There's always someone predicting the end of the world, but for some reason the media has really fallen for Harold Camping. Here's a primer on his beliefs.
On October 17, 2003, Fred Clark (the blogger I referenced in the podcast) wrote the following:
It's easy to dismiss these loopy ideas as a lunatic fringe, but that would be a mistake. The widespread popularity of this End Times mania has very real and very dangerous consequences, for America and for the church. ("Premillennial dispensationalism" -- the technical terms for what these prophecy freaks teach -- teaches that the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to Christians living today. It also undermines the core of Christianity -- Jesus' death and resurrection, and the hope of that resurrection. These are not tangential matters for Christians.)
This is a good primer on apocalyptic Christianity. Dispensationalism is a truly toxic worldview - nihilistic, spiteful, opposed to progress and in support of chaos. Millions of people are exposed to this worldview on a regular basis - in church, the social functions they attend, and even the entertainment they consume. Many of those people are children, fed a steady diet of End Times theology from the time they're able to read. When their leaders turn out to be wrong, these children of the apocalypse either take sanctuary in denial or lose faith in everything they've ever known.
At the same time, there's no questioning that evangelicals - including the End Times set - have a great deal of influence over American politics. Evangelicals have been running the party machinery of the GOP for thirty years. They are an incredibly reliable voting bloc, consistently supporting Republicans even as those same Republicans all but ignore them. Beyond that, evangelicals are a major force in the culture. No one disputes this.
So why is it that it's so hard to find anyone who's willing to take evangelicals seriously? They're either dismissed as crazies or used as a source of mockery. We point and laugh and high-five each other for being smarter than the kooks, but there are millions of these "kooks." We all acknowledge that they're an influential group, but no one ever takes the time to really look at how these people live.
And that's why you need to read Slacktivist.
Hear more at Dramatis Interruptus.