China Is Not Handling the Apocalypse or the "Female Jesus" Very Well

Everything will be fine. That hasn't kept a few on the fringe from panicking, though. In China, that also means panicking about the panickers.

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Dec 20 2012, 7:55pm

All around the world, people are preparing for rivers of fire, waves of blood, plagues of locusts and everything else that the Mayan apocalypse could entail. Or at least that's what the Internet would have you think. It's probably safe to say that the vast majority of people on this doomed little planet  are approaching 12/21/12 with a sobering sense of realism. The world is not going to end on Friday — just like it didn't end in the year 2000 — and NASA has the scientific evidence to prove it. Wired did a whole cover story. That hasn't kept a few on the fringe from panicking, though. In China, that also means panicking about the panickers.

Specifically, we're talking about the quick and dirty persecution of a wacky sect of Christianity known as the Church of Almighty God or, more colloquially, Eastern Lightning (Dongfang Shandian (东方闪电). The group believes that the messiah has already returned to Earth as a Chinese woman. This female Jesus, along with long standing allegations of abusive, cultish behavior like kidnapping, along with China´s terrible fear of revolutionary religious movements, helps explain why, over the past few days, police in nine Chinese provinces have arrested over 1,000 members of Eastern Lightning for spreading fear and panic about the apocalypse. Provincial officials also posted a public notice deeming the Eastern Lightning "a social cancer and a plague on humankind." I see what you did with the "plague" metaphor there, China.

A map of the provinces where Eastern Lightning members have been detained in an apoclypse dragnet. 

The group is evidently pretty fixated on this end of the world threat thanks to the movie 2012 starring John Cusack. (So they're the ones who saw it!) "They are telling everyone that on Friday the sun will rise in the west and then disappear for three days and then there will be 72 days of terrible natural disasters starting from January 1, 2013," one former cult member told the Financial Times. (That's not what happened in the movie but whatever.) The former cult member continued, "They’ve also told all members to withdraw their money from the bank in preparation for the end of the world."

While the Communist party has labelled the group as an "evil cult," others have been working on their own, less culty doomsday prepping. A series of reports from China say that stores are selling out of essentials and people are flocking to opportunistic entrepreneurs who have set up bomb shelter businesses. One Beijing office worker has built a bunker in the side of the mountain and is charging $8,000 a head for people that want to take cover there. Another businessman in Zhejiang is building giant concrete and fiberglass orbs that can hold up to nine people that will float in the event of a tsunami or flood. Stocked with supplies, seat belts, solar panels and oxygen tanks, the passengers can survive inside for months and use the onboard motor for a little bit of post-apocalytpic touring. The Soviet-looking arks cost about $800,000 a piece.

Speaking of the Soviets, the attitude is a little bit different up in Russia. People aren't entirely unconvinced that the end of the world is coming, but they're maintaining a pretty good attitude about it — which is to say they're not arresting thousands of people. Some are loading up on tinned food, fuel, matches and vodka, though all of these things will be handy during the frigid Russian winter. Others are taking a more light-hearted approach. Various shops are selling little supply kits as a joke, and party planners are taking advantage of the country's deserted Cold War-era bunkers to throw some ragers. One in southwestern Moscow is billed as a "survival event" which, if the end of the world does come, is a relative bargain for just $1,000 per person. If you really want to celebrate the apocalypse like a Russian, though, you can go next door for an all-you-can-drink bonanza for a cool $16,000. Half of that gets refunded in the event that the world doesn't end.

Lu Zhenhai´s apocalypse boat, which he plans to use to ride out flooding in China. (AFP-Getty)
A Cold War bunker in Moscow designed to protect Soviet leaders will host a doomsday party

President Putin, meanwhile, spent a few minutes out of his four hour long press conference yesterday (his first in four years) to say he's going to wait until the sun burns out before getting all upset about the end of days. 

Elsewhere in the world, the panic seems muted if not entirely isolated among zany fanatics. Some of them are flocking to Bugarach in France, for example, a small village of just 200 that the Internet says is the only safe place to hide during the apocalypse. There´s another mountain in Serbia, Mount Rtanj, that´s supposed to be a good place to hide. And if you´d like to survive in luxury, there´s always Vivos and its opulant underground bunker at an undisclosed location in Indiana.

If you're really serious about surviving, you might just head to the Vatican, though. They have a very reasonable and comforting attitude about this whole thing. There´s no mention of the female Jesus, but the front-page editorial on the Holy See´s daily newspaper read, simply, "The end is not nigh – at least for now."