Further Observations on Harold Camping and the May 21 Cult

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City buses across the Country are covered with advertising for Family Radio.

Here we are at May 13.  According to Harold Camping and his posse at Family Radio, Doomsday is only 8 days away.

I handled this topic with kiddie gloves the first time I tackled it, simply laying out who Harold Camping is, what his predictions are, how he came to those conclusions, and historical observations of similar claims that did not come to pass.   I wanted to be careful not to insult anyone.

Ever since, there has been a lively debate taking place in the comments section, which is precisely what I had hoped for.   Camping followers, non-believers, and everyone in between have been weighing in on the matter.   For a refresher, see my entire post here:Extra resources

Now… I have a slightly different angle to address.  In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve gone from being somewhat intrigued by the May 21, 2011 phenomenon, to feeling a bit hostile.  Here’s why.

A few weeks ago I went home to visit family.  I hadn’t seen my Grandmother in quite some time.  She is currently living in an assisted care facility following the death of my dear Grandfather.  My grandpa was a Lutheran minister, and the most loving man I’ve ever met.  He loved his wife, his children and grandchildren, and he loved his Lord, with all of his heart.  He was not one of these “hellfire and brimstone” preachers.  Instead, his focus was always on God’s love, and Christ as redeemer.

My grandmother seemed more anxious than normal.  I sat down to talk to her, to determine why she was so on edge.  She is a bright woman who unfortunately cannot see well and is nearly deaf.  At night, she lays in bed and cranks up her radio, hoping to find some inspirational preacher to listen to, as Grandpa is no longer around. She said to me, “Have you heard some people saying that the world is going to end on May 21?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Where did you here that?”

“Well, this man named Harold Camping hosts a radio show that I found in the evening.  He says he KNOWS that Jesus is coming back on May 21, and that the world is going to end.”

I became irritated.  I asked, “Well, you don’t believe him do you?  You remember that the Bible says NO MAN knows, not even Jesus knows, but only the Father.”

“I know that in my heart,” she said timidly, “But Mr. Camping says that if you don’t believe him, you won’t be saved.  It scares me.”

So…. things have changed.  Once I found the Camping prediction to be an interesting cultural phenomenon.  But then he scared my Grandma.  Now, it’s personal. http://www.omna.org/ This type of arrogant claim can be seen anywhere Harold Camping’s band of followers can be found.  Which is pretty much any corner of the world, these days.  As we get closer, their chorus of “WE CAN KNOW” can be heard louder than ever. But, let’s pick this apart, shall we?

First of all, anyone who has had even a cursory glance at the Bible knows that it guarantees no such thing.  On the contrary, the Bible says,  “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33)

The above Biblical reference is a thorn in Camping’s side.  How does he deal with it?  He uses some semantically clever tap dancing to dodge it.  He claims that the above section doesn’t say we cannot know, only that at the time it was written, no one DID know.  No one knew.  Thus, things have changed and it is not contradictory to the Bible to know NOW.   WE CAN KNOW, he proclaims. So how the heck does HE know?  Well, because he has studied the Bible, learned about the secret hidden codes that God placed within, and decoded the mystery that God has now revealed as the end draws near.   Hallelujah!

More about the authorHe has deciphered a cryptic timeline, and with the help of some reeeeaally big speculation, believes knows that the story of Noah’s Ark holds the magic key to unlocking the prophecy. (I tried to get into more specifics about EXACTLY how he came to the timeline he uses, but in all of his writings, the question of “How do you know?” is met with an asterisk, which leads to the following statement… * You are invited to send to Family Radio for the free book “Adam When?” that shows how the Bible provides this information.” )

Camping uses a form of numerology to apply significance to certain key numbers.  Yes, numerology.  Let’s call it like it is, he’s divining.  Not that I care, but I find it a crucial point for those who are ready to adhere to his every word while preaching doom to all those who don’t tow the line.  Here is an example from his book Learn More Here

The church age embraced, to the very day, exactly 1,955 years in that it began on Pentecost day, May 22, A.D. 33, and ended the day before Pentecost on May 21, 1988 (A.D.). (p. 29) As we have noted, God further solidifies or locks in this date, May 21, 2011, by placing the day of shutting the door, when the rapture will occur, on the 17th day of the second month of the Biblical calendar. Significantly, the number 17 links perfectly to the fact of the rapture because spiritually, the number 17 signifies heaven. Moreover, the number 2 (second month) spiritually identifies with those who have been commissioned to bring the Gospel. Is it not amazing that they will be raptured on the 17th day of the second month? Is that coincidental? We also have learned that the last day of the earth’s existence, October 21, 2011, is the 23rd day of the seventh month of the Biblical calendar. The number 23 normally signifies God’s wrath being poured out. The number 7 (seventh month) signifies the perfect fulfillment of God’s purposes. Could this also be coincidental, that the final completion of God’s punishment on the unsaved occurs in the seventh month on a day that features the number 23, which is a number that completely identifies with God’s wrath, thus signifying God’s perfect wrath on the unsaved?  (p. 61-62)

You can’t really get away from it.  That is Numerology – Camping style.  If you love Mr. Camping’s philosophy, you embrace something that most evangelicals would consider divination.  Period.

Let us then, take a look at one of one of the more recent videos that features Harold the Seer.  I believe this one was made at the 10 day point. Here we’ll get another lesson in the heretofore unknown Biblical Numerology.


Among all of his fancy footwork with the numbers, Camping asks in the above video… “That advice that he’s coming like a thief in the night…. What is your authority?”

I guess THIS is the “misguided” authority that many Camping detractors are relying upon:

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. – 1 Thessalonians 5:2

Mr. Camping, with due respect for your age and perhaps your desire to fully understand the Bible you so cherish, I believe you have completely missed the mark, and in the process you’ve told people that if they do NOT leave their current Churches, regardless of denomination, they are deceived, and do not know God, therefore will not be saved.  I ask you, where is YOUR authority?  What makes you feel that you can KNOW these things?  A bit of scripture you should probably have taken better note of would be, James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

But, luckily, we will get a head’s up on May 21 if it is, in fact, the DAY.  Because as I inquired to several Camping followers about how on earth the Rapture of souls could take place all over the world on the same day… I discovered that they’ve found away around that pesky time zone thing.  As one commenter explained on my previous post, and as many other followers have explained to me, it will happen like this:

On May 21 starting somewhere on the earth, most likely near New Zealand (International Date Line) there will be a great earthquake which will cause the graves to open and the bodies of the saved will rise to meet Christ in the air and be changed and the bodies or what ever is left of the unsaved will lie on the ground as a shameful site in the eyes of God. This event will follow the sunset moving west. So starting lets say in New Zealand, then an hour later it will happen in the next time zone and so on. And it will all happen in a 24 hour period to cover May 21 all over the world. So we in the USA will see the rapture in New Zealand and then the next place and so on.

Honestly, even if we accept that Harold Camping is on to something with the whole timeline thing… where in the heck did they pull the above scenario from?

Fine fine… we can agree with Harold or not.  Why am I so upset?  Because of things like THIS:

A woman slit her daughters’ throats before slitting her own early Friday evening, claiming that “the Tribulation” was going to occur and she wanted to prevent them from suffering through it, officials said.

Lyn Benedetto, 47, reportedly told her daughters to lie on a bed and proceeded to take a knife to their throats.

The suspect then took the knife to her own throat before driving the victims to an unoccupied friend’s house to die.

We’ll see more of that… you can bet on it.  Especially on May 22 when followers awaken to find that the world is still spinning and Jesus didn’t come.  It is a sad tradition with doomsday prophecy.  When the said prophecy fails to materialize, one of two things can happen.  1.  Faith is shattered, souls are devastated, and drastic measures are taken by disillusioned “believers”.  2.  Cognitive Dissonance.

I explored a perfect example of Cognitive Dissonance months ago in my article,  Doomsday Deflected: The Guardians and The Outer-Space Subordinate.   Here we saw an example of a doomsday cult from the 1950’s.  When their moment of truth came and went without so much as a thunderclap, believers were dumb struck.  How could this be?? Were we wrong?  But we couldn’t have been wrong!  We were CERTAIN this was going to happen!!

This is Cognitive Dissonance.  (Leon Festinger addressed this in the book When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of A Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World) It happens when the human mind is filled with the uncomfortable feeling of holding two opposing viewpoints at the same time.  The only way to ease the uncomfortable feeling is to either change your previous viewpoint (I guess I was wrong), to justify your previous thought by tweaking it (ok I wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t fully understand), or adding new beliefs to the previously mentioned initial belief (I wasn’t wrong, but something has happened in the interim to adjust what was previously the truth).

I am going to make my own prediction.  In order to ease the Cognitive Dissonance that will surely arise on May 22, Camping et al are going to go behind door number three and make the claim that something changed in this process to postpone D Day.  And, at the risk of promoting myself as a modern day prophet… I think I know exactly how they’re going to do it.

As I’ve spent time perusing the net for Camping related information, a certain lesson from the Bible keeps cropping up.  Recently, I’ve been hearing this parable from Camping and his flock a lot more.  It is a Biblical example of God threatening to bring destruction, and then essentially taking it back.   It is the tale of the Ninevites from the Book of Jonah.

Jonah tells the people of Ninevah to repent.

Campingites use this scripture as an example of the perfect way to repent when God’s wrath is coming.  In the many videos and lectures given by Harold and/or his supporters, the story of the Ninevites resurfaces repeatedly.  Here we’ll see why.

In Jonah 3: 1-9, Jonah is commanded by God to go to Ninevah and warn the wicked city of the coming of God’s wrath.  He walks the great distance to the city and proclaims, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

In verses 5-9 we see the Ninevites believe in God and believe Jonah’s warning.   Every last one of them, including their king, take it seriously, and start some heavy duty repenting.

5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. 6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?”

The above example is how Camping and the Campers say we should behave now that we have the knowledge about the end of days.  The Ninevites did it right!  But here’s the most important thing to know about Ninevah.

10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Ah-HA!  Yes, there is a reason why this story finds itself repeated by Harold Camping and his missionaries.  Not so much because they want to teach people how to adhere to the warning, but because this story gives them an out!  Because if God had mercy on Ninevah, maybe he could have mercy on all of us!  And then if Jesus doesn’t come on May 21, Camping can dust himself off, get on the radio and proclaim, “Behold!  The Lord God has seen how wonderful the Family Radio audience has responded to His message, and He has decided to mercifully spare us from His wrath.”

There is a big part of me that wants to believe that Harold Camping believes in his heart and soul that he is correct about the Rapture on May 21, 2011.  But when I see someone offering themselves such an obvious escape hatch from the backlash sure to come on May 22, I begin to question all of his intentions.

So, will the world as we know it end on May 21, 2011?  Maybe.  That’s the thing.  In all of this, the point to drive home is that none of us know.  Whether you believe Christ will return or the Imam Mahdi, the Kalki Avatar of Vishnu, or a fleet of extraterrestrials hell bent on world domination, the fact is that none of us KNOW.  So, the best advice is to live each day as if it could be the last… but not worry so much about the exact date.  And that’s ok.

In the meantime, quit scaring my Grandma.

Here is the “8 more days” video of Camping that came out today.