Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Color Wheel of the Apocalypse

Postmillenialism: The belief that things will get better and better, until the kingdom of earth reaches a moral tipping point, triggering the return of Christ. Also called the stairway to heaven. Very popular in Victorian times, but not so much now. The 'post' implication in the title indicates that we're living the millenium now, and the actual reign of Christ will involve a recreation of this earth in the perfect image of God.

Premillenialism: The basic selling point of the premil movement is that the book of the revelation is a literal transcription of what's going to happen at the end of the world. The only argument is the exact order of events. Do the elect get pulled before the tribulation, or after. Is there one last crusade of christ, one last opportunity for redemption following the tribulation, or is just a warm up for the inevitable lake of fire. This is the predominant view of most christians, as romaticized by the whole Left Behind series. It's one of those things that if you sit down with a christian press them, they should be embarassed about. I mean, seriously folks.

Amillienialism: I'm not sure how best to express this belief system. Well, the basic point is that the book of the revelation is mostly fiction. Hyperbole. The thousand year reign of christ is now, it's not a literal period of time. There are fractured opinions about the actual end of time. This whole 'return of christ' thing is a bit iffy, with some folks believing that the rapture is death, the millenium is christ in our lives, and judgement day is the individual reckoning between the sinner and the saint. Life is the tribulation. Anyway. Oh, and one extension of amillenialism is that lucifer hasn't yet been cast out of heaven.

Anyway. That's how I remember it. Haven't had that argument in nearly two decades.


At 10:37 AM , Blogger Marshdrifter said...

Oddly enough, I was raised around a bunch of Lutheran ministers. I'd taken biblical studies courses in college and all that. During this time, I'd never even heard of the rapture. So when I'd see bumper stickers about unmanned vehicles during the rapture, I sort of assumed it a sort of new age hippy/pagan thing much like the bumper sticker that reads "Isis! Isis! Ra Ra Ra!" (my personal favorite). I had no idea this was supposedly a Christian thing until I moved up here about five years ago.

So, I guess if there's anything good to say about the ELCA and their ministers, it's that they're largely Amillenialist.

What gets me is how so many people who follow this religion based on this book are so unaware of the book itself and its nature. It's astounding how much interpretation people toss into the book to get what they want out of it. If it doesn't say what you want it to say, get a different translation and proclaim that to be a literal word for word statement from God. Seeing all this leads me to my belief that Christianity in the US really has little or nothing to do with the book itself. It's more of a folk religion. People believe what they want to believe and they manipulate the evidence to fit their beliefs.

At 8:53 PM , Blogger Rob said...

I studied millenarian movements at uni and the pre-millenial / post-millenial distinction within American End of Time sects was the most difficult thing to get my head around. I pretty much ditched the distinction in preference for distinguishing between what was called millenialism and millenarianism. The latter was the traditional Old World style of Apocalyptic movements, which were inherently radical in a sociopolitical sense - the mountains shall fall, the valleys shall rise, the meek shall inherit the Earth. On the other hand, Millenialism was bound up in US nationalism and concepts like Manifest Destiny (the extremest form being the Mormon doctrine that white pioneers were the descendents of the original tribe of Israel and Native Americans the Sons of Cain) stemming from the notion that the New World was not corrupted like the Old, and so both personal success in this life was a sign of being blessed by God rather than of one's own worldly corruption, and the End Times would be characterised by a growth in the power of the Elect (unlike the millenarian view that the end would come when the world had fallen as deeply as it could into apostasy and the Chosen of God would be at their most persecuted). The Jehovah's Witnesses were an old style millenarian cult with an agenda of social upheaval, and their emergence was proof perhaps that the promise of permanent expansion and a classless society had evaporated in America. Millenial cults, on the other hand, tend to be politically conservative.

That America found a way to combine Apocalyptic religious movements and political conservatism is a situation historians tend to find most puzzling.

At 7:19 AM , Blogger Tim Akers said...

You've managed to pretty much capture the difference between pre- and post- there, Rob, though I've never heard the specific nomenclature that you're using. What is most startling for me, in conversations like this, is finding out just how varied and fragmented religious thought is in America. People who are technically members of the same sect will disagree on very simple matters of faith and doctrine.

And what Stephen said about religion becoming a matter of folklore got me thinking about american common law versus european civil law, and how that might apply to our religious understanding. It's certainly valid to say that contemporary christianity has little or nothing to do with the founding principles of the religion, and that people tend to think of christian values as simply middle class, middle american values. It circles back to the argument of how christianity isn't really a conservative religion, and most of the people espousing christian values in the political arena really aren't talking about christ, as much as they're talking about their personal hangups and prejuidices.


At 11:00 AM , Blogger Bravus said...

Yeah, I'm with Marsh - even given that I'm a Christian; the text is just so rich, so complex, so multi-faceted that it's possible to project pretty much anything onto it, and proof-text pretty much anything from it.

I liked your version of amillenialism that's also a-life-after-deathism, Shadoth: it's kinda how I treat it. If there's a heaven, bonus, but basically live as though this life is all we've got - how do we optimise that for ourselves and for everyone around us (and everyone is our neighbour, as Christ reminded us)?

At 1:50 PM , Blogger Pauline said...

OK, but when are the helicopters coming with the goods?


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