In times of stress, look for the prophets of an earthly paradise. America may be ready for its own millennial cult…
The main American Indian movements, Pontiac, Code of Handsome Lake and the Ghost Dance, and the hundreds of others that have been documented from all parts of the world, present a single pattern. A prophet emerges from obscurity, as did Jesus, or Mohammed the camel driver, or Wovoka the indian, who never left Walker Lake, Nevada. The prophet predicts a complete upheaval of the economic and social order and the imminence of the millennium; the Jewish Zealots at Masada, for example, thought that Isaiah’s prophecies were about to be fulfilled, and Marshall McLuhan told the world in the 1960′s that we were already in the new technological age that was making our traditional ways obsolete.
Dead ancestors, as in the case of the Ghost Dance, or other liberators are about to bring relief and the possessions the people so earnestly desire. But the people must prepare quickly for this event by performing rituals, such as learning the thoughts of Chairman Mao at one time A new code of morality and law ids drawn up, such as the Code of Handsome Lake or the non-violent teachings of Martin Luther King at one time, and usually new insignia are adopted. And, finally, the faithful must show their loyalty to the new movement.
The pattern of millenarian movements was already well established in ancient Jewish times. The prophetic book of Baruch predicts that a messiah will come to break the power of the Roman Empire and that he will establish a kingdom on earth; pain, hunger, and war will no longer be known. and the earth will yield its fruits ten-thousand fold. Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God was interpreted literally by the early Christians as meaning material rewards that will be enjoyed here on earth. Even such church fathers as Papias and Irenaeus expected the earth to bring forth unheard of bounty without the necessity of cultivation, and the heathens to become the slaves of the faithful. The imminence of the millennium remained a strong belief as long as the Christian church was an unpopular minority. But as its influence increased in the Meditteranean world and it finally won acceptance by Rome itself, the church stamped out millenarian beliefs and discredited the leaders as “false prophets” and”heretics.”