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Behind the Scenes at Family Radio as May 21st Judgment Day Approaches

Vintage Map of Family Radio's Network (Photo J. Waits)

When I visited Family Radio’s headquarters last Thursday, May 12, 2011, I was not only interested in President and General Manager Harold Camping’s thoughts about Judgment Day; but I also had a lot of questions about the inner-workings of the Christian radio network.

Obviously Family Radio has attracted worldwide attention and media interest for Camping’s well-publicized (Family Radio even had a billboard in Dubai) claim that Judgment Day is certain to arrive this Saturday, May 21, 2011. But, the history and day-to-day operations of Family Radio have attracted less attention.

As I toured Family Radio and chatted with Camping on Thursday, I kept thinking about pragmatic questions about not only the future of the radio network, but also about specific programming details for May 21st and beyond. Although Camping has argued that Judgment Day will begin at 6pm local time on May 21st, on Open Forum yesterday he wavered a bit, saying, “It is not guaranteed…the precise hour…we don’t have the same kind of proof [as we do for the date of May 21].  He said there is a “high likelihood” that Judgment Day will begin at 6pm on May 21 and reiterated that Judgment Day “is absolutely…going to be May 21…the Bible guarantees it.”

Despite his unwavering certainty about the May 21st date, when I interviewed Camping he did admit to me that Family Radio does have some post-May 21st programming prepared. However, he argued that it was really just for the benefit of Family Radio staff members who are not “true believers” in the coming Judgment Day.

Here’s a bit more of my interview with Harold Camping, in which he touches upon the origins of both Family Radio (which began in 1958) and the popular Open Forum call-in talk show that he has been hosting for 50 years. I’m not sure when the final live edition of Open Forum will air, but it’s possible that it will be on Thursday, May 19th, as Friday is a paid holiday for Family Radio staff.

LP from the Record Library at Family Radio (Photo: J. Waits)

Jennifer Waits: So you were saying you had no interest in radio before?

Harold Camping: Right. That was not my interest. I was interested in dairy cattle and I was interested in math and interested in physics and science, but not radio.

Jennifer: What got you thinking about starting up a radio network?

Mr. Camping: Someone came to my office…and he wanted to find some Christian businessmen to buy a radio station and share the gospel. And, oh, to share the gospel, that’s what got my interest. So, I agreed that provided we have a non-profit corporation so that nobody could ever realize any gains for themselves. And so, we formed a non-profit corporation called Family Stations, Incorporated. I became President and he became Vice-President. I had another young man working for me and we made him the third member to be legally a qualified corporation. And I put this man on my payroll…and he found a station here in San Francisco and we bought it and that was the beginning of Family Radio.

Parking Lot at Family Radio on May 12, 2011 (Photo: J. Waits)

Jennifer: And what do you now love about radio?

Mr. Camping: I’ve been enmeshed in it for 52 years. I’ve been able to supervise the construction of radio and supervise the construction of TV. We built a 350 kilowatt station in Taiwan and a 600 kilowatt station in Taiwan to carry our programming to China and to the Philippines and so on.

Jennifer: So, you’ve been doing Open Forum for 50 years. How did that show start?

Mr. Camping: That started because at that time we were not getting any help from any churches and although we had paid very little to whatever employees we had, we were running out of money. So we had the idea that if I would be behind the mic as President and answer questions about finances or about music policy, that might encourage people to begin to give. So, we opened the telephone lines and I did my first program and they didn’t ask any questions about finances or music, but they asked counseling questions and Bible questions. And I found that I enjoyed that very much and I was somewhat qualified because I had been doing quite a bit of study in the Bible and doing some private counseling. And so that began Open Forum.

 

***

This interview originally appeared on Spinning Indie. To learn more about my visit, including details about the music policies at Family Radio, please see my station visit post there.



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21 Responses to Behind the Scenes at Family Radio as May 21st Judgment Day Approaches

  1. FrankWest May 18, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

    4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

    5Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

    6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

  2. Rev. Daniel W. Blair May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    rI am very sad for those who have been following this lie that the rapture will occur on May 21st. Even if they attempt to explain away “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32), they cannot explain away that most every Christian, theologian, scholar, and prophet from the first Century until the Nineteenth Century all believed that the church would go through the Great Tribulation and not escape through some secret rapture that would leave the world paralyzed. I pray that they will take a moment and read my book, “Final Warning” because the hour of is His judgment has come. http://www.revelation-truth.org

  3. Rev. Daniel W. Blair May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I am very sad for those who have been following this lie that the rapture will occur on May 21st. Even if they attempt to explain away “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32), they cannot explain away that most every Christian, theologian, scholar, and prophet from the first Century until the Nineteenth Century all believed that the church would go through the Great Tribulation and not escape through some secret rapture that would leave the world paralyzed. I pray that they will take a moment and read my book, “Final Warning” because the hour of is His judgment has come.

  4. Ed Aust May 18, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Wait – you toured Family Radio but you didn’t interview any of the staff besides Harold Camping? I know that not all of his staff agree with him. Were you restricted from speaking with them? Were they too intimidated to talk frankly with you?

  5. vic May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Does this mean i don’t have to take the trash to the curb on Friday?..god i hated that chore Hey wait a sec ! i get paid on Saturdays i am going straight to my boss and demand my paycheck on Friday i will dammed if im going to face the apocalypse with no cash in my pocket Hey can you spot me a couple Benjamin s just in case my boss doesn’t give me my check early, only reason i asked is your not going to need it and well i just figured you could help a brotha out.

  6. Michael Potter May 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    @Frank West: (your bible quote above) Not sure what message you are bringing us with this quote from 1 Thessalonians? Are you agreeing that we CAN know the date or CAN’T know it?

  7. Mike May 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    There’s a group of people who try to divine the spiritual meaning of numbers, and observe time lines. They’re called sorcerers (necromancer). God warns about this in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (KJV)…

    10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.

    11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

    12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

    Further warnings about date setting: Matthew 24:36 (KJV)…But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

    Matthew 24:3-5 (KJV) 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

    4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

    5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

    Though Camping isn’t saying he’s Christ, the reference is pointing to those that claim to represent Christ and really don’t.

    I’m not judging Camping. God will judge him, the same God who inspired the previous Bible quotes.

  8. Jennifer Waits May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Ed– the focus of my visit and tour wasn’t really to talk to the staff about their beliefs. I mostly interviewed them about the radio operations, as that’s what I was interested in for this article. However, several staff spontaneously shared with me their beliefs about May 21. As you might imagine, those who don’t buy into Camping’s predictions don’t want to be quoted about that. I did hear a rumor that perhaps half of the staff don’t think the Rapture will be on May 21. Camping also said that many of the staff don’t “abide” by the May 21 prediction and he said that he has many family members who aren’t awaiting the Rapture….So, yes, he hasn’t convinced everyone.

  9. Grubal Muruch May 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Ode to Harold Camping

    The madman has decried, “the end of planet earth and all its inhabitants.” He has sorted out the hidden mysteries of old. He has made haste to warn the populace of impending doom and destruction.

    He has chosen who will stay and who will go. He sees that which exists not, and creates within, crazed perceptions that run amuck, in a mind filled with delusion and carnal vengeance. He relishes the thoughts of a depraved countryside laid to waste with the corpses of tens of millions, who choose not to partake of his madness.

    He traded his once solid doctrines for fanciful imaginings and intellectually absurd ranting. Henceforth he began to serve the enemy of mankind. Now lost in his delusion, unable to distinguish light from darkness, he indoctrinates those who follow him into the netherworld.

    His followers, ever mesmerized by his droning inferences and inspired by his pseudo spiritual insight, are trusting in every twisted word. They are willing to follow this man into an eternally darkened place, while denying it exists.

    This man and his minions have traded their eternal souls for a set of lies proceeding out of the pit of Hell. They have rejected the true God of the universe and replaced Him with a heretical set of damning doctrines.

    They have removed the cross of Christ, calling it a demonstration. They have taken away the “White throne judgment.” They have hidden the eternal judgment and called it “annihilation.”

    They have imagined Christ dying before the foundation of the world, having the absence of a mortal body, and being in its heavenly state. They defy logic and cling to their irrational notions, choosing to believe a lie, than to accept the truth.

  10. Grubal Muruch May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    I invite, all who would be interested in, fasting and praying on this Friday (May 20, 2011) For all those people caught up in the false teachings and heresies of Harold Camping.

  11. Rod May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    1 Thes. 5 is explaining 2 groups of people, those in the light (brethren) who will not be taken like a thief in the night. And then talks of those who will not know, and sudden destruction will come upon them. John 10:10 tells us; The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill and to destroy. Rev. 3:3- If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Matthew 3:2- Repent. For the kingdom of heaven is very near…May God have mercy on us.

  12. Roland Ballard May 19, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    I’m laughing myself to tears reading the comments from the deluded rubes being posted here. It amounts to “my delusion is better than your delusion”.

  13. Gwen May 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    One thing is certain that He is coming soon because the Lord talks about this great delusion and falling away and false prophets and Camping certainly appears to have left the faith and is following after fables. For a man to be considered a prophet in the Old Testament everything he said had to be 100% accurate. Ironically, his crazed prediction is a greater indication that the Lord is on the way, but we certainly do not know when but his errors and herecy is the greater indication of the times we are in–the Last Days and the End of the Age.

  14. UKBeliever May 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    This Saturday is the 7000th anniversary of the Flood.

    Noah knew.

    Abraham and Lot knew.

    The Ninevites knew.

    Now we know.

    Please humbly cry out to God for mercy in these very, very final hours.

    May 21, 2011 is the date of Jesus Christ Himself. He says so through His Word.

    To God Be All The Glory !

  15. Laurie May 20, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    May 22, 2011

    Hundreds of dooms-day bill board signs will begin coming down. Frightened, confused, hurt and disillusioned thousands will clog cell phone lines in desperate attempts to contact family members. Had they been left behind too?

    For the fortunate, reality will be immediate. For others, not so. Their hearts will writhe in unimaginable pain. A few may even take their fate into their own hands.

    It will be the headline of every newspaper, the opening segment for every major media network, and the topic of every social network. Fodder for late night comedians, sermon topics for the pastorate, the truth will now be evident.

    The Messiah did not come; the rapture did not take place.

    Family Radio Stations, Inc., may choose to play 24 hours of music; perhaps 48 – at least until the dust begins to settle. A dedicated team will deliberately put into motion their well rehearsed plan B. The plan? It has no doubt been secretly orchestrated for months now.

    Most of the daily programing is produced on a master roll two weeks in advance of air date and time. On this roll producers pot in high frequency tones activating cues for live news and comment from each individual station. By this, all programing appears to be “in the moment”. Perhaps a special tape has been produced; a master only a select few are aware of. There will be no cue for a live, “open forum”. That line will be out of service. Dedicated employees will, as directed, stay home until they receive further notice. They will have been admonished to not talk with the press or engage in conversations with others about the non-event – which will have become the event.

    My guess is that station attorneys have rehearsed this day for years. For now, they will be the station’s only messengers. Cleverly, no member of the station ever encouraged listeners to take specific action; only to pray. Any costs incurred by “listener faithfuls” were made voluntarily at the listener’s own discretion and personal choice. Since the station has distributed tracks and books freely it will be held harmless for any voluntary action, costs or losses incurred by the listening public.

    So, how will you respond?

    If you are a Christian will you be saddened or perhaps repulsed at the scores of individuals influenced by this false prophet? Will you be angry; defensive? How should a Christian respond?

    “Therefore, rejecting all falsity and done now with it, let every one express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members of one another. When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath – your exasperation, your fury or indignation last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil give no opportunity to him. Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth; but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s unmerited favor) to those who hear it. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (do not offend, or vex or sadden Him) by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption – of final deliverance, through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin. Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will or baseness of any kind). AND BECOME USEFUL AND HELPFUL AND KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:25-32

    This is no inconsequential event. The soon to be experienced results of reckless interpretation and proclamation are by no means to be taken lightly. In some cases this has or will forever scar family relationships. Even more sadly, it will give any reasonable thinking individual cause to [all the more] ignore any future conversation with reference to the Gospel. I am saddened and angered. However, I am also overwhelmed with a renewed sense of responsibility and love.

    It is important that we consider the influence one very passionate man, with a false message, has had upon so many. By comparison, what can the simple loving message of a risen Savior have upon the world when we humbly and sacrificially share it?

    The FACT that Jesus will someday return is not so much the message as is the fact that those who open their hearts to Him can enjoy this life all the more as a result of His salvation and daily presence. The story has not changed.

    “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [shall eat] with Me.” – Revelation 3:20

  16. LAURA DECKER May 20, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    fAMILY RADIO,

    PLEASE TELL ME HOW YOU EXPLAIN THE PERSON OR PERSONS WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE IN FEAR OF WHAT ? HAS BEEN PREACHED TO THEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN. YES FAMILY RADIO PASTORS ARE ALL HELD TO THE SAME ACCOUNTABILITY AS HAROLD . YOU WILL BE JUDGED TO A MUCH GREATER DEGREE THAN EVER. SO NOW WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE KILLED THEMSELVES OUT OF FEAR OR JUST PLAIN IGNORANCE OF LISTENING TO A FALSE PROPHET. AND YES REVELATIONS TALKS ABOUT FALSE PROPHETS AND I BELIEVE MATTHEW, THESSALONIAN. I PRAY YOU PASTORS WHO HAVE SUPPORTED THIS MANS LIES FOR NONE OTHER THAN FINANCIAL GAIN. ALL OF YOU HAD BETTER BE ON YOUR KNEES CRYING OUT FOR GODS MERCY AND FORGIVNESS. THE LEGALTIES AND DEVASTATION ON LIVES WILL SOON BE DEALT WITH NOT ONLY BY GOD BUT BY THE JUDGES OF WHICH HE JUDGED.

  17. Lucca Tanner May 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    And so the day of ‘rapture’ has come and gone.

    I for one will take comfort that I have the life god gave me in the now, and continue to try and just be a good person. Why wait for death? Why ponder those of your unsaved, but good natured friends burning in hellfire.

    Why wait for destruction and waste what gift of life we have.

    Harold you poor poor man, you preach of fear and death, when you should preach of gods love and salvation.

    Furthermore…it really is scare tactics that make Christianity look like a bunch of nut jobs, and unfortunately it’s those people who get the most attention.

  18. joan May 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    NOTHING NEW…PEOPLE ARE BEING LIED TO DAILY FROM ALL VENUES. I DON’T BLAME MR. CAMPING FOR HIS BELIEFS AND THOSE OF THE BIBLE. EVERYONE BELIEVES THEY ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING IN THEIR LIVES. HOPE AND PRAY FAMILY RADIO WILL CONTINUE WITH THE BIBLE READING AND THE WONDERFUL, COMFORTING MUSIC. THERE IS NO OTHER LIKE IT. THE CHURCHES HAVE DONE MORE HARM TO PEOPLE THAN MR. CAMPING COULD EVER DO. THANKS BE TO GOD FOR THE LIFE OF CAMPING AND BLESSINGS ABOUND FOR FAMILY RADIO.

  19. TZAIR MAYET May 22, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Well the Bible is always right, hope Mr camping will apologize to every one, and for miss representing the scriptures! And focus on preaching the true gospel, the true Gospel is about the blood shed of Jesus on the cross. And know that if we truly repent from our sins, Jesus will forgive us! So lets look to the cross and keep the good fight Mr. Camping we all make mistakes, so is important to knowledge them and guide the people to the truth, thats Jesus!! God bless the man of God that stand in the gap for the true Gospel and from their hearth, preach the truth, not seeking, personal gain or using the gospel as a main of profits, and twisting the scriptures for their on personal interest! May the light of Jesus and his gospel shine among the foolish knowledge of man, and institutions, and lets give HIM AND HIM ALONE THE GLORY! LET THE NAME OF JESUS BE PRAISE!

  20. Maddy October 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Yes, we were wrong. May 21 and Oct 21 have come and gone…. however the message of the Bible is a two edged sword…. it’s not just about love . The message of the Bible is also about Judgment.

    We believed it (NOT BECAUSE HAROLD CAMPING TAUGHT IT) but because we saw it in the Scriptures (not in a fictional movie like Left Behind or in the news headlines).

    For those out there who follow Tim La Haye, Hal Lindsey , Jack Van Impe , the Pope , or your Pastor…. these men are all fallible too… some have even set dates.

    When you gleefully damn those of us who believed May 21 you better instead examine yourself…. many of you are just as guilty maybe worse because you’ve never had to stick your necks out like we did to warn others about the Judgment to come. It’s easy to preach love. Love is not the whole Bible Gospel.

    Let’s face it Churchgoers today are “Naming it and Claiming it…Selling and Buying Christian Books and Videos …. Going on Picnics and Christian Rock Concerts…. Many are too busy to suffer for Christ…. and Many are NOT WATCHING for Christ’s Return in any sense.

    How many of you so called Christians have actually shared the Gospel? I’m not judging you, I’m just saying…. maybe you should wonder why your Pastors are more interested in “building Purpose Driven Churches” than studying the Word and reaching the Lost. That’s what every Christian should be doing… not spending hours on Christian Matchmaking Websites or SOcializing.

    Atleast we who believed and taught MAY 21 were not Lukewarm!

  21. Glenda December 12, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Harold Camping presented himself ”Better Than God,” as he was the only person who KNEW when Jesus would Return..He Judged those who did NOT Believe him, God says ”Judge That You Be Judged.” He wanted everybody to stop going to church and sjust BELIEVE what he said..He was a CULT LEADER, as we were supposed to follow only His Teachings..all the other Churches were Run by Satan. His was the only TRUE GOSPEL! How will God Judge Harold Camping? He Shoulld REPENT! REPENT FOR ALL THE LIES HE TOLD AND THE WAY HE JUDGED OTHERS!!!!

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