Much of my obsession with Harold Camping’s Family Radio empire has been a direct result of his live call-in radio show “Open Forum.” On the air for 50 years, the show was an amazing glimpse into the beliefs of the founder of the large Christian religious broadcasting network.
Through that show, Camping spread the word to listeners about the importance of May 21, 2011 as “Judgment Day” and vehemently professed that great earthquakes and the Rapture would happen on that date, followed by the end of the world on October 21. At the peak of the Judgment Day frenzy, the show was airing 7 nights a week. Although his predictions have changed a little bit (Camping says that his “spiritual eyes” just weren’t fully opened prior to May 21), followers are still tuning in to hear the latest word from Family Radio’s founder.
On June 9th Harold Camping suffered a stroke after returning home following the taping of “Open Forum.” Since that time he has been hospitalized and subsequently moved to a skilled nursing facility. Obviously his program could not continue during his absence and recovery, so ever since June 10th, the religious radio network has been playing old episodes of “Open Forum” on weekday nights. On Friday they completed their run of old episodes, airing a show from May 27, 2011. A recorded announcement over their airwaves last week hinted that “Open Forum” would be temporarily replaced with a variety of programs focused on the scriptures as well as with music.
As promised, Family Radio has begun to air replacement programming in the “Open Forum” slot on weekdays from 5:30 to 7:00pm while Harold Camping recovers from his stroke. Yesterday Family radio aired the show “Searching the Scriptures with Tom Evans” from 5:30 to 6:00pm and it was announced that the program would continue at the time every weekday. Following that show, Family Radio played a number of musical pieces (from the Riverton Singers to Frederico (Hayler) and London Symphony Orchestra), “The Scripture of the Week,” and the short program “Beyond Intelligent Design.” From 6:30 to 7:00pm an episode of “Family Bible Reading Fellowship” was broadcast.
Weekday evenings will certainly be less colorful without Harold Camping’s live call-in show “Open Forum.” His decades-old program is an example of why live radio can be so compelling because one never knew what a caller would ask and how Camping would respond. The show became increasingly more lively and at times contentious as May 21, 2011 grew closer and Camping fielded calls about his prediction of the impending “Judgment Day.” Calls ranged from a distressed grandmother-to-be worried about not being able to meet her unborn grandchild to skeptics asking if Harold Camping was “on crack.”
As the media swarmed to Family Radio following the non-events of May 21, the show took on new meaning when Camping filled the audience with reporters and held a press conference over the air on May 23 (unfortunately that episode is not included in Family Radio’s published show archives). Ever since that day, Open Forum has continued to provide an opportunity for both “true believers” and doubters to quiz Camping about his evolving interpretations of the Bible. It’s definitely been a wild ride and I for one will miss the banter and the oddly compelling cadence of Camping’s voice as he would announce, “Welcome to Open Forum” and would conclude the most intense calls with “Thank you for calling and sharing…”