02/07/2005: Thought for the Day:
The key shift was the move by American fundamentalists from post-millenial dispensation to premillenial dispensation. The millenium bit refers to a passage in Revelation which describes a thousand years of peace in which Christ reigns on earth. Postmillenialists basically think the millenium culminates with the return of Jesus, and that they need to act to improve the world to bring this about; they also take a figurative approach to Revelation. Premillenialists think the Second Coming arrives before the thousand years, and it's coming RIGHT NOW and has been for the last century or so. Premillenialists tend to take a literal view of Revelation and look for all sorts of signs about when precisely the End will be Nigh, which always seem to correlate with current events.
The biggest ramification of this is that premillenial version kills the incentive for work for social justice and instead focuses belivers on their personal salvation - the world's going to bite it next year so why bother changing it? This has lead to a much lower quality of religious nutjob in American life - in the 19th century you had guys like John Brown who fought and died to free slaves, while now you get guys like James Dobson who worry their souls will be polluted by exposure to icky gay television.
--Ben Avery [SKEPTIC mail list]
Len on 02.07.05 @ 07:16 AM CST