CenSAMM Symposium, "Violence & Millenarian Movements", Day 1 *Free*

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The Panacea Museum

9 Newnham Road


MK40 3NX

United Kingdom

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CenSAMM Symposia 2017

Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenaran Movements

"Violence and Millenarian Movements"

Violence has been envisaged and perpetrated by, and upon, millenarian movements for as long as they have existed. This symposium explores the motivations, causes, consequences and effects of violence for contemporary and historical millenarian movements.

Under the Big Top in the Panacea Museum Gardens 9 Newnham Road

Bedford MK40 3NX.

Email: Tel: 01234 269430

Thursday April 6th

Day 1, CenSAMM Symposium, Violence and Millenarian Movements.

9.00 – 9.30 Registration and coffee

9.30 – 9.40 Welcome

9.40 – 10.40 Keynote presentation: Stuart A. Wright, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice, Lamar University, USA.

Factors to Consider in the Trajectory of Violence in Millenarian Movements.

10.40 – 11.00 Coffee break

11.00 – 11.30

Garry W Trompf, Emeritus Professor in the History of Ideas, University of Sydney, Australia. (Via Skype)

Violence and Melanesian Cargo Cults

So-called cargo cults in the southwest Pacific region of Melanesia (from West Papua to western Fiji) are often classified as one form of millenarian movement. While debates about the extent of overlap aside, it is well known that collective indigenous energies yearning for and actively seeking European-style or internationally marketed goods ('the Cargo') can result in violent action. Desperation at being deprived of access to the new (and mysterious) wares, and outrage over reactive governments (mainly colonial ones) that try to put down group ritual attempts to bring on 'the Coming of the Cargo,' can incur physically violent outbursts. Accounting for the region's extraordinary cultural complexity, this paper discusses the various projections of the Cargo's arrival as commonly millenarian in character, and argues that the spilling over into violence of such movements of high expectation is very contextual, depending on the degrees of 'pacification,' on cargo cult leaders' assessments as to whether violence will produce anything beneficial, and on the raising of hopes that an activist group might be able to get around difficulties posed by superior government fire-power. The paper will discuss a spectrum of violent acts, from those more ritualized (but nonetheless formidable) to the formation of some kind of army ready to fight (albeit unrealistically and with expectations of harnessing extraordinary spiritual power). Any simple correlation between a greater extravagance of dreams and the high readiness to prepare for violent uprising will be questioned. The extent of the influence of 'Christian mission talk' is an important variable in Melanesian cargo (cult) movements, because hopes for a drastic eschatological-looking change involving the Return of Christ, the Second Coming or the last Judgement may demand that seriously irruptive solutions be left to God, not to armed men.

11.30 – 12.00

Justin Meggitt, Senior Lecturer in the Critical Study of Religion, University of Cambridge.

Apocalyptic Terrorism: Unveiling a Contested Concept.

Although a staple of much literature in terrorism studies since the seminal article of David Rapoport (1984), the validity of the concept 'religious terrorism' has been the subject of considerable controversy in recent years (e.g. Gunning and Jackson, 2011), something that has coincided with the increasing salience of the concept in popular and governmental discourse.

However, one aspect of this debate that has received limited attention is the degree to which 'religion' is often used as synonym for 'apocalyptic' in key critical literature in terrorism studies. For example, 'religious terrorism' is often distinguished from other kinds of terrorism as the violence it employs is allegedly unconstrained by the usual moral or strategic constraints, a characteristic it owes to the assumption that its actors are engaged in a cosmic conflict with transcendent, rather than this-worldly, aims (Juergensmeyer 2003, pp.149–150). Its perpetrators are often seen as especially relentless and brutal in comparison with other kinds of terrorists, not least in their willingness to use weapons of mass destruction; as Magnus Ranstorp (1996) puts it, they are ‘relatively unconstrained in the lethality and the indiscriminate nature of violence used’ because they lack ‘any moral constraints in the use of violence’ (p. 54). The paper will analyse the history, veracity and utility of such ways thinking about 'religious terrorism' and the interpretative value of apocalyptic tropes that are regularly associated with its critical analysis.

12.0 – 1.00 Lunch

1.00 – 2.00 Keynote presentation: Susan J. Palmer, Affiliate Professor, Concordia University & Research Associate, McGill University, Montreal.

Millennial Children and the Potential for Violence in Contemporary New Religious Movements.

2.00 – 2.30

Ariel Hessayon, Senior Lecturer in History, Goldsmiths, University of London.

The Fifth Monarchists and Thomas Venner's rebellion of 1661

The biblical book of Daniel is set in ancient Babylon at the time of Kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, although it was actually written much later in the mid-second century before Christ. Parts of it relate various dreams and visions concerning a statue made of different materials and four great beasts. Taken together they were usually interpreted as four world empires: (1) Babylon; (2) the Medes and Persians; (3) Greece; (4) Rome. All would be destroyed, after which there would be a fifth monarchy ruled by King Jesus.

It was from Daniel that the millenarian movement the Fifth Monarchists derived their name. Since they were not an organised religious community like the Baptists or Quakers it’s difficult to date their precise beginnings. But winter 1651 – shortly after Oliver Cromwell had defeated the enemies of the new republic in Ireland, Scotland and England – seems about right. Certainly by 1653 the press was full of accounts about Fifth Monarchists meeting at several London locations. Thereafter the movement spread, particularly in southern England. Outside the capital support was concentrated in Suffolk, Norfolk, Devon, Cornwall and North Wales. Yet even allowing for exaggerated reports at the height of their popularity there were probably less than 10,000 Fifth Monarchists.

In this paper I want to explore the infamous rising led by the Fifth Monarchist Thomas Venner in January 1661 against the restored Stuart monarchy. According to Samuel Pepys their battle cry had been ‘The King Jesus, and the [regicides’] heads upon the gate’. And the result was bloody skirmishes on London's streets with dozens of fatalities. Afterwards, the surviving ringleaders (including Venner) were publicly hung, drawn and quartered. Their heads were set on London Bridge and their dismembered bodies on four of the city’s gates. King Jesus had not come.

2.30 – 3.00

Aiden Cottrell-Boyce, PhD Candidate, Divinity, University of Cambridge.

Prophecy Failure and Violence: The Vennerite Rebellion

At the heart of the Fifth-Monarchist belief system was the conviction that history was providential, and that providential history had profited and - thereby - vindicated the Good Old Cause. The seemingly miraculous victories at Naseby attested to this. Fifth-Monarchists believed that the beheading of Charles I was an indication that the process of establishing the Fifth-Monarchy of King Jesus was already inexorably progressing.

The restoration of Charles II, therefore, represented a failure of prophecy. Many who had once advanced the Fifth-Monarchist standard reviewed and rejected their commitment to Fifth-Monarchist prophecy.

However, in light of the research of Festinger, Riecken, Schachter, Zygmunt and Melton, we now know that many devotees do not simply integrate the failure of a prophecy, nor do they adapt their understanding of the world in response to new realities.

Thomas Venner and his band of Fifth-Monarchists conceded that the restoration was a baffling development in the story of God’s providential favor for Protestants. They were particularly baffled that this reversal had not taken place on the battlefield but rather as a result of ‘hellish contrivance.’ In all, the events of 1660 were, the anonymous author of the Door of Hope wrote “strange Providence, whereas most are confounded.”

It was clear to the Vennerites, however, that this setback was only temporary. They renewed their belief that a defeat for the Godly would be a defeat for God. As such it was impossible to countenance:

And if God should not appear for the poor Remnant of Jacob, but suffer them ... to fall before Papists, and Cavaliers… then what would become of his great Name?

They resolved to take up arms, in an ultimately fatal mission, to defend the fidelity of God’s promise to the new Israel.

Melton, in his writing on the social response to cognitive dissonance, claims that when prophecy fails:

some action must be taken to repair the social fabric torn in the prophecy’s failure. At such moment’s groups tend to turn inward… and engage in processes of group building.

In this paper, I contend that the radical and indeed suicidal commitment to Fifth-Monarchist prophecy adopted by the Vennerites functioned as a mode of cognitive dissonance reduction, a desperate attempt to repair the fabric, torn by the disaster of the restoration.

3.00 – 3.30 Break

3.30 – 4.00

Britta Gullin, Associate Professor (Retired), Religious Studies, Umeå University, Sweden. (Via Skype).

Violence in two millenarian movements. The process preceding the tragic ending.

On the 5th of October 1994 in Freiburg, Switzerland (later also in France and Canada) and on the 28th of February 1993 in Waco, Texas USA, serious events took place in which millenarian movements were involved. In a house in Freiburg, owned by members of the millenarian movement OTS (Ordre du Temple Solaire), the police found several dead bodies. When FBI and CIA on the 28th February, 1993 attacked the community belonging to the millenarian/apocalyptic movement Branch Davidians, their houses took fire and many members perished in the flames.

We don´t know in detail what really happened. Did the members commit suicide or were they murdered ? Whose fault was it that as many as 70 Branch Davidian members died in the flames?

I am not going to discuss who to blame or the results that came out of the investigations made by different authorities. Instead I will in my text focus on a few aspects in the process that preceded the tragic endings related to these two movements.

One decisive aspect is the relation between the - more or less - isolated communities where members lived - and the society outside. Many scientists emphasize the collaboration between the endogamous (such as ideology, leadership or organisation) and the exogamous aspects (such as the attitude among people outside). An escalating tension in the process is one important factor. But the two examples I will discuss show significant differences regarding;

*the period stretching from the time when the movements assumed a discernible form up to the time when the tragic events took place. For quite some time the members in Branch Davidians did not have any conflicts with the people outside the communities while the attitudes from people outside (especially members of their families), towards OTS quite soon expressed concern. I will discuss some possible reasons for the diversity.

*Leadership is another important aspect when it comes to millenarian violence. The members in Branch Davidians were under a very strong influence of their leader David Koresh. As a leader he, and he alone, had a strong influence on his members. The leadership in OTS was more flexible. There were two or three parallel leaders with different input at different times in the process. Can different kinds of leadership have an influence on the process?

*Exactely what in the message can possibly have contibuted to the escalating tension in the process and the tragic ending?

Many scientists emphasize that not one cause alone explains the millenarian violence reflected in these movements. In a complex collaboration between many aspects different steps can be discerned in the escalating process leading to the end. I will discuss this issue and illustrate my discussion with the two movements presented above.

4.00 – 4.30

Moojan Momen (unaffiliated)

The Progress towards Millenarian Violence: The Case of Babis of Iran

This article examines a case of millenarianism and violence that occurred in Iran just over 150 years ago. The Babi movement started as a millenarian sect claiming that the advent of the messianic figure, the Imam Mahdi, was at hand. Its founder, Sayyid `Ali Muhammad, who took the title, the Bab, at first appeared to claim to be just the intermediary for the Imam Mahdi, but later claimed to be the Imam Mahdi himself. The writings and actions of the Bab were provocative for the religious leaders of Iran, whose position he threatened, but there was nothing in them to suggest violence. Indeed, he specifically held back from calling for a jihad, which the Imam Mahdi was expected to do, according to the Islamic Traditions. Over a period of time, however, the Islamic clerics escalated matters, calling on the state to intervene to halt the spread of the movement. This led eventually to violent confrontations in three locations in Iran in 1848-1851 and then in 1852 to an attempt on the life of the Shah. I previously published a paper on the 1852 episode in Nova Religio (2008). This paper takes forward the analysis published there by looking at a broader range of events including the 1848-51 violence and describes the stages in the escalation of the conflict and specifically at those factors that increased the likelihood of violence.

4.30: Discussant comments and roundtable (depending on time) chair: Christopher Rowland, (retired in 2014 as Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford).

Sample questions for discussion:

What do we mean by ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘millenarian’? What is the relationship between ‘millenarianism’ and ‘messianism’?

Does ‘millenarianism usually lead to violence? If it doesn’t, what circumstances prevent it? Why does millenarianism endorse violence anyway?

Does the history of the Southcottian movement have anything to contribute to the understanding of disappointed eschatological hope?

5.00 Close / Delegates return to Hotel / Drinks.

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9 Newnham Road


MK40 3NX

United Kingdom

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