December 30, 2011

2012 is The End! It’s the Beginning! …Or it’s just another year.


It’s 2012. For some, this is a big deal.

A lot of people, from various walks of life, think that something big is about to happen. Last year, a fundamentalist Christian radio personality name Harold Camping got not one, but two, 15 minutes of fame for casting predictions that the world would end in 2011 – and a lot of his followers maxed out their credit cards, sold their life’s possessions, and one woman slit her children’s throats and tried to kill herself in preparation.

And it’s not just certain Christian types who are excited by the close of 2011 and the rise of 2012. Many Americans are suddenly fascinated with an ancient Mayan calendar. It seems that a stone Mayan calendar relic has been determined to stop on Dec. 21-24th, 2012. Some are interpreting this as indicating the end of the world, the end of time, as THE end. (though not everyone, see this companion blog)

It’s a bit odd for these, largely white, modern Americans who have few, if any, rootings to the ancient Mayan peoples or culture to have gravitated to this ancient relic. It’s perhaps even odder for them to embrace part of that ancient religion/culture while seemingly being oblivious or indifferent to that ancient culture’s barbaric practices of human sacrifice. It’s PC to be into the Mayan calendar. It’s not PC to talk about Mayan rituals and practices. Even more ironic is that most of the people who are into the Mayan calendar prophesies tend to be folks who are anti-Christian and who favor the separation of church and state. The ancient Mayans were a strictly theocratic society and rivaled the worst of the medieval theocracies and today’s Islamic states in their harsh enforcement of their moral codes and beliefs.

But not everyone who is “into 2012” thinks that it means the end of the world. Some, more New Agey types, believe that many of our world’s recently born children are “more evolved” with heightened gifts and sensitivities. These folks believe that this new “Indigo children” generation will perhaps attain a critical mass in 2012 that will effect a positive shift and transformation of the world for the better. It seems to be a revisiting of the “The Age of Aquarius” motif celebrated by hippies in the 1960’s.

Who knows? Maybe something big will happen in 2012! … but 2012 isn’t this coming year. It already took place 4-6 years ago!


Strange piece of trivia. Jesus wasn’t born in the year 1 A.D.

A.D. comes from the Latin “Anno Domini” means “the year of our Lord” so when we say 2011 or 2012, whether we know it or not, we’re employing the Christian calendar and we’re saying “the Year of Our Lord 2012.” B.C. comes from the English “Before Christ.”

Wait a minute Roger, did you say that “Jesus wasn’t born in the year 1 A.D.”? If B.C. means before Christ, doesn’t that mean that Jesus was born in 1 A.D.?

Yeah, that’d make sense — if it weren’t for the mistake.

In 525 a monk employed by Pope Gregory committed an epic (pun intended) “FAIL.” When the Western world switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one that we now use, the dating for when Jesus was thought to have been born was inadvertently altered by 4-6 years. That monk,Dionysius Exiguus (the inventor of Annos Domini), forgot to factor in that Jesus was born under the reign of King Herod and Herod is known to have died in what we mistakenly refer to as 4.B.C. If Jesus were born later than 5 B.C., he would have been too young to fit the Gospel of Luke’s report that he began his ministry at about 30 years of age. Since there is no year zero, that means that the third millennium after the birth of Christ probably started in November or December 1996.[1] So, in reality, you need to add 4 –6 years to whatever year it happens to be when you read this this article, i.e., if you read this blog in 2012, it’s actually 2016-18! [[REVISED & CORRECTED. see comment below]]

There’s a lot that can be said when it comes to discussing these matters. Theological issues such as “eschatology,” “apocalypse,” “post-tribulation,” “millennialism,” “the rapture,” and the like tend to be part of the landscape of this territory. I speak to those topics in my book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity. And you can read the full chapter where I discuss those matters at this blog: “The End Isn’t Nigh!” But frankly, that stuff isn’t essential to the Christian faith as I understand it. So I’d like to close with the concluding words of the 10th chapter of Kissing Fish:

      ……Many progressive Christians believe it when we say, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”[1] Yet, rather than spending our time and energy waiting and planning for Christ’s return, we think the world would be better served by reducing his level of disappointment when he does. Many of us share the view expressed in this assertion: “I am not as concerned about when the moment will be as I am about the fact that the moment is coming. I want to encourage you to get off the ‘Planning’ Committee and get on the ‘Welcoming’ Committee.”[2]We’d rather see ourselves as being on the street team (like promoting an upcoming band gig or theater show). Instead of informing folks about Jesus with lots of information, we seek to simply be Jesus. We seek to be part of the incarnate, living Body of Christ — helping people experience his love and his Kingdom here and now.

Progressive Christians also resonate with the late Catholic Henri Nouwen when he said, “Where will you find the Messiah? He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds…” as well as Emergent Christian pastor Brian McClaren’s observation that “The Gospel is a transformation plan, not an evacuation plan.” 

We agree that our hope is in the future, but let’s embrace and be present to the present moment.[3]

It’s hard to embrace the present without a sense of hope for the future. As Christians, we believe that God is actively seeking to move Creation toward a beautiful goal. Like Paul, we have “our eyes on the prize”[4] and we “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us.”[5] We sense deep in our bones that things will turn out okay — in fact, far better than we could ever imagine.

Progressive Christianity affirms Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remarks, “I refuse to accept the view that [human]kind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality …I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word,” “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and, Martin Luther’s assertion that “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Progressive Christians have hope in the conviction that somehow despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary, love wins.

[1] See this article by David Briggs of the AP about Paul Maier, “Bible Scholar from WMU says the 2,000th anniversary of Christ’s birth likely was last year,” Sat. Jan. 11, 1997, The Grand Rapids Press

[1] A common litany that is part of the liturgy in mainline Protestant denominations.


Bonus – here’s a lovely Progressive Christian Prayer for the New Year – 2012.

May it be so. Amen.


Roger Wolsey is the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity. He blogs for Elephant Journal, Huffington Post, and Patheos. He’s an active member of The Christian Left Facebook page. He plans on falling in love, struggling with love, and growing in love in 2012. He’s probably right.

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