On October 22, 1844, followers of the Millerite Christian sect gathered to await the end of the world, which they believed had been foretold in the Bible. When the world didn’t end that day, the non-event became known as the Great Disappointment. At least one Millerite was sick with dejection for days afterward. Others endured widespread mockery for their beliefs. Many Millerites abandoned their faith while others formed splinter movements, one of which became the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
I am telling you this because for the last month or so, Family Radio, a network of Christian radio stations, has been advertising that the Rapture will occur on May 21. It purports to know these dates through mathematical formulas based off of certain Bible passages (even though the Bible states that the end of times cannot be specifically predicted). If you are reading this editorial and you are not also reading about people having mysteriously vanished here, there and everywhere, then it is safe to assume that Family Radio got it wrong, too, and is having its own Great Disappointment.
While Family Radio’s stated aim is to warn people that the end is nigh, cynics (such as myself) suspect it might just be a ploy to get folks to surrender their life’s savings to Family Radio, which has something like $122 million in assets and is the 19th largest radio network in the country. That is an awful lot of resources for people who won’t need them after a certain date.
Advertisements running on Family Radio just a few days before May 21 included spots for home pest control, optometrists and Biblical marriage counseling. I don’t know about you, but if the world is going to end in a few days, termites and nearsightedness will be the least of my concerns. As for marriage counseling, if the impending apocalypse isn’t enough to get me to make peace with my wife, then nothing else will. I don’t know…maybe Family Radio’s supporters figure there will be markets to serve for those left behind.
If that is the case, then life insurers ought to get on this quick, because if you plan on leaving behind your friends and family, then the least you could do is arrange for them to be a little more comfortable. Sure, underwriting with a universal death benefit day would be difficult, but somebody in the industry must be up to the challenge. After all, Lloyd’s once offered Immaculate Conception insurance. Surely this is not that much different. If you can underwrite one metaphysical experience, you can underwrite them all.
Kidding aside, I wonder how a true believer recovers from a Great Disappointment. A lot of Millerites had to rebuild their lives after Judgement Day didn’t occur (much as the Family Radio crowd will have to), but it wasn’t easy. Once you believe your life is ending, you cross a line in your mind that cannot be backtracked easily. Case in point: a friend of mine knew an ex-kamikaze pilot who never made it to battle because of a plane malfunction. The war ended days later, and this fellow spent the better part of his life struggling to accept that even though he had accepted his own destruction, he still had to figure out how to actually live life.
That is why I can find it easy to raise an eyebrow at Family Radio while respecting life insurers. We all must depart this world one day. The question is, do we do it just focused on our own fate, or do we spare a thought for those who will not immediately follow us? Life insurance does the latter, and in that, there can be no Great Disappointment.