Have you ever wanted to take that dream vacation that you can't afford? Eat food dripping with cholesterol, without worrying about your health? Or do just about anything of pleasure without consequence? Well, you'd better get it done by May 21 of next year because we will all die between that day and Oct. 21.
So says a group of traveling people living in vans who spent Thursday passing out leaflets in Downtown Lodi proclaiming the end of the world coming next year.
The group, from Family Radio, says it's their calling to spread the word about the world coming to an end.
"If we don't tell people, the responsibility lies with us," said Fred Store, who was busy passing out leaflets on School Street about the world ending. "If we tell people and they don't do anything, the responsibility lies with them."
People loaded in five vans arrived in Lodi shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday. They were wearing baseball-style caps with the date May 21, 2011 on them. They were also decked-out in Navy blue and white T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets.
"Have you heard the awesome news?" it reads on the front of their shirts.
The back side reads, "The end of the world is almost here."
Family Radio representatives maintain that the May 21, 2011 date comes from the fact that May 21 comes 7,000 years to the day of the flooding that destroyed every living being not rescued in Noah's Ark. That came in 4990 B.C., according to Family Radio. The mathematical formula is as follows:
4990 B.C. + 2011 A.D. - 1 = 7,000 years.
The reason you subtract one year, according to Family Radio literature, is because the calendar doesn't have a year "zero."
Family Radio representatives walking through Downtown Lodi on Thursday said that it's irrelevant to have that dream vacation, eat as unhealthily as you want or commit immoral acts because there's no interest in these things when something better is coming.
"We're going to have the most wonderful 'vacation' when this is over and done with," said Sheila Jonas, one of the distributors of literature about the world's end, which they call "tracts."
"What the world offers us is not important anymore," David Liquori, of Long Island, N.Y., said.
Liquori is another Family Radio believer who talked to anyone in Downtown Lodi who would listen to his message.
Jonas, talking with a strong Southern drawl, said she lived in Mississippi and later on a boat in San Diego, and joined the Family Radio caravan about two years ago when she heard a Family Radio broadcast on the subject. She tried to dispute it.
"I thought, 'No way, no way,'" Jonas said. "I dug open the Bible, and it's proven me wrong. There's so much in the Bible that churches are not teaching."
Family Radio believers have sometimes left their family behind due to theological disagreements.
"The truth has come into our households," Liquori said. "Spouses have not always supported us."
Many people walking in the Downtown area declined invitations to read the brochures without even knowing the subject matter.
Lodi resident Roy Macomber, who briefly talked to Family Radio's Fred Store, said he's a Bible student, and Family Radio can't possibly know the date of the flood involving Noah's Ark. Family Radio maintains that the flood took place in 4900 B.C.
Gene Wilburn is pastor of Big Valley Bible church, which preaches that the Bible contains no errors and that it shouldn't be subject to interpretation. Family Radio agrees with that concept. However, Wilburn says that Family Radio and its founder, Harold Camping, is wrong about what the biblical truth is.
Wilburn said he is familiar with Camping and Family Radio, and he disputes their claims, especially knowing the exact date of Judgment Day. Wilburn agrees with many Christian leaders that the world's end is coming, but the Bible makes it clear that it's unknown when that will happen, Wilburn said.
"Calendars have changed numerous times since Noah's flood," Wilburn said. "To even know a day or month, you'd have to go through all those calendars. I look forward with great eagerness to the month of May next year."
Camping and Family Radio supporters maintain that the Bible is indeed clear about when the world will end.
Another major point where Family Radio and many Christians part company is one's relationship with Jesus Christ.
Many Lodi-area pastors have said the same thing — you will go to heaven if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, Family Radio says it's not your choice — it's God's.
"Many of us have left churches that preach that," Liquori said of pastors who say it is up to people to have a relationship with Christ. "If God will accept you, then you can have a personal relationship."
The Family Radio caravan began their journey from its Oakland headquarters and drove to Seattle to begin their journey to spread their message. They then headed south through Oregon and then Redding, Chico and Sacramento before reaching Lodi.
Last Sunday, they were at the California International Marathon in downtown Sacramento, but only one of every 30 or 40 people were interested enough to read Family Radio's literature, Liquori said. They also spent time near the State Capitol and at Denio's flea market in Roseville.
After spending Thursday in Lodi, the group went to Stockton, where they will spend the next few days before the caravan heads to Fresno. Then they will head east, Liquori said, because there is significantly more interest and support for Family Radio and its end-times beliefs.