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May 18th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Tick tock goes the doomsday clock

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - For months they’ve been spreading the word, answering the biblical call of Ezekiel 33 to sound the alarm and warn the people.

Their message, which they say the Bible guarantees, is simple: The end of the world is near.

And now, it’s suddenly really near - so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas.

Perhaps you’ve already noticed, what with the billboards and signs dotting the landscape, the pamphlets blowing in the wind and the RVs plastered with Judgment Day warnings weaving through cities. Or maybe, as the birds chirped outside and you sipped your morning coffee, a full-page newspaper ad for the upcoming mass destruction caught your eye.

May 21, 2011, according to loyal listeners of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network based in Oakland, California, will mark the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day (which, they say, will last five months). Those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering. Dead bodies will be strewn about as earthquakes ravage the Earth, they say. And come October 21, they’ll tell you, the entire world will be kaput.

It’s the kind of belief that riles up churchgoers who insist no one can know when Judgment Day will come, and the sort that many say does a disservice to Christianity. And it’s the kind of message that delights the types who are planning tongue-in-cheek End of the World parties and are responding to a Facebook invitation to attend a post-rapture looting. Rapture events, including one at a tiki bar in Fort Lauderdale, are being hosted by American Atheists. News outlets, comedians and even Doonesbury can’t seem to resist a good end-of-the-world prophecy.

Billboard battle over Judgment Day

Earlier this year, CNN traveled with a team of believers - all of whom had walked away from friends, families and jobs - as they set out to share this serious message aboard a caravan of Judgment Day RVs. These ambassadors or co-laborers in God’s work, as they see themselves, let us into their world. Along the way we met other supporters, as well as a sea of skeptics, many of them drunken pirates gathered for an annual festival in Florida.

Read about that journey and the roots of this doomsday message

With only days to go, we wanted to know how the ambassadors are feeling now. Are they making special plans and saying goodbyes? Have their convictions stayed strong, or have doubts crept in? Are they at peace, excited or maybe afraid?

“We’ve been a little busy, as you can imagine,” said Fred Store, the team leader on our journey.

Reached at a motor home park in Providence, Rhode Island, Store spoke of the surge of support he’s seen in recent months – the 60 like-minded people (including someone who works for Homeland Security, he boasted) who joined his small crew on the Mall in Washington, and the hundreds who gathered in Times Square in New York.

But at the same time he said resistance from those who don’t believe has grown, too. The more people heard about the May 21 warning, the more they discussed it with their pastors and came prepared to argue.

Learn about doomsdays throughout time

And the media, while they’ve helped spread the message, will be turned away in the coming days. CNN hoped to be with Store and his team on doomsday, but the members said they needed that time to focus on their relationship with God. Perhaps that’s just as well, as an official at Family Radio headquarters pointed out: “What makes you think you’ll be able to get to them? The roads will be a mess," he said, referring to the expected earthquakes. Plus, Store said, even if we got there, there would be no time to edit and publish, so what's the point?

Store’s faith remains unwavering. Come Saturday, he and his team will be in Boston, standing in a spot with heavy foot traffic, passing out their pamphlets – which they call tracts – and doing what they believe God called them to do until the very end.

No longer with the team is Darryl Keitt, who ditched his caravan on May 6. He said his time on the RV was a “gift from God,” but he decided he needed to spend the last couple of weeks focusing on his non-believing family and friends in New Jersey. It was a decision he prayed about for several weeks.

His Elizabeth, New Jersey, apartment is pretty sparse, seeing as he gave away most everything before hitting the road.

“I was able to get my old place back,” he said. “But we only have four days to go, so I don’t need much.”

He’s reaching out to old friends and hoping his family will come around and believe what he says he knows to be true.

“I have not seen any signs that they are believing the message,” he said. “But I can’t read anybody’s heart; only God can. And I’m still praying for them. All I can do is continue to share my convictions.”

Tisan Dawud may not share his older half-brother's beliefs, but he supports the positive nature of what Keitt's doing and is awestruck by his dedication.

"He's trying to spread what he believes is the word of God, and I can't knock him for that," Dawud said Tuesday evening. "I became Muslim when I was very young, and he remained Christian. But I've always had respect for his beliefs, and he always had respect for my beliefs."

And rather than criticize or ridicule his brother, who he said isn't hurting anyone, Dawud wishes people would focus on those who deserve examination and condemnation - those selling drugs, molesting children, raping women or embezzling money, for example.

Keitt spends his days in prayer, reaching out to people on Facebook, listening to Family Radio and walking around his neighborhood in his Judgment Day cap and T-shirt. He ran out of tracts some time ago, and at this point it’s too late to order any more, he said. As for where he’ll be on Saturday: “It’s a good question," and one he's still considering.

He doesn’t like goodbyes, he said, and only told two people in his caravan team of 10 that he was leaving. He gave those two men, one of them Store, a quick hug and that was it.

“Preferably we’ll meet each other again,” Keitt said, “in heaven.”

Dennis Morrell was driving through Jacksonville, Florida, pulling his Judgment Day billboard trailer, when we reached him on his cell phone. He wasn’t part of the caravan of RVs but was among the Floridians who joined in to help Store’s team when they were in the city.

Morell and his wife quit their jobs to focus on warning others, a move that’s left their four kids – ages 17 to 24 – thinking “Mom and Dad are crazy,” he said.

He still hopes God will “open their spiritual eyes,” he said. “But they’re at an age where they love their lives. They don’t want this world to come to an end.”

His faith, though, is as firm as ever, and he wishes others would open their minds and hearts to this possibility.

“Why would you wait to see if this is actually going to happen? You have that option to cry out for mercy,” he said. “I don’t want to die and go to hell. Do you?”

He plans to spend the last days praying, up until the early hours of Saturday - when he’ll both pray and wait for 16 hours.

Why 16 hours? Morrell explained that the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand, he said, will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone.

While Morrell expects he’ll reserve Saturday for private time, Benjamin Ramrajie of Ocala, Florida, doesn’t have any special plans.

We met Ramrajie in Tampa after his 7-year-old daughter issued a doomsday warning about how the sun would “turn red like blood.” He stood by and nodded his approval as she spoke about dead bodies and her fears of dying.

“Most of my family doesn’t agree 100 percent, and I don’t blame them because it is far-fetched,” he said. “I strongly believe it’s going to happen. But I just figure I’ll relax, maybe watch TV. If that’s the day we get raptured, great. If not, we’ll move on.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Culture wars • End times

soundoff (6,292 Responses)
  1. SId Airfoil

    Oh, where to begin!? Let's keep it simple.

    What if the world doesn't end,,,or begin to end on the 21st? Does anyone think that these nutcases will change their primitive, irrational mythology? Of course not. They'll rationalize their error and recalculate the date, gaining new followers to fleece of their money and their dignity. I don't believe that they are deliberately flim-flamming the ignorati. But it amazes (and dismays) me that so many frightened, neurotic, gullible people still exist to make this issue newsworthy.

    I hope that on the 21st they all do us a favor and leave this world for the imaginary one to which they pray to go.

    Sid

    May 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  2. jen

    Does this mean I don't have to attend one more graduation ceremony on May 21?? but I guess that depends on what time the world is ending. Darn it.
    I could use the day off instead.
    Excuse me while I go work on my Deviled eggs.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  3. laughing

    you're all stupid

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  4. andy

    So dumb.
    I wish these people were out picking up garbage, helping the homeless. Anything but wasting money on sighs, billboards and general idioticy.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  5. Joe

    How is this front page news CNN?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  6. keylargo

    I wonder how many of these fools signed over their life savings to the preacher since they won't be needing it after the 21st?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • wzrd1

      Pretty much all of those who joined the caravan of fools.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  7. Pete

    No body will know. It will just happen! These churches give the good bible preaching churches a bad name.
    This is one of those lunatic churches. Not all bible preaching churches are the same. There are radicals in everything.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  8. MONTE

    Wow .. I didn't know about this. Can I leave my mailing address and you folks can send me all your money now, since there is only a couple of days left to survive anyway ?

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  9. G. Myer

    Wonder if anyone of these folks would be willing to sell me their car or house for $10.00? I take possession on October 22nd. Should be good deal for them since they won't be needing their stuff anyway by then.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  10. Vince

    Group S*x anyone? Vancouver, downtown –> Vera on davie... saturday night... between 5-6... i'll be there eating my burger and then we can all do it...

    May 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  11. VTK

    See you Sunday.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • wzrd1

      No you won't. I'll be sleeping in, after tipping a few drinks back and laughing at the idiots throughout Saturday evening.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  12. belial

    So glad I'm an Atheist.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  13. JJ

    Morons are having a ball, aren't they. LOL! Darwin, please flush the toilet on the way out.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  14. Eric

    Wow, for a second there I thought I was reading The Onion.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  15. A Fellow Christian

    THIS MAN SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF HIMSELF.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • wzrd1

      You should be ashamed of yourself for being unable to locate your caps lock key.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  16. keylargo

    Somebody better watch their wallet, a scam is in the making here.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • wzrd1

      He predicted the same thing some years back, then later said there was a math error and it's on the 21st of this month.
      I imagine on Sunday, he'll rinse and repeat, many of his followers will disperse back to the real world and a few idiots will continue to follow him.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  17. joe

    Can George Carlin please come back and shoot these people!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  18. JusTee

    This is the first I have heard that the world is going to end this year. I have heard about December 2012 though. I don't think any of us know when it will happen ONLY that it will happen someday. So until that day I am going to live my life the best I can. I think everyone else should do the same.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  19. JT

    Bunch of fruit cakes, use the time and effort to solve some real problems.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  20. Worried baptist

    AGGGGHHHGGH!!!! I WANT TO EXPLODE! I KNOW GOD SAID WE WOULDN'T KNOW BUT.... IF YOU GUESS EVERY DAY WOULDN'T YOU EVENTUALLY GET IT RIGHT? AND THE SUN TURNS BLOOD RED? THE WORLD WILL END IN FIRE. I ALWAYS THOUGHT GOD USED IT AS A RIDDLE FOR LIKE NUKES AND STUFF.MAYBE THE SUN WILL EXPLODE? IM ONLY 16 MAN! WHY CAN'T I LIVE A LIFE. MARRY AT 26 HAVE 2 KIDS A BOY AND A GIRL. MAKE A LIVING IN ART AND HAVE MY WIFE DIE BEFORE ME CAUSING ME TO GO INSANE AND STOCK UP ON GUNS AND SEE IF I CAN MOVE TO THE MOUNTANS AND DIE FROM OLD AGE AND OBESITY. LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!!!!! I HAVEN'T HELPED MY FRIENDS YET THEY DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • wzrd1

      It's unfortunate that in your 16 years of life, you've been unable to discover the purpose of the CAPS LOCK key.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Chris

      The sun WILL turn blood red...in a few million or billion years when it becomes a red giant and begins it's cycle of death. Almost all stars do that. I'm going to a movie Saturday, whatever rapture.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • GAW

      Sit on the ice dude! lol Some old fart was using an out of date calculator and came up with May 21st. The world will only end when Donald Trump makes another attempt to run for President and is elected to office.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.