01: In the new book Millennial Seduction: A Skeptic Confronts Apocalyptic Culture.
(Cornell University Press, $16.95), Lee Quinby examines the influence that absolutist moral claims, coupled with a millennialist worldview, has on American views of gender, sexuality, and society. Her main interest is in how anxiety about the coming millennium casts every event, minor or major, in apocalyptic terms.
She sees millennial rhetoric as pervasive, because at heart humans are afraid of change. Although we see the future optimistically, we still feel some fear as we look ahead at the unknown. A visit to the Isle of Patmos, where St. John the Divine wrote his Revelations, and the Pulitzer-winning play “Angels in America,” serve as backdrops and inspirations for Quinby’s reflections on life at the end of the 20th century, and she refers back to these two items throughout the book, using them as examples of the lengths apocalyptic thinking can go.
In particular “Angels” seems to serve as a commentary on our obsession with sexuality, an obsession often expressed in religious terms. The book tends to blame Christianity and traditional values for the quagmire of apocalyptic obsession in which society finds itself. She seems to be unable to grant Christianity (or indeed any form of religious orthodoxy) credit for anything positive.
— By Lin Collette, an RW contributing editor
02: Ted Daniels’ anthology, A Doomsday Reader: Prophets, Predictors, and Hucksters of Salvation (New York University Press, $19.95) is a worthwhile introduction to modern apocalyptic influences, being a compilation of selections from various millennialist sources accompanied by adroit commentaries.
Daniels is the founder of the Philadelphia-based Millennium Watch Institute and has published an essential bibliography of millennialist sources. He apparently realized early on in the process of writing this book that it would be almost impossible to develop a single unified theory that would explain all millenarian groups. This is actually far more useful than it sounds; too many books on the subject attempt to force all groups into the same categories and it is refreshing to see that Daniels recognizes that while millenarian groups do often share the same characteristics, it would be folly to treat the Montana Freemen, a far right constitutionalist/Christian Identity group the same as, say, the Church Universal or Triumphant.
Daniels seems most interested in so-called “far right” millenarians, from which he draws most of his selections, which include Mein Kampf, The Turner Diaries, and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. He does include a section on Marxism from the Communist Manifesto, but by and large seems to ignore left-wing apocalyptic thinking. He uses Freudian theory to examine the leaders of the groups he includes, and he effectively illustrates the “all or nothing” mentality most millenarian movements seem to exhibit.
A Doomsday Reader is almost an essential choice for those wishing to understand the more radical responses to impending world events and their symbolism.
— By Lin Collette