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Left behind: the party

7 April 2011

I’ve occasionally wondered about those posts on Usenet newsgroups that have subject lines like “Only 67 days left!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” with an occasional mention of May 21.

Since I resolutely refuse to download the bodies of messages that have more than one exclamation mark in the subject line, and it looked like the hype for a new product release and therefore looked like spam as well, my (very mild) curiosity about the significance of the date was left unsatisfied.

Now, however, my blogging friend Phil Wyman has revealed all. In his blog Square no more he writes:

Thousands of born-again Christians are selling their homes across the United States. They are signing over their bank accounts to non-Christian relatives, and giving away everything they own to their neighbors. This appears to be spurred by an apocalyptic fervor.

Family Radio owner and founder Harold Camping has declared that an event called the rapture will occur on May 21st. On that day faithful followers will suddenly disappear and go to be with God in Heaven. “Billions will be left behind to experience the judgment of God,” Camping says, “the Bible guarantees it.”

Those faithful followers appear to be giving away all they own to people whom they believe will be left behind.

Christian Johns, a carpenter from Salina, KS sold his home, and is living in a tent on the edge of town, beneath a billboard which carries the message of the May 21st Judgment Day. Johns paid for the billboard with his own money just as thousands have done across the US. The rest of his money he gave to a church in Salina whose pastor was recently accused of having affairs with multiple women in the church.

“Well, I know that pastor ain’t gonna to be goin’ in the rapture.” Johns said, “So I gave him the money so he can preach the Gospel to all those people left behind.”

You can read the rest here:

I remember being told of such things happening back in 1973, and the time of the Yom Kippur War. Various dispensationalist Christians, it was said, were selling their houses in Durban and moving up to the Drakensberg, where they lived in caravans in expectation of the imminent end of the world. Such things, however, always seemed to happen, in true urban legend fashion, to a FOAF (friend of a friend), so I don’t know if anyone actually did that.

But it reminded me of the 1960s revue, Beyond the fringe, which portrayed a group of such people, asking their leader for more information about the coming end:

Disciple (in pious voice): “Will there be a rushing mighty wind, such as will move the moun-tains of the earth?”

Leader (in matter-of-fact voice): “No, it will not be quite as mighty as that. That’s why we’ve come up into the mountains, you nit.”

And then there was the Frenchman who claimed to be Jesus Christ returned to earth, and said that if the world did not accept him the world would be destroyed by fire and water at 2:00 pm on 15 August 1954. A friend and I (we were 13 at the time) took our seats on an upstairs balcony at 2:55 pm (reckoning that South African time was an hour ahead of French time) to watch the show. It was postponed — perhaps to 21 May 2011.

But clearly that Frenchman (who is probably dead by now) and Harold Camping had not read the Bible, and especially that part which says:

And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:
For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect (Mark 13:21-22).

Though of course if the core of one of one of those nuclear reactors in the Japanese power station melts down, and sinks down to the core of the earth, starting an uncontrollable chain reaction, all bets are off.

For more information on the subject try

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Graham Downs permalink
    7 April 2011 9:25 am

    It’s at times like these when I remember “You will not know the day or the hour” (something like that). To me, this means that ANY attempt to predict a specific day or time when the end of the world will happen is, by definition, incorrect. 😛 (Even if it WOULD’VE been correct, the fact that someone thought it makes it now incorrect)

  2. John permalink
    20 May 2011 1:10 pm

    Hi there,

    Since you’re all going to be raptured, you’re going to need someone to look after your pets. I will be accepting all pets in the Durban area from today.

    Just let me know:

    • 21 May 2011 5:17 am

      I doubt whether any followers of Harold Camping’s rather obscure sect are reading this blog, but I have seen suggestions that people leave piles of old clothes, complete with shoes, lying in strategic places to freak out any of Camping’s followers who see them, to make them feel they’ve been left behind.

  3. Graham permalink
    21 May 2011 8:57 am

    I’ve seen that too, and was tempted to do it myself. 🙂

    In all seriousness though, if (when) the rapture does NOT happen today, I worry for all those people who believe with every ounce of their being that it will happen today. I fear many of them might believe that they HAVE been left behind, and do something stupid like commit mass suicide in despair or something. These people are grossly misinformed, but they’re still human beings, and they’re still God’s creation. Let’s pray that they can get through this alive. 😦

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