Believers' Reactions Mixed to Unfulfilled DoomsdayThe hour of the apocalypse came quietly and went the same way — leaving those who believed that Saturday evening would mark the world's end confused, or more faithful, or just philosophical.
Believers had spent months warning the world of the pending cataclysm. Some had given away earthly belongings. Others took long journeys to be with loved ones. And there were those who drained their savings accounts.
All were responding to the May 21 doomsday message by Harold Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction.
"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 Camping's Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International.
"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."
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.
He had been projecting the apocalyptic prediction for years far and wide via broadcasts and websites.
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.
Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed the prophecy, and members of a local church concerned followers could slip into a deep depression come Sunday were part of the crowd outside Family Radio International. They held signs declaring Camping a false prophet as motorists drove by.
"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."
About a dozen people in a partying mood were also outside Family Radio International, creating a carnival-like atmosphere as they strolled in a variety costumes that portrayed monks, Jesus Christ and other figures.
"Am I relieved? Yeah. I've got a lot going on," Peter Erwin, a student from Oakland, said, with a hint of sarcasm. "Trying to get specific about the end of the world is crazy."
Revelers counted down the seconds before the anticipated hour, and people began dancing to music as the clock struck 6 p.m. Some released shoe-shaped helium balloons into the sky in an apparent reference to the Rapture.
Camping has preached that some 200 million people would be saved, and that those left behind would die in a series of scourges visiting Earth until the globe is consumed by a fireball on Oct. 21.
Family Radio International's message has been broadcast in 61 languages. He has said that his earlier apocalyptic prediction in 1994 didn't come true because of a mathematical error.
"I'm not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature," he told The Associated Press last month. But this time, he said, "there is ... no possibility that it will not happen."
Marie Exley, who helped put up apocalypse-themed billboards in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, said the money allowed the nonprofit to reach as many souls as possible.
She said she and her husband, mother and brother read the Bible and stayed close to the television news on Friday night awaiting word of an earthquake in the southern hemisphere. When that did not happen, she said fellow believers began reaching out to reassure one another of their faith.
"Some people were saying it was going to be an earthquake at that specific time in New Zealand and be a rolling judgment, but God is keeping us in our place and saying you may know the day but you don't know the hour," she said Saturday, speaking from Bozeman, Mont. "The day is not over, it's just the morning, and we have to endure until the end."
Still, the world wasn't without its normal and sometimes dreadful disturbances Saturday. Among them: a tornado killed one person and damaged at least 20 homes in Kansas, a 6.1-magnitude quake stuck 600 miles off New Zealand with no reports of injury, a much smaller quake, 3.6, was felt my many people Saturday evening in the San Francisco Bay area, and Iceland's most active volcano started erupting.
Camping, who lives few miles from his radio station, was not home late morning Saturday, and an additional attempt to seek comment from him late in the evening also was unsuccessful, with no one answering his front door.
Earlier in the day, Sheila Doan, 65, Camping's next-door-neighbor of 40 years, was outside gardening and said the worldwide spotlight on his May 21 forecast has attracted far more attention than the 1994 prediction.
Doan said she is a Christian and while she respects her neighbor, she doesn't share his views.
"I wouldn't consider Mr. Camping a close friend and wouldn't have him over for dinner or anything, but if he needs anything, we are there for him," Doan said.
Associated Press reporters Terry Chea in Oakland, Don Babwin in Chicago, Mike Householder in Detroit, Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans, David R. Martin in New York and video journalist Haven Daley in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Prediksi meleset, pengikut Rapture bingung
Terbaru 22 Mei 2011 - 18:23 WIB
Massa pengikut pemuka evangelis yang menyatakan hari Sabtu (21/5) adalah Hari Pengangkatan (rapture) mulai kebingungan setelah prediksi tokoh mereka meleset.Sebagian pengikut Harold Camping mengatakan terheran-heran dan ada juga yang mengatakan kekeliruan ramalan itu ujian terhadap keimananan mereka.
Sementara itu, Camping sendiri tidak terlihat sejak batas waktu ramalannya.
Camping, 89 tahun, meramalkan Yesus Kristus akan kembali ke bumi hari Sabtu.
Orang-orang yang benar-benar beriman kemudian akan diangkat ke surga [rapture], kata dia ketika mengumumkan prediksinya.
Dia menyebarkan prediksinya melalui jaringan media penyiaran dan juga papan iklan (billboard) dalam kampanye yang kemudian menyebar ke seluruh dunia
Menurut Camping, naskah injil mengindikasikan gempa bumi dahsyat akan terjadi hari Sabtu, yang dia katakan akan mulai pada pukul 1800 di berbagai zona waktu di seluruh dunia, akan menandai awal kehancuran dunia dan sebelum tanggal 21 Oktober semua orang yang tidak percaya akan mati.
Menguras tabunganRobert Fitzpatrick, seorang pensiunan dinas transportasi di New York, AS, mengatakan dia telah menguras lebih dari $140.000 (sekitar Rp 1 miliar £86,000) dari tabungannya menjelang 21 Mei untuk mempublikasikan prediksi Harold Camping.
Setelah pukul 1800 hari Sabtu (21/5) waktu setempat dan prediksi tidak menunjukkan tanda-tanda terwujud, dia mengatakan: ''Saya tidak mengerti mengapa..saya tidak mengerti mengapa tidak terjadi apa-apa.''
saya benar-benar tidak tahu kenapa kita masih di sini"
''Saya tidak bisa katakan kepada anda perasaan saya sekarang ini. Jelas, saya belum benar-benar memahami mengapa kita masih di sini,'' arnya.
Sebagian pengikut lain Harold Camping mengatakan mereka menyimpan keraguan terhadap prediksi tersebut.
''Saya agak skeptis, tapi saya mencoba untuk menyisihkan skeptisme, sebab saya beriman kepada Tuhan,'' kata Keith Bauer, yang menempuh perjalanan 4.830km, dari Maryland ke California, tempat kantor Family Radio milik Harold Camping berada, untuk menyongsong Rapture [hari orang beriman diangkat ke surga].
''Saya mengharapkannya, sebab saya rasa surga akan lebih baik daripada Bumi ini,'' ujar Bauer, operator kendaraan berat, yang mengambil cuti untuk bisa pergi ke kantor Family Radio.
Beberapa pengikut lain menyatakan penundaan adalah ujian lain dari Tuhan untuk menguji keteguhan iman mereka.
'Tidak ada rencana cadangan'
Media di Amerika Serikat melaporkan Harold Camping tidak terlihat sejak prediksi yang dia siarkan ternyata salah, sedangkan kontak telepon dan e-mail ke Family Radio tidak dijawab hari Sabtu.
Koran The Washington Post melaporkan layanan telepon untuk mencegah bunuh diri dibuka untuk mengantisipasi kemungkinan orang-orang yang percaya dengan ramalan tersebut mengalami depresi setelah ramalan kiamat tidak menjadi kenyataan.
Sekelompok warga dari Gereja Injil Calvary di Milpitas, California, mengadakan misa pagi untuk menghibur orang-orang yang percaya dengan isi khutbah Harold Camping, lapor koran New York Times.
''Kami hadir di sini, sebab kami peduli kepada orang-orang ini,'' tulis koran tersebut mengutip James Bynum, salah seorang pemuka gereja.
Namun, banyak kelompok warga Kristen menepis pandangan Camping. Sebagian bahkan menggambarkan dia sebagai ''nabi palsu''.
Sebagian kalangan orang yang tidak percaya kepada tuhan berpesta untuk merayakan melesetnya ramalan, sedangkan sekelompok orang yang tidak percaya berkumpul di luar markas Family Radio International milik Harold Camping di kawasan Oakland, California, ketika tanggal waktu ramalan berlalu.
''Ini mungkin salah satu hal yang menyedihkan yang saya pernah baca, kabar bahwa ada anak-anak di luar sana yang orang tuanya menghabiskan dana tabungan kuliah, [dan] menjual rumah mereka,'' kata seorang wanita kepada BBC.
Camping mengatakan dia yakin ''tanpa secuil keraguan pun'' bahwa ''hari kiamat'' akan tiba, dan menyatakan tidak ada ''rencangan cadangan''.
Dia sudah pernah meramalkan kiamat pada tahun 1994. Para pengikutnya belakangan menyatakan prediksi itu meleset karena kesalahan perhitungan matematis