Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Faith Works 12-8

Faith Works 12-8-12

Jeff Gill


Apocalyptarama, in VistaVision!



You'd be surprised how much I don't want to write this column.


I've known for years, quite a few years, actually, that someday I would have to address this subject. I'm willing to talk about just about subject relating to faith and life, but sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and walk away.


But since my editorial commission in this space is to write and think broadly about how faith is at work in the lives of central Ohioans, I have no choice but to speak now, with very little time to spare, about a subject of great controversy.


What I mean is 12-21-2012.


You may know it as the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the solar year on Earth, when the sun rises the furthest south on your eastern horizon, crosses the sky the lowest it will go, and sets frighteningly early at the southern point of the western set-points.


After about Dec. 25 (the solstice, or "stand still of the sun" means the sun's rise point stays put for a few days, as opposed to moving a smidge every day as it does except at the Summer & Winter Solstices) our days will start getting imperceptibly longer again, and by the end of January you realize that dawn is indeed creeping earlier, and the light is a bit brighter even at noon.


But on this longest night, we're all feeling the weight of darkness and a bit of the ol' seasonal affective disorder. If you are dealing with trauma and sadness in your life, the joy all around you in the community can itself feel like a burden.


That's why some churches, my own Newark Central among them, hold a "Longest Night" service on or around Dec. 21 (ours is 7:00 pm that Friday night) for people who need a quieter, more solemn remembrance of the Christmas celebration.


What will get even more attention is not the annual solstice or services for the season, but The End of the World. Not "the end of the world," but The End of the World. The Mayans predicted it, right?


Actually, no. Aside from the fact that most of the gags you see online and in comics are based on the round Aztec calendar stone from Mexico City, the Mayan calendar probably, but not definitely, simply marks a change of eras on this date. Or it may be calling for that change somewhere around the year 30,012. Scholarly opinion differs.


There was a silly movie with planes flying under bridges and the Himalayas collapsing under the seas with the Mayans having accurately predicted the shift of tectonic plates tied to the flip of magnetic poles or something. Yes, the magnetic poles of this planet have flipped, and will flip again, but if it happened tomorrow, you would likely be disappointed . . . or pleased. I think. Anyhow, it's not clear how it would impact electronics, but it would make it hard for Boy Scouts learning map and compass, while affecting the crust of the planet not a whit.


I didn't comment on the movie then, and I've been avoiding the subject of 2012 all through . . . 2012. It's been a subject kicked around for literally decades, this Mayan apocalypse, and it has largely turned into a self-referential joke, which is all it deserves.


Some are taking it "seriously" in the sense of a prediction from a native, indigenous wisdom tradition that the solstice ending 2012 is a key time for a spiritual renewal and a need for us to respect life and our global ecosystem. You'll get no argument from me on that!


But when the agitated edges of the remaining anxious apocalypticism lead people to vandalize ancient artifacts in the name of "saving the planet" from technology or some other modern bugaboo, I hate to even condemn for fear of just adding fuel to the fire.


No, I don't think the world is ending on Dec. 21. Nor is Jesus returning on any date predicted by someone with a TV show and PO box, nor is the Number of the Beast telling me anything about how to live. What I do like is the punchline on the best Mayan apocalypse comic, which uses an image of the Aztec calendar, but has a carver saying "I only had enough room to go up to 2012."


His buddy answers "Ha! That'll freak someone out someday."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor; tell him your expectations of the world's end at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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