#1 Rule of Cults and Apocalyptic Prophets

Even before we get into this, I am mindful of the bigger issue.  There is no enforcing body.  Even if we were to all agree on the rules and regulations that we need to put on cult leaders and apocalyptic prophets, there is no way we could agree to get them to submit to them.  These guys, you know, are kinda known for their desire to go against the grain.  More on this later.

Here is the rule:

If you make a specific prediction that can be measured and it fails to come true, you are done.

You have to publicly apologize and then you have to quit and go get a job where you can’t do any more damage, maybe a window-washer for skyscrapers? (Random I know but I was trying to brainstorm about a job where you aren’t around people. No, I’m not wishing them to fall, just not to be able to talk to people anymore.)  You wanted us all to believe that you have special insight into God and the world and are a prophet.  Great. Way to go buddy.  You are putting it on the line with something tangible.  However, when (it’s always when not if) you are wrong, you are done.  No further clarifications or redirects, just done.

Let’s take our latest prophet as an example.  He once predicted that the world would end in 1994.  It didn’t come true, so what did he say back then?  Mathematical miscalculation.  Are you kidding me?  That offends me, deeply.  Not as a pastor, (well yes as a pastor as well) but as a mathematician. Little known fact: Cloften was a math major.

Let me get this straight. You are predicting the end of the world, END OF THE WORLD and you cannot be bothered to check your math.  Seriously?  You should check your math if you are taking an algebra quiz that’s only worth 5 points. You most certainly should make sure that you carry the one if there is an impending apocalypse.  “Sorry everyone.  Turns out 7*7+1 is 50.  I had a scribble on my page that I thought was a parenthesis but it wasn’t. I had it as 56.  My bad.”

Once that happens you are done. You don’t get to come back 17 years later with better calculations and declare the real date.  But let’s assume that we can be gracious with his math and we let him come back for one more go at it.  He misses again.  What does he say now?  “I’m confused, but I’m real sure about the other date I predicted.  Sure I predicted two dates and the first was flat out wrong, but I’m just as confident in the 2nd.”  (I suppose I shouldn’t have put quotation marks there.  That isn’t what he said.  However, if he can wrongly predict the end of days twice, I can misquote him.  However, that was his basic sentiment.)  No, no, no.  The only answer is, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.  I’ve asked God to forgive me and asking you to do the same. I’m stepping down from leadership.”

Back to the other question, how do we enforce this?  I think we have to play on their arrogance.  They make the prediction, and since we cannot be trusted to ignore these people completely.  We interview him and ask the question, “Are you sure?” “Are you willing to stake you reputation on it?”  “Ok, great. Do you promise that if you are wrong, you will apologize and leave?”  If they start hemming and hawing (Old school southern expression), then they are done right then.  If they agree, then we have them on tape, and we play it incessantly after the nonpocalpyse.

Next week on Rules for Cults: Why would you ever pick an ascetic cult when there are plenty of good hedonist ones out there?

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