I’ve been listening to Family Radio pretty much non-stop since I first heard Harold Camping emanating from my car’s speakers a few weeks back. Although I personally didn’t buy into his May 21 Rapture prediction, I’ve become obsessed with it, especially after visiting Family Radio HQ on May 12.
As it drew closer to May 21st, I wondered more and more about how Camping and his Family Radio cohorts would deal with the aftermath if there was no Rapture. In particular, I was amazed that Camping had been so definitive and resolute about the certainty of May 21 marking the beginning of the end. He refused to even entertain questions about May 22 or the possibility that he may be wrong, claiming that the Bible guaranteed the May 21 Rapture.
On Thursday night, Camping did his final live Open Forum show and sounded a bit worn out as he said goodbye to his listeners for what he assumed to be the last time. Staff at Family Radio had a paid-day off on Friday and then settled in to wait to hear news of the rolling earthquakes which were set to kick off the Rapture on Friday night around 11pm Pacific time in New Zealand (where it would be 6pm local time). I admit that I was glued to Facebook, Twitter, and the US Geological Survey website to see if anything disastrous was taking place. And, as I expected, the Rapture was a non-event, even though the Rapture countdown clock spookily indicated that zero days were remaining when I checked the Family Radio website on Saturday.
Well, it’s now May 23 and most of us have lived through the non-Rapture. The Family Radio website was updated last night and there is no trace of the Rapture countdown clock. Although it’s not on the front page, one can still find May 21 literature and free Judgment Day bumper stickers. So, what happens next for Family Radio? As we’d predicted, over the weekend Family Radio played pre-recorded programs. During their Saturday morning children’s show they played the Chipmunks singing “Be Responsible,” which was a surreal way to begin the day on May 21 following the non-Rapture on the other side of the world (New Zealand had safely passed 6pm Pacific time by this point). And then yesterday I heard some vintage Harold Camping over the airwaves. In a special Open Forum recorded around 1985, Camping scrutinized Bible verses related to fornication.
News reports spilled out over the weekend indicating that Camping was “somewhat bewildered” that the Rapture didn’t happen on May 21. International Business Times posted a video of Camping at his home on Sunday, with Camping saying, “Give me a day, no interviews at all today. Sorry. You know this is a big deal, big deal, and I’ve got to live with it and I’ve got to think it out.”
International Business Times also reported that Camping will be issuing a public statement this evening. I wouldn’t be surprised if Camping resumes his Open Forum tonight with May 21 as the topic. And what do we think he’ll say? Most likely he will say that his calculations were off and that more study will be needed to determine the date of the Rapture. In the meantime, I wonder how his followers are feeling. I’m sure there’s much disappointment and disillusionment. I met people who had traveled from the East Coast to Oakland for their final two weeks, so I wonder how this turn of events changes their feelings about the future. Hopefully this will be a new lease on life for some and will perhaps be a lesson about the dangers of following a charismatic leader.
I also have many questions about the future of Family Radio’s broadcast operations. After witnessing Camping’s final “Family Bible Study” on May 12 and hearing his “final” Open Forum last Thursday, I will be curious to see if both programs resume with Camping at the helm. The Family Radio Board is expected to meet tomorrow and I’m sure we will learn more about the network’s future.