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Update: May 21st. End Times? Meanwhile, A Journey visits 21 religious sites in Jamaica, Queens!

On Saturday A Journey was on its End Times tour in Jamaica, Queens.

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Update to Friday post:

I guess you could say that on Saturday A Journey was on its End Times tour in Jamaica, Queens. That is the eastern boundary of our journeying, the end of the world on its eastern side as far as we New Yorkers are concerned.

Here is our Friday post:

You have probably seen some scattered news reports or people bearing signs in midtown proclaiming "End Times!" A Berkeley, California area preacher Harold Camping, 89, has unleashed a ripple of attention by his claim that he has discovered the exact date of the end of the world--tomorrow, Saturday, May 21st.

He has predicted a massive earthquake and thousands of bodies laying around dead while his group go off to heaven.

Camping, a University of California, Berkeley graduate in engineering, made this remarkable discovery by using convoluted and obscure mathematics to interpret the Bible. According to Paul Boyer, Merle Curti professor of history emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an expert in prophecy beliefs in modern American culture, it is not unusual for people who are interested in science to take on prophetic beliefs. “I’ve found that people in engineering and science tend to be drawn to interpreting Bible prophecies more than those in the humanities,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. Camping refers to his scientific interest as a source for his interest in End Times. "Because I was an engineer, I was very interested in the numbers," he says. "I'd wonder, 'Why did God put this number in, or that number in?'"

The number 5, Camping says, equals "atonement." Ten is "completeness." Seventeen means "heaven."

Then, Camping says that we know that "Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D. Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."

Multiply 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Then notice that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

(5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500. Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.

"5 times 10 times 17 is telling you a story," Camping says. "It's the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you're completely saved. I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that."

His date is suspiciously similar to the date for the beginning of a controversy in which he got thrown out of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). According to a pastor of that denomination, which has five churches in the city, Camping came under a barrage of criticism from leaders in his CRC church in Alameda, California around May 21, 1988. The issue was that in his Sunday school class Camping predicted that he could find out when the end of the world was coming. After a summer of wrangling, on September 11, 1988 the denomination took over Camping's Sunday school class. Later, in We Are Almost There! Camping proclaimed that May 21, 1988 was the end of "the church age," advising people to stay home and listen to instructions from Camping on the radio station. In 1992 he predicted that the end of the world would be in 1994.

Now, Camping is back to using his May 21st date for the day he will check out of the world. The Berkeley area prophet has sent his "End Times Caravan" to across the country, ending up in NYC (see our front page Video Feature from CNN "Road Trip to the End of the World in NYC." We always knew that NYC is The End of Everything. California, welcome back to New York before you check out of the real world!

Although no other Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox theologian has been able to discern this mathematical formula, Camping has convinced a few people to follow him. We don't really know how many, but only a handful have taken to the streets upon on his calling.

His following comes from his Family Radio program which a pamphlet says is carried on 64 radio stations around the country. (He says that his company owns 55 stations in the United States.) His radio voice is very attractive and his knowledge of the details of the Bible are immense. In New York state Camping has eleven radio outlets that carry his program, 4 in New Jersey and 1 in Connecticut.

We have spoken to a number of people in New York City who tune into him as a sort of pleasant listening to a grandfatherly voice ramble on about the Bible, current events and life. Usually, they stop listening after some of his grandfatherly pronouncements veer strange. One turnoff is that Pastor Camping thinks that a divorced person can never remarry. He is more stringent on this issue than the Catholic Church.

New Yorkers who are followers of Camping's version of End Times thinking seem to be just normal, everyday people. Maybe not as rich as the followers of Bernie Madoff's ponzi game, but not unusual in any way.

CUNY professor and psychoanalyst Charles B. Strozier has studied New Yorkers who believe that an apocalypse is coming. The psychologist found while he was studying the Christians with End Times, "I actually enjoyed myself." The people were pleasant and warm, though he declined their efforts to convert him. Though wary and distrustful of their politics, he even found that their End Time beliefs may have lead them to more compassionate social involvement, like helping the poor, the abused, kids in trouble, and the homeless.

New Yorkers have always been fascinated by the End Times, often because at times our problems loom so large as to seem apocalyptic. Max Page called attention to "two centuries of fantasies, fears, and premonitions of New York's destruction" in his book The City's End.

In 1868 New Yorkers laid the ground work for the first conference ever on the End Times. This lead to the October 1878 "First American Bible and Prophecy Conference" commences at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.  The New York Tribune issued a special edition covering conference. In 1890 New Yorkers held an international prophecy conference at Brooklyn Tabernacle. End Times conferences were restarted in the 1980s at First Christian Missionary Alliance Church. Today, various religious and nonreligious groups offer courses, exhibits and dramas on their versions of the End Times. The apocalyptic lingo is popular for its pungent imagery.

We spoke to Dave, who was wearing a billboard and handing out tracts in front of Grand Central Terminal.  He looked a little pale and harried, but otherwise just a guy from the Bronx. "I came to faith reading the Bible and then listening to Harold Camping," Dave says. He doesn't go to any church and is a student at Fordham University. He is still attending the college despite believing that the end of the world is coming tomorrow. "My parents paid the tuition, and Jesus says to keep your foot down, to keep going, and don't stop what you are doing." However, Dave says he has no plans after May 21st.

His main tensions right now are with his family. His mother has come to sympathetic disagreement with her son's views but not the father. "My mother believes in the Lord Jesus, but my father is Jewish and doesn't want to hear about it [the End Times]." (See today's New York Times article about the family dynamics of Camping's followers.)

Another follower of Camping is Robert Fitzpatrick, a 60-year old, retired transit worker from Staten Island. He says, “I’m trying to warn people about what’s coming” Like a racetrack fan, Fitzpatrick has invested his entire life savings of $140,000 into Camping's campaign. He told the New York Daily News. “People who have an understanding [of end times] have an obligation to warn everyone."

National Public Radio recently reported on another New York follower, 27-year-old Adrienne Martinez, as saying, “Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans.”

So, instead of going to medical school like she planned, she gave up that idea. She and her husband, Joel, quit their jobs and moved from New York City to Orlando, where they rented a home and are currently passing out tracts. Joel says they are spending the last of their savings because they don’t see a need for one more dollar.

“You know, you think about retirement and stuff like that,” he said. “What’s the point of having some money just sitting there?”

“We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left,” Adrienne added.

Most people believe that the end is coming, one way or another. Secularists sometimes say that the universe will eventually run down and collapse. At funerals, a friend of mine likes to say, "Fine! That's it! Dirt!" More sensitive attenders aver that the deceased will at least live in their memories.

Hindus and Buddhists talk about cycles of destruction, Shia Muslims look forward to the return of the final iman at the end times, and there is a rich Jewish literature about the End Times. Protestant and Catholics both have End Times visions.

Endings are important reminders for us to think about what is important in life and how we want to go out of this life into the next. The chuckles about Grandfather Camping can't cover up that when we reach our senility, what will people think about us?

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Here are some End Times' links relevant to NYC:

Village Voice prepped with End Times by claiming "We're Doomed. Swarovski-Encrusted Ugg Boots Featuring New York City Skyline Signify End Times"

"Really? This had to happen? Ugg boots, smelly, slouchy, ridiculous-looking (but comfy!) foot-fungus-encouraging Ugg boots, now have a very special New York City skyline -- yep, that's the Empire State Building -- iteration, and of course they are also encrusted with Swarovski crystals, because if your smelly, slouchy fungus boot doesn't have some fake diamond crust on it, you are NO ONE. These boots cost $800. Then we will all die of foot fungus to the brain, but quickly. God help." (Feb 23, 2011)

The New York Times called End Times back in October: "End Times: Hail and Bowery Sweatshirts Edition"

Sorry, you missed it last Fall, wild philosopher Slavoj Zizek's discussion at Cooper Union of his latest book Living in the End Times.  You can still pick up remainder copies of his book for the current end times discussions. He was here warning of end times in April, so I guess he thinks he is relevant to current crisis. (See our feature video "Social Analysis for End Times by Slavoj Zizek" on the front page.)

You also just missed judgment day, April 21, 2011, in the movie Terminator: Salvation. (James Cameron's films previously had proposed end times as taking place on August 29, 1997 or July 25, 2004.)

Horror drama group End Times is raising money for...End Times.

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Calvary Church at The Cross in Queens Village, Queens also didn't get the word. On Sunday Pastor Drew Segawa will give his take on "Biblical End Times Prophecy."

Faith Bible Institute of Corona, Queens has a free course entitled "End Times." They are not Camping followers and are planning to hold their regular Sunday services on May 22nd.

If you want a little more time to finish your business, you could use the Mayan calendar which predicts, according to a geologist and some New Agers, that the end will be December 21, 2012. Hmm, another 21st date.

(Camping dismisses the December 21st date as being "is like a fair tale." He says stick with "May 21st.")

(Stepping out in eccentric fashion, The X-Files' Fox Mulder says the end is the following day, December 22, based on his reading of the super-super-secret file called "End Game." Buffy the Vampire Slayer was prescient on the month, wrong about the year, in her claim that the End would be around May 21, 2003.)

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