Harold Camping said tonight that Judgment Day 2011 will take place on October 21, 2011. In fact, it took place tonight, with Camping in the dock.
In a special edition of his Open Forum radio program, Camping said that he had forgotten that a merciful God would never make everyone suffer, for five months, the extreme privation that he had said would begin on May 21 and end on October 21. He now says that October 21 will bring the last disaster and will end the human race quickly. Camping cited Gabriel Otero, his one-time colleague, as his source for this fresh interpretation of the Bible that now leads him to postpone the dire event. (He failed to mention that he had fired Otero from his network years ago.)
Yet after Camping made a half-hour-plus announcement, he took reporters’ questions. That showed that the judgment was now on him, not the world at large.
Judgment Day 2011: why did it not occur?
Open Forum is usually a telephone talk program. Tonight, calls to the Open Forum number (1-800-322-5385) returned a fast busy signal. Camping announced that the program would instead be a news conference, and only accredited members of the press would have the privilege of calling in with questions.
Camping repeated several themes that he has sounded for decades:
- Not a single church believes that every word in the Bible, in its original Hebrew and Greek, came “from the lips of God.”
- Faith cannot save a man. Only those whom God has pre-selected from the beginning of the world qualify for salvation.
- May 21, 2011 is still the correct date of warning because it occurred 7000 years to the day after the Global Flood. (How Camping arrives at his date of the Flood is not clear. No other student of the Bible has ever calculated that as many as 7,000 years could have passed since the Flood, or even since the world itself began.)
Frequent visitors to Camping’s web site reported that all mention of the dire Judgment Day 2011 prophecies for May 21 had vanished, and no explanation was available.
Reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle located Camping at his home yesterday. Camping said that he was “flabbergasted” that no physical sign of Divine Judgment occurred. He then said that he would explain further tonight.
Judgment Day 2011: what next?
After an initial 30-minute segment, Camping announced that all Judgment Day 2011 billboards would come down, and that Family Radio Worldwide would distribute no more Judgment Day 2011 tracts. As far as he is concerned, the world has had enough warning, and the judgment will fall on October 21 according to Divine schedule.
Tellingly, Camping said that May 21 was the spiritual, not a physical, coming of Judgment Day 2011. Though no one perceives the judgment, Camping says that it has still come. Five months from now, Judgment Day 2011 will come physically. The earth’s crust will shatter and release magma to, in effect, destroy the habitable surface of the world with fire.
Judgment Day 2011: Camping under fire
The first questions that reporters answered were about those who had sold their homes, quit their jobs, and even spent down their savings. Incredibly, Camping disavowed any specific advice to anyone to do any of these things. He did not do them himself, nor does he plan to, and said that no one, to whom he might sign over his house, would be able to own or use it after October 21, anyway.
Questions continued in that vein. The reporters rapidly came to this theme: Camping had blundered, people had trusted him, and now people were bankrupt, homeless, or both, after following his teachings. In reply, Camping totally disclaimed all responsibility for the things that his followers had done.
I am only a humble teacher. I teach the Bible, and people can look it up.
Except that the Bible nowhere describes any such scenario as Camping described. The reporters seemed not to understand this. But they did understand one thing: that if a prophet makes a mistake, then no one should trust any other prediction he makes.
They were not satisfied, either, with Camping’s answers. They hammered him with questions about:
- Why he had not disposed of his property,
- How much money Family Radio Worldwide has available,
- How much it had raised in the Judgment Day 2011 campaign,
- Whether he would return the money, and
- How did he feel about some of the things that his followers had done. (They mentioned one case of a woman who attempted to kill first her children, then herself, as the predicted Judgment Day 2011 came near.)
As the conference went on, Camping faced the questions exactly as he faced his responsibility for what happened to his followers: he evaded them.
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Judgment Day 2011: Judgment on Camping
Your editor recognized, before the program was even halfway over, that Judgment Day 2011 did not occur on May 21, 2011. Nor will it wait until October 21, 2011. Judgment Day 2011 happened tonight, on May 23, 2011, and it happened to Harold Camping.
This is not his first failure. He once predicted that the world would end in September of 1994. He even wrote a book about it: 1994? The only major historical event in 1994 did not occur in September, but in November: the mid-term federal election that transferred control of both Houses of Congress to the Republican Party for the first time in half a century.
Camping said at the time that 1994 was the end of the Church Age, not of the world. He urged his followers to leave whatever church they were going to, and listen to the radio—his radio station, though he often disclaimed even that.
In recent months he settled on May 21, 2011 as Judgment Day 2011. He emphasized this date, saying that it was exactly 7000 years after the Flood, and because
A day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day,
those 7000 days would represent one “prophetic week.”
Now, because Judgment Day 2011 did not happen as he predicted, reporters are now asking him whether he has, quite simply, defrauded his listeners. Today he is answering to reporters—or evading their questions. Tomorrow he might be answering to attorneys general.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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