Good news, everybody! Harold Camping’s legacy has been obliterated. It might sound laughable–and it is, really, for a number of reasons we’ll dive into below. But it’s also a sign of the times. Rapture fantasies might just be going out of fashion, a little. Let me show you what I mean.
Oh, and Ed Stetzer will be making an appearance in the best possible way. What else could someone ask for, in a busy and stressful news cycle?
Remember the 2012 Rapture Scare?
Man, 2011 and 2012 seemed so wackadoodle, even at the time. It only grows worse in hindsight. Those were the years when Harold Camping and a bunch of other people–some Christian, some nowhere close to that–predicted that the world would end.
Everyone and their dog tried to get in on the action. Some people, like the fundagelical “prophet” Camping himself, thought that the world-ender would involve the Rapture and Armageddon. Others thought it’d involve a mystery dark planet (that does not exist, period point blank forever) hitting the Earth and obliterating it. Others still thought it’d involve a natural disaster like a massive earthquake or a pole shift (both of which figured into the blockbuster movie 2012).
Hell, I heard about 2012 as a date as far back as 1998. I even wrote a (probably terrible) poem about it at the time sarcastically lauding the future crowning of the King of Arizona–which was the self-styling of a guy I’d met who pushed that prediction. Thankfully the whole thing has been lost to time. Our erstwhile future king very sensibly got into ISP hosting or something eventually.
The one thing quite a few people agreed on was that one way’r t’other, the world as we knew it was ending.
Remember Harold Camping?
Through a mob of competing doomsayers, Harold Camping strode to the forefront. He all but wore a furry purple leopard-print top hat and moonwalked to the front center of the world stage. If he had, though, nobody sympathetic to his cause would even have remembered those details after hearing him. He presided over an empire by then.
Camping had already made a lot of these sorts of predictions (1988, 1994, 2008–at the least). It was his thang. But one of his more popular predictions centered around May 21, 2011.
A media frenzy broke out over the prediction. Likely the frenzy happened because of a bunch of other similar “prophecies” from other religions and faith traditions about 2012. He missed an opportunity there, perhaps.
But despite his attempt to crash the party a year early (in fact, he thought the 2012 predictions were balderdash), Harold Camping had something his competition didn’t. He had many decades of radio work in a competitive environment, Christian talk radio. Every one of those decades had been spent honing a powerful radio presence.
When that new prediction didn’t pan out, all hell broke loose. His radio-station empire lost a lot of donations, eventually selling some stations. Camping himself had to write an apology (now taken down). He tried to recast the prediction for October 2011, but the wind already seemed permanently taken out of the would-be cult leader’s sails. He suffered a stroke in June 2011, weeks after May failed, then went into seclusion for “rehabilitation.” On December 15, 2013, he passed away at 92 years of age.
A radio call-in-sort-of show he did in 1990. The first topic reveals a stunning lack of self-awareness, while the comments underneath it on YouTube are beyond hilarious.
Well That Was Sure Speedy.
After Camping died, the remainder of his radio empire, Family Radio, sent out a super-happy-sounding obituary notice about their onetime lord and master. They promised at the time,
We are so grateful to God for Brother Camping’s dedication to Family Radio and for his lifetime of service to God. We are thankful to know that Family Radio is God’s ministry, and will continue to be in God’s care and keeping.
In a writeup in Christian Post at the time, we further see Family Radio representatives insisting that moving forward, they’d be preserving Camping’s views and general mission for the business.
And yeah. Here’s how that worked out:
That image is a screenshot I just made of the results of a search done for Harold Camping’s name on Family Radio’s site today, October 2, 2018. You’ll notice that the site no longer contains the name Harold Camping. (“Camping” by itself turns up stuff involving, well, camping.)
Dude is GONE from the site as if he never existed.
Family Radio just announced last week that they’re canceling all of Harold Camping’s programs from their lineup.
In fact, they’ve scrubbed all of his teachings from the site as well. Some of these were quite controversial, like his insistence that all “institutional churches” were actually apostate, so all TRUE CHRISTIANS™ should leave them (and, presumably, join one of the groups he preferred and/or led). Of course, then we get into his love of making Doomsday predictions that don’t turn out and then become huge public-relations nightmares for the company struggling to maintain the business around him.
They said the scrub would occur on October 7. But gang, they didn’t wait on the website. He’s already gone.
Oh, sure, they’re still working out the lineup still that Camping started or recorded before his death (that “Open Forum” thing I showed you earlier, plus his once-very-popular “Bible Class of the Air”). But after October 7 or 8, they’ll be finished with those.
And then Harold Camping won’t exist in the Family Radio context.
It’ll be like he was erased.
WHAT! WHY! EXPLAIN THIS DARK SORCERY, CAS!
Sure thang, Sparklefang.
Tom Evans, the Family Radio spokesperson (and president and general manager of the business), told Christian Post on September 27 that they’d decided to go this route because they’d realized that a lot of Camping’s nuttiness was, well, nutty. Evans used the popular Christianese verb repented to describe their realization, even.
That’s some dang-diggity-serious Christianese there. Christians using it have become persuaded that they must admit they were wrong, which extremist Christians hate doing more than anything. But they want to make it a little less of a self-own. By phrasing their mea culpa as repentance, they can make it sound more like Unca Jesus himself told them they were wrong, which is a little more acceptable in Christian-Land.
Evans revealed that, when it comes to a problem like
Maria Harold, the solution had to be a complete scrub of the site. Even if they had removed all the obviously problematic stuff, like outright predictions and openly-heretical rants, he’d left his weird imprint on pretty much everything he’d ever done with his shows. So they could either fine-tooth-comb it through everything he’d done over more than 50 years as a Jim-Jones-sympathizing Christian weirdo, or they could just do away with it all.
For what it’s worth, I agree with his reasoning. If Family Radio has a hope in Hades of recovering from the damage its founder did to it, that’s pretty much what it’ll take as a start.
The New Scares. Sorta.
The decision comes at a very good time. Cuz lemme tell ya, Christians just don’t make Rapture scares like they used to.
Another Rapture scare already came and went before probably anybody even knew about it. An obscure French conspiracy theorist I’ve never heard of, Mathieu Jean-Marc Joseph Rodrigue, had called it for June 24 this past summer. Oops.
Of course, even by fundagelical standards, his prediction was, shall we say politely, blithering WTF bonkernuts. (His Facebook account links to an “Apocalypse” countdown clock he made.The clock in question reads, of course, “Compte à rebours terminé” because the date came and went with no Rapture. Double oops.)
The Blood Moon nutters tried again on July 27, but that didn’t work out. I didn’t even hear about the attempt. (Now that Blood Moon Rapture Scares have entered Christian canon, they’ll likely never leave. Christians have no mechanism or process whatsoever that they can use to pare out bad ideas from their belief system.)
And This Return to Form.
Oh, and do you remember the Book of Daniel “prophet,” Riley Stephenson/gevte, that I talked about this past April? His prediction last time landed on April 18, 2018.
After that failed, he reset his prediction for Yom Kippur, 2018–which was September 18-19. He generally doesn’t actually release new pages on his site for his revisions. Instead, he just updates the main page, which makes Wayback Machine entries for his main page look downright comical.
He hasn’t updated the site yet with a new prediction. This is at least his fourth failure. At least I know better than to ask how many more times he’ll be wrong before he starts questioning things.
Maybe They Can Learn!
So nobody’s ever gotten the dates right. And the predictions are getting weaker and loopier (and funnier) with every passing year. As if he inhabits another world where none of that is true, Hal Lindsey offers a list of reasons why Christians should totally get into prophecy. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell us that his list isn’t motivated at all by self-interest–since, of course, he himself peddles swill of that exact nature to Christians.
It’s always been hard to see why Christians should get into prophecy, though–unless they just like enriching opportunistic wolves at the expense of their own credibility and resources.
So it’s refreshing to see Christians pushing back a little against those opportunists.
I just wasn’t expecting those Christians to include Harold Camping’s own radio empire.
Family Radio isn’t a bunch of doofuses. Well, some of them aren’t. Probably. (?) Even if they all were, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see where the money’s heading. If money existed in peddling doomsday theories and weird fringe doctrines to fundagelicals, they’d be at it still. Obviously that money no longer flows in that direction.
And I’m seeing similar sentiments elsewhere in the religion.
There’s Always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser.
It’s a truism, after all: at any given time, some extremist Christian somewhere has set an upcoming date for the Rapture. In years past, it was always easy to find those dates, too.
But maybe–just maybe–Christians have picked up on the total loss of credibility they and their religion have suffered since that new Great Disappointment in 2011. Maybe they’ve noticed how much mockery they and their religion receive every time one comes and goes without the magic happening.
I can’t lay my hands on any exact dates predicted anytime soon.
I mean sure, if I really tried I could probably find some Christian somewhere talking about their favorite bee-in-bonnet. But usually these things leap out. And no leaping is occurring.
Two Very Faint Outside Possibilities.
A couple of weeks ago, we saw a story alluding to a new date. Some Jews and Christians think (as reported in the Sun anyway) that a “blemish-free” red calf was recently born in Israel. This is the very first time that’s ever happened in 2000 years. Now that that’s happened, and if the calf can stay blemish-free, the Jews can sacrifice it. Once they do that, they can start rebuilding the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. That rebuilding is one of the necessary steps to kick-starting the end of the world.
No prediction dates accompanied the news, however. First the calf must grow up, then get sacrificed, and then the rebuilding has to go through.
I see two problems immediately with this whole story.
First, there’s already something built on Temple Mount: the Dome of the Rock, which is of course Islamic. The Jews would have to demolish that temple to put theirs in its place, and I’m pretty sure the Muslims would say something.
Second, I distinctly remember hearing similar stories of weird-colored calves being born in Israel when I myself was a Christian in the 1980s. I don’t remember if the calf was red or white, but yeah, the rumor got everyone buzzing about “signs and wonders.”
So I’m not expecting that one to turn out.
The other possibility: Hal Lindsey has an open prediction for 2018-2028, but that barely counts. He’s sorta been in the predicting-wrong-dates field for decades already so nobody seems to care.
Other than those, I don’t see a lot of action on the Rapture prediction front.
How Those Better Angels Prevailed.
Last year, we touched on something Ed Stetzer wrote about David Meade’s prediction. Namely, he’d written that sensible, evolved Christians like himself needed to push back hard against these nutters and their nutty predictions. Otherwise, “careless” media would pass it on and less sensible, evolved Christians nothing like himself would eat it up. Thus, he said, “I’m doing my part” to help end his tribe’s fascination with these accounts.
GIVE THAT GUY A MEDAL ALREADY
And now, lo and behold, maybe the frenzy has died down a little for them.
I can guarantee you one thing, at least, though.
If the frenzy has indeed died down, that situation had nothing to do with those oh-so-sensible Christians like Ed Stetzer “doing their part.”
It had to do with simple self-interest, if anything at all. Nobody likes being mocked and ridiculed. And the kinds of Christians who get into “prophecies” hate not getting attention for their grandstanding, sure, but gang, they wither like hothouse flowers under the sunshine of scorn.
I certainly hope Ed Stetzer ain’t patting himself on the back for his triumph.
NEXT UP: Let’s just plow through that list of Hal Lindsey’s, shall we? See you soon!
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H/t to Bob Seidensticker of Cross Examined for finding the link about Family Radio scrubbing Camping’s blather from their site. It was a truly excellent find from a truly excellent colleague.