The sins of Harold Camping

Yesterday morning, reader Jerry sent along a note with a link to a story about Harold Camping:

I’m waiting for the media to feature this story. Are you?

Now, the Harold Camping story about his failed predictions for the rapture were huge news last year. So big, in fact, that only six religion news stories were deemed bigger.

Now he says that his predictions were “incorrect and sinful.” So I bet we’ll see tons of follow-ups about this man’s repentance, right?

Eh, I wouldn’t count on it.

But I did want to highlight that the story was carried by Religion News Service:

(RNS) Radio evangelist Harold Camping has called his erroneous prediction that the world would end last May 21 an “incorrect and sinful statement” and said his ministry is out of the prediction business.

“We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and he will end time in his time, not ours!” reads the statement signed by Camping and his staff and posted on his ministry’s website.

“We humbly recognize that God may not tell his people the date when Christ will return, any more than he tells anyone the date they will die physically.”

The “March 2012″ letter, which included multiple mea culpas, was released with a note from the board of California-based Family Radio.

It goes on with more detail about the repentant letter and how it was distributed. It even includes Scripture references and the basis on which Camping has rejected his previous teaching.

All in a very brief wire report.

There is this part that confuses me:

The letter makes no reference to Camping’s explanation last year that he had miscalculated by five months and the world would instead end on Oct. 21, 2011.

But that’s not what happened, was it? He always had that Oct. 21 date for the end of the world. The May date was for a judgment day or rapture of believers.

We discussed the mistakes on what the two dates represented last year.

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  • Spencerian

    With a media that generally shows an inability or desire to understand or relate to religion, I am quite surprised that this story wasn’t picked up as some fabulous example of how religion is a game of Idiot Ball to some unsourced but “large majority” of people. It’s really a story of contrition that less spiritual writers would pounce on, declaring hypocrisy or that Religion is Dumb or something less charitable.

    But I also suspect that the HHS Mandate story, combined with the GOP primary race and other satellite stories are eclipsing this one. We’ve not had a Slow News Day for some weeks now.

  • Will

    I would guess that this will be ignored because it does not fit the “stupid Christians” (or in some Catholic blogs, “stupid Protestants”) narrative.

  • Karl

    @Will Protestants have been outspokenly opposed to Camping: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3983 (though you don’t get James White on the national media)

    Camping also needs to repent of promoting Modalism and telling people to abandon the visible Church. I’m not sure if his anti-Church theology was highlighted in the media.

  • Will

    You know that, and I know that, but Dwight Longnecker doesn’t. On his blog he asserted that “a considerable number of Protestants” were considering Camping’s claims (and dodged my question as to who this “considerable number” were.)

    There is also the persistent usage of lumping all non-Catholics together as “Protestant”. It doesn’t matter what they think about justification or scripture or priesthood, as long as they don’t-believe-in-the-Pope.

    The only account I saw which brought up Camping’s heretical theology was articles in the libertarian magazine LIBERTY (in its last paper issues.) The rest of the press seems to have blithely assumed that those Christians/fundies/evangelicals are all alike, you know.

  • Will

    And of course, most of the press are likely to be theological illiterates themselves (as this blog keeps establishing), and therefore unable to see anything out of the way with it.

  • Karl

    Well, the press should interview someone like a Reformed or Lutheran “cult apologetics” expert, since Camping was an elder in the CRC and Family Radio was well-known in Reformed circles (ergo, there are people with a lot of experience with Camping).

    I wouldn’t call Camping a “Protestant,” since historically non-liberal Protestants have agreed with, e.g., Trinitarianism and the historic creeds.

  • Jerry
  • carl jacobs

    There isn’t much schadenfreude value for the target audience in this story, so I don’t see it getting much play. I suspect if Camping was trying to justify his error that the story would get more exposure. Then the audience would be able to snicker at invincible ignorance. But what kind of enjoyment do you get out of listening to someone say “I was wrong.” Now they don’t have Harold Camping to kick around anymore.

    carl
    cynically assuming the worst about the media since 2006

  • Zoomie

    One interesting side note. While Camping was publicly proclaiming his certainty about the end of the world, he quietly renewed his FCC broadcast license for Family Radio’s shortwave facilities. Sounds like he was hedging his bets even then.

  • http://intellectualoid.wordpress.com Reader John

    A couple of column inches made page 3 in our local Gannett paper. It made it sound as if Camping has repented only of his math errors: “We humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing.”