Precisely predicting the end of the world.

I have a confession. And it is a little embarrassing.

In 1999, in the weeks before the feared collapse of all technology and the possible zombie colonization of America, I bought a few gallons of water. I didn’t think the world was going to end, but for some reason I was pretty sure that I needed 14 gallons of water in my parent’s basement.

I’m not sure that would have been long enough to survive on after civilization’s collapse but I could have at least used it to walk to a major city with my son, in search of my wife who may have become part of the undead masses. I think my life just merged with a graphic novel/television show since I don’t have a son, but I did buy those waters out of fear.

I blame the Y2K gun show I attended as a people watching adventure. It was in Alabama and people were saying things like, “When the banks collapse, bullets will be currency.” I considered getting a book on curing your own squirrel jerky, but instead bought a t-shirt that said, “Suburban Self-Reliance, if you can’t get out, you better get ready.” Awesome.

So when I recently saw a billboard that advertised the coming apocalypse, my old feelings of water storage were stirred up. I’m not sure if you have these billboards in your state, but here is what they say:

“HE is coming again! May 21, 2011.”

There are a few things I think about this:

1. The 7th grade version of me would have been terrified.

13-year-old Jon Acuff would have been horrified to hear this news. Not so much because of the end of the world but because I wanted to get married before Jesus came back and well… I talked about this in the first chapter of the Stuff Christians Like book. It’s embarrassing, but in the 7th grade I had a few things I wanted to accomplish before the return of Christ.

2. The dead birds falling from the sky can’t have helped.

I recently read an article by a biologist who said mass deaths by certain species are very common, but often go unnoticed by the media. Doesn’t matter. The bird deaths reported recently are definitely going to add fuel to an end of the world fire.

3. Wasn’t the end of the world predicted when I was in high school?

I distinctly remember seeing a poster with a red cross on a telephone pole proclaiming the end of the world. (When I was in high school in 1992, hanging things on telephone poles was our version of the Internet.) I sat in class, probably thinking about the immense talent of Gerardo, which was clearly displayed in “Rico Suave,” and how much I loved shopping at the Chess King.

4. Does it say May 21, 2011 in the Bible?

I’ve read the Bible completely through and never saw it explicitly mentioned. It’s possible it was in a genealogy list that I “scripture skimmed,” but I feel like I would have seen that.

5. Doesn’t it say we won’t know when the end times are in the Bible?

Matthew 24:36 say, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And that wasn’t a disciple saying that, that was Jesus. We’re talking red letters. Maybe the Message version of the Bible says, “but only the Father and certain billboards on 65 North outside of Nashville,” but I doubt it.

6. Is anyone going to let California know?

I have no fear that these warnings are spread across the southern states, but is anyone going to tell California what’s happening on May 21? Mike Foster lives there. Carlos Whittaker visits often. There might not be as many churches there, but if Tennessee is part of the Bible Belt, I consider California to be the Bible Sunglasses. Somebody better give California a heads up.

7. Are we trying to beat the Mayans?

Isn’t there a Mayan calendar from days gone by that predicts the end of the world in 2012? I know there’s a stunning film, a work of art captured in two hours of perfection that makes “Citizen Kane” and “Gone with the Wind” look like drivel, but isn’t there a Mayan calendar prediction? Are we racing that?

Those are the seven, exact things that go through my mind in the split second when I drive by those billboards. Then my wife says, “Are you writing a post in your head right now?” And I say, “That’s crazy talk! I love you. You’re so pretty!”

Am I the only one who has seen this billboard? Are they in your town too? Am I the only one who deep, deep down inside with 2% of myself thinks, “what if they’re right?”

What’s your take?

Is the world ending on May 21, 2011?

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