Family Radio has been broadcasting and advertising that the end of the world will occur Saturday at 6 p.m. wherever you are.
According to a fact sheet published on the group’s website, this is what is about to happen: “On May 21, 2011 two events will occur. These events could not be more opposite in nature, the one more wonderful than can be imagined; the other more horrific than can be imagined. A great earthquake will occur the Bible describes it as ‘such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.’ This earthquake will be so powerful it will throw open all graves. The remains of the all the believers who have ever lived will be instantly transformed into glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God.” The rest will be “thrown out upon the ground to be shamed,” and will experience “horror and chaos beyond description.”
There will be an interim period running from 5/21/11 until 10/21/11, when Family Radio says final destruction of the Earth take place.
The Family Radio website notes that it is still accepting donations, and although its donor computer operation is said to be undergoing maintenance, the group says it has representatives on hand to process donations from call-in givers. It accepts credit or debit cards.
So any ministers reading this apparently need not bother to prepare a sermon or homily for Sunday.
I pointed out in selecting Family Radio my "Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes" Loser of the Week that evidently Family Radio was unfamiliar with Matthew 24:36, which readeth: "But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
Oh, but Harold Camping, owner of Family Radio, has an explanation:
In the Bible a wise man is a true believer, to whom God has given a profound trust in the authority of the Bible. True believers have been in existence since the beginning of time. But the timeline of history as it is revealed in the Bible was never revealed to the hearts of the true believers. For example, throughout most of the church age it was generally believed that Creation occurred in the year 4004 B.C.
However, about 35 years ago God began to open the true believers’ understanding of the timeline of history. Thus it was discovered that the Bible teaches that when the events of the past are coordinated with our modern calendar, we can learn dates of history such as Creation (11,013 B.C.), the flood of Noah’s day (4990 B.C.), the exodus of Israel from Egypt (1447 B.C.) and the death of Solomon (93l B.C.)*
However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible. This timeline extends all the way to the end of time. During these past several years God has been revealing a great many truths, which have been completely hidden in the Bible until this time when we are so near the end of the world.
(The essay gets more creative from there, believe me.)
So Camping is, similar to Matthew Harrison Brady (that is, William Jennings Bryan) in "Inherit the Wind," a believer that the Earth is only tens of thousands of years old. I am neither a scientist nor a theologian, but it seems rather presumptuous to limit God to a 24-hour day, does it not? The Episcopal Church, to which I've belonged for a decade, describes itself as a tricycle of Scripture (the big wheel), tradition and reason. And there is no real reason that evolution is incompatible with God's creation.
The minister who married my wife and me claims that there is only one verse of the Bible, John 3:16, that does not require an additional verse to back it up. Matthew 24:36 has two — Mark 13:32 ("But of that day and that hour knows no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father") and, from my favorite book of the Bible, Acts 1:7 ("And he said to them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power"). Moreover, the quoted words of Jesus Christ would seem to have paramount ranking as a source of information for Christians, would they not?
A Brief History of the Apocalypse has a listing of predictions of the end of the world dating all the way back to 2800 B.C. A real wave of apocalysomania took place in 1000 A.D., which I guess would have been Y1K. (I remember Y2K, when driving back home after a sumptuous not-really-millennium meal we listened to that paragon of reason, Art Bell, report about mysterious blackouts. Bell somehow neglected to mention that the University of Wisconsin football team's going to back-to-back Rose Bowls must have been a sign of the end times.) And we've had predictions of the end practically every year since 1972. (No, Richard Nixon's reelection was not one of them, but at the University of Wisconsin, Ronald Reagan's reelection was.) Before Pat Robertson was claiming that 9/11 and hurricanes were divine retribution, he predicted the end of the world would take place in the fall of 1982. (Breaking up with my first girlfriend and losing my job in the same week seemed like the end of the world, but it wasn't.)
I recall two specifically. In 1978, Pope Paul VI died, and then his successor, John Paul I, died a month after becoming pope. Newspapers at the time noted the legend of St. Malachy, an Irish priest who wrote down descriptions of every pope from Peter forward. When the list of popes runs out, the legend has it, our time runs out. And there is only one pope left on the list, Benedict XVI's successor, who by the way is supposed to be the Devil incarnate. (That should make the next College of Cardinals meeting after Benedict's death really interesting.)
The other prediction, in 1982, was not exactly a prediction of the end, but of galactic disorder caused by all the planets in this solar system lining up. Leonard Nimoy narrated an episode of "In Search Of" that warned of the calamity on the way. Nimoy's most famous character, Mr. Spock, would have pointed out that such a theory is illogical because the planets are not all on the same plane. (To which Dr. McCoy would have contributed, "How do I know? I'm a doctor, not an astronomer!")
The planetary alignment previously occurred Feb. 4, 1962; astrologer Jeane Dixon predicted that the Antichrist would be born the next day. (Which means the Antichrist is actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.)
Remember the earthquake that destroyed Taiwan and created the tsunami that killed millions May 11? You don't, because the prediction of someone named Professor Wang didn't happen. Of course, this year is less than half over, so we may still enter the Photon Belt (no, that was not an episode of Star Trek) before the end of the year.
The next prediction of our doom is Dec. 23, 2012, according to the Mayans, whose calendar runs out on that day. (So don't bother getting Christmas presents next year, and you can skip gassing up the snowblower, when by then gas should be about $14 a gallon.) But if that prediction isn't accurate, there are plenty of others waiting in the wings. For instance, back in 1960, Science magazine predicted that on Nov. 13, 2026, the world's population would reach infinity.