Is The End Near? The Carolina-Harold Camping Connection
Remember Harold Camping? He was a longtime radio preacher and noted End-Times mathematician.
He calculated and widely broadcast the date for Armageddon and Judgment Day — not once, but three times.
I remember the first of the dates, in September 1994: I saw a billboard about it in Wilmington Delaware; didn’t know who had put it up. And of course he had an audiotape album about it.
That date didn’t work out, tho. But Camping was undaunted. He went back to Remedial End-Times Math class. And with the arrival of computers, he soon downloaded the App for Apocalyptic Algorithms, and by about 2009 he had figured it all out again.
Then many readers will recall the billboard below, or one of its variants. Camping spent millions of dollars putting them up along highways all over the country. I saw lots of them.
Good for a chuckle, because as most of us will remember, May 11, 2011 came and went, followed by — May 12, 2011. (Actually, on that day the Yankees lost to Kansas City, and the Baltimore Orioles beat Seattle; but neither result, it appeared, spelled the end of the world.)
After that second miss, Camping revised the date to October 11, 2011; and after that . . . well his health deteriorated, along with his radio empire. (He died in late 2013.)
Now, what’s this got to do with North Carolina Yearly Meeting (NCYM)?
Simple: this body has produced a number of Harold Camping Wannabes in the past year.
Instead of the end of the world, though, they’ve been predicting Doomsday for the Yearly Meeting.
The anti-christ in their scenarios took the form of some “liberal” meetings in the body. And the only chance to avoid falling into the bottomless pit was to get rid of these insidious interlopers, right quick. Otherwise, they insisted, The End Was Near.
How near? Well, their own Apocalyptic Apps produced a big X on the calendar: Judgment day for NCYM would be either April 1, 2015, or April 15, 2015.
What would happen then? Well, if the liberal plague were not banished, then these Meetings would stop paying their NCYM dues (called “Askings”), and look to their survival somewhere else, while the empty husk would be left behind, sinking into perdition.
The prophecies were also delivered during various quarterly and YM-wide meetings, beginning at the YM sessions in September 2014, and running through the long winter of 2014-2015. These were more aphoristic, mostly shouted declarations from various pastors that this or that meeting was absolutely on the brink of jumping from this sinking ship, right now, unless the body Got Right With God and banished all the evil ones, with no more foolish palaver. An outline for a new YM even surfaced.
And here is where one unmistakable parallel to Harold Camping appears: in the fullness of time, April 15th, 2015 came; then sunrise followed sunset, and it was April 16, 2015. The Day after NCYM Doomsday.
And behold, the main targeted liberal meetings were STILL part of NCYM. And so, amazingly, were the prophets of doom and their meetings. And behold, verily, their Askings (or dues) continued to be sent in to the YM treasury.
Yet also like Camping, the prophets were not dismayed by this turn of (non)events. The cries of, “We’re ready to leave right now, unless the infidel liberals were banished” continued to echo at the June 6 (D-Day) Representative Body meeting, as if nothing had changed. (But the liberals weren’t expelled, yet nobody left after that either.)
The rumbles can still be heard, though lately they’ve been more like the distant rattles of a dwindling storm.
This coming Saturday, August 1, the NCYM Representative Body will convene one more time. And let me claim the prophetic mantle long enough to predict that such calls will be heard again: the liberal Meetings must go, or the YM will collapse; this meeting and that one are “ready to go right now”; and so forth.
But after all this bluster, one thing is clear: these Camping wannabes may be fooling somebody else, but they’re not fooling me, or many others anymore. All that talk of withholding funds, walking out, jumping ship, taking a hike, catching the Rapture Bus and all that has been so much hot air and yada yada.
And maybe this time the shouters will be met, not with shudders of terror and consternation, but the giggles and titters they richly deserve. Indeed, will anyone be bold enough to laugh in their faces? (I bet I could get odds on that in Vegas; but Faith & Practice is against gambling.)
Indeed, the vacuity of it all is so clear that this is a good time for a bit of an autopsy: What accounts for so much empty blather? Here are some possibilities:
1. Simple bullying: It seems evident some figured that at the loud threat of an exodus, YM officials would be so terrified they would hurriedly push all the targeted meetings out the door, like the king of Nineveh harking to the prophet Jonah, to placate the messengers of an angry Deity’s wrath. Certainly there’s been plenty self-righteous posturing and shamelessly abusive behavior. Or
2. Too much time spent looking in the mirror: perhaps the key preachers really believed they were so much in tune with the truest true gospel truth, they were certain nothing could really stand against it (and them): like the walls of Jericho, the liberal bastions would collapse if the Lord’s true champions lined up and simply blew their horns loudly and long enough. Or
3. Somewhat less nerve than they attempted to project? Maybe blowing up a 335-year old Quaker body is just not as light a matter as they thought. Some of the targeted liberal meetings have been in place since before the American Revolution. After all the false starts, one is forced to wonder: is this crowd really ready for prime-time? Or, last but not least
4. They over-estimated their actual impact on their own meetings. It’s one thing to get a group worked up with a stem-winding sermon, in which the doughty preacher sets up and mows down battalions of zombie-like, straw person liberal invaders; and then to hector a Clerk into signing a letter. But it’s quite another when the time comes to stop the talk and walk the walk; and — well, it looks like none of the meetings have yet really been ready to turn the bravado of these mouthpieces into rending, tragic action. Perhaps they have more sense than some of those they have been listening to.
But is this last really surprising? There are a lot of complicated family ties and ancestral connections in NCYM Meetings, going back over 300 years, through several real wars, a century-long struggle over slavery, and lots more. It looks as though these add up to a thick human fabric which is not as easily ripped asunder in fact as in Camping or Hal Lindsey-style End-Times potboiler fictions.
The lack of action is the more striking because the NCYM Faith & Practice makes such departures more or less a piece of cake. Dissatisfied meetings don’t have to wait til Judgment Day; they can leave when they are ready, and take their buildings, property and cash with them.
In the meantime, the main targeted liberal Meetings have all said they planned to stay in NCYM, and they have quietly stuck to that.
It reminds me of Matthew 5:37: “But let your ‘Yea be yea; and your Nay be nay’: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” Whose “yea” has been “yea through all these months?
So come August 1, and afterward, if some Friends need an aid to distinguish between more Camping-style blowhard bluster, and the real thing, here it is– no extra charge.
The sign of a genuine, serious preacher or Meeting will look like this:
If any meetings really are prepared to leave — if continuing under the same corporate umbrella with the demonic liberals really is being too “unequally yoked,” then they will deliver a letter like this one, in their own words, with no ifs, ands, or buts, and go. Thereupon, what has been dubbed the “Bless and Release” response by the YM will come into play.
But otherwise, permit me to leave their self-designated tribunes with a long-suffering Friend’s weary plea: spare us any more of the blowhard bluster. You’ve already heard that we’ve had enough of the bullying stuff And the act is becoming self-parody, which means you’re embarrassing yourselves. And not least, it will save us a lot of time.
So if you’re going to go, go. (Do I repeat myself? Very well, I repeat myself. Some seem to need it.)
And if you’re not going, very well, please: say Sayonara to Harold Camping’s ghost.
Drop the threats and the bullying. The deadline gambit is dead.
Then to those who stay: let’s sit down to the work of learning to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2, if you haven’t checked it in awhile). That’s the Bible’s advice to the church for getting along until the real Judgment Day arrives. And it appears, once again, the day has been delayed indefinitely.
There is still the matter of several “Options” that have been pressed on NCYM as the way to resole this bogus “crisis.” We shall speak of them next.