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

Via Roger Wolsey
on Dec 30, 2011
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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.


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


17 Responses to “2012 is The End! It’s the Beginning! …Or it’s just another year.”

  1. William says:

    That sounds backwards; if Jesus was actually born around 5 BC, and we renumbered the years from there, shouldn't that mean that 2012 becomes 2017, not 2007?

  2. CynthiaBeard says:

    Thanks for reminding us that while numbers might be "fixed," what they represent isn't necessarily set in stone…and that it really doesn't matter all that much anyway.

  3. CynthiaBeard says:

    William, yeah, it took me a couple of minutes to think through this as well. Remember that BC numbers ascend as they get "older." So 5 BC was followed by 4 BC, then by 3 BC, etc. With that in mind:

    If 5 BC = 1 AD in the conversion from the older Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar, that means, mathematically, 1 – 5 = -4 (subtracting a larger negative integer from a smaller positive integer will result in a negative number). That's why dates in the Gregorian calendar would need to be subtracted by 4 in order to figure out date in the older Julian calendar.

    I hope that makes sense! It's hard to think through it without confusing myself.

  4. […] 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 […]

  5. […] Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has talked, worried and written about the end of time. […]

  6. Roger Wolsey says:

    ahem… Roger Wolsey here, the guy with the egg all over his face. While its true that the aforementioned monk screwed up., so. did. I. William is correct in his observation. As I stated, the new year that is about to fall upon us isn't actually 2012. However, I accidentally goofed when I said that we need to "subtract 4-6 years" in order to be correct. I meant to say that we need to "add 4-6 years." So, 2012 A.D. is actually 2016-18A.D. Which means… that the year 2012 already happened 4-6 years ago.

    This glitch on my part is rather ironic considering that I'm calling out that monk for his mistake. Oy. What puzzles me is that I was largely quoting from my book Kissing Fish (p. 235) where I stated things correctly; i.e., "…This also means that you need to add 4-6 years to whatever year it happens to be when you read this book; for example, if you read this book in 2011, it's actually 2015-2017!"

    For the life of me I can't figure out why I changed things up when I wrote this blog. It may be that "Mercury is in retrograde" or that the ghost of Dionysis Exiguus is haunting me and seeking to share the embarrassment of dating confusion. Wait a minute… "dating confusion" … I happen to have some experience with that. …. fodder for a new blog in the new year..

  7. CynthiaBeard says:

    Michael Bolton, in Office Space: "Okay! I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place or something. Shit! I always do that. I always mess up some mundane detail."

  8. Roger Wolsey says:

    Lol! Indeed. Or, as Homer Simpson so aptly put it, "Doh!"

  9. Suri says:

    " 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."
    Well that is a very silly generalization …and how is favoring the separation of church and state a bad thing? The separation of church and state is one of the pillars of democracy . The whole 2012 thing is a ridiculous hoax invented by a handfull of very ignorant people in the 70s. There is not one single respectable scientist or archeologist that agrees with it.

  10. Suri says:

    Forgot to say , progressive christians should favor the separation of church and state if they actually value living in a democratic society and if they value their freedom.

  11. CynthiaBeard says:

    I typically wouldn't feel comfortable speaking for another person, but I can say with absolute certainty that Roger (and most progressive Christians in general) favors the separation of church and state. His point was that the Mayans were theocratic, the Mayan calendar was tied to that theocracy, and therefore it's ironic that those who believe church and state should be separate would place faith in that particular calendar.

  12. SOFLY_Anna says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thank you for this great article (sharing on FB and google)! Who cares about the dates anyhow? I stopped celebrating New Years eve quite a few years ago…I feel like it's a miracle waking up every day. We are so wrapped up in planing for the future and thinking about the past so we forget to live in present moment.

    <a href="http://www.streamoflifeyoga.com” target=”_blank”>www.streamoflifeyoga.com

  13. Mary says:

    I love this article and I can't wait to buy the book, "Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity".

  14. […] 2012 is The End! It’s the Beginning! …Or it’s just another year. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  15. Cal Lamoreaux says:

    Amusing, but irrelevant. The Mayan calendar turns over THIS year, no matter whatever we choose to number/name it. And the illustration is an Aztec calendar. Nothing to do with the Mayans.

  16. rogerwolsey says:

    "If your world is ending, check your browser and remove any corrupted Mayan cookies." : )
    click here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=551880564