Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

December 18, 2012

Latest end times fad on the horizon

Bart Doan
CNHI

— If you don’t get your copy of the Hendricks County Flyer Saturday morning, it might mean the Mayans were right. The latest, greatest end times craze will hit its crescendo Dec. 21 when the much talked about Mayan Long Count Calendar comes to an assumed end, which some believe will bring an end of the world.

End times discussions and supposed events span generations as far back as humanity can track, but few have gained the national pulse that has even the United States government and NASA releasing statements assuring Americans that the end of the world is not upon us.

Mark Wingler, pastor at the Journey Church in Brownsburg, says waiting for the end of the world is somewhat of a fruitless endeavor since we don’t really know when it will happen. Still, he said his congregation has shown interest.

“Obviously we know what the Bible says, that nobody knows the day or the hour, so from that standpoint, it’s hard to believe the Mayans from many, many years ago would have any insight into it because time is an invention of man,” he said.

Wingler said part of the fascination comes from the difficulty people have with facing their own mortality.

“I do think that’s part of it,” he said. “I remember there was a pamphlet put out, 88 reasons the world was going to end in 1988. Then you had (Harold Camping) come out and said the world was going to end twice. Psycologically, people want to be in control, they want to have a plan. I think the end of the world is more comforting because they feel like they can plan that there’s going to be an end of it.”

David Craig, a religious studies professor at IUPUI, also said that while end times predictions have been going on nearly forever, the Mayan Calendar theory appeals to a wider audience.

“We’ve seen many instances over the years with Christian inspired prophesy that there was an exact date the world was going to end. I think there have been a number of subsequent groups that have predicted when the world was going to end, but to my recollection, they’ve mostly been Christian inspired dates and this one isn’t.

“It has a bit of a novel quality that speaks to new agers. It plugs into kind of that new authentic truth that’s different from institutionalized religion. I think also because it’s connected to the whole mythology of the five ages and this is the fifth age, it has that ancient quality to it.”

While Wingler has had people ask him about the validity of the Mayan calendar, Craig said for the most part, his students haven’t approached the topic much. Still, he said that this end times phase is much more prominent than the Y2K theories around the turn of the century.

“This one’s definitely bigger,” he said. “People are much more plugged into this one. The other angle I’d add is that there’s a kind of astrological dimension to the prophesy as well. I think it appeals to many seekers, which is a term that tends to get applied to people that don’t want to be hemmed into any institutionalized religion but try to cobble elements of different faiths together that fit them.”

Wingler said there’s another twist to the theory’s popularity.

“I think because of the mystery of the Mayans, the fact that they had advancements that frankly, we can’t explain,” he said. “There are all kinds of different theories about where they gained their knowledge, the mysticism of who they were, and the fact that their calendar had an end.”

So what advice does Wingler give to those who seek counsel on the end times?

“My answer has been that we should prepare ourselves like the end is coming tomorrow, but live like we’ll be around forever,” he said. “We don’t know if a man is going to walk into a store with a gun and shoot us, or if we’re going to die peacefully in our old age. I think that’s why it’s so intriguing to people because everyone wants to have that leg up on when the end is coming.”

Craig said he used to teach a creation story from Mayan myth.

“It was about the creation of the world in the fifth age and the story about all these deities hovering in the dark and sacrificing a human being, and this was the beginning of the new age, and I think those kinds of stories really speak to people,” he said.

But it’s business as usual for most people. Craig is already thinking about the upcoming semester, and Wingler won’t be altering his traditions to cater to any calendar.

“Friday night is pizza night,” he laughed. “I will not deviate from pizza night. I prepare my sermons on Tuesday mornings and I’ll have that ready for Sunday, and I’d invite all the survivors to meet me at church at 10 a.m. As a side note, there are presents under the tree.”.com.