Eugene V. Gallagher
Catastrophic millennialism emanates from a deep pessimism towards society, history, and general humanity. This article develops an analysis of the basic descriptive vocabulary of catastrophic millennialism from the examination of a pair of texts from Late Antiquity. It simultaneously emphasizes a catastrophic end to life as we know it and “a heaven on earth”, the new coming of humanity, following the cleansing. The article also states that predictions of the apocalypse always combine certain general but instrumental factors that invariably strengthen the conflict. This article shows how a group of contemporary millennialist movements have used the basic tropes of catastrophic millennialism to create their own distinctive apocalyptic messages. It highlights how these groups differ in their assessments of why the world will soon be destroyed, precisely how it will happen, who will accomplish that destruction, when and where it will happen, and, especially, what their faithful followers must do in the meantime.
This article focuses on the twin factors of millenialist predisposition towards violence and the crossover from a volatile disposition to the actual practice of violence. It reviews the literature that has emerged in religious studies and the social sciences in response to the complexities of fragile millennial communities. It focuses on two broad themes or questions: first, what are the factors that predispose apocalyptic or millennialist communities to become involved in violence; and, second, what factors lead apocalyptic or millennialist groups from being predisposed to volatility to actually becoming violent. The necessary millennialist conception often leads to violent measures. In the face of a prophetic failure, charismatic leadership may employ violence, to realize the prediction or, obscuring the failure, or both. Finally, this article concludes that despite the violent nature of apocalyptic beliefs and rhetoric, the majority of millennial groups possess a passive orientation, believing that it is the role of God, and not themselves, to inaugurate the final scenario.
David G. Bromley and Catherine Wessinger
This article deals with issue of conflicts emanating from socially incompatible millennialist values. Millennialist strains across the spectrum assume two common factors—the end of the world as it is hitherto and the ushering of a transformed order and group mobilization in anticipation or in furtherance of anticipated events. Social mobilization generates a two-fold responsibility for the millennialists—first, they should deliver on promises and second, the objective ways and the grounds for recruitment must be socially compatible. The latter reflects a paradox, as social incompatibility within the millennialist school is deliberate and essential. Quite aware of the possibilities, many groups term various state institutions as “agents of Babylon”, so as to justify any extremity on their own part. The millennial three-pronged crisis strategy of exodus, compromise, and confrontation actually suggests informed deliberation. Prominent issues such as gun hoarding and engaging adolescents sexually, have been some of the grave charges leveled against millennial groups.
Millennialism is a prime philosophical resource pool for the American extreme right. The racial factor being central to the rightist affair and three basic tendencies nourish it: Christian identity, based on legacies of the dilapidated British-Israelism that claims that the lost tribes of Israel migrated westwards; staunch anti-Semitism, non-supernatural racist religions, secular in their fervency against both Christianity and Judaism; and Neopaganism, a revivalist motion, striving to revive ancient Nordic religions through reconstruction. These three pivotal elements cut across the American rightist-racist diaspora. Objective practices range from militarization in anticipation of apocalyptic conflicts with non-whites, purging efforts, the establishment of alternative churches that preach white supremacy and anti-Semitism, to more obviously nefarious things. William Pierce, author of the notorious Turner Diaries, established the Cosmotheist Church, believing in a postmillennial phase of quiteism, a process to achieve fulfillment by merging with God. The pre-millennial evolutionary occurrences include social purging of non-whites.
David G. Bromley
The episodes of new religious movement (NRM)-related violence in the mid-1990s that indirectly helped to establish new religions as a field of study also prompted NRM specialists to give greater attention to the issue of violence. This article examines a number of general models that have been developed since the mid-nineties, models that have moved in the direction of taking into account the dynamics between NRMs and the social agencies with which they interact, and the potential for violent acts from either side. It then outlines a number of theoretical and public policy issues that need to be addressed in the future.