If, At First, You Don't Succeed, Fail, Fail, Again
The explosion of apocalypticism in our "modern" 20th & 21st centuries
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1981 CE - It's the Feast of Trumpets '81. Do you know where your Charles Taylor prophecy is? If you answered, "In the ashcan", you're absolutely right!

1981 CE - The Rev. Sun Myung Moon sets a second date for his promised Kingdom of Heaven. Oddly enough, his Kingdom wouldn't come.

1981 CE - 'Toxic waste masquerading as a human being' is about the nicest description I can give, without sacrificing accuracy, of Teleminister Arnold Murray. A mouthpiece of the dangerously demented Christian Identity movement, this troll in a cheap suit can be found spewing screwy Biblical interpretations and racist, anti-Semitic bile almost nightly from his Arkansas -based TV station. Back in the seventies, one of his favorite topics was the Antichrist and how certain he was that the critter would be popping up in 1981. Naturally, when it didn't pop as predicted, he merely changed dates and kept droning.

1981 CE - In his 1978 book, "Future Survival", Pastor Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel chainchurches, serving fast-faith throughout Southern CA, made a prediction for a 1981 Welcome Home, Jesus party. He would later come to regret that. Still, like many others who seem to have so little else to look forward to, Chuck continues to blab tediously on about the Second Coming at every possible opportunity. He just steers clear of pin-pointing any precise due dates, nowadays.

December 31, 1981 CE - Speaking of tedious, best-selling paranoia peddler Hal Lindsey declared in his book, "The Late, Great Planet Earth" that the Rapture would be forthcoming no later than 1981. Like many other neurotic doom junkies of the day, Hal was stuck on the year 1948 as the moment the apocalypse clock got ticking. Since the End would have to come within a generation of that date and pop-wisdom said a generation was forty years, it would have to be scheduled for 1988. Now, since there would first need to be seven years of Trib time, and before any nasty Tribulation stuff could go down, all the good little Christians would have to go up, that clearly put the Great Up-Sucking at 1981.

  There was nothing new to Hal's message at all. What he had to say amounted to little more than a regurgitation of the cataclysmic claptrap that hundreds of other doomsmiths had been shopping around for years. But, he did have a knack for spiffy packaging. Lindsey used a technique now common in the biz: He methodically re-attributed all sorts of Bible passages to 20th century references, pegging Armageddon as a world-wide nuclear holocaust and re-casting a menagerie of Bible beasties as modern military machinery. Adopting a style that was popularly slangy on the one hand and dependent on twisted uses of political, scientific and military jargon on the other, Lindsey was able to convey to his readers a sense of immediacy and relevance to their lives that others in his field had yet to achieve. His use of buzz-words and selectively misleading technical data gave his bizarre conclusions the patina of "scientific" validity. He also had the great fortune to have his scare-tract made into a B-movie narrated by Orson Welles (whose career, by then, had dwindled down to that and hawking cheap wine on TV) and it managed to reach an even wider audience of the chronically gullible.

  If there was anything at all unique to his 1981 harpings, it was his reliance on the claims made in another book, "The Jupiter Effect". Lindsey's style was to describe in loving, lingering, near-orgasmic detail all the appalling, gory, blood-drenched disasters that would occur due to this singular astral alignment. Then he'd justify it all by pointing to this one "scientific" text. A practice he continued in his later book, "The 1980's: Countdown to Armageddon", even though the authors of "The Jupiter Effect" had publicly refuted their earlier findings. The failure of Lindsey's predictions to come anywhere near the neighborhood of true has never slowed him down in the least. He just dropped all reference to the Jupiter Effect, now refers to a generation as being anywhere between 40 and 100 years and keeps on making the same tired claims over and over, repositioning the target date as needed.

Between 1981-1992 CE - If you're at all like me, then you just can't get enough o' those wacky pyramidology predictions! (Okay, so... like,... yeah... maybe I have been doing this for too long... Your point?) The next example we have comes from full-time prophecy teachers (yes, people actually get paid to do that sort of thing) David Webber & Noah Hutchings. In their book, "Prophecy In Stone", they included this cute little chart that placed the beginning of the Trib somewhere between '81-'85 and the Second Homecoming between '88-'92. Unless I missed something, neither of those predictions panned out terribly well. Still, it takes a whole lot more than merely being dead wrong to stop a prophet wannabe. The duo simply reprinted a new edition of their book, almost identical to the old one. The only changes were a new title, "New Light on the Great Pyramid", a new chapter on the pyramids of Mars and, most importantly, a set of brand new doomsdates.

1982 CE - Charlie Taylor and his annual false prophecy say "Hi!".

1982 CE - In case you were beginning to ask yourself, "Hey, where's that reliable ol' zipperhead, Pat Robertson in all this?". Fear not! No discussion of fanatical apocalypse pushers could possibly be complete without a mention of Patty's rantings. Usually good for an amusing screed or two regarding more localized catastrophes, like his claims that he could move killer hurricanes with his mind, Pat "Talk Louder, I Can't Hear You Over The Voices In My Head" Robertson once pegged 1982 as the big date. The Soviet Union, he declared, would invade Israel and touch off the nuclear Armageddon that would spell the end of everything. No less than two billion people were to die in screaming, radioactive agony according to Patty's glorious imaginings. When this charming scenario failed to materialize, Pat just turned his attention toward other disasters, like AIDs, earthquakes, fires, floods and his 1988 presidential campaign.

1982 CE - Hal Lindsey wasn't the only one to get his panties in a bunch over the Jupiter Effect. When the book came out in 1974, it became an instant hit with twirling credophiles everywhere. The fact that the tome was authored by two otherwise respectable astrophysicists, John Gribben and Stephen Plagemann, lent the inane postulations within an entirely misplaced air of legitimacy. It carried a kind of scientific caché that Luddites always openly disdain, yet secretly yearn for and try to back their nutty claims up with whenever even remotely possible.

  The whole idea behind the Jupiter Effect, was that in 1982, nine whole planets in our solar system (including Jupiter, natch') were to align their bad selves in a trés impressive heliocentric conjunction. Their combined gravitational pull would cause a huge increase in sunspots which would send deadly solar-type particles whomping into our atmosphere in an entirely uncouth fashion. This would muss up our planet's rotation no end and make the tectonic plates very unhappy, causing killer earthquakes of like, two billion zillion kadillion point six on the Richter scale to jiggle world-wide.

  What nobody - especially not the likes of Hal Lindsey - bothered to point out, was that the book was never intended to be more than just an exercise in astrophysical mental masturbation. A theoretical "what if" festival, without much of any real substance behind it. As it became obvious that the text was being misinterpreted and wildly abused by the paranoid set, Gribbin publicly refuted the book's conclusions and re-emphasized its entirely speculative nature. Didn't matter. Refuting the news of an oncoming disaster is never as popular as concocting the news of one. Even when '82 rolled over into '83 with nary an atmospheric or tectonic bobble of any note, Jupiter-jumping True Believers did mental contortions for ages afterward, trying to give their beloved astral apocalypse something to show for itself.

April 25, 1982 CE - The currency in our economy is kept fluid in any number of ways: Through the purchase of consumer goods, the sale and development of real estate, investments in stocks and bonds, government programs, jobs and benefits and all the various ins and outs of high finance. It's always interesting to note, too, just how large a part delusion plays in the maintenance of our economy. People who may skimp on such things as food and clothing, transport and shelter, can nevertheless, almost always be counted on to splurge when it comes to indulging in their fondest fearful fantasies.

  Case in point: The folks at the Tara Centers, guided by New Age nutcake Benjamin Creme, who back in '82 bought a slew of very pricey full-page ads in newspapers all over America for the sole purpose of announcing, "The Christ Is Now Here!" for the edification of readers, fishmongers and parakeets nation-wide. The ads went on to assert that this Christ person would be revealing himself (not too completely, one would hope) within the following two months. When the two months went by without anybody revealing much of anything to anyone, (well, nothing of a Christy-ish nature, anyhow) the Tara Center people felt compelled to throw more money into the recycling bin. This time, buying ads that scolded the readership, telling them that Christ was a no-show on account of the fact that their consciousness "was not quite right". Well, of course not! I mean, look at the demographics! Now, maybe if they'd advertised in Harper's or The New Yorker...

1983 CE - Now, you didn't think we could pass '83 without a friendly apocalyptic salute from Charles Taylor did you?

1984 CE - The JWs again. Pitiful, isn't it? This time, they didn't go quite so whole hog about getting the flock to stop everything shy of breathing before the Big Day. So, even though there was disillusionment and some defections, there wasn't the wild stampede for the exits like there had been after '75. As they had so many times before, the leadership did their revisionism dance, re-writing all their literature to remove the offending 1984 deadline and blaming the mess on a lack of comprehension skills by "Satanically mislead" Witnesses.

1984 CE - Woah! Charles Taylor déjà vu all over again!

1984 - 1999 CE - According to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, leader of his very own cult of Rajneesh (and I guess you can do that sort of thing when you have a cool name like, "Rajneesh"; it might be a bit more difficult to convince followers to join, say, a cult of Wally), this was the period of time his prophetic apocalypse was due to take place. Originally a Jain, Rajneesh was a really big fan of the Creed-in-a-Cuisinart school of theology. His cult combined elements from sources as disparate as Hinduism, Jainism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, ancient Greek philosophy, Christianity, psychology, meditation, chanting, naturism, primal screaming and the ever-popular Free Love. Somewhere in the mid-70's, Bhaggy decided that the only way the human race could possibly be saved was if everybody suddenly just up and followed him. Of course, he was only continuing in the fine, old tradition of "One True Faiths" everywhere. Still, no religious movement can make a claim like that work unless they first come up with something terrible to be saved from. So, Bhaggy provided a goody: Mass destruction on a global scale and from every conceivable threat: Nuclear annihilation, Biblical floods, earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions, plagues, famines. I mean, talk about your Armageddon overkill! About the only things he left out were giant comets and the film career of Pauly Shore.

  Unfortunately for the Raj-man, the only real disaster was his attempt at setting up his cult in the US. After pissing off the entire community of Antelope, Oregon, (which he and his group tried to humbly re-name, "Rajneeshpurama") one of his followers was convicted of murder, two others for conspiracy to murder and Bhaggo himself was tossed out of the country for immigration violations. Even changing his name to Osho didn't help his karma any. Returning to India, (which he'd left to avoid charges of tax evasion and fraud) his health began to fail and he died in 1990, most likely while meditating on sweet visions of the blood-drenched end of the world.

1985 CE - Pentecostal preacher Lester Sumrall wrote of his unshakable certainty in the end of the world in a little tome entitled, "I Predict 1985". By 1986, he'd published a new book entitled, "I Predict 2000".

1985 CE - Guess who? Chucky T. and his ever-ending prophecy!

August 1985 CE - Retired NATO General and cock-eyed optimist Sir John Hackett wrote a book back in 1977 entitled, "The Third World War: August 1985". Oddly enough, despite the title and the overall "theme", the book tended to steer clear of hysteria and hyperbole and concentrated on a relatively reasonable (given the politics of the time) worst-case scenario for global conflict. It's currently out of print, but back in the Disco decade it was apparently a huge bestseller... Of course, so were Bee Gee's records and pet rocks.
(Thanks to Chris Nelson for this particular info item)

1986 CE - What would the year be without a Charles Taylor prophetic fluff?

1986 CE - Speaking of return engagements, Moses David and his endlessly gullible Children Of God came back in the news with Mo's shiny new prophecy that there was soon to be a USSR vs. USA/Israel fight for the World Championship. More than that, he planned to put his money on the hammer n' sickle. Of course, the real winner of the match would be the Antichrist. But, he'd only hold the title for the next seven years until the J-Man entered the ring. Mo lived just long enough to see absolutely nothing come of any of this, but right to the last, he was planning out a whole new set of Doomsdates for his flock to get farklempt over.

1987 CE - Chucky T. checks in with his no-show Feast o' Trumpets band.

August 16-17, 1987 CE - New Ager ragers everywhere worked themselves up to foaming over the two day navel-gazing fest that they advertised as the "Great Harmonic Convergence". Setting up international intellect flatlining zones they dubbed "power centers", the meditating multitudes gathered all over the globe to send out psychic signals to cleanse the Earth's ground-in dirt stained karma. Claiming afterward that the planet displayed tremendous vibratory up-shifts, (though just what a vibratory up-shift consisted of and by what means it was measured, none of the NA's bothered to say) the Convergees dubbed the whole thing a spectacular success. It would seem that we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to these psychic soldiers: The few, the proud, the harmonic who put themselves on the front lines, defending us denizens of the earth against such dread enemies as Quetzalcoatl, Myrva the cosmic "death rock" and Kryon the Magnetic Master. And to think, I didn't even send them a card!

1988 CE - Season's Greetings again from Charlie T.

1988 CE - This would have been the year for Hal Lindsey's Armageddon... had he not been blowing it out his boxers, that is.

1988 CE - In an attempt to stand out from the growing crowd of palpitating prophets, ace eschatology enthusiast Colin Deal turned out a tome called, "Christ Returns by 1988: 101 Reasons Why". Within its derivative pages, he whipped up your standard frothy mixer of Biblical prophecy, Christian-friendly astrology and that recurrent favorite, pyramidology to come up with 1988 as the year for the world's toodle-oo. So much for standing out.

1988 CE - Televangelist J.R. Church is what one could call a Divini-tease. Forever waving about portents of a Second Coming, only to pull back at the last moment and declare with a wink that he'd never suggested any such thing, nudge, nudge. Instead, J.R. lets the Bible's Psalms make all his suggestions for him. Well, sort of. In truth, it's his singular, creative interpretation of the Psalms and his Twilight Zone assertion that each one represents a year of the 20th century that gives them whatever prophetic punch he claims they have.

  In his '86 opus, "Hidden Prophecies In The Psalms", he went to great lengths to prove that Psalms 88 through 95 plotted out the world's blood-drenched death throes, from a 1988 Rapture straight on to a 1995 Last Judgment. By the time 1990 rolled in without a single free-flying Christian to be found, J.R. madly dashed off a revised edition with as many prophetic holes patched over as he could manage. The actual quality of those patches didn't matter too much, though. For instance, in a simply stunning display of Televangel Logic, he even went so far as to assert that his false prophecies were a fulfillment of prophecy! His latest kick has been a flirtation with the year 2000. But, his more serious courtship efforts are targeted at 2001-2007.

September 11-12, 1988 CE - The Trinity Broadcasting Network (motto: "Tune In And Send Us Money Or Else Burn In The Flesh-Searing Flames Of Everlasting Hellfire Like All The Other Dirty Godless Heathens, You Worthless Sinner To Whom We Offer Christ's Love") were so certain that the End was coming on fast, that they canceled all their regular programming. In its place, they screened instructional videos for poor, destitute unbelievers, informing them what to do when their friends, family, bus drivers, etc. went flittering up into the air like so many flies off a spooked yak. I'm not sure which is the more bizarre notion, that people can get spontaneously sucked up into the heavens, or that unbelievers in any number are watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

September 29-30, 1988 CE - Meantime, out in the wilds of Wichita, KS, Hart Armstrong, president of Christian Communications was busily sending out RAPTURE ALERTS in all his publications. Being the good Christian he was, he naturally felt compelled to warn both faithful and faithless alike of the potential dangers inherent in this oh-so-likely event. In fact, I'm sure that his concerns ran so strongly that he breathed a sigh of relief when absolutely nothing in the slightest happened. Yup, I'll bet his heart was really gladdened about that.

October, 1988 CE - Israel turned 40 and evangelicals all over the place held their breath in anticipation. This may explain a lot, when one considers what oxygen starvation can do to the brain.

Between 1988-1996 CE - When the original dates listed in their book, "Prophecy In Stone" came up empty, David Webber and Noah Hutchings just cynically re-issued the thing with a new title and a new set of pointless dates.

September 11-13, 1988 CE - There are times I'm given to wonder about NASA's hiring policies. The Challenger disaster was one incident that caused me to be dubious about the quality control issue, the publication of the loopy natterings of retired engineer Edgar Whisenant was another. In his book, "88 Reasons The Rapture Is In '88", Eddie used his space program honed math skills to work out the precise date Jesus would be re-entering Earth's atmosphere. He was absolutely certain that he had that deadline nailed. In his words, "Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say that unequivocally." ...Well, who could argue with that?

1989 CE - Without missing a beat, Edgar Whisenant published a new book, "89 Reasons The Rapture Is In '89".

1989 CE - The Charles Taylor prophetic fake-out tradition continues...

1989 CE - Described as Christian radio's National Enquirer (a mind-boggling statement when one considers the context) Southwest Radio Church of Oklahoma City has distinguished itself by breathlessly reporting only news items of the most dubious worth. Such as their warning that the Jupiter Effect would throw Mars out of its orbit, sending it into a death-spiral towards earth and that deep space radio signals were messages from God... or possibly Satan... It varied with the broadcast. It should come as no surprise then, that two of the big names associated with the SRC are David Webber and Noah Hutchings of "Prophecy In Stone" fame. After all, like attracts like.

  In the mid-seventies, the SRC published a pamphlet called, "God's Timetable for the 1980s" that laid out in detail all the various horrors and atrocities that were to plague the decade prior to Christ's return engagement in 1989. Of course all of their prophecies came true!... And half-human Pigboys are raised in secret government laboratories, the UN Security Council is made up entirely of flesh-eating zombie marmosets and aliens do John Travolta's dental work.

Sometime in the 1990's CE - Founder and Medicine Chief of the Bear Tribe Medicine Society, Sun Bear engaged in years of perfectly understandable wishful thinking when he spoke of having visions of urban doom. Race riots and ecological meltdown would come together to spell the end of the grasping, materialistic, manifest destiny society that currently squatted all over what used to be tribal lands. Only a return to the wise and eco-friendly ways of the indigenous peoples would save those lucky few who made it through the cataclysm... Well, yeah, that... Or maybe just opening a whole lot of reservation-based casinos.

April 23, 1990 CE - If ever there was an industry I would be perfectly happy to see remain an exclusive boy's club, it would be the Doomsday Cult biz. Especially that particularly twisted branch, the militia nuts. Nevertheless, a few women have managed to um, "distinguish" themselves in this heavily patriarchal field. "Messenger" Elizabeth Clare Prophet, (a.k.a. Guru Ma) leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant is one such lucky gal. Lizzy (or Ma) founded her cult with her husband back in '58 and set herself up as prime expounder of a stir-fry theology of Christian mysticism, Eastern philosophy and occult spiritualism, with some serious Guns & Ammo overtones tossed in for extra flavor.

  By the '80's, she'd settled her gang of thousands into a charming underground mega-bomb shelter in a 63,000 acre Montana (where else?) compound to wait it out 'till the End. According to Liz, (or any of the army of dead guys she "channels") the world would be entering a phase of some major bad nuclear-style karma starting April 23, 1990 and things were not going to look any rosier for the next dozen years. Her efforts to tastefully appoint her cozy troglodytic abode with the very best in military weaponry resulted in the arrest and conviction of a clutch of her followers (hubby included) on Federal weapons charges. Soon afterward, the first of her four adult children cut and ran. Naturally, the rather obvious lack of any nuclear war starting on or near April 23rd didn't bother Lizzy in the least. Where doomsdates are concerned, bait n' switch is standard procedure and she just shifted her chronology a bit and dug in ever more deeply.

1990/1991 CE - Rev. Peter Ruckman, a preacher neurotically in love with the King James Bible to the exclusion of all other versions, worked out a painfully convoluted chronology that placed the End somewhere between 1990-1991. When the years came and went unadventfully, he went the usual route of changing the dates and harping ever onward.

1990 - 1997 CE - Back in 1983, prophecy teacher Mary Stewart Relfe started raving away about the dreamland heart-to-hearts she and God were having lately. At God's insistence, (and who could say no to God?) Mary jotted down a handy-dandy time-table for the following End Times to come. First up in 1989 would be the outbreak of World War III, followed in 1990 by the official start of the Trib. Now if everything was working out nicely and staying on schedule, somewhere between then and 1997, the US would be vaporized and Armageddon would begin... oh, and the Rapture would be sandwiched in there someplace. Its exact date wasn't quite finalized yet. But, it was definitely on the Lord's "to-do" list.

1991 CE - Nation Of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whose hatred of whites, especially Jews, is as legendary as his nerdo-fascist fashion sense, just went into paroxysms of unbridled joy when the Gulf War broke out. He saw it as the beginning of the apocalypse Elijah Mohammed had been so very keen on back in the sixties. Unable to keep his delight to himself, Louis spoke out publicly and was quoted as saying that the war would, "be that which the scriptures refer to as the War of Armageddon, which is the final war". Doubtless, it did his lil' heart good to see the footage of the burning oil fields and hear the reports about poison gas. Doubtless, too, his good mood evaporated when the war came to a surprisingly quick and underwhelming end.

March 31, 1991 CE 09:00 AM EST - An Aussie cult in New South Wales came to be convinced that Jesus was going to sail in through Sydney Harbor at this precise day and time. It seems the Savior took the slow boat to nowhere instead.

September 9, 1991 CE - Well, talk about your karmic ironies; Louis Farrakhan was not the only one to find apocalyptic inspiration in the Gulf War, the ultra-conservative Jewish sect, the Hasidim were as well! Through a circuitous form of logic that only life-long marinating in mystic dogma can give rise to, Hasidic scholars concluded that a Russian-born rabbi named Menachem Mendel Schneerson was a prime candidate for Messiahood. Schneerson, himself was certainly with them that the apropos signs were on hand, right down to the Midrashic prophecy for a war in the Arabian gulf. Well, hopes ran high for a while, especially as Rosh Hashana closed in. But, as was the case with Louis, Menny and his boys were doomed to disappointment. Menny in particular, was doomed to more than that, as he died only three years later, effectively putting the Hasids on Messiah Watch all over again.

1992 CE - Charles Taylor came back after a much-needed two-year rest.

1992 CE - Back in the seventies, Arizona resident, farm girl and mother of three Lori Adaile Toye meditated all her brain cells into a runny goo and began communicating with spirits from another dimension. Ever since, she's been peddling her "I am America Map of Earth Changes" which graphically details her laundry list of prophetic devastation. Her main claim was that a giant meteorite would plow smack-dab into Nevada (drawn by that den of sinful wickedness, Las Vegas, no doubt) and cause all the US's coastal regions to sink into the sea. Obviously, neither geography, geology nor simple physics rated high on Lori's "things to know" list. Reality has never warranted any special priority either, as the complete failure of any of her dire predictions to come true hasn't caused her to turn a hair. The web abounds with sites hawking her wares and pushing her disorders. Since, by her lights, most of her potential customers ought to be underwater by now, it conjures an interesting mental image of the phrase, "Net surfing".

 
 






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