Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION:  I keep hearing about 2012 predictions. Is there anything to be concerned about? It seems like there are several different versions of what the outcome is supposed to be, including ascension of those who deserve to ascend into Heaven. I don’t know what to think or believe and would appreciate some enlightenment on this subject.
 – Puzzled Reader

Dear Puzzled,
Always be suspicious of “predictions,” especially if they are supposedly “religious” predictions. Nobody knows the future, and if anybody tells you that such-and-such is predicted in the Bible, run as fast as you can the other way! Remember the worry about Y2K as we approached the year 2000 as 1999 came to a close? There were all kinds of wackos coming out of the woodwork, predicting this, predicting that. Did any of those predictions come through?

Maybe. But nothing earth-shattering happened. The “rapture” didn’t occur (nor will it in 2013, in my opinion). The sad truth is that throughout Christian history, sincere but misguided folk have expected the world to end and it didn’t. As the year 999 came to a close and the year 1000 approached, some poor Christians went up on some mountaintop expecting God to take them away into Heaven. Didn’t happen then, and it didn’t happen at the end of 1999.

Some are worried right now about the so-called “fiscal cliff” that is approaching. While bad things may happen if our lawmakers don’t strike an agreement, relax. You’ll get through it. You may have to pay more taxes (which is doubtful, in my book), but again, the world is not going to end if the president and congress don’t reach an agreement before Jan. 1. Jesus says that we should let each day’s troubles be sufficient unto themselves.

So don’t worry about what you are to eat or what you are to wear. God takes care of the sparrows and the lilies of the field. Aren’t we of much more value than birds and plants (Matthew 6: 25-34)? So trust in the Lord, and not in those who make their living by trying to freak you out with tabloid “predictions.” As that song in “Annie” says, the sun will come out tomorrow … and the day after that and the day after that and the month after that and the year after that, et cetera. Those who predict things don’t rule the world; the Lord of Hosts does!

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church

Dear Puzzled Reader,
The Mayan calendar was written before leap years were created, so technically if it was going to be the end of the world – it already would have happened.

There are two things to consider with this question: the historical and the theological.

On Dec. 21, 2012, the Mayan Long Count calendar runs out. Bottom line. This Long Count calendar began on Aug. 11, 3114 B.C. It is considered the dawn of the last creation period (National Geographic). So on Dec. 22, 2012, this calendar will simply cycle again and begin at Day Zero. This design of renewing time is very similar to us renewing on New Year’s Day.

Another school of thought is that this calendar was written before Caesar created Leap years in 45 BC. If we take into account the extra days this created every four years, the end of the world would have ended months ago.

Then there is the Christian point of view, which I am guessing is important to you since you wrote in to this column. The Bible is very clear that no man knows the date or the time (I Thessalonians 5:1).

So unless historians and theologians are completely wrong, the world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012. My educated guess is that you have nothing to worry about.

Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT
Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, Inc.

QUESTION: We are a group of friends (college age) who represent the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judiasm, Islam and Christianity and one who is a Buddhist. We all get along great and often discuss our religions. We’ve found common ground among the teachings of these faiths and are wondering why these religions on a world scale can’t get along? We believe peace is possible, but it seems not everyone in some parts of the world would agree and choose to continue conflict.

What is it going to take for religions of the world to work together for world peace?
– Modern Day Peace-niks

Dear Peace-niks,
First of all, you are correct – it is possible to find common ground and connect among people of different religions. If fact, some of us find it exhilarating. As the great rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “our God is either the God of all or the God of none.” We Jews believe that any way to God can be a good way, as long as the idea is a way to the things we hold as exemplary in common like love, friendship, honesty and the feeling that all human beings deserve a chance in life.

There are those in this world who are angry and see all of their problems as coming from some situation they are in. The idea of blame is so primal, even though it doesn’t get you very far. There are those who insist on living in this hell of fundamentalism, where logic goes out the window and only the latest affront and/or tragedy is allowed to drive what is thought of as how we must proceed. Wherever there is fundamentalism, in any tradition, there is danger. When certain principles are seen as more important than being kind and living in peace, there will be war every time. Change will take a great many people with the perspective to see the beauty of community, the richness of diversity and the satisfaction that comes from reaching out to find and include friends everywhere you go.

Your friends are on the right path. Continue to know and love all good people of all origins and all religions. Reach out your hand to others and bring out the view of how much greater life will be if there is a critical mass of those of us who will look past differences to find the complex and beautiful soul within each human being no matter what tradition s/he comes from.

Rabbi Janet Bieber WEB
Rabbi Janet Bieber

Jewish Community & Learning Center of the Foothills

Dear Modern Day Peace-niks,
It is wonderful that your group of friends has the ability to be accepting of each other’s faiths. As you have shared, you and your friends have discovered some commonality between your faiths. This, combined with your tolerance of the differences within those faiths, allows for a mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and faith. Unfortunately not everyone wants to agree or support a faith or beliefs that are not their own. Sometimes people of certain beliefs and faith want to assure that their faith and beliefs are not altered or convoluted with different faith or beliefs which leads to not being accepting of other peoples beliefs and faith.

There actually are organizations working towards bringing world faiths together for the purpose of world peace. One of the challenges in making progress in this noble endeavor is the political strongholds uninfluenced by faith that seek discord to advance their own agendas. Your friend who practices Judaism will tell you his/her faith is hated around the world and finds it increasingly difficult to find friends to the people of his/her faith. All accounts report anti-Semitism on the rise worldwide. Islam extremists, who do not represent the majority of Muslims, misrepresent their faith as being non- accepting of other faiths across the world, even to the point of violence towards a person or persons specifically because they have a faith other than Islam. Simply put, there are people of faith who do not want peace.

What is it going to take for the worlds’ religions to work together for world peace? Faithfulness to being unified for this cause, tenacity of spirit enduring the painstaking progress and lack thereof in this cause, diligence in educating emerging generations for this cause, forging sustained collaborative efforts between all faiths for this cause and what most would agree in belief, that a miracle occurs in the human spirit globally to raise up, establish and protect this cause of World Peace.

You probably know you are a catalyst for these things in the continued conversations you and your friends have with others outside your group.  Your conversations will lead others to the discovery therein that the majority of people on this earth want what you want: Peace. My prayer is that your voices will be heard to the point of transforming peace around the world.
Peace on Earth,

Mark Yeager, Senior Pastor
Verdugo Hills Church
Senior Chaplain
Director, Chaplain Services
YMCA of the Foothills