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Could "1994" Be the End of Family Radio?

by Perucci Ferraiuolo

from the News Watch column of the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1993, page 5. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

California-based Family Radio, Inc., a worldwide conglomerate of 38 radio stations broadcasting a mostly conservative Christian viewpoint, is in danger of self-destructing, according to high-level sources within the ministry.

The problem centers on Harold Camping -- Family Radio's president and the moderator of its popular Open Forum call-in radio program -- and on his explosively controversial 562-page book, 1994? In it Camping proclaims that Jesus Christ will return in September of 1994. "No book ever written is as audacious or bold as one that claims to predict the timing of the end of the world," he writes, "and that is precisely what this book presumes to do."

Camping is causing problems for the organization that go far beyond general discomfort with the book. Key ministry officials, who requested anonymity, told the JOURNAL that he has used the network to promote 1994? without the authorization of Family Radio's board of directors. "We've had battles with him before, during and after this book came out," offers a ministry insider, "and Harold just won't listen. He considers himself a modern-day Jonah and feels he has to get his message of Christ's return in 1994 out to everyone, especially those who are reached by Family Radio."

Insiders claim that the contention among Camping, his nationwide staff of over 400, and his board is undermining the entire ministry. "Everyone is in turmoil about his 1994 stand," says the high-ranking staff member. "Instead of working for the cause of Christ worldwide, we're merely taking sides in a battle that will divide us -- and ultimately defeat us. Harold's position on end-time events is his own business, but he's brought all of us into this by using Family Radio as his own personal forum to promote his book. He uses Open Forum to talk about 1994? and has even gone so far as to counsel people who call in not to make any long-term plans because Jesus is coming back next year.

"We told him not to do that anymore," he sighs, "but he's a loose cannon."

The 72-year-old Camping explained his approach to planning for the future to the JOURNAL. "Look, let's put it this way. My wife came to me and said we needed new linoleum in the kitchen. I told her that we should hold off on the effort and the expense of doing it until October or November of 1994 -- after the time I predict Christ's return. Now, while it is likely that Christ will return in September of '94, it is not absolute. That's why I take the position I do."

"What scares me," says the senior staff member, "is that people are going to react adversely to Harold's 'news.' We've had so many people over the past few decades that have predicted the end of the world and bombed out, that for Harold to virtually pinpoint the time is...extremely poor judgment."

International Outreach Hurt. The anonymous staffer paints a grim picture of Camping's impact on Family Radio's international outreach, citing 1994?'s effect on sensitive negotiations in Asian communist nations as a prime example. "China is finally opening up to us, and this has been in the working for almost two years now. We had a meeting with the president of China and mapped out what we wanted to accomplish there, and submitted everything we wanted to distribute to the people for approval.

"After submitting the material, Harold said he was going to change some of it to include his 1994? information. When we told him he couldn't do it" -- because officials would cancel the entire project, as happened earlier in Vietnam -- "he went ballistic. We had one of our biggest knock-down, drag-outs over it. See, this is the kind of thing that can kill what the ministry is trying to build, and it's causing the kind of turmoil you just can't believe.

"Furthermore, we were going to build a huge radio transmitter in Russia, with a greater ability to blanket Europe. Everything was set, and Harold virtually gave it away to a third party, even though Family Radio was still obligated to pay for it and build it. Why? Harold said, 'Well, Jesus is coming back, and we don't want to deal with this.' We wanted to buy a station that would cover Canada, but Harold refuses -- not because we don't have the money, but because he feels Christ is coming in September, 1994, and it'll be totally useless to buy it."

Camping -- who has no formal theological education -- feels that rather than trying to sow deception or erroneous predictions, he's getting out the message that "we still have time." "If I am correct in this," he says deliberately, "and there is every indication that I am, we have a very short time left to get right with God." In 1994? he warns that "when September 6, 1994 arrives, no one else can become saved. The end has come."

By February, Camping's book had shot to no. 4 on the Christian Booksellers Association's best-selling prophecy book chart, past such popular end-time authors as Hal Lindsey, David Jeremiah, and John Wesley White. Since then sales have slowed, leveling off at around 50,000 copies, and Camping is working hard to expand his audience.

"Harold is convinced he's doing the right and proper thing here," surmises the Family Radio executive. "He wants to warn the world...and he's desperate for attention -- both in general and, specifically, regarding the book."

"We've been doing shortwave programming in ten languages for several years," he continues, "and distributed over three million tracts and a half-million Bibles to Russia. Harold has seen just how responsive people have been to this, and now he just can't help himself in including 1994? material on the back of the [evangelistic] tracts. Having that message on the back just literally destroys our credibility."

Operating more radio stations than anyone else in America, with fourteen high-power shortwave transmitters broadcasting worldwide and two network satellite feeds, Family Radio has been widely known as one of the biggest, quietest, and most judicious ministries around. Until 1994?

From an embarrassing appearance on CNN's Larry King Live to interviews with a host of secular journalists, Camping, his book, and Family Radio are in the secular media spotlight -- someplace they've never been.

"Well, it is an experience," says Scott Smith, vice president of Family Radio's KEBR in Sacramento, California, and Family Radio board member. "I wouldn't really say we're in the limelight, but Harold's book has given us a good amount of notoriety."

Smith admittedly disagrees with 1994? but feels he should support Camping nonetheless. "I don't see much of a problem about Harold and 1994? but there has been a lot of talk and some dissension about it. Some people, including myself, don't totally agree with everything 1994? says, but we don't have to."

Yet, others close to Camping are still trying to convince him to stop injecting 1994? into the ministry. "I've personally tried to make Harold see the light," says the senior staffer. "Many of us have brought up the Korean incident, recently, where a group said that Christ would return but didn't, and the [Edgar Whisenant] experience in 1988, and how it made the one doing the predicting look foolish, but Harold sees no connection. He really feels he has the answer and he knows."

Camping had this to say in defense of his date-setting process: "I'm an engineer," he says. "I'm methodical. And when I began to study the Bible over 30 years ago, I started seeing things others had missed. I discovered that God had a timeline running from Genesis to Revelation, and with precise calculation the end of the world can accurately be determined.

"As far as the others go," he continues, "they based their predictions on dreams, alignment of planets, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, but I base my findings on hard, biblical evidence" -- for example, the number of swine cast out of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5 and the number of fish caught in John 21.

Officials at Family Radio continue their quest to convince Camping that his rigid views and unteachable spirit concerning 1994? will lead to the demise of the ministry. "Harold believes so intently that Christ will return in 1994 that everything else holds no meaning. His family has turned against him, the church community doesn't support his views, and the majority of staff members here at Family Radio fear that the end just might be near...not for the world, but for Family Radio."

In Brief...

Santeria: On June 11 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a Florida city's ban on ritual animal sacrifice violated the religious freedom of the followers of an Afro-Cuban religion in which animal sacrifice plays a central role.

The decision brought an end to a nearly six-year legal battle between the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye and the city of Hialeah, a Miami suburb. The sect, founded in 1973, practices Santeria, which combines elements of traditional Yoruba beliefs with Roman Catholicism and has much in common with Haitian voodoo and Brazilian candomble. Santeria has an estimated 70,000 adherents in south Florida, with thousands more in major urban centers with large Latino populations.

The sect's legal troubles began with its April 1987 announcement of plans to open a house of worship and a school, cultural center, and museum in the Miami suburb. So many Hialeah residents objected that in September the city passed an ordinance banning the sacrifice or ritual killing of animals, citing concerns about public health and cruelty to animals. (The gruesome remains of chickens and other Santeria sacrifices are often found in such public places as canals and parking lots, and, as the Christian Science Monitor observed, "Santeria rites kill animals through a method that is not reliably efficient.")

Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that "the record in this case compels the conclusion that suppression of the central element of the Santeria worship services was the object of the ordinances." Citing an earlier court decision, he further wrote that "although the practice of animal sacrifice may seem abhorrent to some, 'religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.'" He added: "Neither the city nor the courts...have questioned the sincerity of [the church's] professed desire to conduct animal sacrifices for religious reasons."

Church attorneys had argued that the city's laws permitted Hialeah residents to kill animals for virtually any reason -- for example, for sport or for food -- except religious purposes, and drew parallels to ritual sacrifices in Judaism and Islam. Justice Kennedy wrote that "careful drafting" by the city "ensured that although Santeria sacrifice is prohibited, killings that are no more necessary or humane in almost all other circumstances are unpunished." Justice David Souter called the ordinance "a rare example of a law actually aimed at suppressing religious exercise."

Groups ranging from the ACLU to the Christian Legal Society had sided with the sect in the case and applauded the decision as a victory for religious freedom. The ruling outraged such animal-rights organizations as the ASPCA and PETA, which still harbor hopes that other, more general statutes against animal cruelty will be enacted to stop the slaughter.

In a rare public ceremony offered in gratitude for the court's decision, a Santeria high priest slit the throats of 19 animals in Miami Beach on June 26.

ISKCON: On June 3 the Los Angeles Times reported that the long-running legal struggle between Robin George Westerkamp and the Hare Krishna movement came to an end when Westerkamp and her mother, Marcia George, settled with the sect out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Westerkamp was 14 when she first became involved with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at its Laguna Beach, California temple. After leaving the movement, she and her mother sued ISKCON in 1977, alleging that the sect brainwashed her and concealed her from her parents, contributing to the premature death of her father. In 1983 a jury awarded the family $32.5 million in actual and punitive damages, a sum that ISKCON lawyer David M. Liberman said "obviously would have liquidated the entire Krishna religion in North America." Indeed, at one point Judge James Jackman of the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered that five Krishna temples, including the group's Los Angeles headquarters, be auctioned off to satisfy the award -- a possibility viewed with unconcealed delight by such ISKCON opponents as the Cult Awareness Network.

But in 1991 the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to California for a new trial to determine any punitive damages. Years of appeals eventually reduced the actual damages to $485,000 for the mother's emotional distress, the manner in which the sect libeled her, and the wrongful death of her husband -- with interest added, about $1 million. Attorney Liberman estimates the sect's legal expenses in the 16-year case at "well over $1.5 million," adding that, considering the length of the litigation, the outcome "will serve as a deterrent to any other groups or individuals considering attacking the Krishna Consciousness movement."

Christian Science: In March the First Church of Christ, Scientist announced that publication of its monthly World Monitor magazine, which racked up a $3.2 million deficit in fiscal 1992-93, would cease in May. In a June 7 article the sect's Christian Science Monitor newspaper reported that "nine of some 90 employees of Monitor Radio and a number of other employees in the church administration and in the Christian Science Publishing Society were let go. Total employment of the church and its publishing arm since the time when [its cable and other] television operations were at a peak has been reduced by about 500 to just under 1,000." Other negative trends: "Contributions by church members, branch churches, associations of Christian Science students, and 'friends' of the church are down about 8 percent in the first five months" of 1993. The church was also negotiating to sell its money-losing local television station, WQTV, to Boston University.

End of document, CRJ0152A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Could '1994' Be the End of Family Radio?"
release A, August 31, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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