In early May 2011, a couple dozen followers of the radio evangelist Harold Camping arrived in Washington, D.C. declaring that the end of the world would happen in a few weeks — May 21, 2011, to be exact. Camping, who had thousands of followers across the nation, had made his apocalyptic prediction based on a complicated mathematical calculation he claimed was derived from Scripture. So his faithful listeners sold many of their belongings and hit the road with signs warning of God’s impending judgment.
Of course, Camping was wrong, and was justifiably ridiculed by fellow Christians and secular media alike. He died two years later, humbled and embarrassed. But foolhardy millenarianism is not the only form of excessive alarmism worthy of our skepticism.