Actually, this April 15, 1912, headline was based on preliminary news and was in error. The final tally shows that 1,513 lives were lost in the sinking of the Titanic, and there were only 711 survivors.
As they all boarded the ship for its maiden voyage, none of those 2,224 people expected it to go down. Why, it was unsinkable! The ship’s makers “guaranteed” it!
Fast forward to 2011. Captain Camping of the Good Ship Family Radio had invited thousands on board to sail into eternity with him on May 21. All on board were ecstatic—after all, hadn’t Cap’n Harold said, “The Bible Guarantees It!”?
Robert Fitzpatrick was certainly comfortable getting on board when he talked to reporters on May 13.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, Robert Fitzpatrick spent $140,000 for an ad campaign for signs on subway cars and bus shelters around the city reading “Global Earthquake! The Greatest Ever – Judgment Day: May 21.”
“I’m trying to warn people about what’s coming,” Fitzpatrick. “People who have an understanding [of end times] have an obligation to warn everyone.”
Fitzpatrick told the newspaper how it will go down:
“It’ll start just before midnight, Jerusalem time: It’ll be instantaneous and global,” he said. “There are too many scriptures talking about ‘sudden destruction.'”
Fitzpatrick is obviously a big believer of evangelist Harold Camping, who claims to have calculated the date of Armageddon using clues from the Bible.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it didn’t think twice about accepting Fitzpatrick’s campaign.
“It’s an individual’s prerogative to spend their money as they see fit,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
However an atheist group said the MTA should not have allowed the ad blitz.
“Doomsday cults are money-making enterprises,” said David Silverman, of the American Atheists. “I wonder what is going to happen on May 22 when people no longer have their possessions or their savings and we are all still here and they don’t have their rapture.”
But Fitzgerald is not worried about that. “It is the date,” he stubbornly said.
He was much less stubborn, and definitely worried, late on May 21 when the time had passed for the expected rapture. “I do not understand why nothing has happened,” he told Reuters News Service.
By May 22, most news sources seemed to think that since Cap’n Harold’s ship had hit the Reality Iceberg, it would be sinking fast. Harold himself would slink away to oblivion, and the Family Radio network would go bankrupt.
As mentioned in earlier installments in this series, however, this just isn’t the way it goes when Religious Obsessions meet Immovable Reality. The obsessive merely redefine Reality to their own liking.
By May 23, Harold had come up with his answer to why “nothing happened” on May 21—no Rapture, no gigantic earthquake, no Judgment Day. And a significant proportion of the paying travelers on his ship accepted the answer and continued right on their merry way. Shuffling deck chairs as the band played Nearer My God to Thee.
You see, Harold convinced his followers, something “did” happen on May 21. It just didn’t happen where anyone could see it. It was a “spiritual” event. God judged the world on that day, and closed the door to salvation. (Like when God closed the door on Noah’s Ark once Noah and family were inside.) Only those who were inside the Ship on that day will be saved when the Ultimate End comes on October 21 and the whole world is destroyed. The job of Family Radio now is only to “feed the sheep” inside the Ark. Only five more months to sail, and then all the waiting will be over. Really. Guaranteed.
The five months can’t come soon enough for some believers. On an Internet forum for Camping supporters, one participant admitted on May 26 that he was so discouraged he did not want to go on living. One of his fellow True Believers encouraged him with these words. (all spelling is in the original):
Hang in there S___. I admit, I was sad the rapture didn’t happen, but think of it this way. Our unsaved loved ones will not be suffering 5 months, but instead will be able to have a nice life until October 21. What a merciful God we have!
Most likely, salvation is over and we are living in a dead desolute world, but still we should pray to God for our loved ones. The October 21 message has spread like wildwire!
It reminds me when Jehosophat was to fight a battle, but God told him to sit back while he did all the work. The same thing about October 21. We don’t need to witness with this date. God is doing it all by himself.
Just type October 21, 2011 into Google and look under the news section, and you’ll see what I mean. How many media people were there during the May 23 Open Forum, when Mr. Camping proclaimed the October 21 date? That was God doing it! Trust me, October 21 will be here before you know it. 5 months will go quickly. At least it’s not 5 years.
We are being tested! God is further seperating the wheat from the tares. True, believing in this date doesn’t mean someone is saved, but we know we are in a major testing and trial period. God bless you!
Judgment Day Part II – October 21, 2011
The Bible guarantees it!
The five months’ wait may be harder for some than others. Here are a few quotes by R___. who apparently was a Family Radio caravan RV driver up until May 21. These quotes were posted early in June on a Facebook page for Camping supporters:
“To all my wonderful friends … I am fine but am not able to get internet and no phone …. I am fine though and would appreciate your prayers because like so many others I am homeless, jobless and penniless. But frett not : ) I am rich in Christ and will be in touch as things improve : )”
“… I need assistance. Can you let someone know I need housing for a while while I find work ??? Family Radio can not help any of us who were drivers on Project Caravan … we just arrived in Grass Valley, Ca. and there are some of us who are absolutely in dire straits … they wont even let us live in the RV’s until we are able to find a home or get work ….”
For many of Harold’s long-time supporters, of course, all this is nothing new. He made similar dogmatic pronouncements back prior to 1994 that the End would be coming that year.
A 1994 review of the book 1994? and evaluation of its impact on the Family Radio ministry gives more insight into Camping’s leadership style, and the situation back then. Excerpt:
California-based Family Radio, Inc., a worldwide conglomerate of 38 radio stations broadcasting a mostly conservative Christian viewpoint, is in danger of self-destructing, according to high-level sources within the ministry.
The problem centers on Harold Camping — Family Radio’s president and the moderator of its popular Open Forum call-in radio program — and on his explosively controversial 562-page book, 1994? In it Camping proclaims that Jesus Christ will return in September of 1994. “No book ever written is as audacious or bold as one that claims to predict the timing of the end of the world,” he writes, “and that is precisely what this book presumes to do.”
Camping is causing problems for the organization that go far beyond general discomfort with the book. Key ministry officials, who requested anonymity, told the JOURNAL that he has used the network to promote 1994? without the authorization of Family Radio’s board of directors. “We’ve had battles with him before, during and after this book came out,” offers a ministry insider, “and Harold just won’t listen. He considers himself a modern-day Jonah and feels he has to get his message of Christ’s return in 1994 out to everyone, especially those who are reached by Family Radio.”
Insiders claim that the contention among Camping, his nationwide staff of over 400, and his board is undermining the entire ministry. “Everyone is in turmoil about his 1994 stand,” says the high-ranking staff member. “Instead of working for the cause of Christ worldwide, we’re merely taking sides in a battle that will divide us — and ultimately defeat us. Harold’s position on end-time events is his own business, but he’s brought all of us into this by using Family Radio as his own personal forum to promote his book. He uses Open Forum to talk about 1994? and has even gone so far as to counsel people who call in not to make any long-term plans because Jesus is coming back next year.
“We told him not to do that anymore,” he sighs, “but he’s a loose cannon.”
[See the link above for the full article. ]
In spite of the failure of the 1994 predictions, Family Radio didn’t self-destruct… and Harold Camping didn’t change his tune. As the years went by up to 2011, he became even more idiosyncratic and even more sure of himself that THIS time he had the dates right. And he drug Family Radio along with him.
Reports at the time of the failed May 21 prophecy indicated that perhaps up to 80% of the employees of the network actually didn’t believe his predictions, but merely stayed with the organization because it was their source of income.
For three weeks after the failure of that date, nothing seemed to have changed. Camping’s 90-minute Open Forum program was still broadcast every weeknight, and he seemed to be as much in charge as ever.
But on June 9, 2011, Camping, age 89 at the time, suffered a stroke which affected his verbal communication.
At first Family Radio played repeats of old Open Forum shows at the regular time. But on June 23 the Associated Press reported that Family Radio had announced that the show would be replaced with new programming at the end of June. Harold had survived the stroke, and was at the time in a “skilled nursing facility” receiving rehabilitation. But he was evidently not expected to be able to return to his microphone.
However, there is no indication on the Family Radio website that the management of the network intends to recant Camping’s October 21 prediction, nor revise the intent to not “preach the gospel” any longer because … no one can be saved from now on, so why bother? The main graphic is an animated scroll with “Feed My Sheep” at the top and the words of Jesus about feeding sheep. The plan seems to be to just “encourage the flock” of people who were already Christian on May 21 with uplifting music and messages about the goodness of God and such, to help them be patient until October.
There is a link at the top of the webpage to an explanation of “What happened on May 21?” Although the look of the main page has changed , many of the articles from the past about May 21 are still up on the site as of June 29 such as Judgment Day and No Man Knows .
Only time will tell if the network can survive the failure of the October 21 date that is sure to come.
And then the real question will be whether those who look to Harold Camping as the World’s Greatest Bible Teacher will be able to weather another collision with a Reality ‘Berg.
But as of now it sure seems like most of the people involved are still in Titanic Denial. And knowing what I do about what happens When Prophecy Fails , I tend to think that many will stay that way even if nothing happens on October 21, and even if Harold were to die of old age before then.
I suspect they will just man the lifeboats and, rather than head for the safety of shore, will sail blindly on out into the frozen waters, struggling amongst themselves to recalculate what the Bible guarantees.