I was surfing through Comcast's cavalcade of countless channels the other day when I happened upon Harold Camping and his Family Radio Network.
Oh boy. The guy stopped me in my tracks. Harold Camping is a televangelist with a terrible twist.
Unlike his peers, Harold Camping does not pack a positive punch. Camping is no Joel Osteen with a set of pearly whites to go along with his message of do good and make money in this lifetime. No sir. No way. Not this televangelist. He doesn't have the time.
That's because 88-year-old Harold Camping is laser-focused on the end of days. He's close to the end and he wants to make sure we know we're close to the end of our days as well.
In fact, Harold knows the exact date of his end, and ours: May 21, 2011. Yup, May 21, 2011. Camping's pieced together various Bible passages that, he says, pinpoint May 21, 2011, as the end of the world. He says 5-21-11 is the date when the 'Rapture' will begin.
If I heard him correctly, the Rapture is a period of 155 straight days of nasty, horrible and terrible things that will beset Planet Earth (think: locusts, floods, long-standing PR accounts going up for review, etc.).
Happily, though, Brother Camping and his devoted followers will survive. Nay, thrive. And, when the 155 days are over, Brother Camping & Co. will ascend to Heaven and all the good things that go with it (Christianity's version of Islam's 73 virgins?).
News flash: Brother Camping is the latest in a long line of prophets, fakirs and whatnots who have predicted the end of days. Sane people ignore them. But, the vulnerable do not. And therein lies the issue. Far too many people buy into the end of days mythology and end up selling their worldly possessions (Think: Jonestown, Waco and others). Real people with real problems get badly hurt when a Brother Camping decides it's time to cash in his (and others') chips.
And what happens when the end of days doesn't happen? Well, the Brother Campings of the world just end up blaming others for the apocalypse that wasn't. And the devoted find a new prophet with a new dire prediction.
It's so sad and, in some individual cases, apocalyptic. And, from an image and reputation standpoint, just further tarnishes the overall image and reputation of organized religion.