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

The clocks are ticking and 2011 is about to end and it’s about to be 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. In the past 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 setting of 2011 and the rising 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 from 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 John I 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, i.e. when 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 folksabout 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 assertation 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.

[3] I’m reminded of the song Right here, Right now by the British alternative rock band Jesus Jones.  See:http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/jesus_jones/right_here_right_now.htmlhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z6dxQVhE8o

[4] Based on 1 Corinthians 9:24 and the Civil Rights era folk song, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. See also my description of this at http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_All_eyes_on_the_prize_definition

[5] Philippians 3:14


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 LeftFacebook page. He plans on falling in love, struggling with love, and growing in love in 2012. He’s probably right.


When Atheists Kill – (or when our assumptions go wild).
The Holy “Huh!”
Muslims for Lent? – True story.
Maundy Thursday, Footwashing, & Porn.
About Roger Wolsey

Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He's the author of "Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity."

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey
  • Larry Andrews

    I prefer “the beginning” position in this discussion.

  • Oliver

    Ummm… if Jesus was born around 4 BC, and 1996 marked the turning of two millennia… then surely the coming year actually marks 2016 years since His birth, and thus 2012 is long gone.

    Not that it matters, of course – the Maya made their calculations (which, contrary to popular opinion, do not involve anything apocalyptic) by their own Long Count calendar, which made no reference of any kind to Christ’s birth, ministry or death, and thus their timeframe still corresponds to what we now consider the year 2012.

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

      Oliver, it is confusing. 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.

  • http://www.progressivechristian Roger Wolsey

    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 the Dionysis Exiguus is haunting me and seeking to share the embarrassment of dating confusion. Wait a minute… “dating confusion” … I’m actually an expert at that. …. fodder for a new blog in the new year..

    • Cynthia Beard

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

      • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

        Exactly. Or as Homer Simpson so aptly put it, “Doh!”

  • http://www.placeoflight.net susan gale

    If you want to hear what the traditional Maya believe about all of this 2012 issue, listen to Wandering Wolf’s messages at http://www.shiftoftheages.com. You may be surprised! Also, the indigenous calendars are based on the 13 moons, not 12 months of the western world.

  • revrun71

    The thing is IMHO, marking time with calendars helps us keep track of stuff like history, appointments, upcoming events, etc but it’s still quite arbitrary where that calendar begins and ends. Interesting that there still seems to be some numerology going on today. Gregorian calendar, Mayan calendar, Chinese calendar – can we throw the Middle Earth calendar into the mix too? Just kidding really. I do like how you begin defining progressive Christianity with emphasis on the present versus the future reward. Personally, I think that’s part of the secret to living fully.

  • Tyjae

    i’ve been questioned with the whole “The End” situation, iam a christian myself and i do believe that christ is coming back soon. I feel as though noone really know’s when he will return but this article is making alot of sense. If im not mistaking i’m guessing that you are saying the world will end in 2015-2017 or so. What made you come up with this ? What inspired you to do this ?

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

      Tyjae, no I wasn’t saying that. I think the world will likely end several billion years from now via the Sun going super-nova. See: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,332429,00.html

      Regarding Jesus’ return, I believe that Jesus returns every day; i.e., in the many moments when wronged people forgive those who wronged them; when offenders repent and make amends; when justice is rendered; when mercy is extended; when compassion is offered; when the excluded are included; and when the unlovable are loved unconditionally.

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