New Religious Movements: New Religious Movements and Millennialism
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
The religious patterns that scholars term millennialism or millenarianism are noteworthy among new religious movements (NRMs). While many NRMs are not oriented toward a millennial outlook, millennialism is often found in the early stages of a religion. A millennial worldview is well suited to motivating people to convert to completely new religions, accept the spiritual guidance of new teachers, and build new communities. The millennial expectation of an imminent transition to a new order of existence represents a rejection of the status quo, thereby putting millennialists in tension with mainstream society; tension with society also characterizes new religious movements in general. Millennialists are often not involved in violence, but in some significant cases millennialists become caught up in dynamics leading to violence: they may initiate violent acts or be assaulted by opponents in the dominant society. While the term millennialism is derived from Christianity, millennial religious patterns can be found in diverse religious traditions in many times and places.
The terms millennialism or millenarianism come from millennium, meaning one thousand years. These terms originate in Christianity with the statement in the New Testament Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) that the rule of Christ on earth will last one thousand years (Rev. 20:1–4). Scholars now apply the terms to several common religious patterns found in many religions.
Based on his study of medieval Christian revolutionary millennial movements, Norman Cohn defined millennialism as expecting a salvation that is:
(a) collective, in the sense that it is to be enjoyed by the faithful as a collectivity; (b) terrestrial, in the sense that it is to be realized on this earth and not in some other-worldly heaven; (c) imminent, in the sense that it is to come both soon and suddenly; (d) total, in the sense that it is utterly to transform life on earth, so that the new dispensation will be no mere improvement on the present but perfect itself; (e) miraculous, in the sense that it is to be accomplished by, or with the help of, supernatural agencies. (Cohn, 1970, Introduction)
The study of new religious movements reveals the need to modify this definition of millennialism in several ways to make it more accurately descriptive. Many millennialists expect a heavenly collective salvation, and many believe in agencies that should more accurately be called "superhuman," which includes the supernatural.
While many millennialists are expecting an earthly collective salvation, many others are expecting a heavenly collective salvation, or both. If the earthly collective salvation is utterly disproved, then it is easy for millennialists to shift to pinning their hopes on a heavenly salvation. This was the case with the Solar Temple, which committed group murders and suicides in Switzerland, Quebec, and France in 1994, 1995, and 1997. When their hope for a transition to an earthly New Age was disproved, they undertook to make a "transit" to a heavenly salvation on another planet.
Heaven's Gate, which committed a group suicide near San Diego, California, in 1997, never expected an earthly salvation. The Heaven's Gate "class" members saw earthly human existence as irredeemable, they believed there would be imminent apocalyptic violence "to spade under" the human "plants" growing in this earthly "garden," and their goal was to "exit" their physical "vehicles" to attain a type of heavenly salvation on the "mother ship." They believed they would attain eternal, neuter extraterrestrial bodies, travel among the galaxies on flying saucers, and guide evolution on other planets.
Contemporary NRMs also demonstrate that many believers may no longer understand as being supernatural or miraculous the agencies causing the transition to the collective salvation. Increasingly in NRMs, extraterrestrials, space aliens, and UFOs are taking on the roles formerly attributed to God, Satan, angels, and devils. The similarity is that these are all superhuman beings who are normally unseen but are believed to contact certain people. For UFO millennialists, the transition to the collective salvation will take place according to natural laws and be influenced by superhuman agents.
Reflecting the results of NRM studies, millennialism is here defined as involving belief in an imminent transition to a collective salvation, either earthly or heavenly, accomplished by superhuman agencies. The collective salvation is understood as eliminating the unpleasant limitations of the human condition.
Millennial patterns can be called either catastrophic millennialism or progressive millennialism. Catastrophic millennialism expects a violent transition to the collective salvation. Progressive millennialism is characterized by a strong belief in progress, a confidence that things are getting better. These two patterns are not mutually exclusive; believers can shift from one to the other. Catastrophic millennialism seems most prevalent among people who feel persecuted, although the teachings of a religious tradition also promote these beliefs. Progressive millennialism reflects optimism about the future. The Holy Order of MANS, originating among 1960s hippies in California, is an example of an NRM that was initially oriented toward a progressive New Age millennialism but whose catastrophic millennial expectations increased when it experienced opposition from the anticult movement and as it adopted Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Conversely, an NRM that has catastrophic millennial ideas and is in opposition to society can put these ideas on the back burner and begin to highlight progressive millennial ideas as its members and organization feel more comfortable in society.
The majority of scholarly writings on millennialism are actually studies of catastrophic millennialism, or apocalypticism, because this type of millennialism is prone to dramatic episodes of failure: a predicted salvation event fails to occur, or sometimes the believers become involved in horrifying episodes of violence. Catastrophic millennialism, the belief in an imminent catastrophic transition to the collective salvation orchestrated by superhuman agencies, is very common in NRMs. Catastrophic millennialism has a pessimistic view of society and human beings; humans are so evil and corrupt that the old order must be destroyed so the new order can be created. A rigid dualistic outlook may be associated with catastrophic millennialism: things are seen in terms of good versus evil, which often translates into a sense of us versus them. Catastrophic millennialism expects, and may provoke, conflict. In the history of Christianity, this type of millennialism has been called "pre-millennialism" because the belief is that Christ will return first, destroy evil, resurrect the dead, judge everyone, and then create the millennial kingdom, either earthly or heavenly.
Catastrophic millennialism has the power to motivate people to convert to entirely new religions, even when there is social and familial opposition. Belief that the world will be destroyed very soon and that the only access to salvation is through this new religion provides a great incentive to disregard the stigma of joining the new group.
Religions that start out as catastrophic millennial movements may remain small, such as the Branch Davidians; they may achieve notable success in becoming international movements with millions of members, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); and a few may become diverse world religions, such as Christianity and Islam. A religious tradition that did not begin as a millennial movement may develop millennial movements within it later, such as the Buddhist hope for the coming of the Maitreya Buddha. Messianism may be added later if it was missing in the early versions of the millennial expectations, as in subsequent expectations in Islam of a coming savior figure called the mahdī.
The gospels in the New Testament depict Jesus (c. 4 bce–c. 30 ce) as an apocalyptic prophet and messiah, who predicted imminent catastrophic destruction and the descent of the Son of man from heaven before that generation died out (Matthew 24). The earliest revelations given to Muhammad (570–632) predicted an imminent "Day of Clamor" in which the sun, moon, and stars would fall from the sky, the earth would shake, graves would open, the dead would be resurrected, and everyone would be judged, some going to heaven and others going to hell (Qurʾān 101:11; see also sūrah 56:1–74; 77; 81:1–14; 82:1–19; 84:1–12; 99:1–8).
Progressive millennialism is an optimistic view of human nature and the possibility of society to improve. Progressive millennialism is the belief that the imminent transition to the collective salvation will occur through human effort in harmony with a divine or superhuman plan. The guiding agent may be divine, such as God or angels, but is often superhuman, as in extraterrestrials, ascended masters, or earthly masters with superhuman powers, as in the Theosophical and New Age movements. The progressive millennial belief is that humans can create the collective salvation if they cooperate with the guidance of the divine or superhuman agencies. In Christianity this pattern has been called "post-millennialism" because the belief is that Christians must work according to God's plan to create God's kingdom on Earth, and then Christ will return. Christian progressive millennialism has been manifested in the Protestant Social Gospel movement and in the post–Vatican II Roman Catholic orientation toward having a "special option for the poor" and working for social justice.
A Range of Behaviors
A range of behaviors is associated with both catastrophic millennialism and progressive millennialism. At one end of the spectrum, millennial movements are benign: catastrophic millennialists await divine intervention to destroy the world and, at the most, engage in intense proselytizing and may separate themselves from sinful society; progressive millennialists perform social work to improve society and may also attempt to build communities as forerunners of the ideal society. Katherine Tingley's (1847–1929) Point Loma Theosophical community in California from 1900 to 1942 is an example of the latter.
Further in on the belief and behavior spectrum are millennialists who arm themselves for protection. Catastrophic millennialists, such as Christian Identity believers and the Branch Davidians, may arm themselves for protection during the anticipated tribulation period; if they are attacked they will fight back. Progressive millennialists who arm themselves for protection are a logical possibility, but examples of this pattern have not yet been identified and studied.
Interestingly, at the extreme end of the spectrum, both catastrophic millennialists and progressive millennialists are violent revolutionaries whose goal is to overthrow the old order and create the new. The connection between catastrophic millennialism and a revolutionary outlook is apparent; the old order is seen as being so corrupt that people feel called to participate in violent events to destroy it. The numerous medieval Christian revolutionary millennial movements studied by Cohn exemplify this perspective. David Cook (2002) has suggested that early Islamic military expansion was, in part, a way to extend the Muslim faith to more people before the anticipated end of the world one hundred years after the establishment of the Muslim community. Robert Ellwood (2000), Richard Salter (2000), and Scott Lowe (2000) have suggested that there have been revolutionary progressive millennial movements, as represented by the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, and Mao Ze-dong's movement. These Nazis and Communists believed in progress so fervently that they stopped at nothing to speed progress up "to an apocalyptic rate" (Ellwood, 2000, p. 253) to create their collective salvation.
When catastrophic millennialists and progressive millennialists become revolutionary, they have more in common with each other than with catastrophic and progressive millennialists on the benign end of the spectrum. Revolutionary millennialists of both types possess rigid dualistic perspectives, seeing things in terms of good versus evil, of us versus them, and they do not hesitate to kill many people to achieve their ends.
Charisma, Leaders, and Followers
From the perspective of religious studies, individuals who are believed to have access to revelation from an unseen source of authority (God, angels, saints, ancestors, masters, extraterrestrials) are said to have "charisma." Charisma is socially constructed. If no one believes a person's claimed access to revelation, he or she does not have charisma. The person has charisma only if others believe the claim.
Both prophets and messiahs have charisma. Catastrophic and progressive millennial movements may or may not have prophets and/or messiahs. Some millennial movements, such as Christian Identity, may arise out of a widely shared millennial expectation without one exceptional person taking on the prophetic or messianic role for the whole movement, although there may be numerous people predicting the imminent transition to the collective salvation.
An inner circle of believers around a prophet or messiah become "secondary leaders." They help empower the prophet or messiah to positions of authority in their movement. The secondary leaders and the rank-and-file members can withdraw their faith in the charismatic leader at any time. Thus, the charismatic leader is under constant pressure to maintain his or her position by avoiding disconfirmation of prophecies and authority in the eyes of the believers.
A prophet is someone who is believed to receive revelation from an unseen source of authority. Prophets often predict the imminent coming of the millennial kingdom, or they may predict the imminent appearance of a messiah. Muhammad was an apocalyptic prophet warning of the imminent Day of Sorting Out (Qurʾān 77). According to the gospels, Jesus also served as one who warned of God's imminent destruction and judgment (Matt. 25). John the Baptist was a prophet of the imminent appearance of the messiah. Joseph Smith Jr. (d. 1844) was the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Annie Besant (1847–1933) of the Theosophical Society was a progressive millennial prophet of the imminent coming of the "New Civilization" and the "World-Teacher" who would accomplish it.
A messiah (Hebrew, "anointed") is a prophet, because he or she is believed to receive revelation, but the messiah is more than a prophet, because he or she is believed to have the superhuman power to create the collective salvation. Jesus is regarded as the messiah (christ) by Christians. Mother Ann Lee (1736–1784) was seen by the Shakers as the "Second Appearing of Christ in female form"; the Heavenly Father and Holy Mother Wisdom had a son and daughter, Jesus and Ann Lee. The Branch Davidians see David Koresh (1959–1993) as the messiah who will destroy evil in the catastrophic endtime events; like the earliest Christians, the most committed Branch Davidians are expecting Koresh's imminent return. Asahara Shōkō (b. 1955) of Aum Shinrikyō was seen as an enlightened Buddha and the suffering Lamb of Christianity—as the messiah who would create a Buddhist millennial kingdom called Shambhala. The young J. Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was groomed to function as the messiah in Annie Besant's progressive millennial movement in the early twentieth century; she taught that he would be the World-Teacher who would present a teaching that would raise humanity to an awareness of universal unity and move the world into the New Civilization.
A millennial movement does not necessarily have to have a messiah. The passages in the Qurʾān about the Day of Clamor do not mention a messiah; Allah will bring about the endtime events all by himself.
Secondary leaders, the inner circle, are crucial for validating the authority of the prophet or messiah. They may even receive some revelation themselves, but usually the prophet or messiah will attempt to restrict claims of charisma to himself or herself. The decisions made by secondary leaders can help determine the trajectory of the movement, whether it will be benign or become totalitarian and violent.
The inner circle of young white leaders around Jim Jones (1931–1978) of Peoples Temple colluded with him to fabricate healings and other miracles, and they helped facilitate the group murders and suicides on November 18, 1978, in Jonestown, Guyana. The inner circle of scientists, doctors, and others around Asahara Shōkō made Aum Shinrikyō into an organization that committed numerous murders and developed a variety of weapons of mass destruction before committing the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways in 1995. The inner circle of men around Adolf Hitler helped create a totalitarian, aggressive state that killed millions in its quest to create a millennial kingdom, the Third Reich, for the pure German völk (folk).
Secondary leaders can also help direct a millennial group into a direction to lessen conflict with society and become more democratic. In the 1990s the inner circle around Elizabeth Clare Prophet (b. 1939) of the Church Universal and Triumphant helped steer the church away from authoritarianism and catastrophic prophecies to create a denominational structure with shared authority. Apostle Elbert Spriggs (b. 1937), founder of the Twelve Tribes in the 1970s attracting countercultural Christians, takes a low-key approach to leadership, which is shared among elders and other community leaders.
The followers have crucial roles to play in determining the direction of a millennial movement. They have autonomy and choose whether or not to think critically about their leaders' teachings and projects. Followers choose whether to cooperate in authoritarian schemes leading to totalitarian organization and coercion, or whether they insist on accountability from their leaders. They can choose to withdraw their faith in the leader's charisma at any time. However, once a group has gone so far down the path of attempting to exercise totalitarian control over followers, it can be very difficult to leave. Additionally, if the believer has committed a great deal to the group in terms of lifestyle, sexuality, relationships, family attachments, livelihood, identity, and even crimes, then the very high "exit costs" can discourage a person from choosing to leave.
Nativist Millennial Movements
A distinctive form of millennialism has been called "nativist movements" or sometimes "revitalization" movements. These movements consist of people who feel they are being oppressed by a foreign colonizing government that is destroying their traditional way of life and is removing them from their land. They long for a return to an idealized past, which they remember as having been perfect. Numerous nativists who have been exposed to the Christian Bible identify with the story in the Old Testament of the Israelites' liberation from bondage, and may even call themselves Israelites, such as the Israelitas (the Israelites of the New Universal Covenant) of Peru whose messiah is Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal. Nativists may be either catastrophic millennialists or progressive millennialists, or they may shift between catastrophic and progressive expectations.
Nativists have the same range of behaviors discussed above. They may await divine intervention to remove their oppressors and bring prosperity. They may believe that certain purifying and magical acts will stimulate the divine intervention, as in the Xhosa Cattle-Killing movement in 1856 in South Africa, or the Ghost Dance movement among nineteenth-century Native Americans. Nativists may engage in active rebellion, such as the rebellion in Java against the Dutch in 1825–1830 led by Prince Dipanagara, who was believed to be the Ratu Adil, the awaited "Just King," and the rebellion of Burmese against the British in 1930–1932, led by Saya San, who was believed to be the Buddhist righteous king or even the Maitreya Buddha. Both Dipanagara and Saya San were believed to be destined to establish perfect reigns of happiness after the oppressors were removed. The diverse Pai Marire movement among the Maori in New Zealand in the nineteenth century had several prophets and demonstrated different approaches. Some people attempted to build their perfect society apart from their oppressors; others carried out revolution.
A distinctive form of catastrophic millennialism may be termed avertive apocalypticism. A prophet will make predictions of imminent destruction but also say that the catastrophe may be averted if people convert, live moral lives, and practice certain spiritual techniques.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, avertive apocalypticism was the major theme of Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the Church Universal and Triumphant, who stressed that nuclear Armageddon could be averted through vigorous practice of verbal "decrees" calling on the protective powers of the ascended masters.
Avertive apocalypticism is an important theme in many Marian apparitions, such as the Bayside apparitions in New York City given to Veronica Leuken beginning in 1968 until her death in 1995. According to the Bayside apparitions, God's imminent chastisement by World War III, nuclear war, and a great fireball can be averted if people return to God's ways and believe and practice as good Catholics. The faithful can protect themselves from the catastrophic events by means of talismans such as crucifixes, scapulars, rosaries, religious medals, saints' statues, and praying the Hail Mary.
Tensions between Millennialists and Society
The millennial vision represents a challenge to the current order. Society may be rejected as sinful, or millennialists may direct their energies toward transforming it, or they may become revolutionaries to overthrow the status quo. The values and lifestyles of millennialists are often very different from those of the dominant society. People in mainstream society may find millennialists' lifestyles and new religious commitments to be offensive and take punitive actions. The two characteristics found to be most offensive are the claim of a new revelation by a new prophet or messiah and unconventional sexual lifestyles.
Americans in the late eighteenth century found the new revelation of Mother Ann Lee and the celibate, separate lifestyle and unusual worship of the Shakers to be offensive. Ann Lee and her followers were subjected to repeated beatings and harassment. On one occasion Ann Lee and two secondary leaders were physically expelled from Massachusetts by a mob.
In the nineteenth century both the claim that Joseph Smith Jr. had received a new revelation and scripture and the polygamy practiced by Smith and other Mormons were offensive to the American public. Smith and his brother died at the hands of a mob in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844, and there were numerous acts of violence against Mormons even after most of them relocated to Utah. (In 2004 the state of Illinois apologized to Mormons for the violence against their ancestors.) The church officially ended the practice of polygamy in 1890, but pockets of fundamentalist Mormons still live in marginal communities.
A group called the Children of God, now known as the Family, was formed in the late 1960s. Its members practice free love among their communities, which in the past sometimes included children. By the late 1980s members of the Family reformed their sexual activities to exclude children while maintaining their free-love ethic between consenting adults. They stopped a controversial practice initiated in the 1970s called "flirty fishing," in which women became "fishers of men" by using sexual relations as a recruiting tool. Nevertheless, the Family homes in various countries continue to be subjected to raids by authorities suspecting child abuse, but the children are typically returned to their parents when the charges are found to be baseless.
David Koresh's claim to be the apocalyptic Christ, his polygamy, which included sexual relations with underage girls with the permission of their parents, and his weapons stockpiling put the Branch Davidians in great tension with authorities and citizens, a situation that ended with disastrous results in 1993. Koresh's activities were based on his interpretation of prophecies in the Bible. Koresh taught that the Branch Davidians would be called upon to fight and die in Armageddon predicted to occur in Israel in 1995. He also taught that he was a messiah destined to have children who would be the twenty-four Elders (Rev. 4:4 ff.) who would help rule God's kingdom. Fourteen of Koresh's children and their mothers were among the twenty-three children who died in the fire that resulted from the tank and CS (tear) gas assault on April 19, 1993, carried out by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Millennialism and Violence
Most millennialists are peaceful. Some become caught up in dynamics leading to violence. Millennialists are not necessarily the ones who initiate the violence. Millennial groups that become involved in violence may be assaulted millennial groups, fragile millennial groups, or revolutionary millennial movements. These categories are not mutually exclusive; they indicate the primary characteristics of a group at the time the violence occurred. A group may shift from one category to another according to circumstances and may possess aspects of multiple categories at the time of the violence.
Assaulted millennial groups
Millennial groups have been assaulted in many times and places because of their tension with the dominant society. They are assaulted because people in the wider society perceive them as being dangerous. Examples of assaulted millennial groups include: a band of Lakota Sioux massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890 by U.S. soldiers who were frightened by the Ghost Dance movement; a group of black South Africans calling themselves "Israelites," who refused to move from crown land, fired upon by white South African police in 1921; the Branch Davidians, who were assaulted twice in 1993 by American federal agents, first by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in an unnecessary "dynamic entry," and then by FBI agents with tanks and CS gas, who first waged psychological warfare against them during a fifty-one-day siege; the Mormons in the nineteenth century who were repeatedly attacked by civilians and authorities across the United States and had an extermination order issued against them by the governor of Missouri in 1838; Rastafari (called Dreads) in Dominica who in 1974 were subjected to a shoot-on-sight order; and in the new temporal millennium, Falun Gong practitioners in the People's Republic of China, who were repeatedly arrested, with many of them dying in custody, for asserting their right to freedom of religion and practicing their qigong exercises in public. The early Christians may also be regarded as members of an assaulted millennial movement. It is not unusual for leaders of millennial movements to be executed by the state—for example, Jesus and the Bab (d. 1850), one of the foundational prophets of Bahā'ī from Iran—or imprisoned like Bahá'u'lláh (1817–1892), the other Bahā'ī prophet-founder.
Fragile millennial groups
A fragile millennial movement initiates violence as a final effort to preserve the ultimate concern, the millennial goal on which believers are focused. Jonestown in Guyana in 1978, Solar Temple in Switzerland in 1994, Aum Shinrikyō in Japan in 1995, Heaven's Gate in the United States in 1997, and probably the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Uganda in 2000 were fragile millennial groups.
A fragile millennial group is suffering from an accumulation of stresses, some internal to the group, such as dissent, money problems, illness of the leader, threats to the leader's credibility, failure to accomplish goals set by the leader, combined with stresses coming from outside the group, such as vocal apostates, investigations by authorities, lawsuits, hostile neighbors, concerned family members, negative press, and pressures from anticult groups. In some cases the stresses may be primarily internal to the group; in other cases the stresses may come primarily from outside the group. Usually there is a combination of endogenous and exogenous factors that threaten the millennial goal. Instead of giving up their ultimate concern, members of fragile millennial groups opt to commit violence to preserve it. They may choose to attack and kill perceived enemies. They may choose to commit group suicide to preserve the cohesiveness of the group (if that was their ultimate concern, as with the Jonestown residents) or to go to a type of heavenly salvation (Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate). They often direct the violence both outwardly and inwardly.
Revolutionary millennial movements
Revolutionary millennial movements carry out violence to overthrow the old order to create the new. If they become socially dominant, they cause massive violence, such as the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Taiping Rebellion in China in 1850–1864, which caused 20 million deaths and for a time established the Taiping capital at Nanjing. If the revolutionary movement is not socially dominant, some participants will undertake terrorist acts. Examples are to be found in the diffuse Euro-American nativist (white supremacist) movement in the United States, which includes Identity Christians, racist Neopagans, secular survivalists, and disaffected former military men, such as Timothy McVeigh, who committed the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. With September 11, 2001, al-Qāʿidah became the most visible portion of a diffuse revolutionary Islamist movement aimed at creating the true Islamic state as its millennial goal.
Millennial movements express the human longing for the elimination of suffering for a group of people, the collective salvation. The millennial longing has sparked new religions since the time of Zoroaster, dating perhaps as early as 1000 bce, through Jesus, Muhammad, and many other prophets and founders of new religious movements.
As a millennial movement becomes more accommodated to society, its millennial expectation may move to the background and the sense of imminence diminish. This is what Jacqueline Stone (2000) calls "managed millennialism." But the millennial prophecies will be preserved in scriptures to be utilized by subsequent prophets, messiahs, and believers searching for meaning and hope, who will initiate even more new religious movements.
Anticult Movements; Aum Shinrikyō; Besant, Annie; Branch Davidians; Christian Identity Movement; Church Universal and Triumphant; Falun Gong; Family, The; Heaven's Gate; Holy Order of MANS; Jones, Jim; Jonestown and Peoples Temple; Koresh, David; Krishnamurti, Jiddu; Lee, Ann; Mormonism; Nation of Islam; New Age Movement; Point Loma Theosophical Community; Prophet, Mark and Elizabeth Clare; Shakers; Smith, Joseph; Temple Solaire; Theosophical Society; Tingley, Katherine; Transcendental Meditation; Twelve Tribes; UFO Religions; Unarius Academy of Science; Zoroastrianism.
Adas, Michael. Prophets of Rebellion: Millenarian Protest Movements against the European Colonial Order. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1979. Excellent comparison of case studies of revolutionary nativist movements.
Ashcraft, W. Michael. The Dawn of the New Cycle: Point Loma Theosophists and American Culture. Knoxville, Tenn., 2002. One of the few in-depth studies of a progressive millennial community.
Barkun, Michael. Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1997. Definitive history of Christian Identity and its roots in British Israelism.
Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. Rev. ed. Oxford, 1970. Classic study of millennialism with focus on medieval revolutionary Christian movements.
Cook, David. "Suicide Attacks or 'Martyrdom Operations'; in Contemporary Jihad Literature." Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 6, no. 1 (2002): 7–44. Illuminating discussion of the scriptural, historical, and sociological roots of the contemporary practice of suicide attacks by radical Muslims. An appendix contains a translation of "Last Night" instructions found in the luggage of Muhammad Atta, the leader of the September 11, 2001, terrorists.
Ellwood, Robert. "Nazism as a Millennialist Movement." In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 241–260. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Startling analysis of Nazi millennialism as a progressive millennial movement.
Kaplan, Jeffrey. Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah. Syracuse, N.Y., 1997. Study of American millennial movements on the far right: Christian Identity, Odinism and Ásatrú, and B'nai Noah, and the anticult movement and watchdog groups who oppose them.
Lanternari, Vittorio. The Religions of the Oppressed: A Study of Modern Messianic Cults. Translated by Lisa Sergio. New York, 1963. Pioneering study of nativist millennial movements as the products of "culture clash" situations.
Lowe, Scott. "Western Millennial Ideology Goes East: The Taiping Revolution and Mao's Great Leap Forward." In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 220–240. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Compares the Taiping Revolution with Mao Ze-dong's Great Leap Forward.
Lucas, Phillip Charles. The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy. Bloomington, Ind., 1995. In-depth case study of the development of a new religious movement, which provides an excellent example of how a group's millennial views change in response to changes in the social context.
Palmer, Susan J. "Peace, Persecution and Preparations for Yahshua's Return: The Case of the Messianic Communities' Twelve Tribes." In Christian Millenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco, edited by Stephen Hunt, pp. 209–223. Bloomington, Ind., 2001. Excellent study of the dynamics of a millennial group's peaceful responses to persecution.
Robbins, Thomas, and Dick Anthony. "Sects and Violence: Factors Enhancing the Volatility of Marginal Religious Movements." In Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict, edited by Stuart A. Wright, pp. 236–259. Chicago, 1995. An important discussion of the factors that promote volatility of millennial groups. Particularly noteworthy is the discussion of the instability of charismatic leadership.
Robbins, Thomas, and Susan J. Palmer, eds. Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements. New York, 1997. Collection of excellent articles by experts on diverse contemporary millennial movements.
Rosenfeld, Jean. E. "Pai Marire: Peace and Violence in a New Zealand Millenarian Tradition." Terrorism and Political Violence 7, no. 3 (1995): 83–108. Discusses the factors involved in the different phases of the Pai Marire movement among the Maori.
Salter, Richard. "Time, Authority, and Ethics in the Khmer Rouge: Elements of the Millennial Vision in Year Zero." In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 281–298. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Demonstrates continuities of Khmer Rouge Communism with Cambodian Buddhism.
Stein, Stephen J. The Shaker Experience in America. New Haven, Conn., 1992. The definitive history of the Shakers.
Stone, Jacqueline. "Japanese Lotus Millennialism: From Militant Nationalism to Contemporary Peace Movements." In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 261–280. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Discusses Buddhist millennial contributions to the Japanese war effort in World War II, and the subsequent shift by many to pacifism after the defeat.
Thompson, Damian. "A Peruvian Messiah and the Retreat from Apocalypse." In Christian Millenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco, edited by Stephen Hunt, pp. 187–195. Bloomington, Ind., 2001. This study of the Israelites of the New Universal Covenant discusses how their messiah is abandoning predictions of the end of the world as the group is successful in establishing its community.
Van Zandt, David E. "The Children of God." In America's Alternative Religions, edited by Timothy Miller, pp. 127–132. Albany, N.Y., 1995. Solid discussion of the controversial millennial religion also known as the Family.
Wallace, Anthony F. C. "Revitalization Movements." American Anthropologist 58, no. 2 (1956): 264–281. Classic article introducing the term "revitalization movement" as "a deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture" (265). Most of the examples used by Wallace are what have come to be termed "nativist movements" or "nativist millennial movements."
Wessinger, Catherine Lowman. Annie Besant and Progressive Messianism. Lewiston, N.Y., 1988. Study of Annie Besant's Theosophical progressive millennialism, which culminated in her creation of a messianic movement centered on J. Krishnamurti.
Wessinger, Catherine. "Millennialism with and without the Mayhem." In Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements, edited by Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer, pp. 47–59. New York, 1997. Proposes the categories "catastrophic millennialism" and "progressive millennialism" as being more conducive to promoting the study of millennial phenomena in diverse religious traditions as opposed to the categories applicable only to Christianity, "pre-millennialism" and post-millennialism.
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Cross-cultural study of cases of millennial groups involved in violence, including assaulted millennial groups, fragile millennial groups, and revolutionary millennial movements.
Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate. New York, 2000. Compares case studies of Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Aum Shinrikyō, the Montana Freemen, Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Chen Tao, to discern dynamics that involve millennial groups in violence.
Wessinger, Catherine. "New Religious Movements and Conflicts with Law Enforcement." In New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America, edited by Derek Davis and Barry Hankins, pp. 89–106, 201–204. 2nd ed. Waco, Tex., 2003. Proposes relevant factors and categories for use when evaluating situations involving millennial groups for the potential for volatility, and makes recommendations to law enforcement agents about how best to deal with such cases.
Wojcik, Daniel. The End of the World as We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America. New York, 1997. A folklorist's detailed approach to the study of the varieties of millennialism in America. Movements discussed include Christian Dispensationalism, the Bayside apparitions, Punk, and UFO millennialism. Among the book's many insights is that there are currently secular, fatalistic, and nonredemptive apocalyptic expressions, particularly in response to the nuclear age.
Zablocki, Benjamin D. "Exit Cost Analysis: A New Approach to the Scientific Study of Brainwashing." Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 1, no. 2 (1998): 216–249. Introduces the concept of high "exit costs" as being a barrier to people choosing to leave unconventional religious groups in an article seeking to rehabilitate the brainwashing theory.
Catherine Wessinger (2005)
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