Strike two on predicting the end of the world

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve got a copy of The Heavenly Times, or Harold Camping has again had a little trouble with his biblical decoding and mathematic calculations.

Camping and his movement said that May 21, 2011 would be Judgment Day: the day when because of our sins, the Earth would be destroyed and Christian believers would be delivered to heaven. Camping chose that date having interpreted prophecies in the Bible and having done some mathematics, even though the Bible is supposedly clear on the fact that only God knows the date of Judgment Day.

Considering how intimidating math can be to some, I’m willing to cut him some slack; however, one would think that if you were predicting the end of the world, you might have an expert double-check your calculations. I would further think that your attention for detail would be heightened, especially if you’d already made a similar mistake before in predicting the end of the world back in September of 1994.

I’m not a subscriber to Family Radio, but I have to wonder what happened on air at Camping’s evangelical radio station (which has been valued at more than $100 million) on May 22. Were people booked to go into work on that day? If employees were scheduled to work, Camping couldn’t have believed his prophecy completely.

This could have been an excellent publicity stunt to have one of the highest listened-to radio broadcasts of all time on the 22nd. After all, if I, as a believer, woke up on the 22nd and I wasn’t in the hands of God, what would be my first move? I’d turn on Family Radio to find out what went wrong.

Although Camping said he had no Plan B, and many of his followers blindly budgeted their money to run out at the end of May 21, I bet his public relations people prepared a contingency plan. Here is my interpretation of what his spin doctors might have crafted for Camping for the radio broadcast on the 22nd, in case you missed the real thing:

Open: Your devotion and belief have saved the planet! When (oops … I mean …) If your family and friends give you the old “I told you so,” you tell them that it was your faith that saved them and that they should thank you. Your answer will probably land with a thud (like a crow mysteriously falling from the sky) but God predicts that too.

Middle: Improvise a bunch of stuff about this being a test to separate the true believers … promise them VIP passes to heaven … yadda, yadda.

Close: Unconditional faith is now more important than ever. Family Radio needs your support, in terms of listenership and financial donations. Biblical mathematicians don’t come cheap.

Marketing would have also crafted Camping sound bites for media interviews. Here are the Top 5 (Letterman style):

No. 5: I had an epiphany during the night. The message from the heavens told me that I forgot to carry the one.

No. 4: I’m going on a little vacation now … it’s not you, it’s me.

No. 3: It’s not May 22 in some parts of the world yet — right?

No. 2: Math was never my best subject, but I got an A+ in religion, psychology, sociology, and consumer behaviour.

No. 1: Third time’s the charm — right?

As part of his now impoverished flock, what did his sheepish believers think upon hearing the broadcast? Was there an audible: “What the flock!?” or “Wow, that was one baaaaaaah-d prediction?” or were they too busy making signs that read: “Will sell wool for food?” (Once they removed it from their eyes.)

(Note: This makes me wonder how Camping got through the sermon involving a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that whole false prophet thing.)

There is a Turkish proverb that says no matter how far you are down the wrong road, turn back. Admitting the unthinkable, that we could be wrong — really wrong — is never easy. (Case in point, look how long some men in the 1980s kept their mullets and truly believed they looked good.)

Regardless, one thing is certain, Camping is clearly not Canadian: after all, no Canadian would choose to cut a long weekend short, not even to end the world.

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