Doom in 2012 is the last thing we need
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Three days into 2012 and I'm already losing faith in the destructive power of the Mayan calendar.
Wasn't it only two or three years ago that books predicting apocalyptic events for Dec. 21, 2012, were staples of bookstore display tables? We were doomed, they insisted.
Now, most bookstores in America are gone and the predictions of imminent apocalypse are muted. What happened? Why is it that hardly anyone bothers to mention that this is supposed to be the last year of human history, according to a particularly bleak interpretation of the Mayan calendar?
A casual Google of the topic reveals that New Age "scholars" and doomsday prophets have already begun walking back some of the more lurid predictions of world destruction from a few years ago. Some of these folks have decided that contrary to earlier accounts, it would be better to be taken seriously on Dec. 22 and beyond should the Mayan apocalypse fail to materialize.
The Discovery Channel and Hollywood responded to the original fear and hype swirling around the claims about the Mayan calendar with bad documentaries and even worse movies.
Admittedly, the belief that a 5,000-year galactic cycle would end with Earth's collision with a rogue planet or a black hole seemed to be in vogue for only a short time. Among my network of friends and acquaintances, I can only think of two people offhand who believe any of it. Most people probably don't know anyone who gives it a second thought.
In the end, the doomsday predictions of the Mayan calendar are probably too esoteric for even Americans with a superstitious bent to grasp. It requires a working knowledge of very exotic Mesoamerican math and hieroglyphics to fully appreciate.
Still, I find it interesting that in this Internet age, no one, including the old-fashioned religious bunko artists who once dominated the American scene, find it easy to deal with a reputation as a failed prophet.
Last year, Family Radio's Harold Camping predicted that the end of the world would occur -- twice. Those failed prophecies were a follow-up to his failed 1994 prediction that the End of Days was at hand. Now, Mr. Camping is so "embarrassed" that the Rapture failed to materialize that he has resigned from his lucrative ministry in something resembling shame.
After two brutal rounds of much-deserved ridicule in 2011, it was clear that Mr. Camping would gladly settle for lack of name recognition rather than the notoriety that will surely follow him to his grave. When Jesus and the Antichrist failed to check in for the battle of Armageddon last year, Mr. Camping had officially become a three-time loser.
This is mortifying, because his radio ministry raised more than $100 million over the years hawking his peculiar eschatological views, making it among the worst investments of gullible "Christian" dollars ever. Had Mr. Camping been a resident of ancient Israel, he would have been dragged to the gates of Jerusalem for a proper stoning for divination and false prophecy. It wouldn't have taken three failed prophecies to ice him, either.
Ancient Israel's zero tolerance for bad predictions looks quaint, especially during our own protracted political seasons built upon wild guesses, lies, broken promises and exaggerations.
Though no one relishes being wrong, there's no sanction for consistent failure among Mr. Camping's secular equivalents in the media. Usually, hunched shoulders and a sheepish "our bad" passes for the recognition of failed prophecy among the high-paid priesthood of the Washington press corps. News organizations make obscene amounts of money never being right about anything.
Today, Iowans may or may not determine who will lead the Republican Party into battle against President Barack Obama in November. The conventional wisdom is that today's caucus is a three-way horse race between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
On the basis of such confident guessing, I wouldn't be shocked if one of the lower-polling contestants pulls an upset just to prove the analysts wrong. It has been that kind of year.
Still, I refuse to believe Rick Santorum has a serious shot at becoming president of the United States. The universe is not that random or absurd. If Mr. Santorum wins the Republican nomination and the presidency in November, I'll be praying for Earth's rendezvous with the rogue planet Nibiru on Dec. 21, just like every other Democrat.
First Published January 3, 2012 12:00 am