Saturday, May 28, 2011


When I first heard that The Rapture and the start of the end of the earth was going to happen on May 21, 2011 I chastised myself for making that last mortgage payment to Wells Fargo. I almost immediately recanted, proud that the historical record would validate my honesty despite knowing my end was near. Well, OK, I didn’t take seriously (nor did I monitor) what is yet another prediction of The Rapture and the end of the earth seemingly intended to scare the crap out of most gullible folks though placate many who sit on the right fringe of the Christian fundamentalist / evangelical movement who eagerly anticipated their ultimate deliverance – to the exception of all others. Imagine their disappointment

The most recent (and repeat) prognosticator was one Harold Camping a preacher from Oakland, California who is also the founder, owner and operator of the Family Radio Network which caters to that Christian Fundamentalist Right. Camping now solidly occupies an ignoble spot in that pantheon of failed Doomsday prophets including Saint Clement, Saint Martin of Tours, Sextus Julius Africanus, Otto III, John of Toledo, Pope Innocent III, Melchior Hoffman, Benjamin Keach, Charles Wesley, Margaret McDonald, Joseph Smith, William Miller, Ellen White, Mother Shipton, Watchtower Society, The Jehovah Witnesses, Herbert W. Armstrong, Albert Porta, Hal Lindsey and, yes, Pat Robertson among others. This end of the world stuff is tricky business…

Camping like his doomsday predecessors believed, predicted and guaranteed (“without any shadow of a doubt”) with complete assurance and certainty (all based on numerology) that the end of the world was nigh (May 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm local time anywhere) and that a large, rolling earthquake will commence (wherever you are) and that all those saved Christians (2% of the world’s population - estimated at some 220 million souls) would forever leave terra firma, ascending presumably Logan’s Run style into the sky (aka the Firmament/Heaven) where they will meet Jesus and share an eternity of “Rapture.” The rest of us poor unsaved slobs (despite my baptism and confirmation) will endure and suffer through fire and brimstone on earth until October 21, when God pulls the plug on the planet once and for all and we descend permanently into the fiery abyss of Hell. Finis… I guess that means I will not be attending Homecoming at Ole Miss vs. Louisiana Tech on November 12?

Camping gathered Family and Friends on May 21st and conducted a prayer vigil where he was monitoring CNN coverage of the Rapture as it would presumably (and conveniently) sweep through all the earth’s time zones. Of course, we do wonder how Camping, ostensibly anticipating being whisked away in the rapture, could monitor that on an earthly plane? Inquiring minds want to know.

Imagine his disappointment when reports from Christmas Island, Tonga then New Zealand and all around the world revealed no earthquakes of consequence or rapture - anywhere. Well, there were some earthquakes including one in New Zealand and a minor quake that rolled across the San Francisco Bay Area with some folks lamenting that the epicenter wasn’t closer to the headquarters of the Family Radio Network in Oakland. The quakes were inconsequential and not unexpected in these very active zones. Grimsvotn, Iceland’s most active volcano for many years began an eruption that had been predicted for some time with the only complication being ash that could again disrupt airline traffic. Elsewhere around the world there was little or no seismic activity.

We’ve been chomping at the bit, anxious to release this post but have been waiting for Camping’s response which will apparently continue for some time as he and his Family Radio Network continue to spin their failed prophesy. There are reports that the Family Radio Network continued the salaries of all their staff (why?) though did not generate any new business activities around “Rapture Time.” We note reports that many of the Family Radio Network staff, “don’t believe.” Camping’s first public reaction was predictable, that he was, “totally bewildered” and for him it had been, "a really tough weekend." Really… Then he put his spin by backpedaling on his failed prediction by merely extending the date (more later).

Harold Camping had previously erroneously predicted that the Tribulation, Rapture and End of World would occur on May 21, 1988 (beginning of the Tribulation) and on September 7, 1994 (end of the world). In 1994 hundreds of his followers gathered at an Alameda, California auditorium looking forward to Christ's return and their own ascendency. Sore necks and a greater appreciation for the ceiling of the auditorium were their only rewards. Camping later recanted explaining that he had miscalculated the date offering that, "At that time there was a lot of the Bible I had not really researched very carefully. But now, we've had the chance to do just an enormous amount of additional study and God has given us outstanding proofs that it really is going to happen." Ah scholarship, ah academia…drum roll and then came his 2011 prediction.

After his 1994 fiasco Camping’s prophecies were met with derision and even allegations of “false prophet.” Threads on the Internet have highlighted individuals who in 1994 and again in 2011 believed Camping and his Family Radio Network prophecies and gave them all their money or spent monies for Camping anticipating the end of days. Despite calls that Camping return these monies to his ever more-needy, some destitute and still deluded followers, we have seen no evidence of that. In fact, we have seen just the opposite.

Camping instead responded that he and Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their belongings, that “…those who had fewer would cope.” and “We're not in the business of financial advice." Camping stated outright to Oakland, CA photographer Brandon Tauszik who then shared the remarks with National Public Radio (NPR) that he will not return the money that believers gave to the cause, noting, "We're not at the end. Why would we return it?"

We think it interesting that Camping wouldn’t part with any of his possessions and that, "I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car," he said. "What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?" He does make a point though he doesn’t seem sensitive to any of the pain and suffering he has caused among his obedient, very pliant followers who gave up everything.

We now hear credible reports of a suicide and attempted murder and suicide surely committed by seemingly impressionable and unstable individuals, though the tipping points have been attributed to Camping’s irresponsible words.

Then we have some of Camping’s misled faithful who actually euthanized their pets so they wouldn’t be, “left behind and suffer.” Luckily for the cockatiel, parrot and cat belonging to Camping follower Bill Tinker of Boyes Hot Springs, California, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control seized the animals before Tinker could carry out his announced plan to put down his pets.

So, Camping’s pathetic spin on his failed and “guaranteed” end of world prophecy was not to wholly admit he was wrong and try and make amends with his followers. Rather, he now ignores “the rapture” and is sticking to his guns that the end of the world will, indeed, take place on October 21, 2011. Camping has now come to “the realization” that his judgment day on May 21 was actually “spiritual, rather than physical.” Camping offered, “The fact is, when we look at it spiritually, we find that he did come.” Of course, the rest of us on this planet wonder where that rationalization came from save the continuing realization that Camping is delusional and living on another not so divine plane called senility.

In July 2003 Katy St. Clair of the East Bay Express interviewed former, long-time Camping confidante and colleague, Pastor Jesse Gistand of Grace Bible Church in San Leandro, CA who now goes so far as to call his old colleague a cult leader. "I hesitated to call him one all the way up to the point that he started preaching the Dead Church Doctrine," he says, "because at that point he had entered another stage of the typical heretical prophecies that take place under eschatology. You set your date; your date doesn't come; you reinterpret what has happened -- spiritualize it, mythologize it -- and then finally just condemn everyone else as being lost."

If we are to believe the unordained Camping, "The church age has come to an end." Camping believes that The Church has renounced its mission and has been taken over by Satan. And, according to Camping - God loosed Satan upon us? Camping continues, “Churches are irrelevant and that instead of using Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and other "corporate" denominations to evangelize the world, God has turned instead to... radio.” Yikes, I would have thought that an omnipotent deity would probably turn to the Internet and social networking or to a yet to be invented super-efficient technology to spread his word in the new millennium - but radio? We correctly surmise the self-serving Camping is referring to his Family Radio Network radio stations.

I was recently reminded of an adage which appears in the Book of Proverbs in the King James Bible - Proverbs 26:11. “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” Camping is now insisting that he's not going to discuss judgment day anymore. We, however, don’t feel that he will be able to keep peace with his failed predictions which will plague him or at least dance in his mind until the end of his tormented days. Folks that know Camping reflect they think him sincere ("He's sincere," concurs the Rev. Dean Harner. "Sincerely wrong, but sincere").

Perhaps Camping is doing us all a favor by keeping in one place those followers who are out spouting his gibberish and, “depriving villages of their nonsense.” Camping follower Adam Larsen from Kansas has admitted that since he has been spreading the word of the apocalypse he hasn’t been able to pursue his favorite pastime – raccoon hunting. Notch one up for the raccoons.

We salute New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Jewish and, if we believe Camping will not be part of his rapture) who immediately prior to the predicted start of the end of days assured New Yorkers with tongue firmly in cheek that in the event of an Apocalyptic scenario, New York’s alternate side of the street parking rules will be suspended and gave permissions to keep any library books or rip up any parking tickets they might have. Bravo!

When I first became aware of Harold Camping and his end of the world campaign – more nonsense from a long line of failed doomsday prophets - I was amused. No longer. Upon reviewing our remarks on Camping we wonder if we are being too sarcastic, perhaps even un-Christian – but then again, maybe not. Our goal is to further expose an egocentric, self-absorbed, obsessed individual, however sincere, blinded by his eccentric end-times theology. On the other hand we want to show compassion, charity and mercy to someone who is obviously deluded and according to some, possibly ill.

I have prayed for Camping and his followers acknowledging that their skewed perceptions have prompted the rest of us to contemplate what is right in our world. Camping has drawn a contrast - a line in the sand. We are on one side and he on the other.

Having said that I certainly appreciate the sentiment expressed by a Lakota Sioux Friend who noting Camping’s latest prediction commented that they were finally going to get their land back….


Ned Buxton

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