Names of individuals who are not part of AtheistConnect have been changed for this story. While this post conforms to our usual style of satiric and slightly aggressive, this story and the events had a profound affect on the authors. As such, each will publish a personal and serious post regarding his experiences in developing this story. Those statements will be posted on March 10, 2011.
Yesterday, we at AtheistConnect proved our immorality when we infiltrated Family Radio’s Caravan 2 in Beaumont, TX. This group of ‘believers’ is traveling across the Southern United States to inform the world that “the end of the world is almost here!” (Good news folks, the other three world notification caravans are also in the USA — the world is safe) Project Caravan is one of four groups traveling across the U.S. to spread the word of lunatic Harold Camping (his name is the same, since it’s all over his website at Family Radio.)
We could not turn down this pristine opportunity to infiltrate these minds, and much to our surprise the stomachs, of our favorite end of the world cult. And let’s face it, we only have until May 21st. Right? After a four hour drive, we spent an hour and a half with people who can only be described as remarkable. It was incredibly difficult locating the caravan. Multiple calls ending in “God Bless!” led us to Walgreens, where Caravan 2 had a description of our truck and was ready to meet us with open arms. After a quick stop to rip the Darwin Fish off the bumper, we were ready to meet our contact in the group. It is difficult to describe exactly how we felt when we pulled into the parking lot. Three RV’s covered in artistic propaganda provided us with an immediate realization of exactly what we had gotten ourselves into. Our stomachs turned from a mixture of being terrified and disgusted.
Meeting the ‘believers’ was culture shock, to say the least, but we played our parts well. There were hugs and exchanges of “god bless you.” (ours feigned, a sentiment theirs seemed to reflect also, oddly enough.) They thanked Jesus that we found them. If we weren’t so synical, this might have bothered us. The initial feeling was absolute fear. Would they expose us as phonies at first glance? Surely, two sane people would stick out amongst the crazies. Nope. In fact, we fed them BS from the top of our head, and they bought every word. We claimed we’d spent our lives doing missionary work, and we came from family’s who listened to Family Radio. Something most people learn in their lifetime, when lying, the less you give the better. Something they don’t, when lying to a religious person, tell them your whole life story, just make sure it’s fake. They could not shut up about their lives and their praise, so we had to follow suit. While this dug us deeper into a pit, it allowed us deeper into the rabbit hole.
The ‘missionaries’ seemed almost desperate to find like-minded believers — accepting our arrival with the gratitude that can only be likened to the acceptance of the Trojan Horse. They gave us tee shirts, bumper stickers, and reading material. We quickly dawned the tee shirts, talked our way out of covering our vehicle with bumper stickers, and stifled laughter at the titles of the pamphlets (Gay Pride: Planned by God as a Sign of the End). We ingrained our acceptance of the prophecy by sharing our knowledge of finer details. We had studied familyradio.com carefully. It seemed we knew more than they about the teachings of Mr. Camping. That’s right, Mr. Camping. We casually called him Harold, a near mistake when they mentioned his name with the reverence of the Lord himself. We heard their stories. Jay, a Beaumont resident, invited the Caravan missionaries into his home and fed them. He is days away from quitting his job and joining them on the road, because there’s only one thing to do when the end is near — cast all responsibilities aside and throw your life away (End’s up we were wrong about the orgy).
Every minute doing the ‘Lord’s work’ seemed an eternity. When Don, leader of the radio congregation, announced it was time to go, we began to feel the weight coming off our shoulders. We were minutes away from peeling out of the parking lot and escaping back to our heathen lives when we were asked to stay put for another half-hour to allow time for Channel 6 News to arrive. It was during this time that we sucked it up and did the true digging. What is the best way to hide in a camper? Offer to help a sweet little old lady make smoothies. We had been invited primarily into Bea’s shared RV and it had been while she was making lunch. What was for lunch? A banana, strawberry, mango and almond milk smoothie. Is such a healthy diet necessary when the world is ending? Who knows, but it gave us an out from the large group and an in to the mind of the individual. Bea’s story is too difficult to explain here. We will dedicate a post to her tomorrow. When the camera crew had left, we inched our way toward the AtheistMobile, or common truck without the Darwin Fish, but escape seemed impossible. Ron wanted to give us his cell phone in case we got lost. Don tried to give us a radio. Vicky wanted us to take her camera to provide her with photos of the back of the convoy, because even during the apocalypse, pictures are important. The mission was turning to dust in our hands, but after several “No”s and even
more “uh”s, we jumped in the truck free of all Believer Technology. As we looked at each other in the truck, we could only smile as the escape plan was finally within grasp. Brian L., who is about as close as one can get to a super villain, stomped on the gas and skidded out of the parking lot, leaving a smoky, black goodbye behind us. We weaved through roads we had never seen or heard of until we felt we would be safe from pious vengeance. Evasion had become a specialty after certain non-science based churches with the word science in their name had followed him in the past. Not that Christian Scientist one, but the one where they combined the second half of “technology” with science…which we can’t mention by name. The excitement, frustration, and nervousness faded as we stood under the shade of a giant, dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant. The irony that we’d done nothing more than meet a group of Christians who’d placed a date on the end times was not wasted on us. We realized that what we’d seen, what we’d done, was completely different than what we’d expected.