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But of that day and hour no one knoweth, no, not the Angels of Heaven, but the Father alone.
- Jesus of Nazareth
A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a drive to visit friends and family in her small hometown out in western Pennsylvania. It was what you'd expect from a region that has been dealing with economic recession since the steel and rail industries dried up and blew away forty years ago - sweet and beautiful in places, blighted and depressing in others, but with the first faint bloom of spring on the trees whispering of better days to come - except for one strange, glaring thing.
It was one of those digital billboards, looming and gaudy amid the neglected sprawl of Altoona, and displayed on it was something I'd only heard about in passing. According to that blinking monstrosity, Jesus was going to ride back to Earth on the wave of a planet-annihilating earthquake that would summon The Faithful to Heaven and consign the remaining mass of sinful humanity to the yawning doom of the damned. This was to happen on May 21st, roundabout six in the evening (Eastern Standard Time), and the last dregs of the un-chosen would be completely scourged from the Earth by October.
By the time we left for home, I had spotted three more billboards of varying sizes and technologies espousing the same apocalyptic message, and upon our return, I did some digging. As it turned out, these things had been popping up all over the country; even here in liberal Boston, I discovered the existence of one of these billboards not three miles from where I now sit. Something called Family Radio Worldwide, in the guise of a fellow named Harold Camping, laid out the scratch to buy all that billboard space across the continent, because ol' Harold had consulted his trusty Bible, done some wildly questionable math, and pulled the exact moment of the End Times out of his cash-filled hat.