Somehow the religious date-setters don't seem to learn that their zero-for-always record might be telling them that they should cool it with their predictions.
The latest prediction, though somewhat of a hedged bet, comes from the Rev. Franklin Graham (pictured here), Billy's son. Franklin says the earthquake in Japan may be a sign that Jesus is returning soon.
Yes, yes, I know that it's possible to read certain passages of the New Testament as suggesting that the end-times will be preceded by various natural disasters. But it strikes me as a complete waste of time to worry about all of this every time tectonic plates move or the sea covers dry land.
If somehow God decides to end the world or that it's time for the Second Coming, no one can do a thing about it. So get on with life.
There. I'm not going to spend any more words on this silly subject today. And I hope Franklin Graham won't, either.
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IMAGINE. . .NO RELIGION, TOO
Speaking of strange predictions, a new study suggests religion will become extinct in nine nations, Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland. The death of religion -- and even the death of God -- has been both predicted and pronounced countless times. I'm thinking that these predictions, too, always wind up with egg on their face.
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THE BOOK CORNER
Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words, by Brian D. McLaren. In some ways, Brian McLaren, an Emergent Church Movement pioneer, seems in this book to be reaching for an audience beyond Christians. And most, if not all, of the spiritual discipline he proposes here could, in fact, be used by people of any faith. But McLaren is at his best when speaking directly to Christians, and my guess is that it's almost solely among Christians that this book will find its audience. McLaren offers readers 12 words that have helped him in his approach to spirituality -- Here, Thanks, O, Sorry, Help, Please, When, No, Why, Behold, Yes and ". . ." (by which he means the practice of contemplation and rest). There's nothing particularly magic about each of those words, but readers will come to understand how they represent attitudes and practices that can enrich life. And yet the best part of this book isn't even the 12-word spirituality scheme. Rather, it's McLaren's ability simply to tell engaging stories, especially about himself and how he grew out of a pretty narrow approach to the faith. Readers of his books, such as Generous Orthodoxy and A New Kind of Christianity, already knew that, but now some of those stories are set in a different context and they shed new light on what it means to be spiritual. As McLaren seeks to draw in new readers, he says things that will seem perfectly obvious to his many fans, but I suppose that's just the price to be paid for bringing others along on this religious journey.
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P.S.: In my first blog entry of 2011 I mentioned an April conference to be held at Baylor University to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. The deadline to register for that event has been extended until March 31. Those attending the conference also will be able to see a collection of rare Bibles.
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ANOTHER P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column, "Thinking of food with astonished gratitude about abundance," now is online. To read it, click here.