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'Save the date! Return of Christ May 21st, 2011.'

North Carolina end-times group attempts to win over Hopkins residents with 11th Avenue billboard.

In a small corner of Hopkins, there’s a sign of the end of the world.

“Save the date!” the 11th Avenue billboard reads. “Return of Christ/May 21st, 2011.”

On that day, according to the group behind the billboard, believers will be raptured up to heaven and the whole world will witness an earthquake that will raise bodies from graves. Those left behind will face exactly 153 days of trial and tribulation before the world ends Oct. 21.

The billboard is one of 25 that Raleigh, NC-based WeCanKnow.com installed throughout the Twin Cities as part of a marketing campaign in about a dozen states. The group is a family-run affair of only about three or four people. Allison Warden (no relation to the author of this article) is the de facto spokeswoman. Her mother came up with the idea for the website and approves the literature that goes on it. Warden’s best friend from high school is the webmaster.

The group doesn’t disclose the amount it spends on billboards, bus benches and other advertising, but Warden said the campaign was funded by pooling private donations made explicitly for that purpose.

Warden, who briefly lived in central Minnesota a decade ago, is certainly no hair-shirt-wearing prophet. She’s a payroll clerk by day who spends her free time trying to persuade people that the end times are near.

“We’re just regular people that have had the most average American life that people can have,” she said—adding that May 21 is God’s date, not hers. “I’m 29 years old. If I were to set a date, don’t you think I would have pushed it back farther?”

WeCanKnow is not affiliated with any church, denomination or group—in fact, it believes that churches are flawed and that a biblically prescribed “church age” has ended. But it draws heavily on ideas from Oakland, CA-based Family Radio Worldwide—a network of 66 stations steered by 89-year-old Harold Camping. To maximize the reach of these ideas, WeCanKnow selected advertising sites, such as the Twin Cities, where Family Radio doesn’t already have stations.

Camping made news back in the ’90s when he predicted that the world would end in September 1994—albeit acknowledging the possibility that he could be wrong. He and his followers say now that he stumbled over a few scriptures and that the new dates are ironclad.

Said Warden: “This isn’t a person’s opinion. It’s there in black and white.”

Christianity has a deep history of belief that end times are imminent. The early church didn’t expect to wait long for Jesus to return, leading church founders to forgo pushing for long-term societal changes, according to many church historians. Yet the mainstream church moved away from these beliefs by the second century and largely continued to steer clear of them in the centuries that followed.

With the apocalyptic elements of Christianity trending to the fringe, traditional churches tend to look toward verses emphasizing the unexpected nature of the end times—as with the classic from 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

(WeCanKnow uses the King James Version of the Bible exclusively.)

But Camping and WeCanKnow, citing scripture found just two verses later, argue that these churches only got half the story: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”

Combine those verses, they say, and it’s clear that there’s a timetable in the Bible.

“To me, that was a smack upside the head: Who is being addressed here that that day is not going to be a thief?” Warden said.

Of course, the Bible doesn’t actually mention May 21. Camping drew his conclusions from a complex set of calculations that looked at symbolic numbers, Jewish feast days and historic events such as the 1948 creation of Israel and the Gay Pride movement.

“A lot of people are calling it numerology. It’s simple arithmetic, really,” Warden said.

While WeCanKnow unabashedly asserts that it has the right date, it is remarkably free of mandates for those who believe its message. The group distrusts church authority and argues that believers should search the Bible on their own—free from the doctrinal baggage that has accumulated around denominations over the millennia. The message is, “essentially open up that Bible,” Warden said.

Its social organization is the exact opposite of a cult. WeCanKnow condemns trusting one’s soul to a pastor’s interpretation of the Bible—“We can’t put all of our eggs in one basket. People are fallible,” Warden said—and sees little use for the community aspects of church life.

When asked where believers can gather together without churches, Warden conceded that small Bible studies could be an option—then quickly added that communing with God is more fulfilling than socializing with people. In that respect, she said, personal Bible study and listening to religious podcasts, alone, can be just as effective.

Warden is friendly and engaging, though. She has dogs and is quick to strike up conversations with those who notice the WeCanKnow.com sticker on her Subaru during her frequent visits to the Post Office to mail out free religious literature. She describes the evidence for the end of the world more like a friend offering homework help than a fire-and-brimstone prophet.

Part of the reason they believe the Bible contains a timetable is because they think God wouldn’t condemn the whole world without warning. Warden compares her work with WeCanKnow to trying to rescue someone from a dangerous situation. Why wouldn’t you let them know they were at risk?

Yet she’s not deaf to the way most of the world views her group. Although the people she encounters face-to-face are usually at least civil, e-mails that come in through the website are much less friendly. Warden is single and both her parents believe, but other relatives don’t. Some refuse to talk about religion altogether.

For Warden, though, May 21 is just a fact she lives with—like a very important appointment. She’s checked Camping’s assertions herself and is convinced that the end is coming.

“My family, they know me. They know I’m not crazy,” she said. “In this particular instance, it’s right there in the Bible.”

 

Curious how Camping arrived at his conclusions? to see his reasoning. Want to know what a mainstream Christian church thinks? Hopkins Patch about his views.

Wrex March 15, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Here's a bit more fun on the May 21sters... http://manurelagoon.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/religious-cults-encouraged-by-japan-earthquake-turmoil-in-middle-east/
Allison Warden March 15, 2011 at 11:52 PM
I just want to offer my sincere thanks to James for his fair and comprehensive story. After several interviews for various newspapers, I can honestly say this is the most accurate, well researched, and unbiased report to be written that I have read personally. True old fashioned reporting, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions....a true credit to the profession of journalism. Many thanks for the nice conversation James! Allison Warden WeCanKnow.com
David March 17, 2011 at 05:39 AM
There is a pretty good chance that the Christ will appear openly by May 21. However, the chance that the world will end is absolutely zero. Instead it will be the beginning of a whole new world. Actually the Christ is already here and just waiting for the right moment to reveal himself. For more info see christmaitreya.org
chandler April 07, 2011 at 02:52 PM
this is the most ridiculous story I have ever read.
Steve April 15, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Mat 24:36 - "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. This man tried calling the date that Jesus was returning before in 1994? really? Deu 18:20-22 -'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. He has spoken before and what he said did not come to pass. This makes this man a FALSE PROPHET! Mat 24:4 -5 - And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. Jesus Himself does not know when He is coming back! God would not tell a mere man when His only son was coming back and not tell His Son. When the blind follow the blind will they not both fall in a pit? People need to start following Jesus and seek after His face, not mans.
Wayne April 27, 2011 at 02:04 PM
This is why the word must be rightfully devided! The only thing we know is what Jesus told us. We know there is an end, but we dont know when. Being that we are of the light, not darkness we know how to be prepared. Look @ the 5 wise & 5 foolish virgins read Matt 25. The point is to be ready not to know when. Not fair to God, like a kid who isbad all year & then right around Christmass starts acting nice because he/she wants the benifits of the Holiday. Now u have people who live in sin all they want & then a week b4 the "rapture" they wanna find God. Not so!!! He wants us to live everyday like its our last, in Holiness! If it happens on May 21, 2011 I'm ready! If it happens the 20th I'm ready! The 22nd I'm ready! What about u. One question if it doesn't happen on that date then what? What will you believe? I Pray for clarity & the spirit of truth to rest rule and abide! Too much gospel to be preached to fight over which day he's coming. Either way people wil be lost unless we show them Christ. Let's teach folks to be ready no matter what day he returns. As for Christ being here, NO, read the Word!!
Johnny May 02, 2011 at 07:09 PM
This story is correct on only one point. God would not condemn the world without a warning. That warning begins on 6/9/2011 and runs for 3 and 1/2 years. That is the true "Church Age" because the re-centered church will provide healing to the world.
Brad May 11, 2011 at 03:47 AM
It's amazing the lengths folks will go to in order to twist a book to fit their beliefs. There is nothing the bible doesn't justify. It's fiction folks. Fiction. And in case you're wondering, God himself is sitting right here with me telling me what to type. Prove He's not...
Brad May 11, 2011 at 03:48 AM
Except when he drowned everyone under Noah's boat...
James May 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM
I never cease to be amazed and dismayed by the number of folks manipulated and fleeced by these snake oil propagandists and carnival cons. People may possess free will, but they certainly don't waste any time lining up to subjugate themselves to someone elses. Where is your intellectual curiosity folks? I'll bet that given a lifetime to inculcate and brainwash, such as is the opportunity enjoyed by most of the major religions, I could convince your progeny that my kid's pet hamster was the one true whatever. Just look at what Hitler managed to accomplish within a supposedly well educated society in less than a generation...or Jim Jones in just a decade. Believe what you like, tithe if it makes you feel good, but please,...if you want that desperately to be told what to think and how to act, just try to master this one rule before you get mired in your born again jihads; "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". I've yet to meet a "Christian", "Muslim" or "Jew" capable of accomplishing just that, much less living in adherence to a whole list of rules and laws. The point is simply this; if you really think that there's some ethereal being or force that is going to absorb your life's energy after you die...that's great, 'cuz we pretty much agree. I just prefer to see my ever after as my body's organic form decomposing and returning its molecular energy to the earth whence it came. I'm just free to get there without the carrot and stick manipulations.
ashley May 16, 2011 at 12:19 PM
I agree with Brad completely. It is a BOOK. Translated and written differently MANY times and many ways. Its all about how you interpret the book....just like any other book you read. And when none of this stuff happens (because it probably wont) you guys will just come up with ANOTHER excuse for why is didnt happen and then come up with ANOTHER day that it will happen. Stop stressing everyone out...quit wasting your money on ads...leave people alone
John Doe May 19, 2011 at 02:10 AM
the chances of Christ rising May 21st, 2011 is like everyone winning the lotto on the same day
Cole May 21, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Last time I checked Christ said he would return on a day when we least expect him to. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (NIV, Matthew 24:43-44) 
So explain to me how you “know” when he will return and how you claim the bible tells us when it clearly says you wont, not to mention this… 
 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (NIV, Mark 13:32-33) 
The ANGELS and THE SON don’t even know…so your claiming to know more about Christ’s return then Christ knows about his own return? You will be sure that I will be commenting on this wall tomorrow evening before I go to sleep and say goodbye to May 21st still on earth. Ya’ll already predict the rapture once and were wrong, stop trying. The bible clearly states that we can not know…Why does mankind believe they know everything, I mean here you are claiming to know the deep hidden meaning in the bible. Stop trying to be all knowing, live your life as much by the bible as you can, and when your day comes you will stand before God. The more you try to predict the future the more you’ll be wrong.
Larry Sunde May 22, 2011 at 07:15 PM
To me this is fairly easy to comprehend. If Camping took in more money then they spent on billboards etc. this was just another huckster praying on the gullable, only he knows and will be held accountable by his maker in the end. I'd rather be me then him.

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