Harold Camping, the radio host who predicted the world would end on Saturday, made his first post-non-apocalypse public appearance on his radio show Monday night. "The first question," he told listeners, "is 'Camping, what about you? Are you ready to shoot yourself or go on a booze trip or whatever?'"
The answer, it soon became clear, is no. Camping had spent millions promoting May 21 as "the rapture" — the day when true Christians would be taken up to Heaven on an angelic shuttle bus to have a free continental breakfast with Jesus — and the start of the end of the world. A huge earthquake was supposed to hit at 6 p.m., and the earth would face death, destruction and famine for five months, until the real "end date" of October 21.
Obviously, it didn't happen quite as predicted. Journalists confronted Camping on his doorstep on Sunday, where he told them he was "flabbergasted" by the failure of his predictions and would "say more" on Monday.
And so he did. "I can tell you personally," Camping told his listeners, and a collection of journalists live in the studio, "that when May 21 came and went it was a very difficult time for me." He spent Saturday night in a hotel, avoiding the press and praying. But "the light dawned" when he read a quote from his friend Gabriel Otero, who told "local newsmedia" that, back on September 7, 1994, the last time Camping predicted the end of the world, God had returned "in a mystical way." And, in reading Otero's words, Camping realized that he had been "looking at the Bible too earthly... when the Bible is a very spiritual book." Which led him to conclude:
We were convinced that on May 21, God would return in a very physical way by bringing in an earthquake and ushering the final five months of judgement. When we look at it spiritually, we find that he did come.
See, the rapture did happen, it just didn't happen in a "visible" way. He was totally right the whole time! The world is still in the process of ending. "We have not made a mistake insofar as the timeline," Camping said. It's just that judgement day was "spiritual," not "physical." And, in light of this, the promotional campaign is over:
We're not going to pass out any more tracts. We're not going to put up any more billboards — in fact they're coming down right now... The world has been warned. The world is under judgment... We're just learning we have to look at all of this more spiritual [sic]. But it won't be spiritual on October 21.
So why is God waiting till October to blow us all up? Camping read out a letter from a supporter who believes that, for (incomprehensible) geophysical reasons, the earth would not last for five months following the great predicted earthquake. (This is not an official Family Radio theory, yet, but Camping assured his listeners it would be investigated.) The same supporter, in the same letter, indicated that God, in His infinite mercy, did not want everyone to suffer "Hell on earth" for five months. (This was up Camping's alley — he does not believe in "eternal hell" — and he expounded on it at length.)
Either way, you heard the guy: Mark your calendars for October 21. And be nice for the next five months! Because you're under judgment.
[image, from Monday's broadcast, via AP]