(Photo: Reuters/Tomas Bravo)
Theories about the Maya and their 2012 doomsday predictions are attracting more interest in visiting the group’s ancestral homelands.
Katie Valk, founder and director of Belize-Trips.com, said that Mayan ruins have always been a major attraction in Belize, but recent apocalypse theories have drawn them extra attention. Though she described such doomsday scenarios as "bunk," she said it still brings attention to Belize's rich cultural history under Mayan rule.
"I think there's going to be a lot of ink on this," said Valk to The Christian Post. "Right now the Maya make up about ten percent of Belize's population. I think this spotlight will be great for the country, and I'd just love to see some pride instilled in their forebears and what they accomplished."
"Maya would love to see more attention and respect for their old culture," Valk added. "I am forever humbled when I go to a Maya site and think of the accomplishments these people had in astronomy, numbers, medicine and infrastructure in those days."
Valk said she was an American who had since relocated to Belize City, Belize. Traveling to the nation in 1989 for a brief trip, she said she was taken aback by its natural beauty and active, diverse culture. She soon relocated, and has served Belize's tourism industry with Belize-Trips.com ever since.
"I'm originally from New York City so I traded Picassos for parrots," Valk shared. "It's such a small country that in the morning you can go diving on the largest barrier reef in the hemisphere and by the afternoon you can be on top of a Mayan pyramid. It's pretty amazing."
A key reason for the fascination with the Mayan ruins this year is connected to the Mayan timekeeping device that ends on Dec. 21 of this year, drawing to a close a 5,125-year cycle and coinciding perfectly with the winter solstice, the year's longest night. Some elements of popular culture have seen the calendar's end on that date as an apocalyptic prediction.
But James Beverley, a professor of Christian thought and ethics at Toronto's Tyndale University College & Seminary, said that apocalypse theories associated with the Maya were often misinformed New Age theories. More often than not, he continued, they lacked grounding in Mayan anthropology or religious studies. Most importantly, he concluded, they assume a future that's God’s alone to know.
"The Bible tells us that the world as we know it will end sometime, but Jesus also tells us that no one knows the hour," Beverley said. "So, the 2012 prediction deserves no respect, though people who truly believe this theory should be treated with love."
Kevin Lewis, a professor of theology and law at California's Biola University, said that most apocalyptic scenarios sprang from people's need for supernatural interaction. Beyond that, he added, many also wished to see evil exit the world but believe that only divine intervention can best achieve that end. Prophecies of any kind, he proposed, could threaten peoples' beliefs and lay bare their basest intentions.
"The problem is that when people get tired of hearing that the end of the world is coming and it doesn't, they may also get tired of their religion," Lewis said. "False prophecies like that can suck people in and strip them of their convictions. The Bible speaks out many times against false prophecy. Don't completely disregard these theories, but don't have an excessive, unhealthy interest in them either."
John Stonestreet, the national director of strategic partnerships for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said popular apocalyptic theories like Y2K, Harold Camping and 2012 all betray a deep longing for meaning in the universe. For Christians, it also creates new opportunities to talk about Christ's importance, even if they're not traveling to Mayan ruins too.
"People share in this common human experience of thinking about ultimate things," Stonestreet said. "These predictions are wrong, particularly for Harold Camping, who should've known better from the clear teaching in Scripture. Still, it provides a terrific opportunity for Christians to connect with non-believers on this level of thinking about time, eternity, and other ultimate things like justice and morality."