If you were born after 1980, you may not remember one of the catchiest musical advertisements ever made. From 1977 to 1983, a very perky, smiling young man (David Naughton throughout much of the run; late in the series, Scott Baio) danced energetically all around TV screens explaining that he was a “Pepper” because he drank Dr. Pepper.
I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper,
She’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper,
Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?
Be a Pepper. Drink Dr Pepper.
In its heyday, this ad campaign was so popular that you could get all sorts of paraphernalia, declaring that you indeed were a Pepper too, including T-shirts, coffee cups, and lunch boxes.
This unforgettable jingle popped into my mind the other day, and I was surprised to look it up on Wikipedia and find out it has been out of circulation for almost 30 years! Seems like only yesterday I saw it … probably after M*A*S*H or The Jeffersons. (Am I getting that old?!) Only through the magic of Youtube now can those folks under 30 be exposed to that peppy young salesman.
The reason it popped into my mind was the current hubbub around the “prophecy” by Family Radio founder Harold Camping that the Rapture of all true Christians to Heaven to be with God is going to be this Saturday. As soon as that happens, gigantic earthquakes will shake every continent on earth, followed by tsunamis and other disasters. A period of five hellish months will descend upon all those “Left Behind,” climaxing with the total destruction of the physical “heavens and earth” by fire on October 21. Harold insists “…these dates are 100% accurate and beyond dispute.”
What has this got to do with being a Pepper, you may ask? Nothing—I am thinking of changing the words to the jingle. You see, Harold isn’t just staging a One Man Prophet show in person over the airwaves or on his websites. He has essentially recruited a whole army of Apprentice Prophets to spread the prophecy. Such as this young woman.
She and an army of Camping-ite Apprentice Prophets are criss-crossing the country in Rapturemobiles of all sorts, virtual moving bill-boards, spreading the message of doom.
In one of my more cynical moments this week, I created a little uniform for Apprentice Prophets. Too bad we are too close to May 21 for me to set up an Internet storefront online and sell these to Campingites.
Strangely enough, many of those swept up in this mania, including Camping himself, seem to believe that they are NOT spreading the message to get people to repent and thus be able to be “in” on the Rapture … and out of the Fiery Destruction in October. No, many of them have a theology that declares that God “predestined” everyone who ever lived, even before they were born, to either be on their way to Heaven or on their way to Hell. They can’t do anything about it. They are like puppets, destined to end up in whatever pre-determined destination God predestined them to.
So the “point” of all these signs and flyers and websites and videos on Youtube seems to be just … announcements. Something akin to … “The plane is taking off on Saturday. If you already have a ticket, you’ll be on it. If you don’t … tough luck. No more tickets will be going on sale.” Nyah, Nyah, Nyah. You’ll be destined to fry forever while they fly off to Paradise. An attitude shown by the Campingite in the Doonesbury cartoon strip this week:
I find this whole notion mindboggling. But frankly, it is based on a very, very standard doctrine within much of Christianity, that of an everburning Hell of torment for all those who don’t “make it” to Heaven. And I don’t doubt this is what many who are spreading the date May 21 believe. (For an examination of the idea of an everburning Hell of permanent torture, see my NonDante: The biblical truth about Hell blog.)
However, as I understand it, Harold Camping no longer has this perspective himself. He used to believe and teach that the folks left behind after the Rapture would then suffer horribly for five months and die … and go to eternal torment in Hell. As one commentator put it, Camping was “one of the most ardent hell and damnation emphasizers of any evangelist in recent memory.”
Now he seems to believe that the torture will be only happening during the “Tribulation” of five months between the rapture and the destruction of the Earth. People will WANT to die then and be unable, but will be forced to endure the suffering. But at the end, they will be just permanently annihilated with the physical Earth and heavens. I guess that’s an improvement … Here’s someone who heard him on the radio back in the early 1990s when he was dogmatically insisting the End would be 1994.
“Camping preaches the doctrine of predestination, the notion that God has predestined some people to be saved and others to hell. He teaches that one cannot know if one is saved or not and can do nothing to find out or to change God’s mind. But you should just live a good life, even with the uncertainty. And if you’re saved great. If you’re not, well, tough luck, you’re screwed, even if you were Mother Teresa.
Years ago, on his “Bible Answer Man” program, I heard him talking to a grieving woman. Her infant niece had died and she wanted to know if the child would be in heaven. Camping, with absolutely no compassion or concern for this woman or child, told her bluntly that if God had pre-ordained the child to be saved, it was in heaven. If not, it was in hell. The woman sobbed and Camping simply said, “Next caller.”
Wherever he thinks the child is now, he evidently at least thinks it will just be burnt to a crisp in October 21 if it’s not already in heaven.
The mobile billboards manned by Apprentice Prophets are supplementing the 1,200 or so stationary giant billboards all over the US … and the 2,000 billboards overseas: India, Russia, Taiwan, Europe, South America, and Africa.
All paid for by donations from Campingites in general—and Apprentice Prophets in particular. Such as Robert Fitzpatrick and Adrienne Martinez (from Christianpost.com) :
If you happened to learn about Harold Camping’s May 21 rapture prediction from a placard on a subway car or bus shelter in New York City, the ad was probably funded by Robert Fitzpatrick – a 60-year-old, retired transit worker from Staten Island who invested his entire life savings of $140,000 into the campaign.
“I’m trying to warn people about what’s coming,” Fitzpatrick told the New York Daily News. “People who have an understanding [of end times] have an obligation to warn everyone.”
Fitzpatrick isn’t the only person to empty his bank account to warn others based on Camping’s prediction.
NPR recently reported on another one of Camping’s followers, 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez, as saying, “Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans.”
So, instead of going to medical school like she planned, she gave up that idea. She and her husband, Joel, quit their jobs and moved from New York City to Orlando, where they rented a home and are currently passing out tracts. Joel says they are spending the last of their savings because they don’t see a need for one more dollar.
“You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that,” he said. “What’s the point of having some money just sitting there?”
“We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left,” Adrienne added.
Stories like this are what made me think of the Pepper song. Change the words just a tiny bit and you’d get …
I’m a Prophet, he’s a prophet, she’s a prophet
We’re a Prophet—
Wouldn’t ya like ta be a prophet too?
To be a prophet, of course, you have to be 100% sure of your prophecy. This seems to be true of both Camping and most of his Apprentices:
(From a May 7 NPR show that included an interview with Camping. The interviewer asked, “So you’re not planning for May 22?”)
“Absolutely not,” Camping says. “It is going to happen. There is no Plan B.”
I’ve asked a dozen of Camping’s followers the same question. Everyone said even entertaining the possibility that May 21 would come and go without event is an offense to God. They all hope they’ll be raptured. Some worry about being left behind.
“If I’m here on May 22, and I wake up, I’m going to be in hell,” says Brown. “And that’s where I don’t want to be. So there is going to be a May 22, and we don’t want to be here.”
I am not a prophetess, but I am a Christian and a 40+ year student of the Bible. And I’ve spent 20+ years as a researcher/writer regarding the history of religious deception and false prophecies. Based on all that I can confidently predict this—there will be NO Rapture on May 21. And on May 22 there will be a lot of people needing to figure out how to get their lives out of the mess they have put them in because of this damned, ungodly, unbiblical foolishness.
It won’t be just adults who bought into the foolishness who will have been harmed either, and that is probably the greatest tragedy of all. Read the words of one young woman in her 20s who was affected by Camping’s LAST Prophetic fiasco in 1994. She wrote the following on a forum where Camping’s LATEST fiasco is being discussed.
My parents told me the world was going to end in 1994, as Harold Camping had drilled into their minds, when I was about 11 years old. They took me, and my three sisters, out of public school because of this, and also told all of us that we had to tell all of our friends about God and the end of the world, because if God didn’t save them they would burn in Hell. My younger sister lost her best friend. My older sister cried herself to sleep night after night. My oldest sister was old enough to “rebel” and push these teachings aside thanks to common sense. The rest of us were too young to have developed that—everything our parents said was absolutely true to us. My mom lost all her friends except one in 1994. She just recently lost that one, due to Camping’s new theories. My dad…I have no idea, he keeps his social life away from us, if he even has one. I have a feeling he doesn’t mention the bible outside of this home. As for me…I remember having trouble sleeping at night, thinking about my friends screaming in terror, begging for the boulders to fall and smash them so they wouldn’t have to face God, while the sky was burning, the moon was the color of blood, the heavens rolled up like a scroll, and the stars fell….need I go on? That’s some creepy stuff.
I don’t know what this young woman thinks about God and the Bible now, but I wouldn’t blame her if she has rejected both. That’s what happens to many young people who live through their parents’ love affair with False Prophecy. And that reminds me of something Jesus said:
Mark 9:42 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
I’ll conclude this blog entry by saying: If any readers of this blog are ever even tempted just a teensy bit to jump on the bandwagon of some self-appointed Prophet like Harold Camping, to “Want to Be a Prophet Too,” I suggest fighting the temptation with every fiber of your being. HERE is what a millstone looks like. Picture yourself descending through the seaweed with a rope around your neck tied tightly to one of these.
Find out more about this kind of millstone in the next entry in this series: