by Jordan Green




Let’s get this out of the way: Rumors that the world is going to end on Dec. 21 because of the end of the Mayan calendar are nonsense. Do cataclysms, fires and plagues break out at midnight on Dec. 31 because of the end of our calendar? No, we wake up with massive hangovers on Jan. 1 and resolve to make a trip to Staples to pick up our Daytimer for the new year.


We might as well go back to the early Christians, who thought the end of the world was imminent after their savior was crucified. So unconcerned was the apostle Paul with preparing for a terrestrial future that he told the Corinthians: “I wish that all of you were as I am.” By that, he meant unmarried and celibate, although he conceded that married people should remain married and have sexual relations with each other so as not to be consumed with burning passions. But Paul’s ultimate message was this: “For this world in its present form is passing away.”


The Texas cult leader grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which UNC Charlotte religious studies professor David Tabor describes as “part of the Millerite movement, which is from the 1830s and forties, an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world movement.” Tabor says in a PBS Frontline article that Koresh believed he was the seventh and final messenger and that he was going to bring the final revelation. But everyone knows that the end of times will take place in Jerusalem, so Koresh must have been surprised when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms laid siege to the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco.


Jim Jones, the charismatic religious leader with left-leaning politics, tainted the Kool-Aid brand forever when he ordered more than 900 followers in Guyana to drink cyanide-laced grape-flavored Kool-Aid in 1978. Saying that someone “drank the Kool-Aid” is such a cliché that people no longer even think about Jim Jones and mass suicide when they hear it.


Mixing Christian doctrine of salvation and apocalypse with science-fiction and Star Trek fantasies, the Heaven’s Gate cult believed that a UFO was trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, and that if they committed suicide their souls could board the craft and be taken to another realm. The bodies of 39 members, including founder Marshall Applewhite, were found decomposed in a gated community near San Diego in March 1997. They were dressed identically in black shirts and sweatpants, brand new black-andwhite Nike Decades athletic shoes and armbands reading “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.”


I’m not even going to try to unravel the prophesies of Nostradamus, but Twirlit. com writer Charlotte Hannah posits that rapper Psy’s horse dance in the “Gangnam Style” video correlates with Nostradamus’s prediction, “From the calm morning, the end will come/ When of the dancing horse/ the number of circles will be 9.” Actually, Nostradamus never wrote that.


Founder Shoko Asahara drew on Nostradamus, the Book of Revelation and yoga to develop Aum Shinrikyo’s doctrine and declare himself “Christ.” As such, Asahara believed his mission was to take upon himself the sins of the world and absolve his followers for theirs. It seems totally logical, then, for the group to release sarin gas in the Tokyo subways system, which is what Aum Shinrikyo did in March 1995, resulting in the deaths of 13 people.


Failed musician Charles Manson drew his insights directly from the Beatles’ White Album, which he heard as the Fab Four recognizing that he, Manson, was Jesus Christ. The White Album told Manson that he was being called to incite a race war. While blacks wiped out the white race, Manson and his followers would hide out in a secret city below Death Valley, and then would emerge in dune buggies to take their rightful place as rulers of the new world.


The deaths of about 800 people who were followers of Roman Catholic sect in a remote area of Uganda in March 2000 immediately brings to mind the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown. About 338 members died in an explosion at their church on March 17, 2000, and hundreds more bodies, apparently murdered, were found in mass graves over the ensuing weeks.


When the new millennium arrived on Jan. 1, 2000, many people were bracing for a breakdown in the communications and power grids, if not a full-scale apocalypse. My uncle, Alan, re-upped his first responder training, and my uncle, Ralph, crammed his refrigerator door with margarine. “Y2K,” he said by way of explanation, stifling a laugh that I took to be a subtle dig at Alan. Actually, I think there was a deal at Sam’s Club that week.