I have spent some time in New Jersey recently on business, and ended up listening to local radio as I always do. I’m fascinated by the American Christian media matrix generally and I’m always grateful for a chance to dip into the local media landscape outside my home turf here in the Southwest. Sometimes my rental car comes equipped with a satellite radio receiver, and I’ll dip into the religious programming on SIRIUS/XM. There’s FamilyNet [link], which is typically as bland and corporate as can be; it’s sort of the Wal-Mart of evangelical radio. There are two Roman Catholic channels: The Catholic Channel and EWTN. And there’s occasional programming with religious discussion on OutQ Gay Radio, POTUS Politics, and SIRIUS Patriot, but it is rarely worth chasing, and it’s more about “what does group X mean for public policy?” anyway.
Sometimes however my rental car doesn’t have satellite radio and once I’m more than ten miles from Newark-Liberty International Airport the media landscape thins out a bit and I can pick out WFME 94.7FM Newark, a Family Radio station [link]. This is the New York City market station for Harold Camping’s Family Radio.
Harold Camping has recently gotten a lot of attention online and elsewhere for having called a date for the Rapture [link] in 2011; I believe he has also called a date for the end of the world in 2012.
The programming on WFME is an interesting mix; without its focus on 2011 it might have come right out of the 1950s. The music is very conservative, mostly settings of Scripture passages with piano and organ accompaniment; conservative refugees from the worship wars might find it refreshing. There’s traffic and weather in the morning, and in the evening there’s Open Forum, where Camping himself takes questions from listeners, mostly in written form, and on most topics Camping’s responses are a bit authoritarian but otherwise conservative and orthodox. He tends to take a very literal approach to Scripture and presents fairly linear arguments sprinkled with appeals to authority, as one might expect from someone with a background in the Christian Reformed Church [link], a Dutch Reformed offshoot, and a degree in engineering.
His otherwise linear, fairly modern approach to Scripture makes his Rapture call, based on his own numerological calculation [link] surprising.
As a modern Christian, with as I’ve noted elsewhere, a foot in the premodern world and a foot in the modern world, I’m put off by allegorical teaching (e.g. taking as the basis for a sermon the idea that Noah’s dove is a representation of the Holy Spirit) and numerology. I realize, though, that many other orthodox believers throughout Church history have found it helpful, etc. so I tend to leave it alone unless and until other believers attempt to make it definitive and normative. In other words, I’m inclined to say Camping’s entitled to his own opinion until he starts declaring those of us who disagree with him apostate.
Which is pretty much what he’s done. I happened to catch an 11PM show earlier this week where another voice (not Camping; I have no idea who) was dealing with the objection that “no man knows the day or the hour” of the Rapture. He also gave a date for the end of the Church Age (coincidentally it was in 1988, the same year Camping left the CRCNA) and said that everyone who is affiliated with a local church when the Rapture comes will be left behind. In other words, now that the Church Age has ended anyone who is still in church is apostate.
I suppose that would be an explanation for why it’s so difficult to find a good church these days. I doubt he’s right, though.