Are you ready, that is, for a good laugh? Some of Harold Camping’s deceived followers have hit the road to spread the message that The End Is Near. They were in the nation’s capitol yesterday. According to the Washington Post:
The unexpected and potentially rotten news that the world will end on May 21 rolled into the District on Thursday morning, plastered on a caravan of five recreational vehicles that parked near the Washington Monument.
“Have you heard the awesome news?” the side of the RVs asked, in big bold letters. “The End of the World is Almost Here!”
As if the message weren’t scary enough, the dozen or so occupants of the RVs — vanguard of a national campaign funded by a fundamentalist Christian radio network and fueled by bus ads and Internet buzz — wore highlighter-bright yellow shirts that said “Earthquake So Mighty, So Great.” They offered pedestrians handouts saying there was “ marvelous proof” that “Holy God will bring judgment day on May 21, 2011.”
The Post got one of those pictures only a Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) could love:
Camping explains his previous goofs (he also predicted the end in 1994) this way:
This is not Camping’s first end-of-the-world prophecy. In a 1992 book, he predicted that the world would end in 1994. When he woke up in 1995, clearly something had gone wrong.
“It’s just like anyone who invents something or comes to a truth or any technician — they don’t immediately make a finished product,” he explained. “I did not come to the finished product until three years ago. It was at that time that God showed some exquisite proof.”
Uh huh. And no doubt when he wakes up on May 22 and is still here, he’ll break out his calculator and his secret decoder ring and come up with an even more “exquisite proof.” I like one historian’s response to Camping’s “proof”:
Camping, an engineer by training, says he came up with the very precise date of May 21 through a mathematical calculation that would probably crash Google’s computers. It involves, among other things, the dates of floods, the signals of numbers in the Bible, multiplication, addition and subtraction thereof. Camping describes his equations with absolute conviction.
“He seems to be the only one who understands the equation,” said Paul Boyer, a University of Wisconsin historian who studies apocalyptic beliefs. “But he has a very persuasive radio voice, and he preaches with absolute confidence, and there seems to be enough people that believe it all.”
The reason he is the only one who understands his calculations, of course, is because it is completely arbitrary in its use of numbers and dates. Perhaps you’ve seen those selective statistics quotes that “prove” that Ron Swoboda or Marvelous Marv Throneberry is the greatest player in the history of baseball, because they’ve put together some numbers no one else has? (Here’s a real example of this: Chipper Jones is the only switch-hitter in baseball history to hit more than 400 home runs and have a batting average of .300. But if you raise the homers to 500 and the average to .285, then Jones drops out and Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray are the “only two” switch-hitters to do that. It’s all in what specific numbers are chosen. Here’s another example: Craig Biggio is the only player in the history of baseball with 3000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases, and 250 home runs. Pretty impressive. But that doesn’t make Biggio better than Lou Gehrig.)
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)