Enjoy the next 3 months (Judgment Day may be coming)

You may have heard that some folks out there believe the world will end in 2012.

It has something to do with the Mayan Long Count calendar ending. There are websites selling “2012: The End” T-shirts and websites offering survival tips.

It turns out, however, that the world may end even sooner.

A veteran Christian “”Bible scholar” named Harold Camping has pegged the return of Jesus — Judgment Day — as May 21, 2011.

That’s soon. There might still be clumps of ice on the side of road. The Yanks and Mets might still be in contention.

Those who aren’t raptured away will see the end of the world on Oct. 21.

His website says this: “This web site serves as an introduction and portal to four faithful ministries which are teaching that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011.”

Camping’s followers have placed some billboards here and there, such as the one in the picture, taken by a friend of a friend who was on an Amtrak train traveling from Rhode Island to NY.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently talked with Camping, who mocked the 2012 predictions as a “fairy tale.” As far as his own prediction, Camping has apparently found a mathematical system to scope out prophecies hidden in the Bible.

Camping is a mighty interesting fellow.

I happen to subscribe to Direct TV for the pro football package. I get a channel that shows something called “Open Forum with Harold Camping” almost around the clock, interspersed with two or three other Christian shows produced by Camping.

On “Open Forum,” Camping sits in an old easy chair, holding a weathered Bible in his lap, reading and analyzing verses or taking calls from viewers. It is as no-frills as a TV set could be. His ties look like they are from 1973.

He says that his media company’s work has been translated into 48 languages.

“How can that happen without God’s mercy?” he asks.

Camping does have a significant red mark on his record, however. He previously predicted that Judgment Day would be Sept. 6, 1994. Dozens of his followers gathered at his offices in Oakland, Cal., to await Christ’s return.

Camping chalked it up to a mathematical error.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.