Date setting: A neurosis that will not die

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Acts 1:7, NIV

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36, NIV

Christians engage in two types of date setting. Sometimes they assign an actual date to the second coming and other apocalyptic events. We’ll call this hard date setting. This always ends up in some degree of embarrassment for the person setting the date, and anyone who bought into their pitch. The most notable of these debacles is the ‘Great Disappointment,’ which eventually led to the formation of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Most of the time people engage in what I call soft date setting. Soft date setting takes several forms. In 2015, Michelle Bachmann spoke after returning from Israel, “We recognize the shortness of the hour,” she said, “and that’s why we as a remnant want to be faithful in these days and do what it is that the Holy Spirit is speaking to each one of us, to be faithful in the Kingdom and to help bring in as many as we can — even among the Jews — share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, he’s coming soon.”

Ms. Bachmann was careful to not assign a specific date. There’s no call to be at any particular place or ready at any particular hour. Just, ‘soon.’ Of the two this soft date setting is the worst. It is the most subversive and pernicious. It places people in a constant expectant mindset, and at the end of the day, when there’s no trumpet sound or chorus of legions of angels in the sky, they go to bed a little disappointed, even if on an unconscious level. It’s a constant source of stress for many. I’ve even heard people testify that they had experienced stress effects from anticipating the rapture/second coming/end times eschatology.

Humans have caused all the problems we have today. We’re the problem, and we’re the solution. We don’t deserve a divine ass-wiping. It’s not needed. Pathological expectation of a heavenly revolution on earth happens in direct conflict with the Bible. It is neither healthy nor helpful. It leads to a depraved indifference to suffering, and has people on one level or another wanting their lives to be over. It was something I dealt with and chose to abandon.

The Devil, in lab and boardroom


For those of you less nerdy types, that’s a reference to Frank Herbert’s Dune, specifically the part after the Harkonnen sneak attack and the death of Duke Leto Atreides 08.dune_where the Harkonnens have captured Thufir Hawat and introduced a self-reconstituting poison which requires a daily antidote. In the 1984 movie they take us to the Harkonnen home planet Geidi Prime and show Feyd Rautha walking down stairs carrying a cage and the Baron floats alongside. Then when they get to Hawat’s cell the Baron informs him that a poison has been introduced to his body. There is a cat in the cage hoisted up so she cannot move. And to add some sort of twisted dramatic effect they’ve strapped a rat next to her. The antidote requires Thufir to milk the cat daily.

Chronic conditions are addictions which require periodic infusions of certain compounds to control them. We’re junkies needing a fix! The pharmacy provides us with the antidote, without which many eventually die. It’s when we start looking at alternative methods of treatment and care that we become a problem for some. Improving your condition to a point where medications are no longer needed is discouraged to some extent by doctors, nurses, friends, the media, even clergy. I am a member of the Antiochian Orthodox church, and I learned recently that certain bishops consider the practice of yoga to be “sinful.” Such attitudes are not limited to Orthodox Christianity, however. Something similar was said to me years ago at a Foursquare church I was attending. I bought into that and stopped actively meditating for a long time. You could say I no longer believe what I used to believe.

One could make a hair-splitting argument for taking advantage of the physical benefits of yoga while distancing oneself from the philosophy. I haven’t yet studied yogic philosophy, but I never adopt all of anything. I disagree with the bishops’ position, and that of evangelical clergy on these topics because I believe that the creator put everything here and what’s sinful is not taking advantage of it. Instead of stretching, breathing, and quieting your mind before you go to sleep, we’re told to “have faith.” Faith in God, in allopathic medicine, and in prescription sleep potions, some of which have strange effects, and could have you sleepwalking nude at 3am. And that’s just one of many things that happen to people depending on both them and the drug they’re using.

For some people when you step outside Western paradigms everything is OTD (of the Devil). By that thinking, we’re wrong to seek to improve our condition through anything that doesn’t come in some sort of pill bottle from a “generally accepted” manufacturer. The eastern perspective which sees energy all around us and includes energy centers in the body, and views improvements to those centers as making improvements to the conditions of the body as evil. They propose to claim faith in the creator while holding the laboratory in higher esteem than creation, then they lash out in knee-jerk fashion against any way of looking at life which takes one away from the pharmacy counter. So I ask you, exactly who is it that is worshiping idols? You see “the devil” sits at the head of a very long table made of cherrywood smoking Cuban cigars that were smuggled past Customs. He decides the fate of the world. Then he goes down stairs, takes off his suit coat and puts on a lab coat and works out the science of the problem and its “solution.” He screws up the environment so that you get sick in the first place simply by living and eating, then has you spending the rest of your life with an acquired, manipulated addiction to a manufactured, usually very costly substance that you can only get from one place. When you get tired of that and want to find a way to restore health without “treatment” he whispers in the ears of people around you so you become guilted into coming back to his control.

To Hell with that.

I’ll take my prescriptions but I will also do things to try to make them less necessary. I’m going to meditate and I’ll try Tai Chi, yoga and other practices along with essential oils, supplements, organic food and whatever I deem to be the best of what the world has to offer. I won’t allow doctrines and opinions to deter me from that task. I’ll just have to take my chances with eternity. I don’t know what happens after we die. No one does, really. So to paraphrase Thomas Paine in Age of Reason, “…I hope for happiness beyond this life.”

The afterlife

The initial opening of the stargate. Stargate, 1994.
The initial opening of the stargate. Stargate, 1994.


Never send man where you have not sent the robot…

…or was it the monkey? I forget.

Humanity has done neither, yet the various religions talk about the afterlife as though we landed a rover and it has been sending back pictures and data. We have nothing scientific or empirical. There is no “proof.” What we have are cartoon-like descriptions in ancient texts, centuries-old paintings based on those texts, information gathered from trance readings, and speculative testimony from NDE victims. It is this lack of anything useful that led me to say that the trouble with the afterlife is that you have to die to find out what it is.

I don’t know what happens after death. I only know that we are all going to die. I don’t know what’s “over there” or if there even is a “there.” Whether we fall asleep or pass through a tunnel into a light, whether there are pearly gates and streets of gold, or whether it’s a desolate landscape that we wander, I cannot say. I am living my life, and I’ll have to let the afterlife take care of itself.

Death, NDE, Afterlife

The trouble with the afterlife is that we have to die to find out what it is. The information in the Bible and other texts is sketchy and allegorical. It’s not evidence. There is no battlebot to send into the hereafter to provide video and stills. We have testimony of some people who were clinically dead for brief periods and then revived. However that varies from patient to patient with some saying they met Jesus to others saying they only saw spirits of relatives and still others tell of very negative experiences. Some of this testimony is obtained through hypnosis and given the type of phenomena we’re talking about, who knows what sub- or unconscious bits might have crept into the story by the time it is relayed.

You’re not going to know until you get there. And we’re all going.