By Tom Morton, Casper Star-Tribune staff writer
"This is for the Rev. Harold Camping," U2's frontman Bono told 70,000 fans at Invesco Field in Denver on Saturday night.
"Being taken up into the air, sounds like fun to me -- just as long as Larry Mullen is with me. God is in the house."
Then Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen tore into "Until the End of the World" from their "Achtung Baby" album from the early 1990s.
By 9:30 p.m. or so, most of the planet has passed into May 22. And lo, we were still here. As was Camping, according to a couple of interviews.
So this year's great prediction of apocalyse went the way of so many others followed by a few snickers, the need for new late night talk show joke ideas, and the countdown to the next big prediction. There probably will be some very depressed people, especially those who spent thousands of dollars on billboards and other media announcing the event.
But the U2-May 21 nexus recalled a digression during a New Testament class when I was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the early 1980s.
Gordon Fee is a premier scholar on pneumatology and the Pastoral Epistles, and a lifelong Pentecostal.
And during this class he shifted gears from hardcore academic to preacher with the question about Jesus' core message and the students' answers.
"Salvation"? Well, you're getting warmer.
For Jesus, it boils down to the Kingdom of God. The kingdom isn't a place like heaven, but rather the authority of God over what happens on earth (and in heaven) in transforming the world. That includes what people do.
It's not the government or the free market or other economic model, although they can help or hinder what God wants.
And, in one of Gordon Fee's favorite phrases, it means "already, but not yet." Jesus won with his crucifixion and resurrection (the "already" part), but the other aspects of love, peace, salvation, justice, ameliorating human suffering -- goals neither politically left nor right -- are "not yet" in place.
Bono had that idea cold in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on U2's third album "War": "The real battle just begun, To claim the victory Jesus won."
You can't go to a U2 concert without seeing the displays for the One Campaign supporting international development, Product Red working with corporations to eliminate AIDS in Africa, and Amnesty International working to prevent human rights abuses, such as the recent successful release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma).
So back to Harold Camping, May 21 and all that hoopla before it fades from memory.
Besides the jokes or the derision of Christians, the biggest problem of such a focus on the rapture and the salvation necessary to make the cut is its utter selfishness.
The end-of-the-world, rapture prophets' concern boils down to getting saved to get the hell out of here.
It's not noble, glorifying, creative or even family friendly.
It has nothing to do with feeding people, drilling for clean water, health care, persuading governments to release political prisoners and end torture, jobs, justice, promoting healthy relationships, housing, and the everyday issues of living.
It probably (because I'm really hesitant to put my foot in God's mouth) not what Jesus would care about, either.
Reach Tom Morton at (307) 266-0592, or at [email protected] You can read his blog at trib.com and follow him on Twitter at GTMorton.
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