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date: 28 June 2022

Millennial Glossary

Abstract and Keywords

Millennial Glossary

Keywords: Millennial, Glossary

Amillennialism: Perspective of Augustine of Hippo (354–430) that there will not be a future Millennium. The Christian Church is equivalent to the millennial kingdom.

Antichrist: This term is found only in the biblical texts of 1 John 2:18, 22, 4:1–3, and 2 John 7. Second Thessalonians 2:1–12 refers to a “lawless one”; Mark 13:21–22, Matthew 24:23–24, and Revelation 19:20 refer to false prophets. These references led Christians to understand the Antichrist as the embodiment of evil, especially in an apostate church, who will be defeated when Jesus Christ returns. The Islamic equivalent is the al-Masih ad-Dajjal (the False Messiah).

apocalypticism: In Christianity “apocalypse” refers to biblical literature that characteristically reveals the end of the world as we know it, usually in catastrophic terms. In popular language, apocalypse has become synonymous with the expected catastrophe, therefore “apocalypticism” is synonymous with “catastrophic millennialism” (see catastrophic millennialism).

assaulted millennial groups: An assaulted millennial group is assaulted by persons in mainstream society, because the members’ religious views and actions are misunderstood, feared, and despised. The group is assaulted because it is viewed as being dangerous to society. The group's members are not viewed as practicing a valid religion worthy of respect. The group might be assaulted by law enforcement agents or civilians. Today, such a group is likely to be labeled with the pejorative term cult. While some assaulted groups bear part of the responsibility for the violence that engulfs them, the primary responsibility for the violence rests upon those in mainstream society who assault them.

avertive apocalypticism: The belief that imminent this-worldly catastrophe can be averted by taking steps to return to harmony with the divine or superhuman agent, (p. 718) through spiritual or ritual activities, or, in the case of secular movements, by practical actions to correct looming problems.

avertive millennialism: Avertive apocalyptic ideas combined with progressive millennial expectations. If the coming apocalyptic destruction can be averted through spiritual practices and disciplines, faith, and/or the help of superhuman powers, the collective salvation will be accomplished in a new and perfect age.

cargo cults: Efforts of Pacific Islanders to obtain goods by imitating the “magic” that appears to provide cargo to representatives of colonial cultures possessing more advanced technology. Cargo cults are not millennial movements unless there is also belief in the imminent arrival of a hero or savior, and/or the ancestors, bringing cargo to effect a collective salvation.

catastrophic millennialism: Catastrophic millennialism is the most commonly studied millennial religious pattern. In catastrophic millennialism there is belief in an imminent and catastrophic transition to the millennial kingdom. Catastrophic millennialism involves a pessimistic view of human nature and society. Humans are regarded as being so evil and corrupt that the old order has to be destroyed violently to make way for the perfect millennial kingdom. Catastrophic millennialism involves a radically dualistic worldview (see radical dualism). Reality is seen as involving the opposition of good versus evil, and this easily translates into an “us versus them” outlook.

charisma: Both prophets and messiahs have “charisma”—in other words, access to an unseen divine or superhuman source of authority. An individual who possesses charismatic authority is believed to have access to divine or superhuman gifts (the unseen source of authority), and it is those gifts that underlie the authority. Charismatic authority is socially constructed. An individual will not possess charisma unless people believe her or his claim to that authority. Charisma as understood by social scientists and religion scholars has no relationship to the popular use of the term.

charismatization process: The interactive socialization process in which believers attribute “charisma” (access to an unseen divine or superhuman source of authority) to a leader, and correspondingly socialize the leader to conform to the expected role of someone possessing charismatic authority, thus producing a charismatic leader who is considered worthy of devotion and obedience (Barker 1993).

cognitive dissonance: Category offered by Leon Festinger in his seminal study with Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails (1956), to describe the discomfort experienced by believers when a fervently held belief, such as a predicted transition to a collective salvation, fails to be confirmed by physical events.

conditional apocalypticism: The belief that human beings can take actions to avert or forestall imminent destruction of the world as we know it, if they act in accordance with spiritual principles or a superhuman plan (see avertive apocalypticism).

(p. 719) cool millennialism: The vision of the collective salvation is seen as happening in an indeterminate future; the Millennium is not imminent.

demotic millennialism: Millennial movements, originating from people on the grassroots level of society, which are expressive of desires for justice, equality, and well-being (Landes 2006).

Endtime, or Endtimes: A term used to refer to the expected period of turmoil and tribulations leading to the catastrophic end of the world as we know it.

environmental millennialism: Refers to beliefs, grounded primarily in the environmental sciences, that by damaging the planet's natural systems human beings are likely to end the world as we know it. After the collapse of environmental systems and/or the societies that depend on them, some expect a new age of ecological harmony to dawn; others expect only catastrophe. Environmental millennialism is sometimes fused to religious beliefs about nonmaterial divine beings, while other times it is entirely naturalistic. It generally retains a hope that, if we recognize the dangers, the worst of the unfolding catastrophe can be averted.

eschatology: Term related to the Greek eschatos (“last things”). Eschatology is the study of last things, either concerning individual destiny (death) or doctrines about the end of the world.

fanaticism: There are varying degrees of fanatic activity; the most extreme involve violence either in killing others or deliberately placing oneself and others in harm's way. Critical scholars tend to use this term sparingly as it conveys a value judgment: one person's fanatic is another's hero, patriot, saint, or martyr. The cognitive components of fanaticism include

  • absolute confidence that one has the “Truth” and that others are wrong and evil;

  • no openness to considering other points of view;

  • radical dualism—a conviction that there is a battle between good versus evil, “us versus them” (see radical dualism);

  • a conviction that the end justifies the means; a willingness to resort to any method—even harmful, illegal ones—to achieve the ultimate goal. When one believes that the goal justifies the use of any means, one becomes willing to kill others or die for the ultimate concern (see ultimate concern).

fragile millennial groups: Fragile millennial groups initiate violence either due to internal factors or, more commonly, due to internal factors and stresses combined with the experience of opposition from outside society, which collectively endanger the group's ultimate concern (see ultimate concern). Members of a fragile millennial group initiate violence to preserve the ultimate concern. The violence may be directed toward group members, or toward perceived enemies external to the group, or both.

fundamentalism: This term has been extrapolated by historians of religions from the Christian use of the term, notably in the 1910s and throughout the twentieth (p. 720) century, and applied to a variety of worldviews. Fundamentalism involves the belief that one has access to an infallible source of authority, either a text, a tradition, a leader, or a combination of these. Fundamentalism is a mind-set that is certain of the “Truth” and that locates this Truth in an idealized past expression of religious life. If the fundamentalist knows the Truth, then other perspectives are wrong and evil; there is no openness to alternative perspectives. If the true religion lies in an idealized past, then fundamentalism involves great resistance to modernity, even while utilizing contemporary technology to achieve its aim—the reestablishment of true religious life.

hierarchical millennialism: Millennial ideas promoted by a ruler or a dynasty to legitimate its reign. It is a realized millennialism or a realized messianism. Also termed “imperial millennialism” (Landes 2006).

hot millennialism: The collective salvation is imminent, and its arrival can be hastened by strenuous human effort.

managed millennialism: Millennial beliefs remain in a tradition and its scriptures, but the expected transition to a collective salvation is no longer believed to be imminent. Intense millennial beliefs have been relegated to the background, but they remain they remain in the scriptures and can be foregrounded by future new millennial movements (Stone 2000, 277–79).

messiah: An individual who is believed to possess the power to create the millennial kingdom. A messiah is also a “prophet.”

millennialism (synonym, millenarianism): An academic term to refer to belief in an imminent transition to a collective salvation, in which the faithful will experience well-being and the unpleasant limitations of the human condition will be eliminated (see salvation). The collective salvation is often considered to be earthly, but it can also be heavenly. The collective salvation will be accomplished either by a divine or superhuman agent alone, or with the assistance of humans working according to the divine or superhuman will and plan.

The terms millennialism or millenarianism derive from Christianity, because the New Testament book of Revelation states that the kingdom of God will exist on Earth for one thousand years (a millennium). Millennialism is a term that is applied to religious patterns found in a variety of religious traditions.

Millennium: The collective salvation expected by millennialists. Many millennial expressions have described the collective salvation as lasting one thousand years (a millennium).

nativist millennial movement: A nativist millennial movement consists of people who feel under attack by a foreign colonizing government that is destroying their traditional way of life and is removing them from their land. Nativists long for a return to an idealized past golden age. Many nativists have identified themselves with the oppressions and deliverance of the Israelites as described in the Christian Old Testament. Nativist millennialism can take the form of either catastrophic millennialism or progressive millennialism (see catastrophic mil (p. 721) lennialism, progressive millennialism). Nativist catastrophic millennialists may await divine intervention to remove their oppressors and establish the millennial kingdom, or they may be revolutionaries who fight to eliminate their oppressors.

passive millennialism: Catastrophic millennialists awaiting divine intervention to effect the transition to the collective salvation.

postmillennialism: The Christian belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the judgment will occur after the establishment of the one-thousand-year kingdom by Christians working for social and political reform according to God's plan. The postmillennial outlook involves belief in progress into the collective salvation. After the conclusion of the one thousand years of the kingdom, Jesus Christ will return to destroy the world as we know it, resurrect the dead, and carry out judgment.

pragmatics of failure: When particular methods to achieve a millennial goal have been met with failure, believers shift to other methods (Ian Reader quoted in Wessinger 2000, 14) rather than give up their ultimate concern (see ultimate concern).

premillennialism (also premillenarianism): The Christian belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of his one-thousand-year kingdom on Earth will precede the final collective salvation. It is based on the catastrophic scenario described in the Bible, especially in the New Testament book of Revelation (Apocalypse), in which the world as we know it is destroyed, the dead are resurrected, Jesus Christ defeats evil and those aligned with evil, and Christ rules on Earth for one thousand years. At the end of the one-thousand-year kingdom the final judgment occurs, sinners are cast into hell, and creation is restored to perfection. The premillennial outlook is pessimistic about human nature and society. Humans are so depraved that God must judge humanity and destroy the present creation in order to establish a purified humanity and creation.

progressive millennialism: Progressive millennialism is a perspective that is optimistic about human nature and the possibility of imperfect human society to improve. Progressive millennialism is the belief that the imminent transition to the collective salvation will occur through improvement in society. The belief is that humans working in harmony with a divine or superhuman plan will create the millennial kingdom. Humans can create the collective salvation if they cooperate with the guidance of the divine or superhuman agent.

prophet: Someone who receives revelation from a normally unseen source of authority. Prophets are not necessarily messiahs.

radical dualism: A perspective found to various degrees in catastrophic millennial movements of all types and to an extreme degree in revolutionary progressive millennial movements. It is a rigid belief in irreconcilable forces of good versus evil, translated into a sense of “us versus them.”

realized millennialism: The belief that a millennial kingdom, the collective salvation, has been accomplished.

(p. 722) realized messianism: The claim that a messiah has arrived and established the millennial kingdom.

religion: Religion involves having an ultimate concern, which is defined as being the most important thing in the world to either the group or the individual (Baird 1971, 18). An ultimate concern is the goal that believers wish to achieve within the context of a worldview possessing a cosmology and views of human nature. Believers will practice methods to achieve their ultimate goal. Ultimate concerns are always about obtaining a condition of permanent well-being. Millennialists expect an imminent transition to a collective salvation, a condition of permanent well-being for a group of people (see salvation).

revolutionary millennial movements: Revolutionary millennial movements possess ideologies or theologies that motivate believers to commit violent acts to overthrow the old order to create the millennial kingdom. The participants in revolutionary millennial movements believe that revolutionary violence is necessary to become liberated from their persecutors and to set up the righteous government and society. Revolutionary millennialists believe their violence is mandated by a divine or superhuman plan. Revolutionary millennial movements are numerous, and when dominant, they cause death, suffering, and destruction on a massive scale. When a revolutionary millennial movement is not dominant in society, its members resort to terrorism. Revolutionary millennialists resort to violence often because they are convinced they have been persecuted. In committing violent acts they become persecutors.

Revolutionary millennialism involves a radical dualistic perspective of good battling evil, which involves a sense of “us versus them” (see radical dualism). This radical dualism dehumanizes and demonizes the Other so that it is seen as being legitimate and imperative to kill them. Radical dualism legitimates murder and warfare.

Revolutionary millennialism may be either an expression of catastrophic millennialism or progressive millennialism (see catastrophic millennialism, progressive millennialism).

salvation: A condition of permanent well-being. Millennialism offers that salvation to collectivities of people, not just to individuals.

ultimate concern: A term used originally by theologian Paul Tillich for defining religion. Historian of religions Robert D. Baird (1971, 18) stipulates a definition for “ultimate concern” as being the most important thing to an individual, group, or movement. In a religion the ultimate concern is the goal pursued by the believers. An ultimate concern is located within a worldview consisting of a cosmology and views of human nature. The religious system will promote methods to achieve the goal. Millennial ultimate concerns are about the accomplishment of a collective salvation. Ultimate concerns may change over time and in response to circumstances, but they are always about a desired state of well-being (see salvation).

unconditional apocalypticism: A non-avertive catastrophic millennial outlook, involving the fatalistic conviction that the world cannot be saved from destruction by human effort and the imminent cataclysm cannot be averted.

(p. 723) vaticinia ex eventu: The strategy of making “predictions” about events that have already happened, “foretelling after the event.” This has been used as a propaganda device to legitimate the reign of a ruler or dynasty by texts “predicting” a coming period of difficulties followed by deliverance by a strong ruler, who defeats enemies and establishes a collective salvation in the form of a realized Millennium.

Works Cited

Baird, Robert D. 1971. Category Formation and the History of Religions. The Hague: Mouton.Find this resource:

Barker, Eileen. 1993. “Charismatization: The Social Production of ‘an Ethos Propitious to the Mobilisation of Sentiments.’” In Secularization, Rationalism and Sectarianism: Essays in Honour of Bryan R. Wilson, edited by Eileen Barker, James A. Beckford, and Karel Dobbelaere, 181–201. Oxford: Clarendon.Find this resource:

Festinger, Leon, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schacter. 1956. When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World. New York: Harper and Row.Find this resource:

Landes, Richard. 2006. “Millenarianism and the Dynamics of Apocalyptic Time.” In Expecting the End: Millennialism in Social and Historical Context, edited by Kenneth G. C. Newport and Crawford Gribben, 1–23. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press.Find this resource:

Stone, Jacqueline. 2000. “Japanese Lotus Millennialism: From Militant Nationalism to Contemporary Peace Movements.” In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by Catherine Wessinger, 261–80. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.Find this resource:

Wessinger, Catherine. 2000. “Introduction: The Interacting Dynamics of Millennial Beliefs, Persecution, and Violence.” In Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by Catherine Wessinger, 3–39. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. (p. 724) Find this resource: