messianic movement

views updated May 29 2018

messianic movement The term is derived from the religious concept of the ‘Messiah’, from the Hebrew word for ‘anointed one’, who is sent to humanity to bring about a new age or the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ was regarded by the early Christian church as the Messiah. In the sociology of religion, the term is used more generally to refer to any social movement which is based on the expectation and anticipation of a coming Messiah, who will release people from their current misery. Messianic movements, especially in Third World societies, are typically associated therefore with deprivation; messianic beliefs offer hope for a better world. Messianic movements are often based on a synthesis of Christian and aboriginal belief systems, in which Christian themes of salvation are blended with indigenous world-views.

There is much debate in sociology about whether messianic beliefs are irrational. Some anthropologists claim that messianic movements are rational responses to a world which appears, from the point of view of native peoples, to be out of control and irrational. From a Marxist perspective, messianic movements are an effect of the alienation of aboriginal peoples, whose social reality has been destroyed by white colonialism and oppression. See also MILLENARIANISM; NEW RELIGIONS.

revitalization movement

views updated Jun 27 2018

revitalization movement See MESSIANIC MOVEMENT; NEW RELIGIONS.