James Stockdale will be forever known as the vice presidential candidate who embarrassed himself by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”
That was on Oct. 13, 1992, and Stockdale, running on Ross Perot’s Reform Party ticket against Republican Dan Quayle and Democrat Al Gore, will always be remembered for one of the funniest comments ever made during a political debate.
Fast forward to 2011, where people who thought the world was going to end on Saturday may be asking themselves the same question.
Why are we here?
Guy Von Harringa, an Alameda resident who discussed earth’s demise last weekend at the Galt Strawberry Festival, says has an answer.
“Judgment Day has begun,” Von Harringa said in a News-Sentinel interview on Sunday. “The story is not quite over yet.”
Von Harringa says he is the web developer for Family Radio, the organization that predicts that the world will end during a 153-day period beginning May 21. He said in Galt on May 15 that Judgment Day would begin with a massive earthquake in New Zealand and spread quickly throughout the world.
He predicted that those who have been “saved” by God will go to heaven, but for everyone else, the earthquake will destroy the planet, including the entire food supply.
“We’re going to have mass starvation all over the world,” Von Harringa said last weekend at the Strawberry Festival. “Society as we know it won’t exist. There will be chaos.”
Von Harringa, who appeared to be in a happy mood while tending to the Judgment Day booth at the Galt Strawberry Festival, said he received a variety of responses. Some visitors were receptive, some were skeptical and others were curious, he said.
Festival volunteers Terry Parker-Owning and Ann Ullrich said during last week’s festival that they required Family Radio representatives to leave the festival entrance on the first day as they handed out brochures.
“They were scaring the hell out of people, telling them they were going to die,” Parker-Owning said.
When asked in Galt last week what he would do if disaster didn’t strike on May 21, Von Harringa said, “It would go against my conscience to think about that. That’s why I don’t have a back-up plan.”
By Sunday afternoon, nothing disastrous had happened, but Von Harringa still doesn’t have a back-up plan. He says we’re still experiencing the beginning of the end.
“It’s not a literal earthquake,” he said in a Sunday morning interview. “It just means that God is no longer saving people. That’s what it appears. I’m still researching it. God says search the Scriptures.”
The tone on Von Harringa’s Facebook page was quite different. He posted, “Sorry to those of you who I told there was going to be a literal earthquake yesterday. I stand corrected, and I ask for your forgiveness. Nevertheless, I do still believe that it is possible to know the timing of the end.”
However, there are many who don’t think the end is imminent.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen; only the Father knows,” said Linden resident Tom Mayo, who attended Sunday’s service at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Lodi. “If you just read Matthew 24, it will tell you.”
In Matthew 24, Jesus says it is impossible to know when the world will end.
“We’re to be prepared (for Judgment Day) all the time,” said Emanuel Lutheran Pastor Chris Townsend, who addressed the topic during Sunday’s services.
Von Harringa says that May 21 is still a very important date — it was the last day that you can be “saved” and have a personal relationship with Jesus. If that hasn’t happened by now, he said, you aren’t going to heaven.
Meanwhile, Lodi resident Bruce Crary says he’s concerned about the anger, depression and shame that people who incorrectly predicted the world’s demise on Saturday will experience.
“I don’t know how many people have been tricked in the Lodi area, but it’s a good number,” Crary said. “It’s religious bullying.”
Crary said he believed 10 or 15 years ago, through an organization not affiliated with Family Radio, that the world would end. He says he only believed it for a brief time, but it cost him his marriage and embarrassed him considerably.
Acampo resident Larry Gribaudo, who purchased advertising in the New-Sentinel, other publications and on four billboards to warn everyone about the world ending, said he won’t purchase any more advertising.
Judgment Day is supposed to start immediately after May 21, Gribaudo said on Sunday.
“Right now, we’re just waiting,” he said.
But will the world end soon?
“I believe so, yes,” Gribaudo said. “I believe God has a purpose in this.”
This is the second time that Harold Camping, leader of Family Radio, has predicted the world’s end. The first time was in 1994, but it didn’t happen.
According to Family Radio literature, Camping wrote a book called “1994?” which said that 1994 was the probable year that the world would end, according to a Family Radio brochure.
And what about the Christian leaders who say that there is no way to know when the world will end?
Camping maintains that to object to the May 21, 2011 date, one must have the biblical authority to do so. And Family Radio has that authority, he says.
For more information on Family Radio’s take on the world, visit www.familyradio. com.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.