Rapture forecaster's offices closed, reasons unknown

The New York Times/May 21, 2011

By Jesse McKinley

Oakland, California - If Harold Camping and his followers are correct, Gertrude Stein's famous comment about Oakland - that there is no there there - might finally be true. If not, some mainstream churches say they will set up encampments outside the headquarters of Camping, the self-proclaimed biblical soothsayer who has prophesied the end of the world today, with an eye toward consoling the disappointed.

In a state where fringe leaders such as the Rev. Jim Jones and fringe groups such as the Heaven's Gate cult have often found followers, and whose beliefs ended in mass suicide, not everyone is laughing about the prediction.

"They are going to be reeling," said Jacob Denys, pastor of Calvary Bible Church in nearby Milpitas, Calif., so he and about 20 volunteers planned to spend today outside Camping's compound to let them "know that God still loves them."

On Friday, the only concrete sign of anything out of the ordinary was in the window of Family Radio - Camping's radio enterprise, which has helped pay for and promote the prediction - announcing the offices were closed. "Sorry we missed you!" the sign said.

Family Radio's representatives did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment Friday.

But whether or not the shuttered offices indicate Camping's own pre-apocalyptic plans, what is certain is that the prediction has gained a life of its own.

Not surprisingly, some of the reactions have been lighthearted, especially considering history's long list of swing-and-a-miss prophets. A Facebook page devoted to "Post- Rapture Looting" had assembled more than 500,000 promised attendees by Friday afternoon.

"When everyone is gone and God's not looking," the page reads, "we need to pick up some sweet stereo equipment."

On Friday, there was no indication that anyone was in the compound, which includes a two-story suite of offices and a large cinderblock warehouse near the Oakland airport.

Between the two buildings is a parking lot containing several vehicles and surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire.

The door to the offices was locked, and a reception desk visible inside was unstaffed. Boxes filled with brochures were visible, showing slogans such as "Gay Pride: Planned by God as a Sign of the End." A calendar had a red circle around the 21st with a note: "Rejoice!"

During a visit Monday, the Boulder-born, 89-year-old Camping told volunteers and other officials with the radio company that, after today, there would be no chance left for anyone else to repent and be saved.

"When the Judgment Day begins, there will be no more salvation, no more possibility of becoming right with God," he said.

Sound judgment?

Harold Camping picked May 21, 2011, as Judgment Day by using a complex formula involving the biblical flood survived by Noah, a 7,000-year clock ticking from that moment, and the subtraction of a year due to a difference from Old Testament to New Testament. Camping's math has proved to be flawed before. He also predicted the end of the world would come in 1994.

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