Storming New York with Harold Camping's Rapture warriors

There were nine days left
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  May 19, 2011

DAY TRIPPERS More than 100 evangelical Christians congregated in New York this past weekend to spread word of the coming Rapture. The caravan arrives in Boston this week to await the End.

NEW YORK CITY — I'm riding shotgun through Times Square in a flatbed truck draped with placards, advertising the impending End of Days: HAVE YOU HEARD THE AWESOME NEWS?

Behind the wheel is Dan, a Wilford Brimley doppelganger in his early sixties, who recently shuttered his New Jersey construction business to ride the Rapture route full-time. Dan used to enjoy cognac, cigars, and prostitutes. But not anymore. He's bracing to ascend into Heaven this Saturday. As we idle at a red light, Dan declines a call on his flip phone.

"It's just someone who wants to know about a dump truck I was selling," he tells me. "But now, there's really no point anymore."

Dan seems like a genuinely nice guy. His wife and son cut off contact with him weeks ago, when he began pestering them about earthquakes that will shake the planet from May 21 until the Earth implodes five months later. Dan first heard this alarming message while driving in this very truck, three months ago. He says his tuner became stuck on New York's Family Radio frequency, where the Oakland, CA–based evangelical network's 89-year-old founder, Harold Camping, was declaring May 21 to be Judgment Day.

As evidence, Camping cites the "devastating moral breakdown of society, the re-establishment of National Israel in 1948, the emergence of the 'Gay Pride Movement,' and the complete disregard of the Bible in all of society today." The preacher claims to have pinpointed his date for this event after a half-century of "intensive biblical study." In the past few months, Family Radio has placed 1200 billboards across the US claiming that the Bible guarantees Camping's predictions.

More than 100 smilesome folks, including Dan, have congregated in New York this week to spread Camping's gospel. (Their caravans will be in Boston from May 18 through Judgment Day; for no reason in particular, they've decided to wrap it up in Massachusetts.) Dan is an ideal soldier for this mission; in the past, he has proselytized as a Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, and member of the Worldwide Church of Christ. He also knows downtown; before climbing onto the Rapture wagon, Dan spent his Saturdays at Ground Zero, telling strangers that 9/11 was perpetrated by Zionist congressmen.

Dan parks the truck on the West Side. He goes into Rambo-like preparation mode: tightening the laces on his clodhoppers and straightening his baseball cap, which has "May 21" embroidered across the front. He uses a nylon rope to affix a mini boombox, blaring Family Radio, to his belt — it bounces off his knee with each step, but he doesn't mind. Then, he straps a rolling suitcase to his back. He's jerry-rigged it so that the extending handle holds a sign high over his head: FEAR GOD AND GIVE GLORY TO HIM FOR THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT HAS COME. It's just before noon.

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