By Becca Hoekstra
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2011, the end of the world failed to arrive as predicted.
The prediction was made by Harold Camping, founder, president and general manager of Family Radio, which sponsored the campaign that plastered Judgment Day billboards and ads across the country. Camping first predicted the end of the world would occur in 1994.
Despite the threat of the rapture, a variety of groups gathered in front of Family Radio’s empty station on Hegenberger Road in Oakland.
The mixed crowd consisted of members of the Calvary Bible Church, the secular group First Church of the Last Laugh and “pro-science rock band” the Phenomenauts with their fans. Also present were other small, unaffiliated groups of people, such as gay pride supporters, Santa Claus (who was handing out vodka infused Kool-Aid) and a variety of people with costumes or signs. There were also reporters and cameramen present.
A few of Camping’s supporters showed up after the 6 p.m. mark, still unshaken in their beliefs.
“I think everyone is thinking about this too rationally. It’s not about exact times, dates and meanings. It’s more of a spiritual thing,” John Kae said, while holding a “Repent Now” sign above his head. “I am not disappointed. I think it could have already started, I think we could be in the midst of it right now.”
Calvary Bible Church was there to “reach out to the hurting and counter the false message,” pastor Jacob Denys said. They want to offer acceptance, support and a message of hope to Camping’s followers, some of whom gave away life savings to help sponsor the ad campaign.
“These situations open up a Pandora’s Box of blasphemy and reproach against Christianity,” Denys said. “A fake prophet opens the door to a lot of mockers.”
Among those there to mock were members of the First Church of the Last Laugh, a satirical group who sponsor the St. Stupid’s Day Parade. They came prepared with signs, a helium tank, balloons, a banjo player and a man in a priest costume reading off lines in fake Latin.
The Phenomenauts arrived with blow-up dolls and hand-written signs promoting science and signs making fun of believers.
“We’re just here to make fun of dummies,” band member Angel Nova said. “We want people to turn to science ‘cause it won’t make a fool of you, and we don’t ask for money.”
Plenty of other random participants were also there, some with signs, costumes, alcohol or music.
“I’m sick of being kicked around by theist assholes,” said David Kirk, whose sign aptly read “This is a sign.”
“The real victims here are people’s kids,” Kirk said, referring to the children of Camping’s followers.
After the failed rapture and a countdown led by Bishop Joey of the First Church of the Last Laugh, balloons and blow-up dolls were let loose into the sky. Some people took to drinking and dancing in the radio station’s parking lot.