Archaeologists have revealed the calendar terminates on 12/21/12, providing a field day for numerologists and conspiracy theorists.
“The Mayan calendar doesn’t predict the apocalypse,” said Edwin Faughn, managing director of Rainwater Observatory & Planetarium in French Camp. “It just ends. At best, the Mayan calendar simply ends a cycle and starts a new one, just like your desk calendar at work.”
The 12/21 doomsday may lack the panic and fanaticism that characterized the year 2000’s Y2K scare, but the end times still raise some serious questions when viewed through a religious lens. “What will the end of the world look like?” “What will it mean?” “When will it happen?” “Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?”
In the Christian religion, the apocalypse is explained in the Bible’s final book, the book of Revelation. According to the faith, the book is a prophecy revealed to the apostle John, at the time residing in exile on the island of Patmos. John writes down his vision, a narration of the world’s end.
The Rev. Will Rogers, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Tupelo, said Revelation is one of the few “apocalyptic passages” in the Bible.
“Revelation really has two parts,” Rogers said. “The first part – John’s vision – is very sensational and vivid, full of terror, violence and fire. Naturally, it gets more attention than the second part, which tells the victory of good over evil.”
Indeed, Revelation plays well to the imagination, describing creatures with “six wings and covered with eyes all around,” (Revelation 4:8) and harrowing tribulations for mankind.
Some take its descriptions literally, others historically, others allegorically.
“No matter what, the point is situations will happen, but we will overcome,” Rogers said, recalling his boyhood during the Vietnam war. “My classmates got drafted left and right. The war was like a wall we couldn’t see past, but faith carried us through.”
The Rev. David Eldridge, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo, said Christians should keep in mind the apocalypse of Revelation is ultimately a victory.
“It was written as a message of hope to persecuted churches,” Eldridge said. “The vision itself tells that God’s original intention in Eden comes to fruition. God wins.”
As far as the particulars of when and where, Eldridge doesn’t claim to know. For the time being, he said, Christians should be faithful in their work.
“We’re called to live in the light of Christ’s first coming, to stay mindful and attentive to opportunities for good,” he said.
Halim Boumedjirek, who helped found the Islamic Center of Tupelo, said Islam’s vision of the apocalypse is nearly identical to Christianity’s.
“If you compare the Koran’s portrayal to the Bible’s, they line up almost perfectly,” Boumedjirek said. “In both, the exact time is left open, but there are signs and conditions that, when fulfilled, will bring about judgment day.”
He said a deceitful man will emerge, a man with some powers to make people believe he is God. Islam says that Jesus will return to overcome this man in a final victory of good over evil.
As far as 12/21/12 is concerned, Boumedjirek seemed unworried.
“We are just humans. If we cannot predict an earthquake, or even when one person will die, how can you say ‘the whole world will end on this day?’ Even the men closest to God – Jesus, Muhammad, prophets – they didn’t know,” he said. “People who try to predict the end of the world are trying to understand the universe without the help of God. To understand, there are certain things a person must accept, and some of those things are spiritual.”
For the day to day of the religious faithful, Boumedjirek echoed Eldridge, saying that when the end does come to call, it should find Muslims working.
“When you get up in the morning, it might be your last. Your life is the space you are given to do good.”
Unlike Christianity and Islam, Sikhism views the universe as an endlessly renewing cycle.
“Sikhism doesn’t have a deadline for the end of the world,” said Gurjot Singh, a Sikh working toward his Ph.D. in computer science at Mississippi State University. “It is like the life cycle. When a person dies, they are reincarnated, going through life again and again until their spirit is balanced.”
Singh said Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – differ from religions like Sikhism and Buddhism in the way they view the universe. Abrahamic religions see it as a creation of God, something that was made by God but still apart from him. Sikhism believes the universe to be literally a part of God.
“The universe is part of God’s consciousness,” Singh said. “Every human being is part of God.”
Even from a scientific standpoint, Singh said the universe is destined to begin again.
“Scientifically speaking, if everything that exists now is the product of a big bang, even if the momentum from that bang ran out, the universe would be like it was before the bang, waiting for the next bang to happen,” he said.