We all had a good chuckle earlier this month with the doomsday that wasn’t, predicted for a third time in his career by radio evangelist Harold Camping.
Last Monday night, in his first public comments since his prediction didn’t come true, Camping doubled-down and now says he’s still correct about his prediction, except he was off by five months. Judgement Day — or Rapture — did happen on Saturday (albeit quietly) and the world is still on schedule for destruction on Oct. 21, he says.
While we’re all likely to have another round of fun with this a few months from now, we’re also finding out that these kinds of misguided and irresponsible predictions have very real consequences. Some aren’t funny at all.
For instance, there were the two Nova Southeastern University medical students who bought Camping’s prediction and gave up hospital internships to travel to Bulgaria to warn of the coming apocalypse.
Then there was New Yorker Jeff Hopkins, who according to Salon.com, “spent a good deal of his own retirement savings on gas money to power his car so people would see its ominous lighted sign showcasing Camping’s May 21 warning.”
To which Hopkins now says:
“I was doing what I’ve been instructed to do through the Bible, but now I’ve been stymied. It’s like getting slapped in the face.”
Lesson learned, perhaps.
There’s also retired New York City transit worker Robert Fitzpatrick, who dropped $140,000 on billboards warning of Judgment Day.
Camping himself is said to have spent millions of dollars of his own and of donors’ money to advertise his prediction.
The folks listed above lost money. It is just that — money. But we’re almost afraid to think what other people might have done thinking they had nothing to lose in the run up to Saturday. As we’ve seen before, some end of days predictions have lead people to commit murder, or mass suicide.
So next time someone says they have God on speed dial, or have cracked the secret code of scripture, please take a step back. Chances are they don’t, or they haven’t.