Notable (and Hilarious) Examples of the Christian Right's Failed Prophecies
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The Christian right in America, like all organized religions, claims to have a correct and exclusive understanding of God's will. To hear them tell it, the almighty creator of the universe has strong opinions about corporate tax rates, firearm ownership and what consenting adults do with their genitals, and he's delegated them to speak on his behalf.
But if they want us to believe they have this authority, it seems only fair to consider their track record. After all, the Bible itself tells how to identify false prophets, saying that if they're not really speaking for God, their predictions won't come true -- a very sensible test!
It's a test that the American religious right should be worried about, because their history, to put it politely, doesn't inspire confidence. Many of the most powerful and influential members of their movement, including presidential candidates, media moguls and the founders of churches, have repeatedly claimed to have God-given visions of the future that proved to be completely and utterly wrong. Here are some of the more notable (and hilarious) examples of their prophetic blunders.
Failed doomsday predictions
The world-renowned Harold Camping was just the latest in a long line of Christian preachers who've made a profitable career out of erroneously predicting the apocalypse. If anything, Camping was only unusual in that he admitted his blunder after falling flat on his face (although he didn't offer to refund any of his followers who spent their life savings on spreading his message).
Other prominent Christian sects that have gotten it wrong are still around, in some cases recycling decades-old predictions as if they were brand-new. The Jehovah's Witnesses made a habit of erroneously predicting the apocalypse throughout the 20th century. One of their founders, J.F. Rutherford, wrote a book in 1920 called Millions Now Living Will Never Die , in which he claimed among other things that the patriarchs of Israel would be resurrected from the dead by the year 1925.
A little more recently, there was Hal Lindsay, author of such '70s-era classics as The Late Great Planet Earth and The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon . Along the same lines, a Christian author named Edgar Whisenant wrote a popular book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 . Whisenant's book was influential: most infamously, Paul and Jan Crouch's Trinity Broadcast Network preempted their regular programming on Rosh Hashanah in 1988 to run a prerecorded tape of instructions for those who'd been left behind by the Rapture.
To be fair, when it comes to end-of-the-world hysteria, it's not just devotees of the Rapture and the Antichrist who've dropped the ball, so to speak. You probably remember that last year, the supposedly significant date of December 21, 2012 saw a surge of excitement and dread among New Age devotees, many of whom flocked to holy sites all around the world in the hopes of surviving whatever they believed was going to happen. (My favorite story was about the mountain of Bugarach in rural southern France: pilgrims believed that there were alien ships hiding out underneath, biding their time until Doomsday when they'd emerge and whisk people away from the planet.)
Pat Robertson's dubious prognostications
Pat Robertson, the one-time GOP presidential candidate and religious-right media mogul, has repeatedly tried to predict the future, with roughly the same accuracy as a dart-throwing monkey.
In 1980, Robertson predicted the start of World War III, telling his audience that God said the year would be full of "sorrow and bloodshed that will have no end soon, for the world is being torn apart, and my kingdom shall rise from the ruins of it." ( source)