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The Times
  • Charita Goshay: Mayan calendar just the latest ‘doomsday’ sign

  • Dec. 21 at 11:11 a.m. marks “The End of the World.” At least, that’s what some folks fear.

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  • Dec. 21 at 11:11 a.m. marks “The End of the World.” At least, that’s what some folks fear.
    A few years ago, the world was fascinated by the discovery of an ancient Mayan “long count” calendar that is being interpreted by some to suggest that a worldwide, cataclysmic event could occur.
    The Rev. Leah Shafer, senior pastor at St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church in Lake Township, Ohio, says “doomsday” is nothing new.
    “Christians and others have been predicting ‘end times’ stuff for centuries,” she said.
    “We read in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus is going to return. I think we need to take the belief in Jesus’ return very seriously. But what we also need to take  just as seriously is where Jesus said, ‘As for the day or the hour, no one knows. Only God the Father knows.’ In other words, Jesus is coming. But exactly when, we cannot know.”
    In 2011, Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted the world would end on May 21, prompting some frightened people to sell their possessions and quit their jobs. His error added to the list of previously wrong predictions he made about the world’s end.
    Why the fascination with doomsday?
    “I haven’t the foggiest idea,” said John Harkness, an adjunct professor of sociology at Kent State University’s Stark campus.
    “In Christianity, we’ve had a lot of these periods, particularly  in the 19th and 20th centuries. What’s interesting about the Mayan calendar is, it isn’t one of the faiths people are familiar with.”
    Harkness noted the Maya measured their centuries in 394-year periods called b’ak’tuns —and used two calendars, including one for sacred events. The calendar in question, he stressed, only marks the end of one century, “to be followed by another.”
    Harkness said he suspects the real source of speculation stems from the 2009 doomsday film, “2012.”
    “Of course, they aren’t going to say ‘We’re basing this on nothing,’ ” he said, laughing. “Why people are fascinated by these things, I honestly do not know.”
    “I think it’s because we’re fallen creatures,” said the Rev. Dwight Mason, senior pastor of NewPointe Community Church, which has campuses in Dover, Millersburg and Jackson Township, Ohio.
    “Is it easier to be negative or to be positive? It (doomsday) fights against the very fact that God is good; God is loving and kind. The Bible says Satan is the accuser of the brethren, that he is the father of lies. God has not given us the spirit of fear. All of these things go against the very nature of God.”
    “Why are people afraid? I think some people, even people of strong faith  — whatever their belief system may be — fear death, the unknown,” Shafer said. “I think some people are worried that if the Mayan calendar is correct, then their Christianity may be wrong.  Personally, if there is a divine ending of the world as we know it , as opposed to humans destroying creation, I will have no effect on such an ending, so I do not spend time worrying about it.
    Page 2 of 3 -  “I spend more time reading articles on steps my church building can take to be ‘more green’ or better stewards of the world than I do on anything having to do with end-time predictions.”
    Each major religion has its own beliefs about the world’s end. In Islam, it is referred to as “The Hour,” the time when Jesus will return to Damascus and destroy the Antichrist. Jesus then will die a natural death, ushering the era leading up to The Hour.
    Hindus believe that the god Vishnu will incarnate for the last time, as “Kulki,” a being who rides a white horse, and who will wield a sword to destroy evil.
    Many Christians believe the world’s end is detailed in Book of Revelation in the New Testament. Many believe the end will be preceded by Jesus’ return for his church, and that “Armageddon,” the final battle between God and Satan, will usher in a “great tribulation.” Evangelicals Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins sold millions of copies of their 16-volume “Left Behind” series, based on Armageddon.
    “I’m pan-tribulation; I think its all going to pan out,” Mason laughed. “I’m not convinced (apostle) John was writing the Book of Revelation about the future. Can and does that stuff still happen? Without a doubt. But many people probably thought the end was afoot with Hitler, and during slavery and the Civil War age.”
    Mason said John likely was writing about his own era, “but that doesn’t sell books.”
    “My dad was a minister,” Harkness said. “I remember the Good Book saying no one knows the day or the hour. But it doesn’t seem to deter people very much.”
    “I like to say too many preachers want to try to scare the ‘hell’ out of people,” Mason said. “Is there a negative side of the Gospel? Absolutely.”
    He cites John 3:16 which states that non believers in Christ will perish but that believers will receive eternal life.
    “It’s sad to say the church has had a message of fear instead of love,” Mason said. “Fear only motivates you for so long. Love can motivate you for a lifetime.”
    Harkness said fascination with the future is a cross-cultural phenomenon.
    “I think we love — provided it’s good — to know what the future holds,” he said.
    He likens the latest doomsday predictions to those offered by psychics, “who miss on almost all of them, but nobody ever goes back and looks at the failed ones.’ ” Mason said his job is to help show people “how do we live in this day and age?”
    “I’m not into scaring people because if you scare them, you have to keep scaring them,” he explained. “The greatest motivating factor on earth is love. We try to be a church of grace and truth. Jesus did not try to balance the two. He was full of grace and full of truth. It’s not about doomsday but hope.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Contact Charita Goshay at charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.

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