Savior the Date: May 21 is Judgment Day

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 37 | Posted May. 18, 2011

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Soul survivor: Chris McCann believes a cataclysmic earthquake will destroy the world at 6pm EST.

Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

It’s 10 days before all hell will supposedly break loose. A caravan of RVs, vans, pickups and cars, all emblazoned with large signs reading “Judgment Day: May 21, 2011,” idles in the parking lot of the Tri-State Mall, a shabby strip mall tucked just inside Delaware, right off I-95. Several dozen evangelical Christians—of all ages and races—stand around chatting. Many are Philadelphians. Most are wearing neon-yellow T-shirts with the words “May 21” and “The End” or “The Rapture” in big black letters. They’re grinning, laughing, embracing.

Once a few more people arrive, the caravan will hit the highway for a five-day trip to New York City, where the group will stand on street corners handing out tracts warning that the end of the world is nigh.

Chris McCann glances up at the sky, the brim of his “Judgment Day” baseball cap shielding his eyes from the morning sun. “It’s going to be a beautiful day,” says the Darby resident, a 49-year-old married father of four and leader of the locally based online ministry eBible Fellowship. But he isn’t talking about today. He’s speaking of Judgment Day. According to McCann, the others gathered here and countless more doomsday believers worldwide, this coming Saturday is when trumpets will blare and Jesus will return to scoop up his “elect” and lift them to heaven.

“If you hit the lottery, if you win 100 million dollars, that’s the ultimate good day, right?” asks McCann. “This will be a billion times better than that for the believer.”

McCann says he’s convinced that on Saturday, a cataclysmic earthquake will strike New Zealand at about 6 p.m. local time—marking “the shutting of the door to heaven,” he warns—and begin a slow, destructive roll through the world’s time zones, hitting Philadelphia at 6 p.m. our time. “You’ll be able to see it coming, but there won’t be anything you can do about it,” McCann says.

According to the May 21’ers, caskets will be unearthed and the remains of believers will ascend to the clouds along with the living “saved.” Meanwhile, the unsaved who somehow manage to survive the event will be left to suffer in the rubble until Oct. 21, 2011. That’s when the world will actually end, they explain.

“There’s going to be death everywhere,” says South Philly native Barbara Pisano, 55, who strolls over in her “Earthquake: So Mighty So Great” shirt. “There’s going to be no electric, no gas, no water, no stores. It’ll take you five days just to get around the block because of all the debris. I’m scared to think what people will do to each other.”

“It will be like the earth is giving birth,” says 52-year-old Kevin Brown, a soft-spoken South Jersey resident with piercing blue eyes. “There will be great pain for those who stay, and great joy for the saved.”

To a skeptic, this whole scene—the RVs, the T-shirts, the dire predictions—might feel like an elaborate put-on, a prank. But to the believers gathered here, May 21 is for real. Many have quit their jobs, given away their possessions, and burned through their life savings.

Elvis Nditafon, 25, left his engineering job at the end of March. He’s standing next to his gleaming white Mitsubishi Eclipse—he just drained what was left of his bank account to get huge “Return of Christ” graphics on the sides of his car. “I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but our bodies will be changed,” he says of May 21. “It could be vanishing. The Bible gives evidence that it’s going to be something visible to those who are left behind. I just pray that I’m one of the chosen.”

The spiritual leader of the May 21 movement is Harold Camping, the 89-year-old founder of California-based Family Radio—a nonprofit, noncommercial Christian broadcasting network that boasts more than 100 radio stations around the country (their programming is heard locally on 106.9FM WKDN out of Camden) and many millions of listeners worldwide. A self-proclaimed “tireless student of the Bible,” Camping’s been on the airwaves for 50 years analyzing Scripture and sharing his end-of-the-world beliefs. In 1992, Camping famously predicted that Judgment Day was slated for mid-September 1994. When it didn’t happen, he claimed he’d simply gotten the math wrong.

Over the past several years, though, Camping has told his followers he’s re-crunched the numbers and is sure he has it right this time. Family Radio’s website says: “The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong” about May 21. Camping’s complex formula to arrive at Saturday’s date with Armageddon involves numerous assumptions (“absolute truths,” McCann insists) derived from various Biblical passages: The world was created in 11,023 B.C. Noah’s flood occurred in 4990 B.C. Judgment Day is supposed to happen seven days after the flood. One of God’s “days” really equals 1,000 years. And so on.

“I’ve studied the numbers and there’s no question [Camping’s] right,” says McCann, who left his mutual fund company in 2008 to focus solely on Bible study. “It’s all there in the Bible.”

While Camping is the main force behind May 21, McCann has emerged as his right-hand man and prime mover of the message beyond the Family Radio airwaves. The nonprofit eBible Fellowship, run by McCann with the help of a few other volunteers, is Family Radio’s advertising arm. They’re the ones primarily responsible for the “Judgment Day” billboards and bus banners seen all over Philly in recent months. EBible has helped erect thousands more billboards around the U.S., and throughout Africa, South America and South Asia. It has had a hand in millions of May 21 text messages sent to China, and tracts floated into North Korea via balloon. From a small rented room equipped with a Xerox machine in Sharon Hill, Pa., just west of Philly, eBible has copied and mailed hundreds of thousands of tracts to people around the world. And it has helped provide a fleet of RVs for several May 21 caravans that have been crisscrossing the country the past two years.

It’s all been funded by donations to eBible and Family Radio. McCann won’t say how much money has been taken in or how much has been spent, aside from saying it’s a “very significant amount.” But, he insists, “This isn’t done for any profit whatsoever … we haven’t made a cent, and neither has Mr. Camping.”

The advertising has undoubtedly been effective. People are talking about May 21 like they did about Y2K. “Never in history has a date speaking of Judgment Day spread around the whole world like this,” McCann says proudly.

McCann acknowledges that most people on the streets of Philly and elsewhere think he’s a kook—“You know the Philadelphia attitude,” he laughs—but he says that people regarded Noah and Jonah much the same way. “Every once in a while God sends messengers to warn people. This is something I have to do.”

While it’s difficult enough to make the world believe that the end is rapidly approaching, several May 21’ers say they’ve struggled to convince their own families that Judgment Day is coming. McCann says that his wife believes, but that only one of his four children is on board. “I pray for all of them and it may be that the Lord will open up their eyes, there’s still time,” he says.

But the entire Pisano clan—Barbara, her 61-year-old husband, Paul, and their two kids, 22-year-old James and 24-year-old Rachel—believes. “We’re hoping that on May 21 we’ll all be raptured up together as a family,” Paul says.

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Comments 1 - 37 of 37
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1. mufon12347 said... on May 18, 2011 at 07:39AM

“What a "CROCK O SHIT"! If they really relied on what the Bible said, "YOU WON'T KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR"! They said that they haven't made a cent off of this, but I bet that their ranks have swelled. What a friggen marketing scheme.....scare tactics to get people to join their "Cult". I'll see you on the 22nd.....or maybe I won'!”

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2. mufon12347 said... on May 18, 2011 at 07:39AM

“What a "CROCK O POOP"! If they really relied on what the Bible said, "YOU WON'T KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR"! They said that they haven't made a cent off of this, but I bet that their ranks have swelled. What a friggen marketing scheme.....scare tactics to get people to join their "Cult". I'll see you on the 22nd.....or maybe I won'!

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3. Anonymous said... on May 18, 2011 at 08:36AM

“This is the most ludicrous stuff I've ever heard, and they tried really hard to convince me to drink the Kool Aid. Any real follower of Christ & God knows that God won't leave it up to 'guesswork', tell me where it says in his teachings 'I'll leave clues and mathematical hints for you to figure it all out.'! Ridiculous, don't drink the Kool Aid people!

Now they're euthanizing perfectly healthy pets because of this stupid belief?? Murderers!!! People, does anyone realize this guy who initiated this ridiculous theory also said the world would end years ago and he was wrong then too? It's a strange cult. Real Christians know that God will reveal it himself in good time, not with clues and hidden encrypted math messages in the Bible written by men hundreds of years ago. God is a merciful God and wouldn't just wreak havoc on the world like this. It's ludicrous.”

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4. emmkay said... on May 18, 2011 at 08:40AM

“Hey, crazy rapture people, don't worry! Those of us left behind are actually all big animal lovers. We will feed your dog. So don't kill them for God's sake or for the sake of your delusion!”

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5. geekinphilly said... on May 18, 2011 at 08:50AM

“I wonder if these people have quit their jobs since they won't be needing them next week? Can I have their cars, homes, the money in their bank accounts and patio furniture?”

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6. Kenneth Biddle AWSM. said... on May 18, 2011 at 09:06AM

“Idiots. I will be laughing at them, with my we party the night away. I can't wait to hear the bullshit excuse they come up with on Sunday.

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7. Anonymous said... on May 18, 2011 at 10:28AM

“i feel sorry for the people of this so called "cult" because when sunday comes along they will be feeling really stupid and will have to get back to there jobs and lives so good luck with that.......and if i do happen to die on may 21 i will be happy because i will be a all day fishing tournament so i will die doing the thing i love.”

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8. JB said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:34AM

“The refutation of their whole calculus is contained on page 15 of the same issue of PW. It says Donnie Osmond is going to be at the Borgata on August 27. A) God isn't going to kill Donnie Osmond, and B) if Donnie says he'll be at the Borgata on August 27, he'll be there -- the guy is a total pro. After that, it's anybody's ballgame. I'm not saying Armageddon isn't nigh, just not as nigh as they say.”

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9. Barton Brown said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:39AM

“I fall in the category of "non-believer" but only because I'm sane. It really is amazing how STUPID people are. Does anyone really believe no one's making a dime off this scam? There's a whole radio network--a business, no matter how you slice it--pushing this agenda and alleging it is for no one's benefit. Meanwhile, they've convinced gullible sheep to quit their jobs, burn through their life savings, AND EUTHANIZE THEIR PETS?!?! How very Christian.

And what, pray tell, will Camping and McCann do on the morning of May 22? Go into hiding? Commit suicide? Say "oops"? They're not gonna be able to bring back peoples' pets--and certainly not anyone's life savings!

I am not a religious person but I always say "to each his own." If having faith makes you happy, and if you're not harming anyone in the process, then go for it. But this IS causing harm. And on top of that, it's completely idiotic. These poor bastards are going to be devastated when nothing happens on May 21.”

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10. JB said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:44AM

“Sorry, I misspelled Donny Osmond's name. At least I'll know what I'm in hell for.”

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11. mikesimon said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:50AM

“Shame on all you people for buying into this sicko rederick, The poor people who quit ther jobs in this economy are in for a rude awakening on sunday morning when the sun rises and kisses thier empty heads,I agree with one otrher post DO NOT drink the kool aid....Theese people are insane and have rapped you of your life savings for their own bennifit. Someone should have them locked up for thier fraudulent actions,I guess all the "followers" can start to file suite on sunday when they relize they have been robbed of all their wordly possetions.....God help you all, and as far as the leaders of this cult are concerned,well God does not like ugly you will all have a place next to Osama Binladen when your day comes!!!!!(and it wont be on the 21st)

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12. brendancalling said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:51AM

“I almost feel bad for them. All these people who've quit their jobs or gone through their savings, wtf are they going to do when nothing happens? they're probably too dumb to sue.”

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13. Barton Brown said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:57AM

“JB... That made me laugh harder than anything all day. Thanks!

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14. brendancalling said... on May 18, 2011 at 12:06PM

“..but I DON'T feel sorry for them, because of the obvious joy they take in imagining that millions of their fellow humans will suffer and die.

what a bunch of assholes. Stupid, elitist assholes.

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15. L said... on May 18, 2011 at 12:20PM

“"Like many May 21’ers who plan to euthanize their pets prior to Judgment Day, the Pisanos considered putting down their 3-year-old pit bull, Bella."

....are you serious right now?! This is even more disturbing to me than these people quitting their jobs and blowing through their savings accounts because they chose to do these things.These pets don't have a choice about being owned by nutjobs.

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16. Barton Brown said... on May 18, 2011 at 12:22PM

“This bunch of hicks are clearly not elitist. They're too stupid to be elitist. Seems to me they're just a bunch of idiots who don't have enough intelligence to form their own opinions and beliefs so they just swallow whatever silly horse$hit is handed to them.

But what do I know? I'm an elitist asshole!”

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17. brendancalling said... on May 18, 2011 at 01:28PM

“@barton brown: you don't need to be smart to be an elitist. Look at the Tea Party: they claim to have an understanding of the constitution that no one else has.
It's a special kind of elitism, previously known as "know nothingism".”

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18. Anonymous said... on May 18, 2011 at 02:03PM

“I am still planning by birthday next week.”

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19. Anonymous said... on May 18, 2011 at 03:12PM

“whatever he's full of it got my kids all upset over some stupid crap

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20. Mike Vagnoni said... on May 18, 2011 at 03:13PM

“Well all I know is so much has been spent to freak-out the public about Saturday.? ( Electronic Billboards on 95 alone had to cost a small fortune)..Now just think how much good all that money spent could have helped people in real need - yes, there are so many out of work and just about can feed a family...What will they all say on SUNDAY MORNING about WHAT DID NOT HAPPEN? WHAT new lame brain idea will they throw out next?. How much more wasted money will they just throw away and they do this for the PUBLICITY and nothing more. This not good for kids to see or hear about...I know my kids are freaked out about it and I don't like to see that happening...just think about how many other kids are freaking out? There should be some kind of law about doing or saying these kinds of things...These people are not playing with a FULL DECK! But when you have the money - in this country you can get away with or do whatever you please.”

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21. Barton Brown said... on May 18, 2011 at 03:41PM

“And watch this: The gullible little sheep who believe this garbage and who blew through all their money, quit their jobs, and shot their goats will STILL follow the ramblings of these freaks, even after this Saturday non-even comes & goes. These poor fools just have nothing else to believe in.”

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22. Anonymous said... on May 18, 2011 at 04:12PM

“Lord have mercy!”

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23. Anonymous said... on May 18, 2011 at 06:07PM

“@JB: LMAO!”

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24. Marge McCahon said... on May 18, 2011 at 07:50PM

“One question...If the world IS going to end on May 21st what is the benefit of knowing?”

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25. mufon12347 said... on May 19, 2011 at 04:42AM

“A couple of points & then some general comments.....@ Mike V.....It is ashame, I have seen the annoying billboards on 95. 1st down by Allegheney and then last week the electronic one between Academy & Cottman with the "Countdown". @ Marge, you won't know when or where. @ Kenny B....Enjoy your party, I would luv to come dude, but unfortunately I gotta work all day since the bills will still be there the next day. If I really thought they wouldn't, I would have quit my jobs like the other nut jobs did instead of working anything xtra that I

Throughout history there has been many a whack-a-doodle that have said "The End Will Occur on ____!" It's ashame that people who don't have a clue who are seriously lost and looking for comfort get dooped into thinking that everything that they know will be destroyed and that years of their savings will get wiped out so they blow it all and come Sunday will either kill themselves or start updating their resume. I really feel bad for the kids of these people because they are the ones who will ultimately suffer come the aftermath of nothing. The only time to worry is when you see the Rich & Famous bugging out and the Military Convoys on the roads. Then you will know that the shit has hit the fan. BTW.....there's still October 21st looming when everything else that has survived will be wiped out as well and 12/21/12 to come, but that's another topic for another day.....muuuhahahahahaha.....


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26. mufon12347 said... on May 19, 2011 at 04:49AM

“One more point.....if anyone wants to give away their life savings, I'll gladly take it with no questions asked cause my truck needs a new engine.”

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27. PitBull Girl said... on May 19, 2011 at 09:15AM

“For the reporter, if it's possible to give my information to the Pisanos re. Bella, are you able to do that? I do dog rescue and can offer to take her and place her with people who definitely will NOT be raptured:) There are tons of us atheist animal lovers after all.

I am concerned that they make kill her at the last minute (which, if we are all here on Sunday, would make them criminals); or be too upset to take care of her when they are still in So Philly and not in Heaven after Saturday night.

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28. kmac said... on May 19, 2011 at 09:26AM

“Its funny he quotes the bible but conviently leaves this verse out"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (MATTHEW 24:36)
As the bible states above no one knows, then how does he expect us to believe that he knows, hes not god! Judgement day will come when God desires it too."In 1992, Camping famously predicted that Judgment Day was slated for mid-September 1994." When it didn’t happen, he claimed he’d simply gotten the math wrong.So is he really a reliable source? Any real follower of Christ & God knows that God won't leave it up to 'guesswork', tell me where it says in his teachings 'I'll leave clues and mathematical hints for you to figure it all out.'! .. Hes 89 years old and has just messed up the math for another time... LETS SEE WHAT HE HAS TO SAY WHEN SUNDAY ROLLS AROUND.. GOD BLESS”

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29. Stevie Davis said... on May 19, 2011 at 02:25PM

“Quitting you job or giving all your materialistic belongings away because the end of the world is Saturday:

If you're looking to donate any of your belongings to people in need please send me an email []”

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30. Ray Skwire said... on May 20, 2011 at 08:23AM

“I DO hope that Michael Alan Goldberg will be doing a follow-up article with interviews conducted with all the same people featured in this article so see how things turned out post-rapture.”

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31. Anonymous said... on May 20, 2011 at 01:33PM

“I want this guys phone number so I can be the first one to call him up on Sunday morning and say "Yeah... Ya know, looks like were still here huh?"”

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32. Anonymous said... on May 20, 2011 at 08:05PM

“I'm just glad people are talking about the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Is He coming back tomorrow... probably not, but soon yes!!!”

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33. Anonymous said... on May 20, 2011 at 09:23PM

“SPCA has been contacted about this article.”

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34. Ray said... on May 21, 2011 at 12:24AM

“It's here! It's here! I can't believe it's really happening!!!”

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35. Anonymous said... on May 21, 2011 at 11:00AM

“It should be illegal to "euthanize" an animal that's healthy and not a danger to anyone. I agree with an evangelical wrote that Camping is going to have quite an account to make of himself on (the real) Judgment Day, whenever that might occur. But I'll guess we'll see what happens in nine hours.”

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36. impjade said... on May 22, 2011 at 02:02AM

“Well, real believers know what the Bible clearly says...NO ONE KNOWS...period. This lunatic will not know either, however he does his Math. I am from Asia. This wasnt a big deal here at all. No one was doing the things mentioned above. Leaving one's job in these times??? Busting life savings? Killing animals?? Are they crazy?? I called my frens in the US on 22 May 2011 at 3 am, my date/time and told them...hey guys, I am still here on Earth and so are all the people in my country. Do you think Jesus decided not to come to my country? Well, you better get down on ur knees...its not yet 21 May 2011, 6 pm for you. What a bunch of morons, imbeciles! I am really waiting to see what these 2 idiots have to day on 22 May 2011! How can these people even believe him when he has been wrong once? Or maybe God's secretary got the dates mixed up...again!!!”

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37. mike simon said... on May 22, 2011 at 11:25AM

“Well Harold what happened today is sunday the 22nd and guess what??? WE ARE STILL ALL are out of your mind and should be locked up for brainwashing all theese poor people into selling all thier stuff and quiting thier jobs,shame on you and your false prophocys.......and on a final note all i can say is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....IDIOT......”


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