Now that the World Didn’t End . . . Followers May Sue for Damages

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Even though the world as we know it did not come to an end on May 21 as predicted, doomsday prophet Harold Camping’s $120 million world may soon be ending as disgruntled followers are being encouraged to contact their lawyers and demand that their donations be refunded.

“Close watchers of religious cult movements . . . believe that suing Harold Camping and his associates for recovery of donations should set a precedent that will discourage future Judgment Day date-setters whose prophecies disrupt the lives of millions and cause lifelong trauma to their followers,” says the God Connection blog.

The International Business Times (IB) is reporting that the 89 year-old Camping came out of hiding on Sunday night just long enough to tell the public he would make a statement about the failed Doomsday event at a public forum tonight.

“I’ve got to think it out,” he said. “This is a big deal, big deal . . .  So no interview.”

Since the night of May 20, Camping refused to be interviewed and remained in hiding, allegedly with about $80 million dollars.

“I’ve got to live with it,” he said about the failed prediction.

He also said his ministry, Family Radio, will operate as normal on Monday.

This led IB to predict that Camping will respond to this failed prediction the same way he responded to a former failed prediction in 1994 – by “recalculating” the prediction and coming up with a third Doomsday prediction.

Camping, a retired engineer, spread his doomsday message via Family Radio, which broadcats to 66 stations out of a humble building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader on the road to Oakland International Airport. He claimed to have discovered the date and time of the end of the world by making calculations based on the Bible, and said it would occur at 6:00 p.m. on May 21 when believers would be raptured up while rolling earthquakes wiped out the rest of the earth’s inhabitants.

The first indication that Camping’s prediction was to become another non-event began to appear on Twitter.

“I’m from New Zealand,” tweeted a man named Daniel Boerman. “It is 6.06pm, the world has NOT ended. No earthquakes here, all waiting for the Rapture can relax for now.”

Since then, tales of After Rapture parties began to appear. One group, in Tacoma, Washington, branded their celebration “Countdown to Back-Pedaling.”

Camping’s followers, many of whom spent Saturday indoors in prayer, had mixed reactions to the failed apocalypse.

Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, who spent his own money putting up advertising about the end of the world, told Urban Christian News he was surprised when nothing happened.

“I can’t tell you what I feel right now,” he said. “Obviously, I haven’t understood it correctly because we’re still here.”

Other followers believe the delay is a test from God to see if they’ll persevere in their faith.

“It’s still May 21 and God’s going to bring it,” said Family Radio’s special projects coordinator Michael Garcia, who spent Saturday morning praying and drinking two last cups of coffee with his wife at home in Alameda. “When you say something and it doesn’t happen, your pride is what’s hurt. But who needs pride? God said he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”

Christian leaders dismissed the prophecy, some of whom picketed outside Camping’s headquarters, carrying signs that shouted, “False Prophet!” They’re concerned about the impact on his followers now that his predictions failed to materialize. This is especially true for many people who reportedly quit their jobs, dropped out of school, sold their homes and spent their entire savings preparing for the Rapture. 

“The cold, hard reality is going to hit them that they did this, and it was false and they basically emptied out everything to follow a false teacher,” the Rev. Jacob Denys, of the Milpitas-based Calvary Bible Church, said earlier. “We’re not all about doom and gloom. Our message is a message of salvation and of hope.”

One blogger offered encouragement to Camping’s followers, however. “Jesus will forgive you Sunday morning,” he wrote. “Just be more careful next time.”

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