Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons from the Impending Apocalpyse

The big story today is that, according to a California-based fringe religious group led by Harold Camping, May 21 is the apocalypse, which will kick off the end of the world. According to the Guardian in the UK, the prediction did take time zones into account, and so has already failed:
The 89-year-old Californian preacher had prophesied that the Rapture would begin at 6pm in each of the world's time zones, with those "saved" by Jesus ascending to heaven and the non-believers being wiped out by an earthquake rolling from city to city across the planet.

But as the deadline for the Apocalpyse passed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia, it became apparent that Camping's prediction of the end of the world was to end not with a bang but with a whimper.
Here in the eastern United States, I still have a while to go. I'm not holding my breath.

I'm of the opinion that we can draw important lessons from all sorts of unlikely places. In this story, I count two lessons for the pro-life movement.

1) A Lesson in Human Psychology
Slate recently posted an interesting piece on how earlier apocalypse-prediction groups have reacted to the continuing survival of the world. It's a truly stunning illustration of the human ability to rationalize just about anything. If this history is any indication, the Camping clan will not react with an "Oops! I guess I was wrong." They have invested very heavily in their beliefs. From the Washington Post:
Mark Vrankovich, director of the Christian group Cultwatch, whose aim is to warn people about cults, told the New Zealand Herald he worries that some followers might break off relationships when the Rapture doesn’t come.

“You invest a lot of your emotional energy or put money into it. So no matter what the evidence you want to keep on believing,” he told the Herald. “The alternative is that you've wasted your time and money, you've wasted friendships and burned bridges - people don't want to face up to that.”
The lesson for the pro-life movement: The time to talk to people about abortion is before they become too invested in pro-abortion falsehoods. There are, of course, individuals who were heavily involved in the abortion movement and then admitted they were wrong, such as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Norma McCorvey (the Roe of Roe v. Wade), and Abby Johnson. But those cases are the exception, not the norm. Nobody likes to hear that their understanding of prenatal development is unscientific. Nobody likes to hear that the "bad days of back-alley abortion" are a complete fabrication. Nobody likes to hear that the cause they've dedicated themselves to is responsible for the destruction of real human lives. They'll resist the logical conclusion in order to preserve their egos.

Thus, the best hope for increasing the numbers of pro-life advocates is to reach people who are on the fence, or only moderately pro-choice. That's why student pro-life efforts are so important: we need to get the truth out early. The older a person gets, the more likely it is that he or she has chosen a side and is unwilling to budge.

2) A Lesson in Making Every Day Count
Very few people bought into the May 21 apocalypse prediction. For most of us, it was a joke. But it can also be an opportunity for reflection. After all, my time on this earth, and your time on this earth, will end some day. So many human beings are killed before they get a chance to experience all that the world has to offer. We are incredibly fortunate. What would you do if you thought your time would soon be up? What are you doing to make the world a better place for future generations?

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