Buy low, the end is nigh: For-profit prophets

With Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more weeks of winter this past Groundhogs Day, one has to wonder what winter we will be seeing more of as it implies that we have already seen winter this year and that much is debatable. A majority of the North American continent is seeing temperatures well above or well below normal. Mediterranean portions of Europe have plunged into the Ice Age. In much of the American Northeast, winter fests, ski and ice fishing trips are being cancelled and what we have seen in the way of precipitation of the frozen variety has not been typical or significant. All of this begs the question: Could it be that all of these weather anomalies prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that global warming is real?I'll pause for a moment and allow you to fashion your weapon of choice, or for those proponents of the theory, your celebratory "I told you so" bumper stickers.No, this isn't intended to inspire a debate on climatology or lend credence to the greenhouse effect, although with this weather you sort of have to wonder. Earthquakes in Ohio and Pennsylvania and other bizarre phenomena are signs instead of something else, something on a Biblical scale. This all points to an issue facing us that poses a more immediate threat than global warming. In fact, with the urgency of this perilous scenario bearing down on us, global warming won't matter one iota in the scheme of things. Rather than the slow demise spelled by global warming, this disaster spells the end of days and is set to take place, definitively, just months from now on Dec. 21, 2012. It is the end of the world as we know it. An end which doomsayers have long been so reliably and accurately espousing, accurately if you disregard the rather uneventful end of days having already occurred, predicted for May 21, 2011 and 1994, both of which came and went. All of this manufactured hysteria can be attributed to the doomsday prophecies of men like Harold Camping and TV evangelist Jim Bakker - for-profit prophets like Camping, who year after year makes failed predictions of rapture through the outlets of his Oakland California-based media empire, and naturally end-of-time prophets like Jim Bakker are doubling as profiteers. Bakker, himself a convicted felon who hosts a show on a religious-themed network, spends hours each day hawking his Armageddon-related line of products - everything from buckets of rehydratable foodstuffs in a seven-year "emergency" supply and a utility backpack to water purification system equipment. It's your one-stop shop for all your rapture needs. And the best part is that when you fork over the $3,000 - yes, $3,000 for your seven-year supply of freeze-dried corn, you aren't paying $3,000, you're giving Jim a $3,000 "Love Gift". Everything for sale through Bakker's program is obtainable through a "love gift" represented by a specific amount of U.S. currency. See, a "gift" cannot be taxed; therefore, Bakker does not have to pay taxes on the revenue, or rather gifts, gathered through his sales show. Anyone familiar with Bakker shouldn't be surprised by this. Bakker was indicted in 1988 for mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the charges and later resigned from his ministry following a sex scandal. Bakker was paroled in 1994. Is it a coincidence that Camping predicted the end of the world that year? It wasn't long before Bakker was at it again. In 2003, he returned to hawking the holy and co-opting Bible verses to scare up some cash for his new ministry headquartered near Branson, Missouri. While I have cast the first stone and passed judgement on men like Bakker and Camping, allow me to preface it with the fact that I believe in rehabilitation, I believe in second chances, but I do not believe in men like Bakker. I, however, do believe that men like Bakker believe in themselves as men of God, and that is perhaps the most frightening prospect. In a strange coincidence just today, Harold Camping acknowledged and apologized for his failed rapture predictions. The gesture is too little, too late for those of his followers who spent their life savings in preparation for the second coming, and while I fault these men, I cannot fault their followers, those who trust in them and their word. It is the act of capitalizing on that trust and the sacred position as a pastor, priest, or any religious authority that is the ultimate act of offense and evil carried out in the name of God. -By Colin Deppen, Daily Press Staff Reporter