Rapture billboards make millions for non-profit

May 19, 2011 1:02:21 AM PDT
The apocalyptic message is hard to miss. It's on giant electronic billboards where thousands of Bay Area drivers pass every day. The message declares: "The end of the Earth is upon us."

You may be surprised to learn it's making millions for the Oakland non-profit that's paying for the message. The non-profit is called Family Radio, based in Oakland. They've spent millions on RVs painted with apocalyptic warnings that have driving around the country and they've also spent millions more on the billboards.

Giant and expensive electronic billboards by the Bay Bridge and Interstate 80 say the end is coming. The billboards claim there are only three days left until judgment day. People stopped to take pictures as Family Radio put out the word.

On his Wednesday night show on Family Radio, station president Harold Camping answered questions about the coming apocalypse he's predicting. The station is on Hegenberger Road near the Oakland Airport. The gates and doors were locked, but Camping did talk to ABC7 News by phone.

"It happens to be that we are the generation that is right at the end whether we like it or not," said Camping. "It's absolutely going to happen."

Family Radio has 66 stations that broadcast around the world and they've raised over $100 million, much of it from donations. Part of that money was spent on flashy trucks and signs.

Camping claims that based on his complex biblical arithmetic, a progressive earthquake will rattle the world this weekend, the faithful will be lifted into heaven and the universe will be annihilated within five months. It's a prediction he made back in 1994 as well.

"Before we're through with the month of September, we'll be at the end of the world," said Camping back in 1994.

"It's based on a single individual who has a bully pulpit to persuade others," said Prof. Brent Walters.

Walters hosts a KGO Radio show called "God Talk" on Sunday mornings and is a professor of theology at San Jose State University. He says camping's message will backfire.

"He pieces together little bits and portions of scripture and weaves it into his system -- that no one else agrees with -- causing panic, causing fear, and in the end making a mockery of Christianity," said Walter.

Camping won't say what he will be doing on Saturday, but Walters has a prediction of his own about Sunday.

"He'll come back and say 'Oops, my calculations were wrong,'" said Walter.

Camping says he takes no salary from Family Radio, that he's been a full-time volunteer for decades. Also Family Radio will not be giving away any of its money before Saturday, they'll be paying their bills right up until the end.


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