Nothing gets the blood pumping for an ex-Evangelical better than a good old-fashioned End of the World prediction.

You’ve no doubt seen the billboards. The End of the World is scheduled for May 21, 2011. And if you’re having trouble believing that, you’d better check out the little gold seal in the corner that says “The Bible Guarantees It”, because everyone knows that a gold seal doesn’t lie.

It’s not a silver seal.

It’s not a copper seal.

It’s a gold seal, motherfuckers—like the hand of God, Himself, reached down and notarized that billboard hovering halfway between the Village Inn and the Wendy’s and somewhat adjacent to the Church’s Fried Chicken.

I’m making that last bit up. I have no idea if the signs posted all over this country’s roadways are hovering anywhere near a Church’s Fried Chicken. I took my kids to the zoo last week and happened to pass one along the way. I had no idea Church’s Fried Chicken still existed. For a minute I thought I was in Colorado Springs around the year 1988, which would be about the last time I saw a Church’s Fried Chicken. The thought that people still go there to sink their teeth into chicken fried a la “The Church” explodes thought particles all over my otherwise delicate existence.

Church’s Fried Chicken. Mind blown. Ka-pow!

As a matter of fact, it is entirely possible that the last time I passed a Church’s Fried Chicken might very well coincide with the last time I stared down the barrel of the End of the World.

It all started with a pamphlet. The pamphlet was called 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988 in which the Bible College student who wrote it, one Edgar Whisenant, claimed that the Rapture was going to happen between September 11-13.

For those of you to whom thank-your-lucky-stars this 1988 prediction is unfamiliar, the Rapture involves a return of Jesus Christ predicted in the New Testament, at which point all of the saints—both living and dead—will rise up to meet Him in the air. Depending on where you place this event on the End Times timeline, Armageddon, culminating in the total destruction of the world by fire, should happen anywhere from 0-7 years after. Simply put, it was a damn fine reason to make sure we were right with God and an even-damn-finer reason to make sure that any of our loved ones who died before that event were buried in a clean pair of underwear as there would be a lot of dirty-minded, earthbound heathens looking up.

Of course, Whisenant had many reasons (88, to be exact) why the Rapture would take place that year. Not least amongst them was an escalation in wars, floods and earthquakes. (Sound familiar?) Gorbachev may have been Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, but to anyone paying attention—I mean really paying attention—it was as clear as the birthmark on his forehead that he was the Antichrist. Also, there was that little detail about the nation of Israel celebrating its 40th year anniversary.

Now, if you don’t want a spoiler, please stop reading here.

.           .           . .           .           .

The Rapture did not happen.

At age 15, I was admittedly relieved. There were a number of reasons I can attribute to this relief. They were, in order: 1) I was scared I wouldn’t make the cut, 2) We were supposed to go to the beach for Thanksgiving, and 3) Season 2 of The Wonder Years was about to start and I kind of wanted to see what happened with that. Also, I had not had sex yet. Come to think of it, bump that reason up to number one.

So, now that the real Rapture is about to happen (gold sticker, mo-fo’s!), I’m getting kind of excited. For a “devangelical” like me, it’s a bit nostalgic. It’s like seeing a sign advertising that the circus is coming to town. Like spotting a Church’s Fried Chicken on the way to the zoo.

And anyway, who’s to say it won’t happen? Who’s to say this Harold Camping guy who is championing this whole thing isn’t smarter than Edgar Whisenant? Who’s to say he’s not going to hit it squarely on the honker this time?

Sure, Camping made a failed prediction before in 1994.

Sure, both he and his shadow are a dead ringer for Mr. Burns.

He’s got a gold sticker, people.


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ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December, 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Lit­er­a­ture and Lin­guis­tics from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bath­room is in Can­tonese, although it is likely that she will not under­stand the answer. In her dream world, she fan­cies her­self a kung fu mas­ter clev­erly dis­guised as a gen­tle moun­tain dweller, eagerly antic­i­pat­ing dan­ger at the bot­tom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.

79 responses to “End of the World, May 21: Save 
the Date!”

  1. This whole post is a spoiler. You mean, I have little over a month to get righteous? I was counting on at least another year or two. One plus is that I now have an excuse not to pay those parking tickets, along with any number of other illicit activities that I can now enjoy without consequence. Actually, it could be a fun month ahead.

    Thanks for hitting this one squarely, as you say, on the honker. It makes sense that Mr. Burns’s shadow would one day be the end of me.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Let the parking tickets go, yes. But illicit activities? You’ve got to get pure, man. Righteous. You don’t want to be stuck here when shit goes down. My best advice is to lay low, eat as many carbs as you want, and send all your money that would otherwise use for rent, parking tickets, electricity, etc. to me. Write me privately and I’ll send you my PO Box #.

    • Gloria says:

      Does righteous indignation count? Because if so, I’m golden. Like the seal. Ka-pow.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    I just KNOW there’s going to be another ‘wack-a-doo’ letter written to the newspaper about this…


    You make me laugh. This a good thing. Thank you for that, E-dogg!

    I have to say that so far 2011 is doing a fairly good job of living up to expectations – especially this side of the world. These mofo’s who put up the ‘Gold Seal’ billboards also put one up in Christchurch just recently which I thought was a little bit in bad taste – but I guess throwing a little bit more anxiety in the faces of people who have just suffered a serious collective trauma is just in a good days work for them.

    I had no idea about 1988. I guess I was too busy being an underage drinker back then to take notice.
    Love to you xxx

    • Erika Rae says:

      Zeed, I thought about you while writing this post. There are a lot of people that see your earthquake (and Japan’s) as a sign. I guess people need a reason why something so horrific could happen. Still. Such bad taste. Any time people attribute the deaths of many to the hand of God, I feel a little ookie.


      So awesome.

  3. Becky Palapala says:

    The End of the World(TM), both of the religious and secular types, seems to be ongoing since the beginning of the world.

    That is all I can muster. That “The End is Nigh,” as claims go, in the greater scheme of deep time and things in general, is not necessarily incorrect. I mean, in those terms, humans have only been on earth for, like, 10 seconds. So in theory, though we have no way of knowing for sure, our demise as a species could most certainly be said to be “nigh.” Totally possible. Likely, even.

    So I’ve just decided to pretend it’s a sort of “we’re all dying from the minute we’re born” perspective on the end of the world as we know it. That way when someone says the end is nigh I can just agree with them and move on.

    “I know, Man. What a trip, right?”

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Though I should add that while all Armageddonists seem to possess absolutely no sense of historical perspective or humility, at least the Secular End-Timers aren’t in direct contempt of their various gauges of natural apocalypse simply by predicting it.

      I mean, doesn’t the Bible also say that no man shall know the day or the hour of his (Christ’s, I think), coming?

      That’s my recollection. Science may caution against trying to make predictions like that, but it doesn’t actually say that it can’t be done.

      • Erika Rae says:

        That’s the thing I love about these predictions, Becky. No man shall know the day or the hour is usually the first verse addressed by these guys. For Whisenant, he had to break down the word “know”.

        Matthew 24:36: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

        Whisenant pointed out that there are two different Greek words which mean knowledge. Christ used the one that means that something is not instinctively known. It can be known through research.

        As for Camping, he interprets this verse slightly differently. He starts by citing Daniel:

        Daniel 12:9: And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

        Camping says: “This information was never previously known because God had closed up His Word blocking any attempt to gain knowledge of the end of the world. ”

        And now it has been unleashed.

        Love these cocky bastards.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          It can be known through research.

          Well, that and by simply having all 6 billion people in the world pick a day and “predict” it. Which is kind of what these types have been up to anyway. Hell. Camping has picked TWO days.

          Haha MATTHEW! How ’bout THAT technicality?? I’m going to pick “today” as the end of the world forever, so that, no matter what, I’ll either be right or the end of the world will never, ever, come.

          “TOUCHE!” Say it God, SAAAYY IIIITTT!!! SAY UNCLE!!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Um, Becky? Did you just trademark the End of the World?

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Great piece, E-Rae.

    My view is, any religion predicated on End Days is fear-based and to be avoided at all costs.

    And a good way to get the Jehovah’s Witness off your front porch is to shout “1914!” at him (that was the year the world was supposed to end, according to their doctrine, which, one would think, would render said doctrine moot).

    • Erika Rae says:

      No, no, no. You got it all wrong, Greg. It wasn’t The End of the World (TM) per se…it was the BEGINNING of the end of the world, marking the end of the Gentiles and the moment the restoration of God’s rule commenced. It’s a process. At least, that’s what they meant to say with that prediction.

  5. Wait a minute, wait a minute. According to Britney Spears’ “Dance until the end of the world” or whatever the fuck it’s called, SHE’S going with the Mayan calender. Case closed.

  6. I’ll be at that party with bells on. Woo hoo!

    • Erika Rae says:

      You’ll be one of those people wearing sunglasses and that hat of yours with your head thrown back, grinning broadly, and enjoying the show. I’m going to be buried in bloomers just for boys like you.

  7. Erika Rae says:

    I would just like to interject that I am honored to have Simon J Green’s “Do Cripples Have Sex?” pop up as a related post here.

  8. Like Brin, I’m going with Britney. She went full out nuts and came back. I think the girl is onto something, gold seal or not.

  9. The End of the World is Meh.

    (“devangelical” – hee)

  10. I had a postcard of the rapture I’d taped to my bedroom wall as a kid, which looked like people in their Sunday best being sucked up into the sky. I wish I still had that — or could find that particular painting. It scared the shit out of me, that picture, and then when I recently saw this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G6i1RXgThk I realized the rapture is going to scare the shit out of everybody.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Wow. That IS scary, Cynthia Hawkins.

      I can’t believe you had a picture of that on your wall. While I did not possess a picture, it was a fairly daily thought for me, as well. We’d talk about it around the dinner table, at the Christian school, then at church on Sunday. I truly remember being prepared for that at any moment.

      On another note, I am still madly jealous of your gravatar. You’re the classiest of the classy, Cynthia H. A cure for the mean reds, any day.

  11. Irene Zion says:

    Erika Rae,

    There simply isn’t enough time for me to get right with the Lord.
    So I’m just going to keep doing what I do and having fun.

    (That guy seriously looks like Mr. Burns!)

    • Erika Rae says:

      Kind of a happy Mr. Burns. Like, Mr. Burns when he’s firing people or making kittens suffer.

      I can’t imagine any deity having a problem with you, Irene. I think you’re good.

      • Irene Zion says:

        The problem is, Erika Rae, you just don’t
        have any pull anymore with God, so I just
        don’t feel confident, you know?

        • Erika Rae says:

          You make a valid point, Irene. The Evangelical God probably isn’t too amused by my shenanigans. It’s OK, though. I’m still looking for the dude behind the curtain. If and when I find him/her, I’ll put in a good word for you. And if you find him/her first, you do the same for me, K?

        • Irene Zion says:

          Okay, Erika Rae,
          I’m pretty sure that I’ll get to peek behind the curtain before you,
          so I’ll put in a good word for you,
          and I’ll send you a message,
          but you’ll have to be open to weird stuff,
          I think, in order to know it’s a message.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I seriously can’t wait for someday when I’m an old, old lady and something weird happens – I mean reeeeeally weird happens – and I’ll say, “Oh, that Irene.” And then I’ll smile and know everything will be OK.

  12. dwoz says:

    Since armageddon and the rapture figure slightly prominently in my novel manuscript (in a wildly interpretive way), I better get off my ass and finish this book. It’s one thing to miss Knopf’s deadline, but to miss Jesus’s?

    day-yum. I’m late!

  13. Jim says:

    Yes, I guess the billboard’s gold seal makes it official. But what’s with the silhouette of the guy in the throes of extreme gastric distress? Or maybe it’s the Pope shitting in the woods. I need an official End of the World (TM) calendar to keep all this straight.

    Funny piece, Erika. Looking forward to Devangelical.

  14. josie says:

    “Gold seal.”

    Precisely what I told my doctor when she wanted to know why I tanked that last diet.

    I mean, what’s the point, right?

    The Bible doesn’t say anything about weight limit for the rapture… .


    How does one live it down when they’ve mispredicted the end of the world?!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Good question. People who bounce back are quick to scratch their heads and attribute human error to the whole prediction. They pick themselves up off their feet and try again. People are surprisingly forgiving. Whisenant made consecutive predictions after the 88 didn’t happen. 89, 90… Camping made one in 94 that didn’t happen. I’ve heard some people become badly disillusioned, though. Suicides are not unheard of for people who really threw themselves into it. The JW prediction of 1914 was epic… There are dozens of large scale examples over the centuries, actually. Kind of interesting.

      Soooo good to see you on here. Hope all is well with you.

  15. Art Edwards says:

    It must be good marketing for Camping and his ilk. As an Evangelical preacher, how else do you get that kind of attention? It’s sort of like a Hollywood starlet adopting babies, or a rock star having sex with Gwyneth Paltrow.

    This is an excellent piece, and I love the inclusion of Church’s Chicken, which doesn’t get enough play around here, if you ask me.

    • dwoz says:

      That tone deaf bastard (camping) has a pretty respectable radio syndicate. There’s one of his subscriber stations in my area, it’s the worst pathetic excuse for a waste of the public airwaves I’ve ever heard. Never mind the miserable content, the station has the worst audio quality you can imagine. It’s like they run their signal through a shortwave radio and a big muff fuzz box before they broadcast.

    • Erika Rae says:

      You’re not fooling. It’s win-win any way you look at it. The Rapture comes on May 21 and the dude gets a free pass from death (well, he *is* up there in years, after all). The Rapture never comes and he gets mad props, a larger audience, extended fame, etc. He’s already made one bum prediction, so what does he have to lose? People are surprisingly forgiving.

  16. Joe Daly says:

    Any publicity is good publicity, eh? I wonder how many followers (delusional though they might be), Camping will attract via this campaign (CAMPINGaign?). You’ve got to assume that a number of people will see that billboard and think that right or wrong, any guy preaching the end of the world is worth following. If just one of those followers is a billionaire, Camping will be lounging by a cross-shaped swimming pools when the Seventh Seal is ripped.

    Fun piece, ER- I loved the spoiler. You totally ruined it for me, but I needed to know.

    I grew up Catholic. We didn’t talk about the End of the World much. I think most people thought someone would give us all a heads up before it happened.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Heh. Cross shaped swimming pool when the Seventh Seal is ripped.

      You’re totally right. People may be disappointed, but those people aren’t necessarily going to stop believing in the prophesy just because one guy apparently misinterpreted it. He can explain it away, attribute his mistake to human frailty, lack of understanding, etc. Maybe he’ll hit it the next time. In the meantime, he’s got an infusion of cash from his mega-listening audience, eternal fame as one who tried to do the will of the Lord, and apparently, a swimming pool. He also will have a junkyard filled with old billboards.

      Sorry for ruining the story for you with the spoiler.

      And you Catholics missed out. End of the World(TM) scenarios were the coolest of the cool. It was like living in a movie. So spooky and exciting. A highly addictive feeling. I totally get the draw.

  17. Gloria says:

    Does this mean I have a whole month not to pay my bills and that I can justify sinking that money into a nice trip with my boys? ‘Cause that’s what I’m getting out of all of this.

  18. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I am so screwed. I have been known to call upon saints, Hindu deities, and a certain Buddhist bodhisattva for help. Jesus is just all right with me.

    If May 21 is the big day, I kinda hope I finish my novel by then. It would really suck to work this long (going on 4 1/2 years) and then POOF!–there’s no way to publish it.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I kinda feel that way about death in general. Every time I get in the car I think to myself, today is not the day…I haven’t seen my book in print yet. I have plans. I don’t have time for death.

  19. Jessica Blau says:

    This is so great! I, like you, LOVE following the rapture! I even listen to Rapture RAdio (107.5 in Baltimore). I want to start Rapture Real Estate. Find the believers, give them each 20,000 for their half-million dollar houses, let them run through it in the two weeks before they leave and then, when they’re gone, I get the house (and I get to burn in it, I suppose. But it’s mine, mine, mine!).

    There was a fleet of rapture trucks driving through town a couple weeks ago. I was so excited, I took pictures from my car.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Rapture trucks??? Oh man, I am missing out. I’d be hopping in my car like a storm chaser and following them wherever they might go. I sure hope it’s to the beach.

  20. Jessica Blau says:

    P.S. I do wonder how many teenaged believers are going to run out and have sex before they leave so they don’t depart as virgins?

    • Erika Rae says:

      In junior high, Scott (my guy) had a list of girls to call in case Armageddon started. The list was in order of who was most likely to have sex with him so that he would not have to die a virgin.

  21. jmblaine says:

    The end is near
    whether Jesus
    comes back this year
    or not
    look how big your children
    are getting.
    Another birthday already?
    Has it really been that long?
    If it isn’t coming
    we are going.

    Memento Mori!


    (I hope the
    are correct)

  22. Alison Aucoin says:

    I associate the gold seals with the fake handwritten junk mail. Nope, not going to switch car insurance companies because you wrote to me “personally.” And not going to get ready for the end because you put a gold seal on it. Glitter I might consider but a piddly little seal – no way.

  23. Slade Ham says:

    This asshole is predicting that the world is going to end 6 DAYS BEFORE MY 35th BIRTHDAY? Goddammit… I’ll never be President now.

    • Erika Rae says:

      No, no – you’re looking at this all wrong, Slade. First, you’re assuming you’re going to be taken. Fact is, if you get left behind, you may very well get a shot at the presidency. Look at President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica. She was in education, but when everyone else got offed by the Cylons, she got bumped up the list so that she was the next in line for office. Now, I don’t know where kickass comics stand in line for the presidency, but I’ve got to believe it’s up there.

      Hold on to hope, brother.

      • Slade Ham says:

        I will cling to hope with the tips of my fingernails then… until some cataclysmic Cylon attack propels me to the highest office in the country.

        But I still wanna club that guy’s golden seal.

  24. Lorna says:

    Well, it’s about time. I’m sick of this hellhole anyway.

  25. Really, this piece could have been one sentence long, since it is very nearly the perfect sentence: “It’s a gold seal motherfuckers!”

    From that I can easily extrapolate all possible worlds, their beginnings and ends, all religions, all hypocrisies. Also, that sentence makes my mouth water for X-tra crispy batter. The Rapture, after all, is inhaling the first waft of steam when you pull the lid off your side of gravy.

  26. Angelina says:


    “……a gold seal doesn’t lie”……LOL!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Thanks, Angelina. I like to imagine being in that meeting where they were discussing the design of the billboard. Other insignia on the roster up for vote that day:

      Stamp of Approval
      A giant “Thumbs Up!” hand
      Two giant “Thumbs Up!” hands
      A Smiley and a Thunderbolt

      I guess the gold seal was an obvious choice.

  27. Gold seal. Church’s Fried Chicken. Mr. Burns. This whole piece made me laugh and laugh. You are a funny, funny lady, Miss Erika Rae. (:

  28. Quenby Moone says:

    Goddamnit! We’re going to hell, you and me!

    I can’t wait.

    What is it, Apocalypse Week here on TNB? Was there a memo? Or are you and I just attuned to the spheres of Armageddon together?

    Although my Apocalypse gives me more hope than yours. Yours just makes me want fried chicken. (Being from Denver, I remember Church’s Chicken signs, though I never ate there. Is this a part of my not being a living saint? Do you have to have eaten there to be sucked up with the Rapture? Since I am a heathen born and bred of other heathens, I’m just not sure what to expect. Is there a Church’s Chicken clause? If I go eat it, can I squeak in under the wire on a technicality? Because I’m really not interested in converting or anything. I have too much to do.)

    Love you. Ka-Pow!

  29. Richard Cox says:

    The only thing good about the word “Rapture” is that it’s a 1981 #1 single by Blondie where the narrator is inside a Martian eating Subarus.

    I mean, how can any goofy religious prediction top that??

  30. Simon Smithson says:

    I think what bugs me about the people jumping on board the 2012 prediction is that they just don’t bring it, you know? If you’re going to ascribe to Mayan theories about Armageddon, then it makes sense you should ascribe to Mayan theories about everything: which means no toilet paper for you.

    Have you ever heard David Cross’s track on evangelical’s predicting the end of the world?

  31. Kanda optical…

    Nice blog on The Nervous Breakdown It is very informative but I don’t fully agree with it as I have read other online views on the same. It was good to spend evening going through internet on Saturday . I’ll visit again to read more on this website….

  32. This is AMAZING.

    That is all.

  33. […] Camping says the world should be over by now, a story first reported on these pages by TNB’s own Erika Rae.  On Saturday, May 21, the old prune assured us, there will be fire and brimstone…real […]

  34. […] things were looking good for Rapture 2011. We’ve had a few years now of horrible earthquakes, wars…the makings of the perfect antichrist in […]

  35. […] Rapture Failed by erika on Jun 1, 2011 • 4:02 pm No Comments So, things were looking good for Rapture 2011. We’ve had a few years now of horrible earthquakes, wars…the makings of the perfect […]

  36. […] things were looking good for Rapture 2011. We’ve had a few years now of horrible earthquakes, wars…the makings of the perfect […]

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