Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sackcloth and Ashes

When we have the energy, and we try to dredge it up most weekends, we play badminton on a Sunday morning. It’s fun and it’s good exercise, but on top of that the atmosphere has its own special charm:  we play to the sound of hymns being sung to lilting African melodies and strong African rhythms.

This is because as well as the badminton court, the centre where we play houses not one but two African churches on a Sunday morning. In one of them, the worshippers turn out immaculately dressed in smart suits or long dresses. In the other, they wear flowing all-white robes. Both congretations sway, sing and dance. The children dress like the adults and smile when we turn up. If worship can be dismally solemn in a lot of churches, in those two it is unstintingly joyous.

Last Sunday, we had badminton, we had our singing and dancing churchgoers, we had sun and blue skies. Everything to encourage good cheer. And yet surely we should have woken to floods and earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and pestilence, with the rapturous amongst us long since raptured. If anyone deserves to be rapt, some of them would certainly be members of our two congregations, and yet there they were on Sunday morning, still among us, still as full of cheer as ever.

Harold Camping, who predicted the rapture and the start of the end of the world for Saturday, is apparently now admitting that he got the calculations wrong. Wrong? You think so? Perhaps that is the truest statement he’s made for a while. Is it time for him to don sackcloth in penance?

But he goes on to say, demonstrating his unerring command of the English language, ‘we have to be looking at all of this a little bit more spiritual, but it won't be spiritual on Oct. 21, because the Bible clearly teaches that then the world is going to be destroyed altogether.’ So he was wrong but basically he was right.

Camping used to be a civil engineer. I was once told that where a  mathematician will tell you that 1 + 2 makes 3, a physicist will tell you that it’s between 2.5 and 3.5 and an engineer will say, ‘well, it’s approximately 3 but let’s say 8 for safety.’ Sound like Camping to you?

That being said, things have started turning nasty – or I should say gone on turning nasty – in various parts of the world. Iceland, for instance, is producing another cloud of volcanic ash for us. The same thing happened last year. And two years before that, one of the first calamities of the financial crisis was the Icelandic banks crashing, spreading devastation far beyond their shores.

Unlike Camping's, Iceland's message is unambiguous
What have the Icelanders got against us? What have we done to trouble their tranquillity? And do they realise they’re playing with fire? I mean, they’ve got enough to contend with as it is, and surely they know that if Britain, France or the US get the impression another country is dissing them, the next thing you know is the bombers go in. Just as soon as the ash clears enough to allow planes to fly.

I wonder whether Camping is looking for the source of our tribulations in the right place. The damp squib that rapture day turned into on Saturday rather suggests that God doesn't really have it in for us just yet.

On the other hand, should we be getting concerned about some character in Rejkyavik?


irishdoctor said...

don't know about being damned to hell but my week could be ruined if we don't fly to turkey on saturday - sometimes you feel like supporting ryanair- because they don't believe in ash clouds!

Awoogamuffin said...

Just want to say: Clever title for this post!