21 May 2011

World fails to end

The US evangelist who said the world would end on 21 May stands by his prediction, as the Bishop of Buckingham tells Channel 4 News Saint Paul would have said “don’t be silly”.

A christian evangelist who predicted that the world would end on Saturday is sticking to his guns – despite getting it wrong before.

Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader of Family Radio Worldwide, claimed Judgment Day would fall on May 21 after adding up numbers in the Bible.

Mr Camping, who previously said the world would end in 1994, said in January: “Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment.”

I hope people haven’t sold their businesses and given up their day jobs. Right Rev Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham

The retired civil engineer, from California, is a subscriber to the belief that Jesus Christ will return to Earth to gather the faithful into heaven in a moment known as “the Rapture” – signalling the beginning of the end for the Earth.

Mr Camping said he planned to spend the day with his wife watching Doomsday unfold, adding: “I’ll probably try to be very near a TV or a radio or something. I’ll be interested in what’s happening on the other side of the world as this begins.”

But Bishop of Buckingham, the Right Rev Dr Alan Wilson, told Channel 4 News “I hope people haven’t sold their businesses and given up their day jobs”.

He said: “Funnily enough in the bit of the Bible that started all this – 1 Thessalonians 4, that’s what had happened, some christians had given up their day jobs and were waiting for the end of the world.

“St Paul writes to them and tells them all not to be so silly.”

Dozens of Harold Camping's followers have driven across the country to spread the message that the end of the world is nigh - again.

Rapture parties

Mr Camping’s predictions have been widely derided in the US, with so-called “Rapture parties” planned to celebrate the expected failure of the world to come to an end.

One website is selling T-shirts marked: “I survived May 21, 2011. You really thought the world would end? Dumb-ass.” The site adds: “If the world doesn’t end, you’ll get your shirt in approximately ten business days.”

In Tacoma, Washington, atheists have organised a party for Saturday night under the banner “countdown to backpedalling” in expectation that Mr Camping and Family Radio will be forced to change their story when Judgment Day does not come.

The attention given to Mr Camping’s beliefs have angered some Christians, who say a belief in the Rapture falls outside mainstream Christianity.

Simon Sarmiento, from the Thinking Anglicans blog, has urged the media to ignore the story. He tweeted: “Please give no space at all to rubbish about the Rapture”.

And he told Channel 4 News: “It’s extraordinary how all our own mainstream media are giving this Rapture nonsense so much space and time.”

Experts on religion say the Rapture is a notion that first emerged in the 19th century and is rejected by most Christians.

But Mr Camping’s prophecy led to unrest in Vietnam, where thousands of members of the Hmong ethnic minority gathered near the border with Laos earlier this month to begin the countdown to Armageddon.

Family Radio has 66 US stations and broadcasts in more than 30 languages through international affiliates.

Mr Camping’s supporters have paid for about 2,200 advertising hoardings around the United States to warn of the coming apocalypse, and dozens of followers have driven across the country to spread the message that the end of the world is nigh – again.