Millenarian movements #3: comments and additional book suggestions

[ by Charles Cameron — concluding post in 3-part biblio series ]

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I wanted to complete my series of posts, begun before the Boston conference, providing readings of use in understanding new religious movements, and “end times” movements in particular.

  • A dozen or more books on NRMs, apocalyptic, and violence
  • A dozen or so books on Islamic apocalyptic
  • This, the third and last post in that series, contains additions to the first of the two posts above, as recommended by scholars on a relevant mailing list I subscribe to.

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    Here are the comments made by three scholars of new religious movements in response to my request:

    Gordon Melton:

    I feel some need to call attention to the vast literature on millennialisms that have no violence connected with them. I have been working for the past few years, for example, on Pentecostalism, an intensely millennial movement that spread globally in its first generation with no hint of violence. In fact the great majority of millennial groups have had no violence connected with them, while the majority of violent nrms have had no particular millennial orientation. In asking why a few millennial groups turned violent, and others had violence inflicted upon them, we must always deal with the issue of why so many, from the Millerites to the modern Catholic Marian groups, have no hint of violent tendencies in spite of vibrant millennial expectations.

    John Hall:

    I want to emphasize again that religious violence is not restricted to apocalyptic/millenarian groups, a point I developed at length in ‘Religion and violence from a sociological perspective,’ [in Jerryson, Juergensmeyer, and Kitts’s 2013 Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence] which is not focused on religious movements per se, and thus, may have been missed by list members.

    Jean Rosenfeld:

    In How the Millennium Comes Violently, Cathy Wessinger has a chapter on the instructive case of Chen Tao, which I have used in class to demonstrate that even when the authorities are excited by the possibility of a group suicide, informed individuals from the group and outside can reassure everyone that nothing will happen. Even in the case of a very violent apocalyptic group, CSA, the collaboration of an insider (Noble) with the besieging authority (FBI HRT director Coulsen) averted a bloody denouement. In contrast, arguably peaceful groups, the Waco Davidians and the Rua Kenana group in North Island, NZ, were violently confronted by misguided (and frightened) authorities.

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    Further readings suggested by a variety of scholars:

    Bromley & Melton, eds, Cults, Religion, and Violence

    John Hall, Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History

    Benjamin Zeller, Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion

    James Lewis, ed, The Order of the Solar Temple: The Temple of Death

    Eileen Barker, forthcoming, The Making is a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice?

    And some titles with brief comments:

    Peter Webster, Rua and the Maori Millennium

    — incredible early study by anthropologist Webster of an Antipodean “Koresh”

    Paul Clark, Hauhau: the Pai Marire Search for Maori Identity

    — how the wars that founded New Zealand began in response to N.Z.’s most influential prophet movement

    GW Trompf, ed., Cargo Cults and Millenarian Movements: Transoceanic Comparisons of New Religious Movements

    — relevant today, oddly enough, and insightful)

    Jean Rosenfeld, The Island Broken in Two Halves: Land and Renewal Movements Among the Maori of New Zealand

    — 4-5 major nativist millennial/apoc. movements and Land Wars; NZ has some of the richest, most copious data on these subjects

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