Harold Camping: The consequence of believing in his rapture

It is 7pm in Dubai and as I write this Harold Camping has been consigned to the false prophets hall of infamy, resting in the dustbin of history. Photo: Associated Press

Belief in the approaching End of Time is not the exclusive preserve of placard- waving prophets of doom. It is one of the great driving forces of history. - Damien Thompson, author ‘The End of Time’

No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time. - James Arthur Baldwin

I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following. - Mohandas Gandhi

MIDDLE EAST, INDIA, May 21, 2011 — It is 7 p.m. in Dubai, and as I write this, Harold Camping has been consigned to the false prophet’s hall of infamy, resting in the dustbin of history.

Harold Camping (Image: Associated Press)

Harold Camping (Image: Associated Press)

Not by me but by the Bible, the very authority he claimed was his only source for prophecy.

Deuteronomy 18: 22 is clear, “You will know, because if the LORD says something will happen, it will happen. And if it doesn’t, you will know that the prophet was falsely claiming to speak for the LORD. Don’t be afraid of any prophet whose message doesn’t come from the LORD.”

There are only three possibilities for assessing Camping: 1. He is indeed a false prophet. 2. He is greedy for power and possibly money. 3. He made a foolish mistake. Since God does not judge a man before he dies, I have no business in doing so either.

I have been checking Camping’s websites through the day, to see if he posted an apology or explanation or promise to return the sizable amounts of money he received, especially from those who gave away everything they had, trusting his teaching that they would attain eternity with Jesus today.

Reuters reported that one such misguided individual, a retired Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker in New York, Robert Fitzpatrick, 60, said he spent more than $140,000 of his savings on subway posters and bus shelter advertisements warning of the May 21 Judgment Day.

But on a day that Camping considered so significant, there is nothing new posted on his website, and his radio station plays only church music all day. John Claeys, author of ‘Apocalypse 2012: The Ticking of the End Time Clock—What Does the Bible Say?’ writes that William Miller, Camping’s best known precursor in 1818, predicted Jesus would return in 1844, citing Daniel 8:14, which reads: ” ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.’ “

Lydia Mallett, left, and John Junstrom were handing out religious literature and preaching about the rapture on the Franklin Street Mall on May 21, 2011. (Image: Associated Press)

Lydia Mallett, left, and John Junstrom were handing out religious literature and preaching about the rapture on the Franklin Street Mall on May 21, 2011. (Image: Associated Press)

Instead of understanding the ‘days’ literally, he substituted ‘years’ and, beginning with 457 B.C., he came up with the date of Christ’s return by simple calculation. As a result, by 1840, ‘Millerism’ was transformed from an “obscure, regional movement into a national campaign.”

Camping was a shrewd businessman before he became a preacher; it is unlikely he missed studying and adapting Miller’s strategy.

America has its share of religious gold-diggers, and although I am reluctant to speculate about Harold Camping, he is his own worst enemy for not being transparent. It will be interesting to follow Mr. Camping’s post May 21 career.

The sad fact is that the quest for religious riches is a flourishing business that is well documented around the world. 89-year-old Camping is a retired civil engineer who built a multi-million-dollar nonprofit ministry based on his apocalyptic prediction. In 2009 alone, his organization reported tax-filing receipts of $18.3 million in donations, with assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

According to the Don Lindsey Archive, L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, a former science fiction writer, was quoted sometime in the 50’s as saying that the best way to become a millionaire is to start your own religion. 

Sam Merwin, then the editor of the ‘Thrilling SF’ magazines: was quoted in ‘Bare Faced Messiah’ p.133 from a 1986 interview. Winter of 1946/47:

“….Hubbard was invited to address a science fiction group in Newark hosted by the writer, Sam Moskowitz. ‘Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous,’ he told the meeting. `If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.’

Religious gullibility is perhaps superseded only by religious fundamentalism.

People like Miller and Camping thrive because everybody has a fascination for the future; many people are obsessed with their horoscopes, they get their palms read, consult psychics and tarot card readers, and generally act like sheep when it comes to following someone ‘spiritual.’

A pile of clothes is left on a sidewalk on Saturday, May 21, 2011 on 25th Avenue Northeast in Seattle's Wedgewood neighborhood. Some have poked fun at the prediction with parties and pranks, such as this pile of clothes and sign. (Image: Associated Press)

A pile of clothes is left on a sidewalk on Saturday, May 21, 2011 on 25th Avenue Northeast in Seattle’s Wedgewood neighborhood. Some have poked fun at the prediction with parties and pranks, such as this pile of clothes and sign. (Image: Associated Press)

In evangelical circles, it is very common to hear the obsessive refrain, “My Pastor,” as if the cleric is a divine oracle whose clay feet don’t touch the ground. One has only to observe how universal the tendency is to kowtow to religious middlemen and the hold they have over their followers.

Camping’s apocalyptic pronouncement put him outside the Christian mainstream, and Christian leaders across denominational lines widely dismissed his prophecy. He was also teaching that people should exit from the institutional church, so he probably didn’t make too many friends among the clergy concerned about losing members of their flock.

With his credibility seriously impaired it is unlikely he will be viewed with compassion as the righteous man who may fall seven times and rise again.

Joel Belz former publisher of World magazine says, “ Such fables not only break God’s command, but in doing so, they rip up the whole fabric of what a culture needs to be able to think of as believable. Cry “wolf!” a little too often about the world ending on a specific date, and people will decide that a judgment day of any kind is imaginary.”

2 Peter 3: 4 points to scoffers who will ask, “Where is the promise of His coming? “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning.”

Frank Raj belongs to an extended Indian-American family; he is based in India and the Middle East where he has lived for over three decades. He is the founding editor and publisher of ‘The International Indian’, (www.theinternationalindian.com) the oldest magazine of Gulf-Indian society and history since 1992.

Frank is listed in Arabian Business magazine’s 100 most influential Indians in the Gulf and is co-author of the upcoming publication ‘Universal Book of the Scriptures,’ and author of ‘Desh Aur Diaspora.’ He blogs at www.no2christianity.com

Sign his petition at: www.gopetition.com/petition/44506/signatures.html å

5/22/11


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Frank Raj

Middle East and India based Frank Raj is the founding editor and publisher of ‘The International Indian’, the oldest magazine of Gulf-Indian society and history since 1992. He is listed in Arabian Business magazine’s 100 most influential Indians in the Gulf and is co-author of the upcoming publication ‘Universal Book of the Scriptures.’ He blogs at www.no2christianity.com.

 

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