Busy with New Square and the tax cap

So here I am, trying to find the time to blog something about the world not ending or about the John Jay report on sex abuse.

But I’m been swamped with the horrible New Square arson incident and the increasingly likely possibility of a property-tax cap here in old New York.

Hey, I’m a generalist.

So, what can I say? The truly interesting thing about Harold Camping’s “judgment day” prophesy is what it says about the media these days. When Camping made his last end-times prediction, I believe in 1994, hardly anyone heard about it. Who really cared?

But in 2011, Mr. Camping became perfect fodder for the 24/7 media machine to chew on. Everyone got in on the act because it was easy and goofy, perfect blog and Twitter material. Some academic should (and probably will) look at how much media face-time was given to a previously unknown evangelist with a small following.

The John Jay report is a more serious matter. I’ve read about it, but still haven’t had time to read the report.

There seems to be a general sense of…disappointment…with the report’s findings. After all these years of study, the culprit was the “free love,” anything goes culture of the 60s and 70s?

That’s a theory that has been floated since the crisis broke in 2002, so it does seem a bit stale and something of a let-down.

Some have questioned the independence of the researchers, since the Conference of Catholic Bishops helped fund the work. The bishops shouldn’t be surprised by this reaction, especially given what I understand to be the ho-hum findings of the report.

But if the researchers say they were independent, and they do, it’s hard to dispute them.

So…I’ve been talking to people about his awful incident of violence at New Square, the Hasidic enclave in Rockland County.

It’s a sad story, by any measure.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that a man was openly harassed for months because he did not attend the community’s primary synagogue. The question at hand is whether he was attacked and severely burned as a result of this sanctioned harassment.

It’s always been extremely difficult to get people in New Square to talk about…anything. But there are such bad feelings about Sunday’s violence that some, a few, are speaking out.

I had a conversation Monday with a woman, a “New Square mom” she called herself, who was furious. She could not believe that the New Square leadership had not condemned the attack. She said that her children did not know what to believe about their community.

She also compared living in New Square to living under al-Queda. Really.

She spoke to me anonymously. To do so otherwise, she said, would result in being shunned and having her home vandalized.

She said that her family could not leave New Square because the community’s leadership would spread lies about them to the leaders of any community they would try to go to.

“There are normal people here,” she said.

We’ll see where this story goes.

Everyone loves Judgment Day

I’ve been busy with school budgets this week and haven’t had a chance to review the big John Jay report on the causes of the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse crisis.

But I’ll get to it.

Still, it seems the main thing everyone is talking about is Harold Camping and his Judgment Day prediction for Saturday. His people placed a full-page ad in the Journal News and other newspapers today warning of a worldwide earthquake that will begin Saturday and begging people to “cry out to God for mercy.”

The newspaper ad asks readers to buy multiple copies of the paper and send them to “leaders, relatives and friends.” So thank you for that, Mr. Camping.

I can’t believe how much attention this is getting. But Camping has somehow come up with the money to do quite an impressive marketing campaign. Who are his donors? One can only wonder.

My colleague Khurram Saeed has a fine story today about people traveling around Rockland County to warn of the Big Event to hit on Saturday.

Well, we’ll see what happens Saturday.

And we’ll see what Camping says Sunday if he’s still here.

( Photo by Peter Carr / The Journal News )

Judgment Day? 5 days and counting…

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that an evangelist named Harold Camping was predicting — no, stating — that Judgment Day will be May 21, 2011.

At a time, I didn’t know if anyone would really notice Camping’s big news, as he is somewhat of a fringe TV preacher.

But everyone loves a good End-of-the-World guarantee, so Camping is getting quite a lot of media attention. Plus, his Family Radio Network has billboards up all over the country — I saw one the other day on the Garden State Parkway — warning of the Big Day.

Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer, also has a small army of followers driving around the country and letting people know not to bother planning anything for Memorial Day.

One volunteer told NPR: “I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement. I’m not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.”

The UK Independent’s most popular on-line story at the moment is: “US preacher warns end of the world is nigh”

Camping, who is based in Oakland, is not predicting an immediate global apocalypse. He is saying, based on his reading of the Bible, that Jesus will return on May 21 and that saved Christians — he says about 2 percent of the world’s population — will be raptured to heaven. Everyone else will face God’s judgment. The world will be destroyed 153 days later, he says.

You can read all about it at WeCanKnow.com. The website was, until recently, taking orders for We Can Know materials. But they’ve stopped: “With our Lord’s Return such a short time away, we are no longer offering free printed materials since there is not enough time remaining for us to effectively produce and distribute them.”

Makes sense, I guess.

Most media accounts point out that Camping previously predicted that most of us would be goners on Sept. 6, 1994. When that didn’t happen, he chalked it up to a mathematical error.

Well, May 21 is Saturday. Come Sunday, if Camping is wrong, I’m sure he’ll get quite a few interview requests.

I get the feeling that a lot of people are gearing up to make fun of him, which would be kind of sad.

AP Photo

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.