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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. sara

    That sucks... My birthday is 05/22. lol 🙂

    May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  2. Not Going To Happen

    There is no threat that the world will end October 21st 2011, there is no threat that Judgment Day is May 21st 2011. If your a teenager, child or adult don't worry about it. In fact I personally think that it is disrespectful of these people to claim they know what God only knows. They are the sinners for claiming that they know. Do not let them fool you into believing that they do know. They are the ones who will lose their faith. They are the ones who will be punished for making their God upset at them for their nonsense. They will reap what they sow.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  3. M

    Dear Credit Card Holders
    Please Pay all your bills before May 21st. Otherwise our collection agencies has a call center in hell.
    Thanks

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  4. Atheist_Free_Thinker

    George Lucas wrote the novel for Star Wars over 30 years ago and since then there are people claiming to follow the Jedi religion. I guess that means The Force is real, just like Darth Vader and company?

    That's what you say when you wave your bible around. It was written by men about a god and his religion. Same thing.

    In Vader's name I pray, amen.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  5. V

    Well, I will be mowing my lawn.....

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  6. hnrast

    If Public schools preach the theory of evolution as fact, then these people can also preach as fact the world will end on May 21 at 6 o’clock in the afternoon.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Huh? Evolution is not really just a theory, it is a proven mechanic in nature.
      The May 21st-baggers have only proven they are gullible fools.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Aaron

      Good thinking – because those two things are analogous

      May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  7. anobody

    This is marketing campaign and nothing besides.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  8. Alan

    If they do believe in God like I do, then they should know that NO man knows when the end will come.. only God. May 21st will just be another day.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  9. John-John

    Oh man, I guess this means the price of oil is going up again!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • URWrong

      No, it should go down according to supply and demand. There will be fewer people needing oil and gas, so there will be a glut of it.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  10. Apple Source

    JESUS DOES EXIST.....

    May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Atheist_Free_Thinker

      ...IN THE IMAGINATION OF WEAK MINDED SHEEPLE.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  11. George

    It's all BS. These people are BS, the Bible is BS, Jesus returning is BS, all religions are BS.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Glynn

      AMEN BRUTHA RELIGION IS ALL BS thank you for telling it like it is..... Unfortunately the bigger the lie the more it will be believed, as is so evident....

      May 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  12. MeatTreat

    Captain Picard is awesome!!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  13. John Martin

    I still find it unusual that so many Christians misread the very words of Christ that clearly states (using both parable and straight talk) that it is not the Christians that will be taken up but rather the Tares (weeds) that will be gathered and thrown into the Fire first, and then the Harvesting of the good. The rapture is for those few Elect... then comes tribulation, then the casting away of the unbelievers and then harvesting of the rest of us (the Christians) whom still have a chance to fall away from grace again during the second and final judgment a thousand years later.

    Get it right, people.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • George

      sarcasm I hope

      May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      The very words of Christ is a myth. How could an invisible imaginary person have words? Who heard them – some near neanderthal hooligan who lived in the time when sea monsters were thought real, Zeus was still believed by many, and the Muslims – well, they didn't exactly become too modernized. I laugh every time I hear a Christian trying to debate the true word of Christ – it is as nebulous as...well, it just is nebulous – there is nothing more nebulous than this, because it just isn't real. Show me the youtube video, the transcription, or some other piece of evidence – all you have is the written word that was transcribed and regulated by a bunch of priests who flagellated themselves and buggered little boys through the centuries. Religion has a lot of explaining to do. These rapture people are nuts – but just as nuts are the Christian hoards that populate this nation and vote theocratic governments into power. It is time to stop believing in the big myth, to stop seeking answers from an imaginary friend, and to start believing in each other – because we are real, we are matter, we have evolved, we have emotions, and we have brains. People with the God delusion are nothing but a good waste of an evolutionary marvel – the brain. Microbes are more intelligent than humans because they don't carry these myths – they just do things like self-organize and create the biospheres that we are destroying while we pray to this archaic idea. It makes me sick!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  14. Fokjou

    With any luck they'll commit suicide the day before...

    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • McGuinness

      The thiniking of the Radio Family folks is deluded, seriously non-scriptural, and sad ... but understandable. Your sociopathic contempt, on the other hand, is clarity itself, non-scriptural, and really really sad. A choice between the two would not be that hard for me. They are mistaken in teh communication from God they thnk they have revealed; you, on the other hand, simply thinik you are God.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  15. Rob

    Talking to a religiouse freek is like...talking to a religiouse freek..no comparisson greater evils out there.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Dave L

      Amen!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  16. Estevan

    The folks at Family Radio are a bunch of deluded fundies.

    Anyone who buys into this bunk is an idiot. The ones promoting this bunk are con artists of the worst type.

    Come May 22nd when the world has not ended and the crazies haven't been raptured away Child Protective Services in all states should swoop in to take away the children of all those idiots. Think of the horrible emotional toll – never mind being taken out of school and an education! – that this whole circus will have had on the children.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  17. Baranga the Great

    I don't care if the world ends. I have lead a good life and have been the best family member and friend I can be. Sometimes I have come up wanting, but for the most part I have done the right thing and can face God without fear when my time comes. I do not need a church, a religion, or a theology to know God or to know to do right. I do not think the world will end on the 21st, but if it were to, I would face it with courage and grace, and my last words would be, "God bless the whole world entire."

    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  18. Terri

    Are you attending the rapture on May 21st, 2011? I expect to be left behind when it happens, so if you aren't going to need your worldly possessions; be it money, cars, canned food, durable goods, etc; I would gladly take them off of your hands. Serious responses only, please. And remember, time is short! You can contact me by replying to this post. (stolen from Craigslist)

    May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • lalala

      GOD I HATE RETARDS LIKE YOU

      May 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Terri

      Ahhhh, now I am depressed because I so needed your approval.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      You're just mad because Terri asked first!! And have NO fear, all their crap will still have owners on the 22nd!!

      May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  19. Glynn

    HOPEFULLY it WILL be the rapture and Jesus will take ALL the christian morons to heaven and then all of us rational peace loving adults who have the common sense NOT to believe all that lunacy will be left in PEACE..... Is that too much to wish for ??

    May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Plumrabbit

      Everyone will chit in their pants if their predictions come true.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Andrew

      If you are so peaceful, why so much anger in your statement....

      May 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Somebody

      I'm glad I don't walk in your shoes.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  20. Patrick Ford

    I hope you plan to give as much coverage to this story on May 22nd when it is all exposed as the ridiculous fraud that it is.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      I want a few phone numbers so I can call them on the 22nd, and go 'neener neener!!'

      May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • adam

      i haven't even gotten an x box Ive been saving for about 3 moths ahhhh man ;(

      May 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Ogre

      Fred,

      Perhaps the neener, neeners would be a blast for us, but I doubt that it will affect these bone-headed, mush-minded zealots one whit, unfortunately.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • adam

      dang Ive bleary hit puberty ahh man but its okay because life sucks, and this world is full of idiots.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
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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.