The Rapturian Candidate

It’s Saturday, May 21 at 8:53 PM Pacific Time. If you’re reading this from the comforts of home, welcome to the Apocalypse! Thanks for coming out!

Yes, the Apocalypse looks a lot like the Prepocalypse, except our friends at the nonprofit Family Radio Network aren’t here with us – at least I hope not.  According to them, today was the day the Lord was gonna call the Chosen home, if you believe 89-year-old civil engineer Harold Camping, who treated the Bible like his own personal version of The DaVinci Code.

Now, I don’t blame the Rapturian Candidate for trying. Surveying the landscape of End Time Signs, I could be easily persuaded:

  1. The New Orleans Saints won the 2010 Super Bowl.
  2. Oprah Winfrey taped her last show on Tuesday, May 17, for broadcast on May 25: Did she know something we didn’t?
  3. Our so-called liberal-softy president just took out Osama bin Laden – and for the record, our president is black and is a US citizen.
  4. Sarah Palin just closed on a house in my Scottsdale ZIP code.

Taken together, I can only come to one conclusion: WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!

And yet, we’re still here. No one has heard from Camping about this development (or supreme lack thereof), and I don’t know that we will. I have a nagging suspicion that he and a few of his followers will likely try to hasten their departure for the great hereafter, lest they face the mounting questions from the rest of us, and more importantly, from the suckers donors who contributed more than $100 million to Camping’s “nonprofit” radio network over the past seven years, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

All I gotta say is: Were you listening, NPR? That was one helluva pledge drive!

I may not be buying what Camping was selling, but as one who sells sponsorships for my own, listener-supported, nonprofit public radio stations, I have to admire his effectiveness. With those kinds of results from a typical spring pledge drive, we could tell Newt Gingrich to suck it once and for all (because I know he wasn’t raptured up with our buddy Camping). As one who sells advertising for a living, I was also a bit dazzled by the scope of Camping’s outreach campaign. Billboards in all the major markets, international roving street-teams in custom-fitted RVs, full-page ads in major dailies: I know my April and May quotas would have been met back in January if I’d gotten a piece of Camping’s action – and given the opportunity, I think I could have made a very persuasive argument that our nonprofit radio stations would have been a perfect fit for his message. Consider:

  • Only 18.9% of NPR news listeners agree with this statement: “the world was literally created in six (6) days, just like the Bible says.”
  • Just 21.1% of NPR news listeners agree that the federal government should encourage prayer in public schools – and they are 60% less likely than their peers to believe this.

So for only a small investment of Family Radio’s estimated $122 million in holdings, Harold Camping could have reached ready-made audience of more than 20 million convertible souls, just waiting for his message of salvation and eternal life. Would have have traded one billboard on a busy freeway for 20 million souls?

(Source: GfK Mediamark Doublebase Research, 2011 – I know, I wouldn’t have believed it either, but it’s a reputable firm, and I think these Tea Party activists listeners are just doing their civic duty and monitoring the stations for liberal bias).

Though our nonprofit public radio stations are governed by the very same Federal Communications Commission that governs his, I don’t believe that Camping’s message of repentance would have made it past our copy review board. Let’s look at the proposed language:

KJZZ / KBAQ is supported by… Family Radio Network, announcing The Rapture – May 21, 2011, Judgment Day – the Bible Guarantees it. Repent and accept Jesus as your savior or face eternal damnation. More information at We Can Know dot com.

Now, at only 206 typed characters, including spaces, this message fits within our 15-second space limitation. Camping would have had a choice between our lovely female reader or soothing male reader. To ensure we maintain our noncommercial nature, the Federal Communications Commission prohibits certain language: 1) Calls to action, 2) Statements of Price, 3) Claims of Comparison, 4) Overly qualitative language that is subject to interpretation by the listener. Let’s review:

Repent? That’s pretty much a call to action.

Eternal Damnation? That’s a pretty high price to pay and therefore violates the Statement of Price provision.

The Claim of Comparison is implicit because the very nature of Camping’s statement means that his prediction is more accurate than others (see Branch Davidians, Nostradamus, Camping 1994, et al).

The Bible Guarantees It? Well, duh, subject to interpretation by the listener.

Even though, according to Harold Camping, we were all facing eternal damnation, I still don’t think my sales manager would have let that copy through, so I am left to ponder the what-ifs… What if Harold Camping had spent that $30,000 with us instead of on that billboard on Indian School Road? What if he’d chosen to invest the cost of one recreational vehicle into an aggressive, national public radio underwriting campaign? (Diane Rehm, brought to you by Harold Camping!) What if he’d used his money toward the greater good of helping those in need of help on earth right now instead of reaching those pining for the guarantee of a sweet hereafter, while lining the pockets of ad reps and their corporate overlords?

Worse, what if he was right?

But he was wrong. He was wrong on so many levels – and I hope he enjoys doing the backstroke in the Lake of Fire for his disgusting transgressions against humanity in general and his donors in particular.

Go big or go home: Camping wanted to go home in a big way, spending $120,000-$230,000 for a full-page ad in USA TODAY (depending on the run-date), buying a fleet of recreational vehicles to travel the world spreading his version of the “good” news, and papering roadways with eyesores billboards proclaiming his failsafe date with destiny, and urging people to drink his Kool-aid and get saved. This was an ad campaign in the tens of millions of dollars, and by all estimates it worked – the ad campaign, that is. May 21 was above-the-fold, top-of-the-hour “news” for the past two weeks. It even pushed Osama bin Laden off the front page (well, if anyone read the newspaper anymore).

And just think about the lives that could have been saved if we had plowed this type of money, attention and hype into actual problems?

Let’s do some math that doesn’t require us to turn the Bible upside down and hop around on one foot: The world’s first food bank – St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance – is based here in Phoenix. At St. Mary’s, a $120 donation can provide enough food for 840 meals – so a black-and-white, Monday-Thursday ad in USA TODAY could have yielded 840,000 meals – enough to give all the hungry children in Arizona one peanut butter sandwich… likely their only meal of the day during the summer when the school lunch program has stopped.

A Class A gas and diesel recreational vehicle in a “medium” price range costs about $130,000. A New Leaf serves more than 300 adults and children at its Autumn House domestic violence shelter each year. For $200, you can sponsor a Domestic Violence Shelter bad, providing 120 days of emergency shelter for survivors and their children. For the cost of a one of Camping’s crummy RV’s, they could have provided 650 shelter beds – saving hundreds of lives. Throw in the gas money for his fleet, and thousands of women and children have a safe place to turn when they escape the hands of their abusers.

Esperanca sends medical missions to impoverished countries, providing disease prevention and surgical care for hundreds of people. One volunteer surgical mission costs $7,000 to fund – but the team can perform up to 40-50 surgeries during their stay, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical care to people who are likely seeing their first doctor ever  – and the Esperanca team trains local doctors while they’re there, ensuring continued care. At the cost of one billboard for one month in Phoenix, “Family” Radio could have funded at least three of these medical missions.

Hell, my cursing alone paid for spay-neuter services for two animals, saving about a dozen future puppies and kittens from euthanasia.

I could make fun of Harold Camping and his band of merry fools all day, but instead I’m just mad at him and all of his foolishness. The waste of resources on his jackpot in the sky disgusts me when we have people here on earth, right now, who are in need . The breathtaking levels of attention given to this buffoon really make me wish he were right, because then I could grab my shovel and baseball bat and go off-leash on a post-rapture rampage of Harold Camping skull-bashing.

Then again, it is not my place to judge – nor is it his place to call the Rapture: The Bible tells me so…

MARK 13:32-33 – “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

Fuck* you, Harold Camping. I hope you enjoy reading your Bible and making your Apocalyptic predictions in Hell.

*$1 will be donated to an AIDS orphanage in Africa for every curse word I utter from May 1-July 31. So far, the tally is at $42 – enough for two days’ worth of teacher pay.