PREVENTING A GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT (WITH THE POWER OF SATAN)
As March turns to April (the cruelest month…) I think about the state of the world, and about the Great Disappointment.
In one sense, that phrase refers to the plight of 19th century American mega-preacher William Miller, who once found himself in quite a spot during a year when he insisted that April would never arrive, and then it did.
In another sense, I think people are suffering their own Great Disappointments all the time. You could say that it’s part and parcel with experiences like belief, faith, and religion–as closely tied as an orange and the color orange.
That probably sounds like a grim assessment. But as you’ll see shortly, I actually think of it as something like good news–I think the word for that is “gospel,” as a matter of fact.
Miller was the son of a Revolutionary War vet from Massachusetts, and according to his autobiography (which I haven’t read and am cribbing from glue-huffing young-Earth creationist author David Read’s blog, because he damn well ought to be good for something at least once his life) he was not much interested in his family’s baptist faith.
Initially Miller was a deist, like his Revolutionary heroes. Then he went to war himself and decided to find god right around the same time artillery fire found him.
Eventually Miller became a preacher of some renown, and he started slinging around apocalypse predictions. Because if that formula had failed for every other prophet in the history of the human race then surely it was due for a win.
Reading Daniel and subscribing to the idea that the phrase “2,300 days” actually meant 2,300 years–because a factor of 365 is not the sort of minor margin to get concerned about I guess–Miller decided Jesus was definitely coming back in 1843.
…or 1844. Definitely by March, 1844, no matter what. But then he didn’t, so Miller decided on April 1844 instead. That didn’t work out, so eventually he endorsed someone else’s date of October 22, 1844.
Seems like getting MORE specific with each blown deadline is probably not a winning formula. But far be it for me to criticize the long-term planning skills of a guy who thinks a day lasts a year.
You might have noticed Jesus didn’t come back in October either, and this so crushed the Millerites (yes, they really called themselves that) that it provoked the Great Disappointment moniker. A nickname I garnered much more easily simply by taking eight years to get an undergrad degree.
So of course after that everybody gave up on the whole idea and went off to do better things with their lives, happily ever after, tra-la-la.
Except, no, we get a shitty Into the Woods Act 2 thing here and it all just keeps going. See, the Great Disappointment was SO disappointing that some people decided maybe it wasn’t quite a disappointment at all really.
Like, sure, Jesus didn’t come back. But maybe expectations were too high, with all of the, you know, wanting things to actually happen and such. Maybe the real apocalypse was in our hearts the whole time, etc.
This continues to this day. In fact, if you Google “Great Disappointment,” the top results that are not our current 401(k) outlooks are all modern adventist writers insisting that actually the Great Disappointment was an absolute win, which must be why it has such an encouraging sounding name.
“The Great Disappointment was a key moment in Earth’s history,” Adventist Review editor Andrew McChesney wrote on the anniversary of the letdown, thus awarding Jesus a non-participation prize.
Despite nothing happening, McChesney insists that quite a lot really happened during the nonocalypse, as it “was a key moment in Earth’s history, that saw the fulfillment of the three angels’ messages in Revelation.”
As it says in Revelation 8: “Reply hazy, try again later.”
This may all sound stupid. Because it is, it’s very stupid. But it’s also very normal. In their 2007 book Mistakes Were Made, social psychologists Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson write that the old risk/reward model of behavior we expect from people is actually pretty naive.
Not only do people not respond in pro forma ways to evidence of their rightness or wrongness, but this should be obvious already: “Humans think, and because we think, dissonance theory demonstrated that our behavior transcends the effects of rewards and punishments, and often contradicts them.”
With the world in turmoil now, a lot of people are setting themselves up for a Great Disappointment. Conspiracy assholes on Twitter believe that a secret war against the Illuminati is liberating child captives from underground prisons, an outlook that will disappoint them soon and disappoints me right now.
Still other assholes persist with the idea (for lack of a better word…) that the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak are an elaborate ruse.
Unimportant Battle Of the Sexes side character Margaret Court contends that “the blood of Jesus” immunizes her from the disease. Little does she know that she actually received the placebo blood in our study.
And raving anti-semitic pastor Rick Wiles believes that the yet-to-be-developed vaccine will be the “Mark of the Beast“–which I choose to believe means we will be immunized via Iron Maiden concert.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, as Satanists, we would like to think that we’re above such thoughtless double-think, and that a Great Disappointment could never happen to us. Indeed, in a perfect world, Satanism would be the ultimate antidote to such things.
But the world is never perfect, and both reason and empirical evidence tell us we are as vulnerable to such influences as anyone. The tenet says “people are fallible”–not just other people.
And I still say that’s true. However, it’s also true that, if you’re reading this, odds are you haven’t made any of these mistakes. You haven’t fallen for any of these cons. You didn’t buy into any of this particular bullshit.
If that doesn’t feel like a big accomplishment, just look at how many people have not even made it this far. And the way I see it, at a time when we need as much help as possible to feel good, you are allowed to feel good about that.
We are not immune to the kind of thinking that breeds a Great Disappointment. But now more than ever, the world could use more people who have managed to elude it this long.