Published in the December 19, 2012 edition of the Ventura County Star
Seems to me, news-wise, the Mayan Calendar Doomsday prophesy pales in comparison to "And now the Pope will tweet."
I don't know about you, but I just invested in 100 Forever postage stamps. Yet Ron Hubbard, whose Montebello, California-based Atlas Survival Shelters business is booming, told ABC News, "I don't have an opinion on the Mayan calendar. But, when astrophysicists come to me, buy my shelters and tell me to be prepared for solar flares, radiation, EMPs…I'm going underground on the 19th and coming out on the 23rd. It's just in case anybody's right."
Will the world end, as poet T.S. Eliot once foretold, with a whimper instead of a big bang? Theories continue to abound. The hypothesis unswervingly linked to the Mayan Calendar is an ancient Sumerian claim that the planet Nibiru will collide with Earth on Friday. Other scenarios attribute Armageddon to solar storms,planetary alignment, polar shift, or a meteor strike.
So great has been the 12/21/12 Doomsday hype, it's provided full employment for such Mayanologists as Tomas Gallareta, Arcadio Pveda Ricale, Marte Trejo and Leonzo Barreno. The unanimous consensus of these academic experts, who have been making the rounds on the mainstream media, is that all the hoopla boils down to a glaringly false interpretation of the Mayan calendar. Just as the Gregorian calendar begins again on January 1---another long-count period starts for the Mayan calendar on December 22nd.
Even NASA was recently moved to debunk rumors of an impending Judgment Day on its website. “The world will not end in 2012,” insists NASA. “Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”
But you've got to love Prime Minister Julia Gillard, tongue firmly planted in her Australian cheek, as she announced, "Whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell-beasts or the total triumph of K-Pop, if you know one thing about me, it is this: I will alwaysfight for you to the very end."
Eighty-five year old Pope Benedict XVI has yet to weigh in on the Mayan Calendar controversy---at least on Twitter. The Vicar of Christ, however, made history last Wednesday while employing the handle @Pontifex---meaning "bridge builder" in Latin---when he tweeted from his iPad for the first time.
Within hours, his number of Twitter followers had comfortably exceeded one million---with more than 800,000 receiving his blessing in English alone. The Bishop of Rome's tweets, ironically reversing the objective of the Biblical Tower of Babel, will be simultaneously transmitted into eight (Arabic, French, English, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish) different languages---with more languages to come.
As out of place as it may seem for a successor to St. Peter---who delivered the Gospel on foot---to establish a presence on Twitter, Vatican officials make the case that His Holiness is merely walking in the footsteps of those predecessors who chose to employ the latest communication technology to spread the word of God.
Pope Pius XI, for example, prompted a similar dust-up when he, eight decades ago, launched Vatican Radio. Don't forget that the Holy City now boasts its own newspaper, television service, dedicated YouTube channels and a news portal on the World Wide Web.
If you have a theological question, you can gain access to Pope Benedict's personal account via the hashtag #askpontifex. My question is directed to the Vatican instead: Is Benedict actually "the coolest Pope in history" or will his Twitter followers, in reality, be communicating with some low-level press office employee? Officials have already admitted that an unnamed scribe in the Vatican's secretariat of state will type the tweets on His Holiness’s behalf. But they have insisted that the words will be his alone---culled from his speeches, homilies or catechism lessons.
The Twitterati couldn't wait to respond to the papal postings last Wednesday. Some, such as Jared Keller's "@Pontifex tweets from a tablet? Big deal: Moses had two," were meant to amuse; while a shocking number were intended to abuse---including some unnecessarily malicious ad hominem attacks with respect to pedophile priests, condoms, gay marriage and the role of women in the Church.
His Eminence will neither follow anybody on Twitter (not even @jesus) nor retweet messages. While Pope Benedict's 140-character tweets, as with any other communication by the pontiff, will be considered part of the Church's teachings, they will not, according to Vatican sources, be considered infallible.
Given the way "autocorrect" garbles my words, only God knows what sort of heresy the Pope's iPad might actually end up spitting out into cyberspace. See this site for some spectacularly embarrassing possibilities.
Autocorrect and @Pontifex. A combo that could, indeed, spell the end of the world.