Kashmir, where no one can agree whether it’s part of India (GMT + 5:30) or Pakistan (GMT + 5:00). Do the Hindus get Raptured half an hour before the Muslims? I mean, I understand they’re all going to Hell anyway because they haven’t accepted Jesus, but it would be useful to know.

Also what about at the South Pole? By convention, Amundsen Scott Station uses New Zealand time, but technically speaking the Pole is in every time zone. From what I’ve heard, that place can become a den of iniquity for the “winter-over” crew, owing to the gender imbalance and prolonged isolation in darkness.  So the schedule on which their souls will be called to account is not just an academic question.

And of course there’s the International Space Station to consider. Here we see why it was definitely smart for God to choose standard instead of solar time. Can you imagine if he had to Rapture the astronauts 16 times in one day?! My only question is whether He’ll use Greenwich Mean Time, which the station normally follows, or adjust for the crew’s current temporary shift to Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Mission Elapsed Time. Your Bible calculations take that into account, right?

I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response to these questions, preferably by 6 p.m. tomorrow. 6 p.m. my time, I mean.


  1. I'm bookmarking that timezone map. Will be so helpful.
    I was always amused by Australia being split into half hour zones.


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