Gets It Wrong Again
May 22, 2011
THEY spent months warning the world of the apocalypse, some giving away earthly belongings or draining their bank accounts. And so they waited, eagerly or anxiously, for the appointed hour to arrive.
When 6pm came and went at various spots around the globe, and nothing extraordinary emerged. In Australia and New Zealand, early target of the prediction of Armageddon, and across the world, the deadline was greeted with scepticism and humour.
"People are making jokes like there's no tomorrow," was one of the top tweets.
In the US, Keith Bauer - who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 4800km to California for the momentous occasion - tried to take it in stride. "I had some scepticism but I was trying to push the scepticism away because I believe in God," he said outside the gated Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International, whose founder, Harold Camping, has been broadcasting the apocalyptic prediction for months.
"I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth." But he added, "It's God who leads you, not Harold Camping."
He now plans to hop back in his minivan and begin the cross-country drive back with his wife, young son and another family relative.
The May 21 doomsday message was sent far and wide via broadcasts and websites by Mr Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar nonprofit ministry based on his apocalyptic prediction.
The top trends on Twitter at midday included, at No. 1, #endofworldconfessions, followed by #myraptureplaylist.
Mr Camping's radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a humble building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader's business. Family Radio International's message has been broadcast in 61 languages. He has said that his earlier apocalyptic prediction in 1994 didn't come true because of a mathematical error.
"I'm not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature," he told The Associated Press last month. But this time, he said, "there is...no possibility that it will not happen".
Mr Camping and his followers believe the beginning of the end will come on May 21, exactly 7000 years since the flood in the biblical story of Noah's Ark.
Mr Camping believed that some 200 million people would be saved, and that those left behind would die in earthquakes, plagues, and other calamities until Earth is consumed by a fireball on October 21.
Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed the prophecy. One local church was concerned that Mr Camping's followers could slip into a deep depression in the aftermath of nothing.
"The cold, hard reality is going to hit them that they did this, and it was false and they basically emptied out everything to follow a false teacher," a pastor said. "We're not all about doom and gloom. Our message is a message of salvation and of hope."
As the day drew nearer, followers reported that donations grew, allowing Family Radio to spend millions on more than 5000 billboards and 20 recreational vehicles plastered with the doomsday message.
In the Philippines, a big billboard of Family Radio ministry in Manila warned of Judgment Day. Earlier this month, group members there distributed leaflets to motorists and carried placards warning of the end of the world.
Marie Exley, who helped put up apocalypse-themed billboards in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, said the money helped the nonprofit save as many souls as possible.
She said she and her husband, mother and brother were glued to the television on Friday night waiting for news of an earthquake in the southern hemisphere. When that did not happen, she said fellow believers began reaching out to reassure each other of their faith in the prophecy.
"Some people were saying it was going to be an earthquake at that specific time in New Zealand and be a rolling judgment, but God is keeping us in our place and saying you may know the day but you don't know the hour," she said. "The day is not over, it's just the morning, and we have to endure until the end."
M Camping, who lives a few kilometres from his radio station, was not home to comment on the lack of Rapture.
FIVE OTHER END-OF-WORLD PREDICTIONS:
1. Followers of William Miller believed the world would end on October 22, 1844.
2. The Jehovah's Witness religion has predicted the end of the world in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.
3. Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, predicted the world would end in 1794.
4. Famous forecaster Nostradamus predicted doomsday would happen in July 1999.
5. English mystic Joanna Southcott predicted the world would end on October 19, 1814, when she gave birth to the Messiah.