A return to the classics: reading Billy Graham’s mail

And being new into 2012, do you want one guess as to the content of this letter? If you guessed, “If the world’s really ending this year, does that mean Jesus is coming at last?” give yourself a cookie.

Q: Do you think Jesus will come again this year? I’ve heard people say that the world is going to come to an end in 2012, and I’ve wondered if maybe they have some inside knowledge about Jesus’ return. — Mrs. E.H.

Some credit to Graham for his answer, though. He reminds readers that the bible never specified a date. Then he blames interest in the Mayans for causing the whole “end is nigh” kerfluffle.

Most of the “predictions” claiming the world will come to an end in 2012 aren’t based on the Bible, but on a calendar from an ancient civilization that actually ended hundreds of years ago. Most experts deny that the calendar even says this — but if it did, why should we believe it instead of the Bible? Jesus warned, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven” (Mark 13:32).

I found an interesting article from 2010 noting research done at UC Santa Barbara about the Mayan calendar and the technique used to sync it up with our own Gregorian version. The people responsible may have gotten it wrong. Mayans excelled at astronomy, often using Venus as their point of reference, which allowed recent scholars to do the same.

Although GMT uses several sources of astronomical, archaeological and historical evidence to correlate the Long Count with our modern calendar, Aldana has cast doubt on the accuracy of some of the astronomical evidence interpreted from ancient Mayan artifacts and colonial texts.

One of the key events described by Aldana is a battle date as set by the ruler of Dos Pilas (a Maya site in the current geographical location of Guatemala). Ruler Balaj Chan K’awiil chose this date by the appearance of Chak Ek’. According to Johan Normark, researcher at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University, Chak Ek’ “used to be believed to be Venus but in another study Aldana believes it is a [meteor].”

The author of the piece explains that Gerardo Aldana estimates the “end date” might be 60 days off because of this and other discrepancies. It still doesn’t mean the world will end just because the Mayans didn’t count any higher, of course. There’s no reason to believe the bible’s selling a true upcoming world event, either. Smart of the writers at the time to not pick a definite date to throw in, though, unlike other doomsday authors.

Back to Billy:

Why is Jesus’ return important? For one thing, it gives us hope — hope that someday all the evils of our present world will come to an end, because Christ will rule in glory. It also assures us that God — not Satan — is in control, and someday (as the Lord’s Prayer says) His Kingdom will come, and His will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

He then asks if people are ready to accept Jesus, so we’ll skip that part.

Hope is good, but I think action is better. There are ways we could improve the world now. We wouldn’t have to wait for some future date when someone else might sort it out. If I may pull out a Terry Pratchett quote from one of my most favourite books, Hogfather:

“the phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.”

Which is my point. It’s a lot easier to sit there hoping Jesus will come down and sort it all out than it is to figure out ways to fix things now and get busy fixing it. I think people who look forward to Christ’s return aren’t necessarily the best people to leave in charge of things that need doing. I think people who do what they can to improve the world even if they think Christ will take over eventually have the right idea. People who do what they can to improve the world because they know there is no savior on the way are also on the right track. It doesn’t matter if Jesus comes tomorrow or he doesn’t. We have to live here now.

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