With echoes from REM’s “The End of the World as We Know It” reverberating through our cultural psyche, the Mayan apocalypse—predicted for Dec. 21—is looming large.
According to the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, Dec. 21, 2012, is the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle.
What might be called a “New Age” interpretation is that this date will inaugurate a new era marked by massive spiritual transformation.
Or it will bring the catastrophic end of the world.
As in the arrival of the next solar maximum, Earth being swallowed by a black hole at the center of the galaxy or the collision with another planet.
Sound far-fetched? Not to a lot of people.
Consider the reports coming from across Russia’s nine time zones. Inmates in a women’s prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a “collective mass psychosis” so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them.
In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles.
A huge, Mayan-style archway is being built—out of ice—on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south.
Russia’s government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk by having its minister of emergency situations say he had access to “methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth,” and the world was not going to end in December.
Before you laugh, the U.S. government just did the same thing.
In a blog post on USA.gov, it was announced the “world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012, or any day in 2012.” Why the declaration? Apparently NASA officials are getting messages from children as young as 11 who say they are ill and/or contemplating suicide because of the coming doomsday.
So how are we to think Christianly about this?
First, let’s just think.
The most rudimentary understandings of the Mayans reveal they did not view time as linear but cyclical. So whatever they meant to forecast for Dec. 21 was simply the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.
In fact, there is not a concept of “apocalypse” in Mayan culture at all.
Second, the date itself has been debunked.
An excavation of a Mayan timekeepers’ workroom in Guatemala recently revealed calendars that destroy any notion the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012.
So what is keeping it alive?