Saturday, 21 May, 2011

Apocalypse believers wait vigilantly for the end after months of preparing; skeptics carry on


They spent months warning the world of the apocalypse, some giving away earthly belongings or draining their savings accounts. And so they waited, vigilantly, on Saturday for the appointed hour to arrive.

When 6 p.m. came and went across the United States and various spots around the globe, and no extraordinary cataclysm occurred, some believers expressed confusion, while others reassured each of their faith. Still, some others took it in stride.


Caroline Dennewith, co-owner of Dorky’s Arcade in Tacoma, Wash., poses for a photo, Friday, May 20, 2011 with a poster advertising her business’ ”Rapture Party,” which will be held Saturday, May 21, 2011, the day on which a loosely organized Christian movement believes Jesus will return to Earth to gather the faithful. Dennewith says she has received international media attention and some isolated local criticism for what started out as a low-key party in response to predictions of the rapture.

“I had some skepticism but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God,” said Keith Bauer — who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the Rapture.

He started his day in the bright morning sun outside the gated Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International, whose founder, Harold Camping, has been broadcasting the apocalyptic prediction for years.

“I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth,” said Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver who began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he “worked last week, I wouldn’t have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen.”

The May 21 doomsday message was sent far and wide via broadcasts and websites by Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction. According to Camping, the destruction was likely to have begun its worldwide march as it became 6 p.m. in the various time zones, although some believers said Saturday the exact timing was never written in stone.

In New York’s Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, said he was surprised when the six o’clock hour simply came and went. He had spent his own money to put up advertising about the end of the world.

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

Many followers said the delay was a further test from God to 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.”

The Internet was alive with discussion, humorous or not, about the end of the world and its apparent failure to occur on cue. Many tweets declared Camping’s prediction a dud or shared, tongue-in-cheek, their relief at not having to do weekend chores or take a shower.

The top trends on Twitter at midday included, at No. 1, “endofworldconfessions,” followed by “myraptureplaylist.”

As 6 p.m. approached in California, some 100 people gathered outside Family Radio International headquarters in Oakland, although it appeared none of the believers of the prophecy were among them. Camping’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a modest building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business.

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