I have spent today standing, stark bollock naked, in my back garden; and for once, I have done so with good reason.
The world, you see, is going to end today, and I figure I’m on slightly dodgy ground to be Raptured—what with the whole atheism business, not to mention thinking it’s a good thing them gays can get married, and a bad thing that the extraordinarily hypocritical Lord Carey can rant repeatedly and hysterically against this whilst having the small matter of a child-molesting bishop on what passes for his conscience. So I figured I should make things as easy as possible for God, and preemptively whipped off my togs and made sure I was outside for Him, the easier to be Taken Up into the air. In fact, I was jumping up and down quite a bit, just to make the point, until I got tired and the neighbours threatened to call the police.
Of course, you could argue that Chris McCann is just another nutjob, one in such a long line that you would have thought they might have learnt by now. The world, after all, did not end on 1 January 1000, despite the best encouragement of Pope Sylvester II, nor in 1284 as sanctioned by another pope (Innocent III: a man innocent of much, perhaps, but not incitement to mass slaughter). It also did not end on … well the list is rather long, so just go here and write your own damn funnies for each and every eschatological epic fail.
But there’s a serious point here; McCann may be a nutjob (though one who has carefully built a caveat into his prediction), but that does not exempt him from moral culpability. McCann’s prediction is a rescheduling of that of Harold Camping a few years back, prior to which a number of people committed suicide out of fear of the impending disaster. Were these people probably already at least slightly disturbed? Almost certainly. Might something else, in the absence of Camping’s predictions, have pushed them over the edge? Quite probably. Was Camping directly responsible for their suicides? Of course not. But does that exonerate Camping from the charge of having spoken recklessly and having misinformed his not insubstantial audience? No, it does not.
As for Camping, so for McCann. Should even one person kill themselves, or even commit less extreme panicked reactions, as a result of hearing McCann’s idiocy, then as far as I am concerned this should lie, in part, on his conscience. You do not cry “Fire” in a crowded theatre, and you do not publicly announce the end of the world when that very world has a substantial number of unfortunate and fragile individuals within it.
I’m guessing the Rapture won’t come today, but if a single person does themselves any harm as a result of McCann’s foolish pronouncements, then I’d recommend that when it does come he join me in my naked bouncing, because the weight of having needlessly and stupidly helped push a few people to despair will be distinctly anti-Raptural ballast around his neck.