Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Harry Camping takes event marketing to a whole new level. He’s the one promoting Judgment Day. (Yeah, that Judgment Day.) You can read more about this in Jason Morehead’s May 18 feature titled “Are You Ready for This Saturday’s Rapture?

In summary, according to calculations by Camping (read about it here), he’s discovered that Judgment Day is on schedule for tomorrow. That’s the message he and his followers have been proclaiming for some time now through mass media (billboards and a USA Today ad) as well as a countrywide traveling caravan to distribute pamphlets and call people to repent before God’s judgment falls.

I first became aware of the campaign after spying one of the campaign billboards along I-55 to Chicago.

My initial reaction was annoyance that this judgment-centered message would be seen by so many people. I didn’t want people to associate Camping’s damnation message with all Christians everywhere—and specifically, to me. It made me want to post a response on the neighboring board to offset the bad press he’s stirring up for the Christian community.

I want to place Camping’s marketing blitz and message into the fanatic category, but that’s not so easy to do, for the Lord Himself spoke of the judgment to come. His call to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” was a regular one to those listening.

Except for the date prediction, Camping’s Judgment Day message is biblical. His statement, “The Bible Guarantees It,” is true. Jonah 3:8 really does say, “Cry mightily unto God,” for apart from God’s mercy found in Christ, God’s judgment is very real. If we could extricate and discard Camping’s date prediction, what would remain is essentially biblical.

So why is the message so off-putting to me?

I think it’s because the message isn’t complete. Camping’s message highlights the judgment and damnation truths while downplaying the truths of God’s grace and mercy found in Christ Jesus.

In marketing terms, Camping is running a classic fear campaign. The message falls flat with his solution for avoiding the negative outcome—sure, he tells us to cry out to God. But he does not sufficiently portray God as one who you would want to run to.

Jesus was upset with the Pharisees for painting the Father only as an exacting Judge, making it difficult for people to run to Him. Likewise, Camping’s half message is so heavy on judgment that it skews God’s true nature and masks the intent of His heart.

Although the date and hour of the Lord’s return are not known, He is coming. This is an event that’s on the books, so to speak. Our challenge is to avoid throwing out the full-truth of the Good News with the half-truths of Camping’s Judgment Day prediction.

1 Comment

  1. Erin,

    So true! The world needs to hear the narrative in such a way they see the beauty of it so that they will wish what we were saying were true.

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