The Millennium Cometh: Apocalypse and Utopia in Bible, Sociology and Literature Profs. John Coleman, S.J.
(Sociology), Felix Just, S.J. (Theology),
Holli Levitsky (English) Loyola Marymount University - Spring 2000
Reading Guide, Discussion Questions and Writing Assignment
for BLOCK 5: MODERN MILLENARIAN MOVEMENTS
The following questions are intended both to help guide your own reading
of the assigned texts, and to stimulate our small group discussions on
Thursday, March 30. Also, the instructions for your fifth written
exercise are appended further below.
Tues, March 21
Sociological Readings: John Hall & Philip Schuyler, "The
Mystical Apocalypse of the Solar Temple" (R&P 285-311)
How does a "mystical apocalypse" as described in the Solar Temple belief
differ from the expected apocalypse of conventional bible-prophesy believers?
The article deals with several anti-cult groups around the world. Why do
you think anti-cult groups emerge? Do you think they are legitimate? Do
they actually stereotype cults?
Sociological Readings: William Kephart, "The Oneida Community"
Groups, 50-93; on library reserve or E-Res)
On p. 88, Kephart suggests that one cause of the fall-out of the Oneida
community was a shift from religious to a social science emphasis. Why
would this shift weaken the Oneida community's internal bonds?
Do you think that the utopian experiment of "complex marriage," as successfully
tried and implemented at Oneida for almost forty years (with its ingredients
of male coitus reservata and care to keep women from unwanted child-bearing
and stirpiculture), could be tried again in a small community and work
for almost forty years? If so, what mechanisms would have to be institutionalized
in the commune for it to work?
Thurs, March 23
Biblical Readings: Isaiah 24-27; Ezekiel 37-39; Joel
1-3; Zechariah 9-14
Recalling our definition of a literary "apocalypse" from the beginning
of the semester, in what ways are these four prophetic writings not full
apocalypses? What part of the definition do they not satisfy? And
in what respects are these writings at least proto-apocalyptic? How is
biblical "prophecy" different from biblical "apocalyptic"?
Which of these four prophetic writings intrigues you, impresses you, or
scares you the most? Why?
What images from these four prophetic writings are frequently quoted by
modern fundamentalist Christians, and interpreted as "signs" of the imminent
end of the world?
Extra-Biblical Reading: The Apocalypse of Thomas (Reddish,
330-333); 6 Ezra (Reddish, 343-350)
How would you summarize and characterize the "signs" that are supposed
to occur at the end of the world according to the 7-day pattern of the
Apocalypse of Thomas? And what is supposed to happen on the eighth
What types of punishments are threatened against the wicked in 6 Ezra?
What rewards for the righteous?
Which biblical passages most strongly influenced Apoc.Thomas? Which biblical
texts mainly influenced 6 Ezra? What concepts and images in Apoc.Thomas
and 6 Ezra are new (i.e. not found in the older biblical writings)?
In what ways can Jack Kirby's "New Gods" legitimately be called "apocalyptic"?
How are they similar to, and how are they different from other apocalypses
we have read this semester?
"New Gods" begins with an Epilogue and ends with a Prologue" - Why? What
is the effect of this reversal?
What allusions and parallels are there in the "New Gods" to the Judeo-Christian
Bible? Which figures represent the Old Testament prophets? Does anyone
What does the "Anti-Life Equation" reflect? To what biblical/theological
concepts is this similar?
Thurs, March 30 - Discussion Groups
Writing Assignment for Block #5 [See the main page of Questions &
Reflections for additional Writing Guidelines and Tips]
You have a choice of one of the following two options:
You are a member of The Moonies (to be explained more on
March 21) who is in charge of helping other Moonie members become recruiting
agents for prospective group candidates. Briefly explain to them the traits
they should look for in recruiting candidates to the Moonies and the mechanisms
they should use to draw them into membership. List at least three
traits and at least two mechanisms for recruitment to a new cult such as
You are a member of the Christian Anti-Cult organization
who is in charge of training Christian anti-cult members to dissuade people
from becoming Moonies. List at least three mechanisms you would use to
try to dissuade someone (a relatively susceptible candidate) from becoming
a Moonie. Explain to your trainees why you chose these three mechanisms
and why you justify this choice.