Rapture during reading period? Probably not

Daniel Perret-Goluboff

Do you remember Harold Egbert Camping? No? I can’t blame you. A quick refresher: Harold Camping is the president of “Family Radio,” an American Christian broadcasting group based in California which incorrectly predicted that the rapture would occur last spring on May 21.

I’m sure it’s been a while since you thought about him. Contrary to what one might expect from him following the farce that was his last prediction, Camping is back at it with a new round of statements. This week’s flavor? The end of time will, allegedly, be happening today, Oct. 21, 2011.

Obviously, I don’t affirm Camping’s prediction. I do find it astonishing, however, that national media continues to give this clown coverage. This is a man who has earned his livelihood through scaring people stupid enough to buy into his theories. Camping is, for all intents and purposes, a bully.

That said, Camping is not an unintelligent man. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in civil engineering from the University of California-Berkeley in 1942, and has held numerous esteemed positions of employment both in and outside of the church during the span on his 90-year life. It could — and should, in my opinion — be argued, however, that he is using his intelligence for all of the wrong reasons.

Camping makes these predictions based on a mixture of flawed biblical numerology and his assumptions regarding what comprises a virtuous lifestyle. He does not, however, do anything to attempt to get his followers to act in a more virtuous manner. All Camping truly does is attempt to scare people into believing what he does in order to quell his own insecurities and further his own cause.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe it is Camping’s right to exercise his free speech and predict these things to his heart’s delight. Let’s step back and observe this man’s track record, though. Camping has now predicted the coming of the rapture three separate times — May 21, 1988; Sept. 6, 1994; May 21, 2011 — without any sort of success.

Camping doesn’t quite see it that way, though. When confronted last May regarding the inaccuracy of his most recent apocalypse prediction, Camping stated that a “spiritual” judgment had occurred, one that could not be observed with the naked eye.

Obviously, following all of these failed predictions, Camping’s base of followers has begun to shrink. It would be a mistruth, however, to state that all people have written him off as a non-credible source for predictions of the rapture.

People around the United States — albeit far fewer people than last May — have sold their belongings, liquidated their assets and begun traveling the country to spread Camping’s message of the end. It’s difficult not to feel bad for these individuals, but these results are to be expected of anyone with a broad enough medium to spread their message — no matter how absurd.

As you read this article and the world has — ideally — not come to an end, you might be led to wonder where all of this leaves Mr. Camping. Harold resides in Oakland, where one can only imagine he will continue to broadcast his radio show.

This is a man in the twilight of his life, who has made a career out of publicly stating things that very few people care about and fewer still take seriously. The silver lining? There may be hope for us English majors after all.