When the clock struck 6:01 pm this past Saturday, May 21, 2011, many Christians and non-Christians alike breathed a sigh of relief. The church wasn’t raptured, and a massive earthquake didn’t occur.
Most of the day Saturday I joked around about Harold Camping’s false prophecy with my mom, my hairstylist, and a fellow patron while getting our hair done at a neighborhood beauty salon.
“I’m getting my hair done for Jesus,” I quipped.
“I want to have all of my errands done before 6 pm,” a woman giggled, “so I’ll be ready.”
Don Lemon, a CNN news anchor, even joked a bit. “Well, it’s 6:52 pm, 8 minutes before the world is supposed to come to an end. I’ll hang around for a couple of seconds after 6 to see if we’re still here.” When it was 6 pm, Lemon said, “Well, looks like we’re still here. Now let’s go to The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” My son and I chuckled as I turned off the television.
Not so Funny
While some poked fun of the doomsday prediction, because they simply didn’t believe it, at least one of Camping’s followers didn’t think it was so funny. In a news segment on ABC World News Weekend Edition filmed in Times Square New York City, Good Morning America anchor Ron Claiborne interviewed Robert Fitzpatrick, a Camping follower and retiree who allegedly spent a sizeable chunk of his $140,000 life savings on poster advertisements in the New York City subways. Claiborne reported that Fitzpatrick was clearly shaken, shocked, and saddened when nothing happened at 6 pm.
News reporters, cameramen, photographers, and irate New Yorkers surrounded Fitzpatrick in Times Square and peppered him with questions. “We’re still here! We’re still here!” exclaimed an onlooker. “Why didn’t the earthquake happen?” “Why are we still here?” demanded a man in the crowd. Fitzpatrick tried to explain from the bible how Camping arrived at his doomsday prediction. “That’s God Word,” shouted another man. “You shouldn’t play around with God’s Word.” “I want my money back,” demanded a woman. “Are those people who spent money on buses to travel around going to get their money back?” “Are they going to get their money back?”
My burning question is: What does Camping have to say about all of this? One news report said Camping was in seclusion in Oakland, Calif., and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Can Anything Good Come From This?
The travesty behind this false prophecy is that many of Camping’s followers spent their hard earned money, left their jobs, left their families, and wasted time traveling the country to spread the news that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011. The false prediction made people nervous at the very least and almost caused a panic. The good news is that this false prediction got people talking about the bible, the gospel, who Jesus is, the fact you must be saved to go to Heaven, and that there will come a time when God’s judgment will come upon the earth. So if it takes an event such as this, even a duplicitous one, to spread the gospel and encourage people to begin thinking about their salvation and spiritual lives, it can’t be all that bad (Philippians 1:18).