Monthly Archives: May 2011

Doomsday, Prophecies and Harold Camping

This past Saturday was like any other Saturday. My 4-year-old disrupted my slumber at his usual early hour and insisted on watching The Sunny Side Up Show while I fell back asleep. Eventually, I woke up, made breakfast and went about my day. In the afternoon my son and I sat out front and watched as our small town’s Viking Fest Parade made its way merrily down our street and into town. The end of the world was the furthest thing from my mind.

By this time everyone knows the story of the faux doomsday that was predicted for May 21st, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio show minister, had forecast this date as the unquestioned end of days. It was supposed to be the day of the Rapture, when all righteous Christians would ascend to heaven in God’s affectionate embrace while the rest of us non-Christians were abandoned; forced to suffer months of earthquakes, famine and deep introspection as we tried to figure out how it could be possible that the Bible thumpers had it right.

Instead, nothing happened. Life went on as usual. Harold Camping was wrong.

It’s not surprising that an octogenarian, God-fearing man of the cloth would claim to know the precise arrival of Judgment Day. What is surprising is that anyone took him seriously. My Grandmother is also in her eighties and had she predicted a date for the End Times, we simply would’ve patted her lovingly on the head and insisted she get some rest. But because this aging crackpot is the president of the Family Radio network his claim was considered legitimate by his loyal followers (aka “idiots”).

Some of the articles I came across documenting Camping’s failed prediction mention a few of these dumb asses by name. Robert Fitzpatrick, the leader in the clubhouse for the 2011 Sucker of the Year Award, apparently spent $140K of his life savings to advertise the rapture around New York City. Needless to say he was a little disappointed when Armageddon failed to materialize.

Also disappointed was a man named Jeff Hopkins.  This genius pissed away his retirement money on $4 a gallon gas, filling up his car over and over again so he and his lighted sign could drive back and forth between Long Island and New York City, informing the most cynical metroplex on earth that the end was near.

And those who didn’t have thousands of dollars burning holes in their pockets simply donated what they could afford to Family Radio International to help pay for the organization’s official billboard and painted RV campaign aimed at getting the word out to the non-believers.

We got the word. And we collectively laughed at it.

You’d think Harold Camping’s utter failure as a doomsday prophet (this was his second apocalyptic misfire) would be enough to keep him out of the public eye. Unfortunately, he’s still going strong. After originally being “flabbergasted” by the lack of fire and brimstone this past Saturday, he’s now saying May 21st was a spiritual Judgment Day and that October 21st will be the actual end of humanity. And since judgment has already been passed, there’s no need to inspire people through advertisements to make their peace with God, which is good because something tells me his closest followers are probably out of money at this point.

I only hope this old man lives long enough to see October 21st come and go as uneventfully as May 21st did. His baseless predictions have caused a great deal of pain and suffering, not to the heathens out there like myself, but to the people who looked up to him and trusted his word. While these people are ultimately responsible for their own stupidity, it would be nice to watch Harold Camping fail so publicly one last time. It’s the least he could do.

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Sundays, Bin Laden and the Media

Sundays are great. They’re our day of rest; the final relaxed chapter to our usually hectic weeks. Who doesn’t like sleeping in, spending a couple of hours with the Sunday paper and getting in a little extra family time (you know, if you’re into the whole “family” thing). Sundays are for slowing down, watching sports on TV and going to church (you know, if you’re into the whole “God” thing). The only downside to Sundays is that they never seem to last long enough.

This past Sunday was an all-timer. I slept in, ate a great breakfast and read the Seattle Times. The weather was great so I got outside in the afternoon, watched an NBA playoff game, then read a book on my deck. Dinner consisted of a couple of tasty beers and a delightful meal at my favorite local restaurant. Oh yeah, and then there was that whole Osama Bin Laden is dead thing. That wrapped the day up nicely.

After learning of the Al Qaeda leader’s death at the aforementioned restaurant, I returned home and helped myself to a dessert of breaking news coverage.  Between the public reaction I saw on television and the steady stream of “fuck you, Bin Laden” and “rot in hell” posts that echoed throughout the social media landscape, one thing was clear: people were very fond of  Osama Bin Laden being dead.

Clearly, many Americans saw the demise of one our all-time greatest enemies as a deeply communal and cathartic moment. It was as if his death signaled some type of closure on a frightening and frustrating ten years that began on September 11th, 2001. Other Americans (i.e. college students) seemed to see it as a great excuse to throw down on the Quad.

Me? I was grateful for Bin Laden’s death for a far less substantive reason: it saved us from a week of reliving the Royal Wedding.

Had President Obama and the Navy SEAL Six team not taken out the most wanted man on the planet on Sunday, we’d have faced at least a week of media coverage rehashing William and Kate’s matrimonial celebration from every conceivable angle. Like vultures picking through the bones of some succulent road kill, the news networks would have spent countless hours regurgitating
the “Wedding of the Century” and force-feeding it to the general public. Instead we got something far more newsworthy… actual news.

Actual news is something the powers that be at CNN, MSNBC and FOX News seem reticent to broadcast these days. It’s far easier and cheaper to simply follow the downward spirals of celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan or give Donald Trump an arena to spout his ridiculous bullshit. And, of course, if Sarah Palin Tweets something, they’re all over it.


But now that the details of Operation Kill Bearded Ass Clown are coming to light, actual news seems to be the in back in vogue. Okay, mostly it’s rampant speculation about the effects of Bin Laden’s death and most of it is crap. But at least it’s crap derived from a meaningful, newsworthy event as opposed to being crap for crap’s sake. And that’s really the best we can hope for.

So I say thank you, Mr. President. Not just for having the guts and intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on a harrowing mission that rid the world of a horrific mass murderer, but for forcing the 24-hour news channels to actually focus their attention on something of actual substance. And much like our glorious Sundays this trend towards actual news won’t last nearly long enough. So I’ll just try to enjoy it while I can.