Some 55% of Americans believe in the Rapture, some 64% believe we are living in the End Times, both beliefs structured by dispensationalism, which was largely constructed in the nineteenth century. These are some of the views which buttress American Imperialism in the world today. Harold Camping is no loony exception. The ideas of John Nelson Darby, the father of dispensationalism, are today more influential on the shape of world politics than those of Karl Marx.
Darby’s ideas also provided the ideological apparatus to found the State of Israel, perhaps the first modern nation to be invented primarily as a result of religious belief: Christian belief. The major figures who advocated for a Zionist State all believed in Darby’s dispensationalist schemes: Lord Shaftesbury, David Lloyd-George, Arthur James Balfour, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, etc. Each of these figures believed in Darby’s dispensational scheme which required a modern state of Israel to be instituted, and acting on those beliefs they helped institute the State of Israel. While not possible without a history of modern, post-1800 imperialism and nationalism, the concept of a chosen land, chosen people, and chosen dispensation of the end of time was instrumental in the founding of the State of Israel. Jewish Zionism itself, that is Zionism developed by Jews rather than Christians, would not have the structure it does without the earlier influence of the more eschatological Christian Zionism. Harold Camping is no loony exception.
But events can undermine ideological stuctures, or alternatively, rather than undermine, turn them against those who previously benefitted from them. The invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was one such turning point:
Quip from Time Magazine (1982):
In Washington, Ronald Reagan, by instinct a warm supporter of Israel, reflected that in the public perception, Israel had been transformed from the “David” to the “Goliath” of the Middle East.
– William E. Smith, “Crisis of Conscience”, Time Magazine, 4 October 1982.
Cartoon from Clay Bennett (2010):