[dropcap]“W[/dropcap]arned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours! We humbly recognize that God may not tell His people the date when Christ will return, any more than He tells anyone the date they will die physically.”
Well, praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow! Words I never thought to read jolted me at the beginning of March. What a heaping slice of humble pie, written by Harold Camping, president of Family Radio Stations, Incorporated (a network of Christian stations that went all culty), and architect of the May 21, 2011, Doomsday movement.
Harold Camping has been contriving dates of the Lord’s return since 1978, but the May 2011 prediction swept masses of people into particularly potent apocalyptic fervor, brainwashing them to quit their jobs, give all their money to Family Radio advertising, abandon dreams of having children, split with their loved ones, and take to the streets to share their version of the “gospel”: the “wonderful news” of the destruction of the world with fervent heat.
Just days after the May 21 prophecy failed, Camping was unrepentant; no offers of refunds, no empathy for those who abandoned all to follow his false gospel. Instead, he proffered a possible October 21 rapture.
Camping’s latest letter, however, strongly counteracts his decades-long campaign to disprove the simplest interpretation of Matthew 24:36 by rendering prediction after prediction:
“We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact, for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking. But we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32) were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.”
This looked good, real good. I imagined the joy in heaven that broke out over his repentance. I recalled the Scriptures that speak of boundless forgiveness and prodigal sons welcomed home. This was a huge step in the right direction. I admire that a 90-year-old man can still say sorry, and I hope that he meets his Maker with a clean conscience.
Camping doesn’t make a personal mea culpa, and speaks in the plural rather than take the individual blame for leading the doomsday charge, which is disappointing. But he is firm and clear on being wrong. Right?
Well…Camping’s humble pie is cold, and it’s got chunks missing. For example, he is silent about his lingering heresy concerning the Church. Camping fails to mention that his exquisitely blasphemous doomsday timeline also proved that the age of the church was over, and that anyone who went to church was under the control of satan. Droves of Camping followers, now cut off from any orthodoxy or accountability from the believing community, continue to be that much more vulnerable to being led astray. (My parents are to this day counted among the Camping faithful.) Camping has sinned against God by calling the Church–the Bride of Christ–apostate and devoid of the Holy Spirit. Where’s the repentance for that?
Camping has bastardized the gospel by claiming that Jesus Christ died before the creation of the world (and yes, that would mean that He died before sin entered the world, and that someone in the Godhead must have killed him…chew on that for a while), and that His earthly crucifixion was a mere demonstration. The “gospel” that Family Radio happily takes donations to promote is something like, “We hope God will save you, but you can’t exercise faith in Him, so really, just live in fear. And the world’s ending.” This false gospel, devoid of grace and truth, is an equally egregious offense as the slandering the Church.
And who’s not irked by apologies that start out with, “I’m sorry, but…”? Camping said in his apology letter, “Yes, we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing; yet though we were wrong, God is still using the May 21 warning in a very mighty way.” Uh-uh. It’s more accurate to say that the May 21 campaign smeared the name of Christianity in a singularly effective way, mixing heresy with holiness, and staining Christianity with cultish predictions, producing a muddled image for many an untrained eye.
I hate to sound like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15, resentful and unforgiving. But do I accept Harold Camping’s apology? No. No I don’t. It’s too little, too late. It’s a stale slice of pie, and I’ll pass.
Sharifa Stevens is a wife and mother, singer, and writer. She earned a B.A. from Columbia University and a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She lives in Dallas.