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Camping’s ‘invisible’ idea; fear as worldview, part II


May/June 2011


“And so while dreams are the individual man’s play with reality, the sculptor’s art is (in a broader sense) the play with dreams.”

– Friedrich Nietschze



If you haven’t already read, here’s Camping’s ‘invisible’ idea; fear as worldview, part I.

On May 31, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to California Attorney General Kamala, saying that American false prophet Harold Camping is responsible for the “untold numbers of people” that were deceived and contributed their money solely to promote the doomsday, which didn’t happen. In the letter, FFRF claimed that Camping has committed a fraud “in persuading his followers to donate often large sums of money to his organization based on a claim … while objectively conducting his business as though he knew it to be untrue.”

Founded in 1958, Camping’s multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization Family Radio has always been funded almost entirely by donations. The organization’s IRS filings show that they’ve collected $18 million worth of contributions in 2009 alone. According to CNNMoney, they requested an extension of their original paperwork as the station continues seeking approval to solicit financial contributions from its listeners. In Minnesota, they requested to extend the July 15 deadline to November 15, well past Camping’s postponed doomsday on October 21, 2011. 

“The timing, the structures, the proofs, none of that has changed at all,” said Camping on May 23 on his show Open Forum. The preacher refused to talk to reporters until Sunday, when he finally came out of his home in Alameda, California. “It was a really tough weekend,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. But what about others? How are his loyal followers coping after May 21 came and went?

Psychologist Elliot Aronson, co-author of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, noted that “it’s very hard for us to say, ‘Boy, was I stupid!’ The more committed a person is to their prophecy, the more likely they are to justify their action, and to try to convince people that their belief was in some way right or good.” Still, it will take some time to observe the impact these people experience in their lives after quitting their jobs, leaving their families, and spending all their savings to market the end times.

Before the end came, a 14-year old Russian girl Nastya Zachinova committed suicide. The once lively teenager turned withdrawn, fearing the coming apocalypse so much she believes that “we are not righteous; only the righteous will go to heaven, and we’ll stay on earth and face terrible suffering.” Back in California, a woman attempted to murder her two daughters, then take her own life. Regarding suicidal followers, Camping responded to a reporter: “I don’t have any responsibility. I can’t be responsible for anybody’s lives. I am only teaching the Bible. I am not teaching what I believe, as if I am the authority. I am just simply teaching what the Bible says. And I don’t have spiritual rule over anybody.”

Back then, it turns out that Camping’s teachings was never obscure as it has evolved today. Trevor Hammack, an ex-follower of Camping and also a pastor from Victory Baptist Church in Ovalo, Texas, spoke with The Christian Post recently to discuss the Family Radio President before he started working out convoluted calculations predicting the end date.

Camping never failed to go in-depth when interpreting the words from the Bible. He would go through verse by verse in detail. But everything changed when he started to base his own understanding of Mark 4 (Parables of the Kingdom of God) into all his future teachings. What Camping taught others from here is that Jesus speaks in parables, “so when Jesus gets on a boat to cross the sea, well the sea represents one thing, the boat represents something, people in the boat represent something and so he began to use this to interpret the Bible,” Hammack explained to The Christian Post. “Once you go in that direction everything is open for anybody to interpret it the way they want and he left [out] any type of historical context and it just becomes a spiritual parable which he can kind of mold into what he thinks it says. And that’s what happened.” From a psychologist’s standpoint, we may ask, what has gone wrong in his mind?

“I’ve been told I read the wrong Bible,” said Brian Haubert, as he held up Judgment Day posters while parading on the streets of Palmyra, New Jersey. “And then there’s the occasional person who seems to be genuinely interested,” he told NPR while passing pamphlets to passersby. Two weeks till the day comes. The 33-year-old actuary embraced the spiritual message so much, he quit his job without a retirement plan or a savings account, and didn’t really mind. His family and friends think he’s crazy. “I’m crying over my loved ones one minute; I’m elated the next minute,” he says. “It’s all over the place.” Whatever happened there?

>“Problems have become so big, with no solutions in sight, that we no longer see ourselves able as human beings to solve these problems,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal and the author of an upcoming book, The Architecture of Apocalypticism. According to DiTommaso, at the heart of apocalyptic thoughts and fears is a desire to solve two conflicting beliefs. “The first is that there is something dreadfully wrong with the world of human existence today. On the other hand, there is a sense that there is a higher good or some purpose for existence, a hope for a better future,” said DiTommaso to LiveScience. His studies are based on years of research on over a hundred failed doomsday predictions in the last hundred years, which he coined the “apocalyptic worldview” that’s “a very persistent and potent way of understanding the world.”

Conventional Christian wisdom humbles the mystery of the end date. According to the Bible and most Bible scholars, nobody, not even Jesus, knows the exact date of Judgment Day. Only our Father God knows. “In my mind, Harold Camping has quite an account to render with God when judgment day comes,” said Steve Wohlberg, Christian author of over two dozen books about the End Days, to the New York Daily News. “They’re looking at all of these disasters and everything that’s going on in the planet, and this is creating a climate of deep interest in Biblical prophecy.”

Believers of Camping are still coping with fear of the apocalypse. Some lost their faith, others are simply angry. On Monday morning, an unnamed caller expressed his loyalty for the radio station on Open Forum. After watching May 21, 1988, and September 7, 1994, then now May 21, 1988 passed him by, “I don’t know what it means to be faithful anymore because I am really disappointed,” he said to the radio preacher.

Framed in a worldview that has an expiration date, people couldn’t care less about their futures on Earth, a flawed place from which they believe they would soon escape forever. “I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement,” Haubert tells NPR. “I’m not stressed about losing my job, which is a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.” Other families drifted away from one another because they believe in different things.

EIleen Heuwetter of New York was devastated to find that her aunt, Doris Schmitt, left almost nothing of her estate to her own niece. $25,000 of Schmitt’s will was given to each of the two Heuwetter sisters, while the rest – around $300,000 – goes to Family Radio. “It was a good amount of money that would have helped a lot of people live better today — but now it’s not helping anyone,” Heuwetter said to CNN. On May 2, 2010, Schmitt died alone in her home at 78, never living long enough to witness the rapture that never was. Struggling nearly a lifetime of alcoholism and coping with two children who dealt with drug addictions, the radio station was more than a source for comfort.



“The architect represents neither a Dionysian nor an Apollinian state: here it is the great act of will, the will that moves mountains, the rapture of the great will which aspires to art. The mightiest men have always inspired architects; the architect has always been under the spell of power. In his buildings, pride, the victory over gravity, and the will to power strive to become visible; architecture is a species of the rhetoric of power in forms, now persuading, even flattering, now simply commanding. The highest feeling of power and sureness finds expression in that which possesses grand style.”

– Friedrich Nietschze 




“People cope. People cope,” affirmed Camping when he came back to work on Monday morning. I doubt these words is enough to console his followers.

In recent years, apocalyptic beliefs have popularized survivalism, following through difficult times since 9/11 till the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. In the quest for creating a grand scheme to solve all the world’s biggest problems, mainstream population starts to ask fundamentalist questions, and so we turn to philosophy, or, as Socrates once said, “a love of wisdom”.

In Apology, Plato famously said to the juries on Socrates’ trial, who questioned the power of the gods: “Death is one of the two things. Either it’s annihilation, and the dead has no consciousness of anything; or … it is really a change; a migration of the soul from this place to another.” Either the previous or the latter, it is crucial to acknowledge the eternal split between the limited body and the limitless mind, a constant struggle to turn away from the consciousness of our mortality, through self-destruction or through managing ourselves well with the mystery link in the eternal mind-body problem philosophers have been trying to figure out for years. In the 1974 Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Denial of Death, renowned philosopher Ernest Becker stressed that we have an innate defense mechanism with response to our knowledge that survival must serve to some meaning or purpose. In this modern age, though, to counteract this problem-solving difficulty we now have cutting-edge technology to construct the digitized self in our increasingly dependent world on augmented and virtual realities. This human-computer-interaction gives a sense of immortality for just a moment, thus an escape from the problematic reality.

“It’s because of a desire — in a world of chaos, in a world of instability, in a world of anxiety — that people want their doubts eased,” explained Tim Simpson, a professor of post-apocalyptic literature at the University of North Florida. Escaping from states of helplessness in life, listeners like Doris Schmitt perceived momentary solace, manipulated by Camping’s voice behind the radio, television, and other broadcasting technology. “They want their fear beat back, and hearing someone like Camping is extremely comforting to them.”

The man is an autodidact, that is, someone who teaches himself. “When you study the Bible, you’re always learning,” said Camping. Only he himself can understand the Bible in his own way, refusing to learn from Bible scholars and studying it in isolation. With a formal educational background in engineering, he “reads the Bible like a mathematical or scientific textbook,” writes Dr. W. Robert Geofrey on his blog. Geofrey was a student of Camping who is now the president of Westminster Seminary California in San Diego. “His education was not in the liberal arts or theology. He had not been prepared to read literature or ancient texts,” nor could he read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew, a requirement for preachers to translate the Bible’s message to his followers.

Over the years, as Camping’s prediction doctrine prevails through mass media, so does his own perception of reality. “Political and moral issues are more inherently a personal judgment,” said Dolores Albarracin, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “There is no risk of experiencing the effects of being inaccurate as you have in science,” she told LiveScience. “Hence people are free to seek information that confirms their attitudes pretty exclusively.” While numerous findings suggested that people who are less confident about their beliefs tend to avoid conflicting perspectives from their own, Camping was very confident about his prophecy, telling The New York Magazine earlier that “I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.” After May 21 passed him by, he kept reinstating his previous theories during interviews and came up with the notion that the “spiritual” rapture did, in fact, occur, resolving to talk his way out of opposing perspectives that are not in line with his own, or what can be theorized as the constant experience of cognitive dissonance. Has his May 21 confirmation bias against different worldviews turned into a whole new “Campingism” paradigm among his fellow believers? What effects does this have to followers of his thinking, other than killing of one’s soul, one self, and others? It’s still very early to tell – or too late to see, as the “invisible” spiritual rapture was over. Soon, specifically on October 21st, it will all be over.

“Everything in God’s plan fits a very structured way – it’s all very structured. On September 7 1994 when I said there was a high likelihood it was judgement day, it was true – there was judgement. It was salvation in a wonderful day. Since May 21 1988 virtually no-one could be saved in the entire world,” Camping rationalized on Open Forum Tuesday night. “On September 7 God brought even more judgement on the churches because in the world where God’s judgement had begun, God lifted that judgment and allowed people to be saved outside of the churches – leaving the churches under the judgment,” he spoke, defending his shift from Reformed Christian traditions to the thought that Satan has taken over all the churches, and the only way to be saved is surrender to the tribulation, and keep looking forward to The End.

Indeed, we fear the end of the world, but we love the idea of the end of the world – so much that we just don’t know how to speak for our ideas. The “invisible” kind. The kind in our own minds.

To conclude, here is a New King James Version of Mark 4 to ponder upon:

Parables of the Kingdom of God

1 And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitutde was on the land facing the sea.
2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:
3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.
4 “And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.
5 “Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth.
6 “But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 
7 “And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.
8 “But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced; some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable.
11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside, all things come in parables,
12 “so that

‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven to them.’ “

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
14 “The sower sows the word.
15 “And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16 “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 “and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.
18 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word,
19 “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
20 “But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
21 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand?
22 “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.
23 “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.
25 “For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,
27 “and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.
28 “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.
29 “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it?
31 “It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth;
32 “but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.
34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”
36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.
38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacjer, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” 

Works Cited:

_New King James Bible_. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982.

Confirmation bias“. ScienceDaily. Science Reference.

Harold Camping says not responsible for suicidal followers, will not admit mistake“. International Business Times. May 24, 2011.

Teen Kills Herself Ahead of Foretold Rapture“. Associated Press. Yahoo! News. May 25, 2011.

To God Be Glory!” Familyradio.com.

Amira, Dan. “A Conversation with Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day“. New York Magazine. May 11, 2011.

Barrick, Audrey. “Harold Camping Capitalized Fears, Atheist Group Says“. June 2, 2011. The Christian Post.

Blascovich, Jim & Bailenson, Jeremy. “Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution”. HarperCollins. 2011.

Bonus, Alex. “Rumored Rapture Reveals Spiritual Truth“. Ponte Vedra Recorder. May 26, 2011.

Bryner, Jeanna. “People Unsure of Beliefs Are More Close-Minded“. LiveScience. July 1, 2009.

Cole, Ethan. “Former Student on Harold Camping’s Change From Solid Bible Teacher to False Doomsday Prophet“. The Christian Post. 4 June, 2011.

Ellis, Blake. “Doomsday believer donates entire inheritance to Family Radio“. CNN. June 1, 2011.

Garcia, Elena. “Ex-Followers of Camping Vent Anger on Family Radio“. The Christian Post. May 31, 2011.

Hagerty, Barbara Bradley. “Is the End Nigh? We’ll Know Soon Enough“. NPR. May 7, 2011.

Kaleem, Jaweed. “Judgment Day Predictor Harold Camping Speaks Out (Live Blog)“. The Huffington Post.

Lin II, Rong-Gong & Faturechi, Robert. “Harold Camping: Rapture fails to arrive in Europe; atheist party to begin in Oakland“. Los Angeles Times. May 21, 2011.

Pappas, Stephanie. “Draw of Doomsday: Why People Look Forward to the End“. LiveScience. 16 May, 2011.

Vivaldo, Josephine. “EXCLUSIVE: Harold Camping Ex-Follower Speaks Out“. The Christian Post. May 31, 2011.

Whitaker, Bill. “How Harold Camping Marketed the Rapture“. CBS News. May 20, 2011.







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2 thoughts on “Camping’s ‘invisible’ idea; fear as worldview, part II

  1. Hello, I am Pastor Trevor Hammack. I am the person mentioned in the Christian Post article. I just wanted to thank you for posting this information. You can contact me anytime at newsif@yahoo.com or visit my website at http://www.sermonaudio.com/vbc

  2. Hi Pastor. I think your illustration of Camping paints a really great picture. I value your opinions. No problem. Thanks for the link.

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