What should happen when someone makes a bold and outrageous prediction, and turns out to be wrong. I'm not talking about predictions like "The Cubs will win the World Series" or "No one will ever use Facebook or Twitter." I'm talking about predicting the end of the world to the precise date and time. May 21, 2011, at 6:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
89 year-old Christian radio minister Harold Camping did just that. Not only did he make the prediction, but he asked his listeners to contribute money so he could spread the message. According to an article by Donald Bradley of McClatchy Newspapers, when a caller asked Camping if the money would be returned if the Apocalypse did not arrive, Camping assured his Family Radio audience that this would indeed be the end, and that millions would be killed.
So who is this huckleberry anyway? I had never heard of Harold Camping until this past week, but I have heard of Family Radio. If you peruse the lower end of the FM band, or scan AM stations, you will find many stations with religious programming. Chances are good, that at least one of those will be part of Family Radio. Camping is the president of Family Radio, based in Oakland.
As we live and breathe, we know now of course that Camping was wrong. But guess what? This wasn't his first Doomsday prediction. He had previously stated that the world would end in 1994. Maybe he was a baseball fan. That was the year of the strike, and the canceled World Series. It was almost the death of baseball as we know it, but not life itself.
Camping may be a theologian, but he apparently is not a math whiz. He came up with his Judgement Date, saying it's exactly 7000 years after Noah's Ark and the great flood. Maybe he's 40 days and 40 nights off, which would mean fire and brimstone on July 1 instead, although I prefer to believe he's just crazy.
Most of us have had a lot of fun with this, and that's okay because it could have been much worse. Remember Heaven's Gate in 1997? (I had to look up the year) A group thought that an alien spaceship was following a comet to Earth, and that would mean Armegeddon. 39 people committed suicide. There was also Jonestown, Guyana and the "Reverend" Jim Jones in 1978. 914 member's of his People's Temple knowingly drank poisonous Kool Aid and died. That wasn't really an end of the world thing, but it's amazing what people will do sometimes when following a wacko.
This whole thing reminds me of when I was a kid. Some "expert" appeared on a news show on a Los Angeles television station, and predicted the Big One--the killer earthquake that would slide California into the sea. Growing up in Palmdale, where its name has been given to a bulge in the San Andreas Fault, I guess made me take notice. The prediction was about five years or so into the future, but I remembered the date. I didn't really believe it when that day came, but I was a little nervous. When that day came and went and the Big One didn't happen--no one contacted the person who made the prediction, and I'm sure the whole matter was forgotten, and to my knowledge that person was left unaccountable.
So what should happen to Camping? He has proven twice that he is a crackpot and a moron. I'm sure neither he nor his followers will hold up "I was wrong" signs all over the place. Most of us will probably laugh, move on, and forget. But what a shame that people actually gave him money, and for some reason will probably continue to do so.
Photo: Thanks to Facebook friend Diana Nolan-Goldner for posting this. I don't know which TV station this is from, but it's hilarious. Note the high temperature for Wednesday.