Snow: Getting ready for the next 'end of the world'

asnow@newsobserver.comJuly 28, 2012 

In an email, my friend, Dr. Bernie Cochran, former Meredith College religion prof and a lecturer of note, casually mentioned that according to the Mayan calendar, the world will end – again – between Dec. 20 and 23.

“Bernie, nobody has notified me,” I said, discomforted that I’m not in the loop on such vital information.

On a recent cruise to New England and Nova Scotia, I noticed several men aboard wearing special name tags. I learned that they get free passage for dancing with lonely ladies during the ship’s cotillions.

Well, much to my surprise, I’ve discovered that Bernie does occasional stints as a seagoing sermonizer on one of the well-known cruise lines. He and his wife Mary also get free passage.

“Someone has to step forward to bring spiritual guidance to 1,400 passengers surrounded by gaming tables and sin, right?” Bernie said.

“I’ve never had an unhappy passenger to my knowledge until a few months ago,” he said. “She was distressed that I did not believe we are living in the last days.

“I had reported in my sermon that a former astronaut turned Bible scholar had written a book, ‘88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988.’ But what about ‘No one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven?’ ” he had asked his listeners.

The late Edgar Whisenant, a NASA engineer, sold more than 4.5 million copies of his book, after mailing 300,000 free copies to ministers around the country, according to his Wikipedia biography.

So sure was Whisenant of his prediction that he announced, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.”

He added that if there were a king in this country and he could gamble with his life, he’d stake his life that Rapture would occur around the time of Rosh Hashanah 1988.

The date came and went and the world remained intact. Failure didn’t discourage Whisenant from predicting several other doomsday dates.

Come to think of it, how would you spend those last hours, besides doing some powerful praying, if you knew indeed that Armageddon would occur tomorrow?

Wash the car? Fill the bird feeders? Run the vacuum cleaner? People do strange things in times of crisis. Once when we were attending an editors convention at the Shorehem Hotel in Washington, D.C., we had to flee a fire.

As we reached the seventh-floor stairway, I missed my wife. Then I saw her running down the hall toward me. She had gone back to our room to unplug the heating pad.

I asked my grandson, 9, what he would do if he knew the world was about to end.

“I would want to be outside the house in the yard with all my family,” he replied.

I suppose the time that I most felt that the Rapture was at hand was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

My wife and I were vacationing in our friend Hugh Morton’s cabin atop Grandfather Mountain.

The only souls on the pitch-dark mountain except Mildred the Bear, we felt eerily vulnerable as we hovered near a radio, listening to news reports that the standoff with the Russians could momentarily end with nuclear missiles raining down on the East Coast of the U.S.

We had stopped earlier for groceries at the foot of the mountain, and I had splurged by buying my then favorite dessert – Pepperidge Farm cheesecake. Never was I so relieved to greet the next day’s dawn.

As Armageddon loomed, I went into the kitchen and finished off the remaining two-thirds of the cheesecake.

I have little patience with these self-appointed doomsday predictors. It is the height of arrogance for someone to think that God has whispered in his ear, “Listen, Eglebert. Don’t bother to buy a Christmas tree this year, I’m wrapping it up on Dec. 21.”

Poet Robert Frost wrote:

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

I have no preference as to how the world should end. But I predict that the only survivor will be the North Carolina gray squirrel.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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