No, you’re not getting out of going to church on Sunday.
Billboards around the West Valley are proclaiming that Saturday is Judgment Day — when Jesus’ believers will go to heaven — but Valley churches haven’t canceled Sunday’s services.
Leaders at nondenominational churches, as well as those tied to organized faith groups, say there’s no way anyone can announce with certainty that the end of the world is near, let alone on Saturday.
And yet, the billboards backed by Family Radio Worldwide, which proclaims itself a nondenominational Christian ministry started by Harold Camping and based in Oakland, Calif., claim otherwise.
Camping says through biblical study and mathematics — he’s an engineer by training — he has discovered that May 21, 2011, will be the Rapture, a time Jesus’ believers will leave the earth and go to heaven. Camping predicts that in October, five months later, the world will come to an end.
Camping has made similar predictions in the past, with news reports saying he claims he miscalculated the date or that he was referring to the end of the “church age.”
“Once again, a self-anointed prophet is telling folks that the Day of Judgment is upon us,” John Waddey stated in a recent letter to the Daily News-Sun.
The minister of the Church of Christ in Sun City West called Camping’s prediction “foolish.”
“But the level of Bible illiteracy is so great that some are taking notice of our current doomsday prophet,” Waddey wrote.
Charles Barfoot, an ASU professor who teaches religious studies and sociology of religion, said there are a lot of apocalyptic conversations going on nowadays. It was evident, he said, this spring during his religion and popular culture course.
Several students gave presentations about the end times, from the belief the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world in 2012 (because the calendar ends) to discussions on the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan as indicating the time is near.
Barfoot grew up the son of Pentecostal ministers in California. In the 1960s, the area had an “incredible apocalyptic” feel to it then, in part because of the wars at the time worldwide, he said. He remembers a man from his church leaving to go live in caves because the world was coming to an end.
“The second coming was clearly emphasized,” Barfoot said.