Wednesday, May 18, 2011

18 MAY 11: Playing for Overtime

Local topics usually take the spotlight here - but today we're making an exception to that rule. When a hot tip comes about a big national news event, the journalist in me simply can't ignore it. And this tip deserves a "Spoiler Alert" notice as well. You might be planning to listen for live radio drama this weekend - and what Family Radio is doing could put "Guy Noir Private Eye" to shame.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: As WFRC-FM in Columbus and Family Radio warn of "Judgment Day" this Saturday, your blog has learned the ministry's main teacher quietly seems to be planning for his "guarantee" to be wrong. In fact, programs are reportedly ready for several weeks beyond Saturday -- so your Memorial Day weekend motel reservations may be safe after all.

A source inside Family Radio's headquarters in Oakland informs me network producers received two signed memos from President Harold Camping, advising them to continue preparing segments for broadcast beyond "Judgment Day." This apparently means the network will NOT sign off Saturday night - unless that promised "great earthquake" knocks every other station off the air, too.

With the exception of Harold Camping's nightly "Open Forum" talk show, all of Family Radio's programming is recorded. Segments are prepared two weeks ahead for the U.S. network, and up to six weeks in advance for Family Radio Worldwide. So listeners in South America may be told until the end of June about massive destruction in their neighborhood which never happened.

Harold Camping has declared in interviews when it comes to Saturday's "guarantee" of Jesus's return, "There is no plan B.... I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other...." So the news that he ordered Family Radio production to continue as usual raises serious questions -- and could force San Francisco TV stations to surround his house with live trucks, so he can't escape.

But the curiosity doesn't stop there. My source claims most of the Family Radio ministry's employees do NOT believe Harold Camping's preaching about "Judgment Day" this weekend. Talk about giving a new meaning to the phrase "silent majority"....

(As you might guess, this source is among the skeptics. But I don't think this person has any reason to lie - because then he or she could stand at the heavenly throne on "false witness" charges, right next to Harold Camping.)

My source inside Family Radio also reports the entire staff is receiving this Friday off, as a "paid holiday." So what do you do on Judgment Day Eve? Is it like New Year's Eve? Do believers finally hold the party they were afraid to throw for Y-2-K?

But seriously: I suppose the believers on Family Radio's staff will use Friday for one last round of prayer, fasting and warning. Come to think of it, they won't care if the holiday is paid or not - because they expect the payoff to be a "treasure in heaven" on Saturday.

The Saturday staffing at Family Radio apparently has NOT been increased. You'd think the network warning of a massive earthquake rolling across all time zones would have special live coverage of the event. But then again, Family Radio did well to mention the 11 September attacks in one-minute news briefs.

We called the Family Radio headquarters anonymously Tuesday, and an operator admitted she did NOT know if the network would keep broadcasting after Saturday. You'd think that detail would be part of the "We Can Know" website....

My inside source adds Family Radio isn't exactly a joyful place, as Judgment Day draws near. "There is an oppressive feel to this entire place," I was told. Perhaps the staff is wondering what will happen next Monday, if Harold Camping is wrong. Will donations to the ministry dry up? Will they wind up losing jobs? Or will Camping go back to his calculator and suddenly discover he was one month off?

(That last option actually has been used by other "date-setters." Edger Whisenant published "88 Reasons Why Christ Must Return in 1988" - then added a reason and tried again in 1989. But Camping's followers say "the Bible guarantees" Saturday is the day. If only they made it a money-back guarantee for donors.)

My source asked for prayers for the Family Radio staff, as Saturday's momentous date approaches. In fact, I already was praying for Harold Camping. I'm praying he might repent of what he's been teaching, before he preaches a major U.S. radio ministry off the edge of a cliff - something the Bible reserves for swine.

That concludes our unusual national news report. We now return to our regularly scheduled local coverage....

+ The Phenix City Council voted to join in the Chattahoochee River whitewater project. It requires the city to pay Uptown Columbus Inc. $500,000 over five years. So let the debate begin - is this deal the raft, or the shaft?

+ The alleged "Al from Dadeville" was indicted by a federal grand jury on six new charges, related to the poisoning of the Toomer's Corner trees in Auburn. WXTX reported Harvey Updyke Jr. now faces two counts of desecration, and two more of "destruction of federal property." Federal?! Is the national health care plan somehow covering sick trees?

+ Columbus split a doubleheader with West Laurens in the Georgia high school baseball playoffs, forcing a decisive third game today. Columbus lost the first game for the second round in a row. Someone needs to change the schedule, so doubleheaders begin after the players finish class for the day.

+ Instant Message to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal: Come to think of it, why DID you bar a reporter with Atlanta's WAGA-TV from your bill signing the other day? I thought Republicans loved Fox news channels.

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