DAMN YOU MAYANS!!! THE WORLD ENDS ON FRIDAY!?! Oh…Wait…
Or is it…
I corrupt teach some teenagers at our church. During one of our recent youth group sessions, the conversation veered toward those Mayans and the end of the world. Then one of my kids, who is way smarter than I am in nearly everything, said, “The Mayans didn’t predict 2012 would be the end of the world. They predicted the end of an age.”
Well, I thought that was interesting, so I did some googling. Turns out my genius was right. Readthespirit.com (an awesome website, btw!) has a great quote from a book called “The Book of Destiny: Unlocking the Secrets of the Ancient Mayans and the Prophecy of 2012.” Mayan spokesman Carlos Barrios claims that any belief that the Mayans thought the world would end comes from misinterpreting their sacred texts.
Just as the world did not end in the year 2000 at the start of the new millennium, it won’t end with the advent of Job Ajaw (the new Mayan time cycle) in 2012. An unfounded fear was created before based the new millennium by religious leaders who based their theories on misguided interpretations of ancient religious texts and predictions made by famous prophets. The same fear is rising again. The true guardians of our tradition have never been consulted about this date, but we are here to say: December 21, 2012, will not be the end of the world or the end of humanity. In fact, it will be the start of a period in which harmony, understanding, peace and wisdom can reign.
Well, I immediately thought, “WHAT!?! Wait a minute…Religious leaders basing theories on misguided interpretations!?! How could that happen? As a Christian, I’ve never heard of such a thing…”
Then I thought I’d do some more serious research through Google and I came across my favorite website for all things information – Wikipedia. Wikipedia confirms Barrios’s statement, claiming that “Professional Mayanist scholars state that predictions of impending doom are not found in any of the extant classic Maya accounts, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar ‘ends’ in 2012 misrepresents Maya history and culture.” Then I read a website about the Maya Taino Prophecy Initiative, which is led by Maya Elder Antonio Aj Ik and Taino Elder Miguel Sague. Their names sound pretty official, so I think we can trust them. Ik and Sague claim that “… the date of December 21, 2012 is nothing more than a general marker, a specific date that in fact indicates a whole era, an era of hope, an era of opportunity – the opportunity to reestablish a sense of community amongst all humans of this planet.”
Things got more interesting when I noticed that Wikipedia put their article under a series called “Eschatology.” That’s a fancy word that professional religious people should never use in public, or on the Internet. But when they do they’re just referring to the “last things” and the final destiny of all creation. If what we’ve learned about Mayan eschatology is true, then it actually has a lot in common with Christian eschatology. For the Mayans, we will have the opportunity to live into the last things and the final fate of all creation beginning this Friday. And what does the final fate of all creation look like for the Mayans? It’s not about a destructive end of the world, but about “harmony, understanding, peace and wisdom.”
That has a lot in common with Christian eschatology. But unfortunately, like the Mayans, there is a lot of misguided interpretation about Christian eschatology put forth by religious leaders. Think the “Left Behind Series.”
Wait. Don’t think about that series. Ever.
Basically the misunderstanding claims that the world is an evil place that we must escape, and good Christians will escape the world at the rapture. The early church asserted that claiming the world is an evil place that we must escape from was heretical. That idea is wrong because Genesis 1 is right when it states “It’s all good, man.” (Okay. That’s kind of a loose paraphrase, but that’s the point.) And so the earth is not an evil thing that God plans to destroy. Yes, there are problems that need to be redeemed, but not destroyed. So the Bible claims that the earth is destined to be redeemed and renewed by God. The New Testament book Revelation calls this the “new heaven and the new earth” where heaven and earth will be united as one forever. Jesus gives us the opportunity (a wink and a nod to the Mayans’ new age of opportunity starting Friday!) to live into the new heaven and new earth now. So you don’t have to wait for that opportunity until some distant future. Jesus and the Mayans invite us to participate in the eschatological new age of heaven and earth now.
One person who explores this from a Christian perspective is James Alison. He has a wonderful video series called The Forgiving Victim, where he talks about the resurrection of Jesus inaugurating the new creation of heaven and earth. Much like the Mayans, Jesus reveals this new way of life is not about destruction, but about participating in a new life of harmony, understanding, peace, wisdom, and forgiveness with God and one another.
So, calm down. Friday will come and go. But the opportunity to participate in the new creation of heaven and earth is here to stay.