MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
You may have seen the billboards and flyers about judgment day on May 21st - that's tomorrow, Saturday. A radio host named Harold Camping, heard on Christian stations around the country, says that day is the beginning of the end - Judgment Day. His devotees are getting ready for the rapture. They believe Camping's predictions based on clues found throughout the bible.
Other Christian leaders are mostly dismissing this idea that Armageddon will fall on an appointed hour. Nonetheless, they're getting some prickly questions about this whole matter. And so, we're going to spend some time with a clergyman who once believed wholeheartedly in a previous judgment day prediction and who's now preparing a sermon for this Sunday.
Reverend Brooks Morton of First United Methodist Church in Idalou, Texas, joins us now. Reverend, welcome to the program.
BROOKS MORTON: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: Now, since you're preparing to stand before your congregation to deliver a sermon on Sunday morning, I take that you don't believe that the world will end on Saturday.
MORTON: No, ma'am, I do not.
NORRIS: But you understand, nonetheless, people's curiosity about these doomsday predictions.
MORTON: Oh, I can. I can see very readily how it touches people at a very deep, deep level.
NORRIS: You understand that in part because you yourself once believed.
MORTON: Yes, ma'am. Back when I was around 21, I was converted and it literally scared the hell out of me. I wondered if Jesus returned tonight and I was across the street at the Dixie Chicken, living it up, I asked myself - would Jesus remember me? And I told myself, no, he wouldn't. So, that's when I got into end times thinking.
NORRIS: And that thinking holds that you really have to live your life as if the world could end at any moment. You have to live right.
MORTON: Absolutely. The idea is that you have to live constantly ready because it's true we don't know when Christ will return.
NORRIS: When people ask you about this, what do they want to know? What do they say?
MORTON: I think people want to know, is this possible that someone could know? A gentleman came up to me after church and he was concerned, could this really happen? And, of course, I shared with them, say, the example from Matthew 24:42: Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. And said, I don't think that we should put any stock in it at all.
NORRIS: Now, you yourself, as we said at one point, did believe in sort of end- date thinking. Did you come out a different person on the other side based on that?
MORTON: Yes, ma'am, I did. I think at that time I was very concerned about when this would happen. So, every napkin I could find, I was drawing out, you know, how I thought the world was going to, quote, "end." So, I was really consumed about this event. And I think that it misguides people.
Now I'm concerned about the people in my community who are homeless or the people in my community who are not going to have an air conditioning this summer when it gets up over 102 or 101, and the people this winter who, again, will not have coats. I have a much broader view of what God wants the church to do in the world.
NORRIS: That's Reverend Brooks Morton. He's a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Idalou, Texas. Pastor Morton, thank you very much.
MORTON: Thank you so much, Michele. It was an honor. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.