Outside Harold Camping's Alameda house at 6:01 p.m. on Sunday, very little (save a cloud of shame and regret) hung over the false prophet's abode where he and his family waited for the rapture. Camping had used numerology and The Bible to make a proclamation that he and his Family Radio followers would be beamed to heaven at 6:00 p.m. on May 21. Alas, his forecast never came true. And ever since his prediction turned sour, he's said very little publicly about what happened.
"It has been a really tough weekend," said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old fundamentalist radio preacher who convinced hundreds of his followers that the rapture would occur on Saturday at 6 p.m.
A mere 18 hours after the deadline passed, Camping (sporting "tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket") explained to a group of followers and journalists outside his door the following:
"I'm looking for answers," Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends.
"But now I have nothing else to say," he said, closing the door to his home. "I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then."
No word yet if Family Radio plans on returning any of the millions of dollars his church accrued over the last few years from too-eager followers. Retired transit worker and New York City resident Robert Fitzpatrick had spent $140,000 of his savings to help spread Camping's false message of apocalyptic doom.
"I don’t understand why nothing has happened," he told Reuters after the 6 o'clock hour passed.
Whether Camping flat-out lied or made a grave mistake (or, more likely, both) is still up in the air. However, some say the Alameda minister knew exactly what he was doing. Huffington Post explains:
Euro-American Evangelical pastor John S. Torell said Camping already had an "Oops, I'm wrong" speech ready, claiming, "he has already prepared a defense to explain to the radio listeners that he was not wrong, but that God has heard all the prayers and seen the repentance of people, and in His mercy has postponed the judgment."
Claiming Camping knew he was "wrong" -- a.k.a. lying -- is a big deal because Harold Camping made some fairly serious claims when he started talking about Judgment Day, suggesting that "True Believers" donate or prepare for the End of Days. Some dipped into their retirement funds, like Robert Fitzpatrick, who spent $140,000 to post billboards advertising for the Day across the nation. Some, like Keith Bauer, drove their families across country in pursuit of devout faith. And now, as a result of Camping's claim, suicide hotlines have been set up to help those True Believers who've had their faith pummeled by Camping's faulty predictions.
What the fake rapture did succeed in doing was give bragging rights to those who question Christianity. (Pointing out the obvious, like every other full-of-feces religious organization with the word "family" in it, Family Radio represented only a minuscule segment of Christianity.) Numerous rapture fetes and atheist parties were held around the world, the biggest of which was at the Oakland Masonic Center. It drew participants who came to hear keynote speeches from scholars, bloggers, student activists, former Christians, atheist feminists, and other crusaders. (Which, zzzz.)
Other festive types had tongue-in-cheek rapture parties at various parks or bars throughout the Bay Area. Some revealers featured assorted wines and cheeses. Other partygoers listened to live music. And most of them ate loads of good food. All of them, though, knew perfectly well that it was just another day in the Bay Area where another wacky piece of local color declared an apocalyptic vision that never came true. And the beat goes on.