BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer corning of Christ. They accept the cen tu Ussher’s estimate of the age of the E arithmetic based on the generations be he concluded that GodisOreated the w o ompletely ignoring the simple arithmetic, and bewitched by the coming turn of the century which is also the end of a millennium, most of us suppose that we will move from the second millennium since the birth of Christ to the third at the stroke of 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2000, instead of exactly one year later. And, given the popular interpretation of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, an increasing percentage of us expect the twenty-first century to inaugurate a thousand years of peace and plenty but only for the righteous. How did all this come about? How are our current religious bodies responding to it? What attitude might sensible people take to all the furor about it? It came about, in the view of our ablest scholars, because mankind is “incurably religious.” All people everywhere seem to have rather spontaneously worked out systems of religious thought, which have helped make life more bearable in a world always mysterious and often frightening. Few of us, even now, when science has given us unprecedented control over nature, can face life without some “invisible means of support.” All, or nearly all, of these religions envision some kind of Edenic world which for one reason or another -has been tragically corrupted. The Judeo-Christian religion of the Europeans added the attraction of an eventual return to the original ideal world but only, of course, for the righteous. Given the stresses inescapable in a corrupted world, some of the people touched by Christian views have looked for the appearance of a savior whenever the normal strains of life have become unusually severe. Our current stresses, stemming from the uniquely rapid pace of change in all areas of our lives, have sharpened our hopes and fears as we near the passage from the bloody century we know to a new, totally unknown world. At the moment, the more self-confident and less restrained in terpreters of Genesis are preaching that the dawn of the twentyfirst century will mark the perennially longed-for turn from the old corrupt world to a thousand-year period of peace and plenty. Unfortunately, this glorious millennium cannot become a reality until the forces of Christ annihilate the forces of the Antichrist whatever all this may mean. Now for the arithmetic. These latter-day prophets believe that the six days of creation correspond to the 6,000 years between Adam and the second IT IS UPON US Now, if we add the 2, C Ussher’s 4,000 years, ness that the miltenni . obviously end le Since both church are trying gelicals have a near Graham has contribut Utopia will be preceded the human race, but’ especially planet earth, into the lake of f Probably few sensible people will don white robes o ber 31, 1999, and wait at some church or on some in on the dawn of the millennium. But as many times in Christian history, when severe. The followers of one William reported to have done exactly t in 1 stress resulting from industrializa of modern science, and the influx of ma y react to th e e People ma Sensibl e as and two friends were strolith lerite firebrand rushed up to tell for the end of the world. Emerson disco of no concern to us, we live in Boston,” Waco, Texas is not exactly the Bosib’ is it the world of the End-Timers. Yet, it wo devil thrown into a lake of fire, Ralph Lynn is a member of the Board of Contributors; w of Central Texans who write columns regularly for the Wae’ Tribune-Herald, where a version of this essay first appeared. He is a retired professor of hi.story at Baylor University. AUGUST 28, 1998 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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