Quaker Theology #13 Winter 2007
Apocalypse – Later
Farmington! Farmington! A Novel (Sort of) by Licia Kuenning. Farmington Maine: Published by the author. 476 pp., paper. $10.
A Postscript by Chuck Fager
As noted in our review of this novel in QT #12, the author had used the novel form to spread a prophecy that the real town of Farmington, Maine would be transformed into the New Jerusalem, free of death, sin, and illness, on June 6, 2006, at dawn. The transformation was to begin with a bridge moving by itself, accompanied by music from above.
.What happened? In her own words, posted on Quaker-B, the British Quaker email list, the day after:
"I live here in Farmington, Maine–and I write only what I feel led to write–but somehow I prophesied things for today which I see no evidence really happened. In particular, Center Bridge (which I was watching at dawn) did not move at dawn, nor did the Hallelujah Chorus become audible overhead. Nobody has reported any healings to me, and my own chronic cough continues unabated as does my chronic fatigue–and so on. I don’t think anyone suffered as a result of my false predictions–e.g., nobody gave up any medical treatments in view of what I said would happen today in Farmington or did anything else that jeopardizes their well-being. So I am glad nobody has me to blame for any particular personal disasters. God does not tell me that I sinned in some way to become vulnerable to a delusion, nor does he say that I followed a lying demon or failed to follow Him. I promised to apologize on this list if my prophecy didn’t come true–so this is my apology–though it isn’t much of one, since I have not as yet seen anything to blame myself for. I would do the same thing over again–unless God gave me new light that I have not as yet seen. I continue just to follow my leadings, not knowing any other way to live." [Q-B, June 7, 2006]
This mea culpa, however, did not end the questions raised by this episode. Since the author had vigorously asserted that the "novel" Farmington! Farmington! was in fact dictated by Christ,, what did the prophecy’s failure mean for her sense of intimate communion with Christ that had made this possible?
She still felt close to Christ,, and insisted that "Christ did write my novel, but some of my other stuff was written by my poor tired brain, and so a few mistakes got in."
What mistakes, and how, in particular, had she gone awry? The response was quite similar to that of other prophets whose predictions did not come about. To cite only one example, a longtime radio evangelist, Harold Camping, predicted Christ’s return for September 1994.
When nothing happened, Camping did not miss a beat: he said perhaps his math was mistaken, though God was not, and he has kept right on, broadcasting his brand of fundamentalism.
In the case of Farmington, the author took a similar tack, writing on the Quaker-L e-list on July 11, 2006:
"I made some mistake–this is obvious from the fact that what I predicted to happen last June 6 did not happen then . . . . I think the only error I made was in thinking June 6, 2006 was the date when the Farmington prophecy (which I received a month before I ever assigned a date to it) would be fulfilled. I still hope it will happen very soon; and so I wait and trust God–not psychoanalysis–for my daily guidance."
Challenged to provide more detail about the mistake, she did so the next day:
I received the content of the prophecy around January 23,
2005–and at that time I was given no date for its fulfillment. It was an
extremely powerful experience of immediate revelation–what I was being shown
about the new order soon to begin in Farmington, Maine, seemed self-evident
(to use [Robert] Barclay’s term for why immediate revelation is our primary
source of truth); or as another Friend would have said, "I saw it in the
One month later, while discussing the Farmington prophecy on another Quaker list, someone challenged me as follows:
I would have thought that the timing of [Licia’s prophecy] is of utmost importance as folk may make ruinous financial decisions on the grounds of it, or in the case of serious terminal illness, fatal errors perhaps, in giving up medical treatment believing that they would be healed.
[She continued]I wrote, somewhat
surprised to feel led to say this:
Don’t give up any medical treatment on the expectation of being healed in Farmington, unless your healing can wait until June 6, 2006. . . .
My concern in this present post is simply to say that there is a difference between a revelation and a leading –especially when the leading is simply to type a few words in the context of a heated debate: in such circumstances it is easy to mistake one’s own idea for God’s. There was nothing luminous or self-evident about the date I then typed: it had already been in my mind simply because I used the date "Tuesday, June 6," in my novel, for Kathy Lee’s predictions. My husband had pointed out that June 6 would next come on a Tuesday in 2006, and after that not until 2017. It was very suggestive to me that maybe 6/6/2006 was the true date–certainly I hoped the New Jerusalem would arrive that soon–and yet God had never actually said that it would. I think he did lead me to type in that date–perhaps because I was too concerned with scoring points in an argument (the original questioner had tended to be hostile toward me in her posts), or perhaps because I liked to think myself knowledgeable more than I should. There was certainly no conscious intention on my part to do anything but follow my leadings. I assumed that God endorsed what I was led to write, and therefore I included the same date every time I circulated the prophecy afterwards.
When my nerves had calmed down a bit after the upsetting experience of June 6 I was able to see that my Farmington prophecy had two distinct parts: (1) the important things which were to happen, and (2) the date when they were supposed to happen. The two parts came to me at different times and in quite different manners, as I have described above. So the first does not automatically fall with the second. [Q-L July 12, 06]
The Farmington author was not impressed with this writer’s hypothesis in QT#12 that the novel’s composition took place by a form of "automatic writing," which was a familiar specimen of mediumistic phenomena. Such writing has been analyzed scientifically as the result of the "ideomotor effect," by which thoughts are subconsciously transposed into motions such as writing or typing. This despite the fact that her "Christ" had described it in an email to this reviewer thus: "she goes limp, and I move her fingers." [09-14-2005]
In a kind of online Letter to the Editor, she retorted, "I never get letters from either Mars or George Fox–so I don’t fit your theory of ‘automatic writing,’" but she admitted, "I don’t write automatically any more. Christ did write my novel, but some of my other stuff was written by my poor tired brain, and so a few mistakes got in."
But only a few. Thus as of late summer 2006, the revised prophecy seems to be intact, at least as far as all the marvelous changes that are expected to occur in the bucolic New England township. On the webpage for Farmington! Farmington! It is now summarized as follows:
In the town of Farmington, Maine, a new state of affairs will soon exist which the world has never seen before. This change will occur within the next few years.
QUEST, P.O. Box 1344,
Fayetteville NC 28302