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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. KC

    Oh good, I won't bother to do the laundry.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  2. svann

    This organisation is a cult. The members obviously are not getting their belief from the bible, they get it from the cult leader. They and their relatives should be concerned that this will lead to mass suicide as with other famous cults – people's temple (1978 jim jones), solar temple (94-97), heaven's gate (1997).

    May 18, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Godlite

      I love how Christians try to say that Christian subgroups are cults, but they aren't. I hate to break the news, Christianity is a blood sacrifice cult. It's just a really big and widely accepted one. You worship a man dying on a cross, sacrificed as a blood ritual to your god. You drink his blood as wine, and eat his flesh as biscuits. And you call Doomsday-ers cultists? As MJ said, you need to look at the man in the mirror.

      May 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      Religion/cult/spirituallity/astrology – there all just ways to avoid reality. Shouldn't we have evolved past this as a society? Shows you the stranglehold that christians (especially the catholic church) and musilms have on rationality. My god's bigger than your god! My version's right – all others wrong. The logical extension is that only I am saved! How lonely.

      As a wise man (Douglas Adams) once said "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

      May 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  3. Daisy

    When I saw the Family Radio.com ad on the guys t-shirt I figured it out. The founder of Family Radio has found a great way to gt cheap/free advertising. Every decade or so this guy announces its the end of the world and persuades people to "go out and spread the awesome news". Family Radio gets lots of press, drives traffic to his website, and when the world doesn't end he gets even more headlines and more traffic to his website. I feel sorry for all the fools he had hoodwinked into hawking his goods.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  4. Holy Diver

    Rapture doesn't exist.... Judgement Day was a an overbudgeted Scharzenegger movie...... we can thank Emperor Constantine for spreading Christianity, and its subsequent Inquisitions...... Jesus was Jewish, and a prophetic Rabbi; nothing more.... Revelations is a Brilliant Audioslave song....... oh, and I believe Rapture was a Transformer, so it does exist.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  5. LookAndSEE

    This story is a "Set Up"!
    Not for Family Radio, but for U who don't believe.
    When May 21 comes & goes everyone will say "I told u so".
    Meanwhile more disasters are brewing & they will get worse & worse.
    This planet is on a collision course, Jesus is the only way, He says, "If you love Me, keep My Commandments"
    Jesus said,"No man know the day or the hour".
    THey are important events will happen first .
    At some time, money as we know it will disappear. When this happens, u will probably be too busy looking for some shelter and will not care about your eternal salvation.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      did you eat a lot of twinkies when you were 3 to 5 years old?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Godlite

      "This planet is on a collision course, Jesus is the only way"

      Jesus is the only way for you greedy people who beg for immortality. Get on your knees and beg for it, be a sheep in a flock, worship the big King sitting in his throne. I don't believe in kings, I don't want any immortality. Get off my lawn.

      May 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  6. Pandaman

    JEEZ! Enough with the scare tactic churches. The worlds not going to end on may 21st, so stop scaring people into a belief system. Religion should be something that someone follows because they feel its what they truly believe, not because they're afraid that they'll go to hell if they don't convert by this saturday

    May 18, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  7. bill

    When the 21st comes and goes, and nothing happens, what excuse will these mental midgets come up with? Will it be a miscalculation, or some misinterpretation? I can't wait to find out.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  8. Gaunt

    My biggest problem with these 'believers' is the level of sheer cowardice and hypocricy they display. because its one thing to run around and scream your delusion when there is no consequence to your actions, but try and put any sort of consequence on their error, and they turn chicken.

    In interviews, press stories, one question is always asked: what if you are wrong? They always refuse to answer.

    They have been asked: If you are wrong, will you apologize? make amends? Admit error? They refuse to even aknowledge the question. That means they KNOW their ideas are crap, and dont want to actually have to face up to their own stupidity when they are proven wrong. Cowards.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • The one known as Longinus

      Maybe they aren't wrong for them, for they bought Jonestown cool-aid.

      That sarcasm aside, regardless of the events of the 21st, someone is going to look very silly on the 22nd.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  9. Carl LaFong

    Darn, and I just paid next month's rent!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  10. SD FSM

    Won't the world be a happier place without the rapturists. Only bad part is it is going to take 5 months to take them all.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Dead Man Blogging

      Yeah, you would think The Almighty would be able to hire a better-than-average Human Resources department, wouldn't you?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  11. stefan

    Makes me feel sorry for all those who don't find this ridiculous. The Bible is a great book of fiction, with important themes.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  12. CommonSense

    They already have their excuses made for 22-May. The con-man who did the calculations first predicted this in 1994. He claims he made an error the first time.
    Want a real laugh? Go to their website and following his "calculation". The numbers used to calculate the 21-May date are simply created based on more nonsense biblical interpretations. Some people who are perhaps a little less educated could easily be fooled by all the numbers on the page. That's really taking advantage of people when we should be helping others.

    Religion does not reserve the respect it has been given. It should be ridiculed for the delusional nonsense that it is.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  13. mr774

    "The end of the world is near."

    How many times of `end of the world` in history?
    Are there someone who counted that?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  14. MikeMazzla

    Why don't you just commit yourself already.
    George Costanza

    May 18, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  15. CounterPointedStick

    Why on Saturday? Shouldnt the world end on a Monday?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      jewish holy day ~ it is a slam on them

      May 18, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • svann

      Saturday is the last day of the week. Why monday?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • The one known as Longinus

      Last time is ended on a Thursday, the time before that it was Tuesday

      May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • DLassiter

      Why Saturday? Well, it is the end of the week.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  16. Largencharge

    2011 ( edited )

    May 18, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  17. Largencharge

    There's no quit in these knuckleheads !! Little do they know that are about to do a huge disservice to their 'religious ' beliefs on 05/22/2010.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Godlite

      They are no worse than any other religious group. Christian mothers who keep medicine from their kids because they believe in prayer, Christians in the middle east killing Muslims, etc. etc. Religion should be kept minimized in society. Believe what you want, but keep it off community airwaves.

      May 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  18. Evil Joe

    On May 22.. Oh my fellow brothers and sisters God has blessed us and has forgived us! He said that He also wants to see Hangover 2 and Miami Heat vs Chigago bulls series so he wont end the world just yet. So let us be happy because we have been given another few more years!

    May 18, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  19. Zandor

    I wonder what these people are going to do on Sunday?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Dead Man Blogging

      Return to their true God, NASCAR.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • ILoveJesus

      And that's the scariest thought of all or where will their "leader" lead them? We don't need another Jim Jones.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  20. Cletus

    I hope not. I got a tee time.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Andrew

      Me too

      May 18, 2011 at 11:01 am |
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About this blog

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.