Michelle Atagana
Michelle Atagana

Judgement Day: Nine-and-half months away

While shopping at Sandton City a few days ago a rather forceful young lady came up to me and handed me a pamphlet. The pamphlet had big bold letters saying: “The End of the World Is Almost Here! Holy God Will Bring Judgment Day On May 21, 2011.”

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this was: “Wait a minute I thought the world was ending in December 2012?” She simply looked at me, perplexed by my rhetoric. Then she asked the question most people dread: “Have you found Jesus?” and to her surprise I said: “Yes I have actually.” She then proceeded to tell me the importance of May 21 and how the world will burn.

The group that was heralding this message to the masses call themselves Family Radio and they are based in Oakland California in the United States (far from home aren’t they?). They even have free books to help you prepare for May 21 2011. I politely took her pamphlet and I actually gave it a read; I found it riveting. It had the right amount of truth in terms of events that were documented in the Bible and the right amount of excitement and fear to cause panic to those prone to doomsday fears.

I am not really going to talk more about what I read in the rather dense pamphlet, but rather the obsession with the end of the world. We’ve heard it lots of times: the world is going to end. Nostradamus said it, Newton figured out the exact date and the Mayans have it in their prophecies. We are a society obsessed with the end of the world; it seems if we do not have some doom facing us we are not content.

The year 2000 was a big one. Everyone had their theories about what would happen and people went to great and ridiculous lengths to prepare for it. Then we entered the 21st century and not much happened aside from the exponential growth in the number of users that discovered the internet. I suppose we could all satisfactorily say that the world crumbled as we used to know it because now we exist more online than we do offline. Some businesses consider Facebook and Twitter to be demons as they hinder work performance, so perhaps that’s how the world “ended” in the 21st century.

We claim to be a science-driven society yet we seek out these prophecies and try to prove them right or wrong. It’s not just the prophecies that “preach” the end of the world. Even legitimate scientists also confirm the end of the earth. Global warming, a reality, is also another signal to doomsday; they just don’t have an exact date yet. We’re running out of resources, there are natural disasters and Mars is getting closer to us — it can be seen by the naked eye. It’s as if the planet and universe are revolting all at once to prove a point. The interesting thing is, as much as most people laugh at the end-of-the-world prophecies, there’s an argument for it. I have read the book of Revelations and, yes, it scared me senseless, but if I were being incredibly literal and honest I will agree with those who say we are living in the end times.

I have some questions, however. Would you like to know the exact date and hour the world is going to end? I personally don’t want to know, I like surprises. Also, what if the world doesn’t end on the May 21 2011 — which is nine-and-half-months away? Then what? And perhaps the most important question: Which time zone is the end of the world? Are we talking Greenwich Mean Time here, or is it a gradual process that moves through each time zone? I am not trying to discredit what the people from Family Radio believe. I am just not sure scaring everyone senseless is the right approach to yet another end-of-the-world date release.

The Daily Maverick also has a detailed story about the Family Radio Johannesburg street campaign.