Is Anyone Out There After the End of the World?
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and according to some, it is also the last day for everyone since some believe the is the last day of the world.
There are thousands of followers of a loose knit Christian fringe movement whose members are increasingly found on sidewalks, in parks and at transit hubs in major cities throughout the United States.
They recite passages of the Bible line by line and say they have decoded a message for humanity: The world is about to end.
Ramsey and the movement's followers say that at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, the ground will quake, graves will open and many of the dead will ascend to heaven. Two hundred million of the saved dead or alive will float up. Those left behind will be doomed to live among blood, destruction and disease for five months before God annihilates the Earth on Oct. 21.
These warnings are drawn from the obscure and complex Biblical numerology of Harold Camping, an 89 year old televangelist who owns Family Radio, a vast international network of Christian radio stations. Camping has been predicting The End for the past two years. A similar prediction went unrealized in the mid-1990s.
His apocalyptic message has been broadcast via hundreds of billboards from Idaho to Manhattan and by a volunteer army of sign toting, pamphlet passing amateur preachers.
Camping, a frail 89 year old who speaks in a slow but sonorous voice for hours each day on his Open Forum call in show, is convinced that he crunched the exact date of the Rapture through a complex set of equations.
For example, he says, certain numbers repeat in the Bible along with particular themes. The number five means atonement. Ten means completeness. Seventeen is heaven.
"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he says. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that is 1,978 years."
If you multiply that number by 365.2422 the number of days in the solar calendar it equals 722,449. And if you add 51 (the number of days between April 1 and May 21) to that number, it equals 722,500.
Multiply five by ten by 17 to equal 850, and multiply 850 by 850 and the result is the same: 722,500.
That is just one example.
Camping's radio ministry, which is worth more than $120 million, has 66 stations throughout the country. Its broadcasts reach as far as Nigeria and, via the Internet, it is available in 61 languages.
"Salvation comes only through faith," he says. "We do not know what is going to happen to Family Radio or the banks or anyone else on that day, but it will be horror." Camping himself does not know whether he will be saved. Those outcomes are predetermined by God, he says.
Yet this is not the first time Camping has predicted 'The End.'
On Sept. 6, 1994, dozens of Camping's followers gathered a short drive from the radio station's office in Alameda, Calif. to watch for the return of Christ. Nothing happened.
Today, Camping says he got his math wrong and had not fully examined parts of the Bible until more recently.
"I always said if it was not 1994, it would be 2011," says Camping. He will not entertain the idea that May 21 could pass without a blip.
Neither will his followers.
Several Judgment Day caravans have taken off from California and other states in recent weeks, traveling to many corners of the U.S. to preach. Followers have quit their jobs and depleted their savings to join the effort.
Last week, hundreds of them converged in Manhattan business districts and parks before heading to Delaware and Boston.
The enemy is coming!" he shouted to bewildered passersby. He wore a neon green shirt proclaiming "Judgement Day: May 21, 2011."
It was just after 5 p.m. on a Thursday as they held out stacks of pamphlets ("GOD GIVES ANOTHER INFALLABLE PROOF THAT ASSURES THE RAPTURE WILL OCCUR MAY 21, 2011," one read) to a crowd of suited men and women briskly walking and tapping at their Blackberries and iPhones.
The pamphlets were ordered free of charge from Family Radio's web site. Other organizations, including eBiblefellowship and WeCanKnow.com have also given out free materials.
"We only have a few days left can you pipe down?" a middle aged man said to the Ramseys.
A young woman wearing sunglasses and driving a BMW pulled up and rolled down her window. She took a stack of pamphlets and immediately dropped it to the ground.
"You are insane," she said, before speeding away.
"People have a total disregard for the Bible," says Ramsey. "It seems like the ones who have everything God has to offer don't want to let go. They are absolutely terrified."
Several other preachers interviewed admit they has only seen a few dozen people actually read them.
"For a long time, I would not have either," he says. "I never imagined I would be the one to warn about The End."
So while I do not believe the end is today, I still want to wish you a safe and great Saturday. In fact, I guess I should go ahead and write the blog for tomorrow... just in case.
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,