Most states require a licensing process for a host of service providers ranging from hair stylists to mechanics. Those are important services if you’re in the market to touch up your roots or replace your brake pads – but those services don’t come close to predicting the end of the world.
So what exactly do you need to be qualified to foretell the end of days? NOTHING.
Apparently anyone can predict Armageddon without so much as a plastic prophet ring from a box of Lucky Charms®.
Case in point, an 89-year old Internet pastor-turned-prognosticator believed the end of the world would occur on Saturday May 21, 2011. When that didn’t happen, he re-predicted that it would end on this past Friday October 21, 2011. Ironically, he made the revised prediction before he suffered a stroke on June 13th of this year (makes you wonder if he knew what was going to happen on THAT particular day.)
While I’m sure he’s a kind and well intentioned gentleman, he was wrong, and his credibility (as well as the people who followed him) is worth as much as those “5/21/11″ or “10/21/11” bumper stickers.
To avoid this happening in the future, I believe we need to hand out licenses to would-be prophets.
That’s why I’m proposing a 5-Step Licensing Process that looks like this:
5 Steps to Getting Your Prophet License
Step 1 – You must correctly predict heads or tails on a coin flip. We’ll go best of 7 on this one, and if you can’t nail it 4 times in 7 tries, take your crazy billboard ideas and go home. At least we saved you a bunch of money.
Step 2 – You must score 95% or better in blindfolded taste tests between various cola products and must also be able to tell when the good people who make Folgers® Crystals have secretly swapped it out with the $12 cup-of-Joe at their favorite upscale eatery.
In the fine tradition of Elijah and Jonah, we like our prophets to have sophisticated palates.
Step 3 – You must prove your chops as a local TV meteorologist in upstate New York where the weather changes more frequently than Lady Gaga’s headgear. Bonus points if you can match skills against Punxsutawney Phil as to whether we’ll have six more weeks of winter. Extra bonus points if you kidnap Phil and no one ever hears from him again. Let’s face it: we’re all sick of the “prophetic groundhog” charade.
Step 4 – You must look ahead to the next generation of the iPhone and correctly predict 3 new features it will have as well as the date it will launch. If you can come within 2 weeks of the launch date and figure out the new specs, we’re almost ready for you to tell us when Armageddon is going to start.
Step 5 – The final level of certification will separate the men from the mentalists. At this stage, any doomsday Carnacs will need to demonstrate three straight years of correctly picking the Final Four in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament – with only one mulligan allowed. Pardon the mixing of sport metaphors but no one who’s REALLY honest had Butler in this year’s final bracket, so you’d have to make allowances for that.
Skeptics of my plan will argue, of course, that there’s no reliable way to predict the world’s end – Jesus himself said as much in Matthew 24:36.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
I could be wrong, but I think what he’s trying to convey in that quote is that we should be ready for the end every day whether it’s today, tomorrow or after Peter Jackson finishes his live-action version of The Hobbit.
And honestly, that’s probably the better course of action for a believer to take rather than playing some kind of predictive game of cosmic peek-a-boo which only serves to undermine the credibility of Christianity at best or shipwrecks the faith of believers at worst.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Doppler Radar maps of Syracuse to study. 3 more steps and I’m Certified!
Tor Constantino is a former journalist and current PR guy who lives near Washington, DC. He has worked for Fortune 500 companies, CBS Radio, Clear Channel Radio, ABC-TV and CBS-TV affiliates. He has authored his first non-fiction book “A Question of Faith” and he blogs regularly at The Daily ReTORt.