The following is part of John Gorenfeld’s article “‘End of the World Prophet Found in Error, Not Insane’: A Failed Prophet’s Survival Handbook,” one of over 40 articles in the Disinformation anthology, Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion, edited by Russ Kick. For more on John Gorenfeld, check out www.gorenfeld.net.
Thought about becoming an end-of-the-world prophet? It’s not the make-or-break enterprise you might think, as much as your gut feeling may be that mobs of angry parishioners await the fortune-teller who talks them into making room on the calendar for the final trumpets, the Rapture, World War III, the return of Jesus, global computer meltdowns, or post-game shows on life hosted by great messiahs stepping out of the pages of history — only for the poor dupes to find themselves paying bills the next week.
Time and again, it hasn’t worked that way. The beauty of blown prophecies is that failure is the beginning of success. That is, if you adopt the techniques of history’s most successful faulty prophets. Through time-tested rebranding methods, they’ve reinvented failure as proof that they were righter than anyone could have imagined.
The very glue holding your congregation together can be a mistaken prediction and what you’ve invested in it. Thousands of apostles of Shaini Goodwin of Tacoma, Washington, known to admirers as the “Dove of Oneness” and to the Tacoma News Tribune as a “cybercult queen,” hold out for a Judgment Day that will justify all of her bad guesses.