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Mystics and Messiahs : Cults and New Religions in American History - Philip Jenkins

Mystics and Messiahs

Cults and New Religions in American History

Hardcover Published: 1st June 2000
ISBN: 9780195127447
Number Of Pages: 304

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Are religious fringe movements a recent phenomeon in American history? Are widespread fears of mass suicides, sexual abuse, and brainwashing in cults justified? Do marginalized religious groups play any positive role in American spiritual life? Do the panics over such groups follow any discernible pattern?
Phillip Jenkins gives fascinating--and surprising--answers to these and many other questions in Mystics and Messiahs, the first full account of cults and anti-cult scares in American history. Jenkins shows that, contrary to popular belief, cults were by no means an invention of the 1960s. In fact, most of the frightening images and stereotypes surrounding fringe religious movements are traceable to the mid-nineteenth century when Mormons, Freemasons, and even Catholics were vehemently denounced for supposed ritualistic violence, fraud, and sexual depravity. As Charles Ferguson observed in 1928, "America has always been the sanctuary of amazing cults." But America has also been the home of an often hysterical anti-cult backlash. Jenkins provides an insightful new analysis of why cults arouse such fear and hatred both in the secular world and in mainstream churches, many of which--Baptists, Quakers, Pentecostals, and Methodists--were themselves originally regarded as cults. Most importantly, Jenkins argues that an accurate historical perspective is urgently needed if we are to avoid the kind of catastrophic confrontation that occurred in Waco or the ruinous prosecution of imagined Satanic cults in the 1980s.
While not ignoring genuine instances of aberrant behavior, Mystics and Messiahs goes beyond the vast edifice of myth, distortion, and hype to reveal the true characteristics of religious fringe movements and why they inspire such fierce antagonism.

Industry Reviews

"Jenkins...possesses the virtue of being able to perceive new and unusual religious sects on their own terms, not through the frequently distorted mirror in which they have been viewed in popular writings for at least a century." --Washington Post Book World "A valuable tool....A fine resource and starting point for further exploration of a fascinating element of national life."--ForeWord "A superb historical primer....Loaded with intriguing sketches of dozens of cults and distinguished by Jenkins' healthily nonjudgmental attitude."--Booklist "Offers sweeping cultural breadth and fresh insights into the role of new religions."--Publishers Weekly "A scholarly and balanced book on this controversial and explosive topic....Mystics and Messiahs is a much needed...contribution to a topic that has for too long been the subject of public hysteria and distortion. Highly Recommended."--Multicultural Review Mystics and Messiahs is a scintillating analysis of the dynamics of recurrent waves of cult formation and anticult excitation in the United States since the nineteenth century."--Nova Religio, Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions "This is a thorough study of current cults and their precedents back to colonial times....[Jenkins'] objectivity is admirable, and his research is impressive."--James E. McGoldrick, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary "[Jenkins] describes and analyzes in interesting detail a large number of...cults and marginal regions, their leaders, and the opposition they aroused."--Theology Digest "Based on a rich variety of sources ranging from scholarly texts, the mass media, popular fiction, film and television, this book may be the one indispensible text at the advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar level for a full and nuanced discussion of new religious movements in America. Mystics and Messiahs is strongly recommended to anyone interested in the subject of American new religions."--Utopian Studies "Jenkins,...has produced a scholarly and balanced book on this controversial and explosive topic....Mystics and Messiahs is a much needed scholarly contribution to a topic that has for too long been the subject of public hysteria and distortion. Highly Recommended." --Multicultural Review "Jenkins possesses the virtue of being able to perceive new and unusual religious sects on their own terms, not through the frequently distorted mirror in which they have been viewed in popular writings for at least a century."-- Washington Post Book World "An innovative, engaging portrait of recent American religious history that transposes traditional conceptions of foreground and background. Jenkins places religious movements, usually treated as peripheral, front and center. He demonstrates that religious movements have always been a primary source of religious vitality and of what ultimately becomes mainstream tradition. Organized outrage and panic at the challenges posed by these movements are an equally integral part of our tradition. His portrait compels us to see ourselves as representing both traditions and the contemporary cult wars as just the latest cultural rendering of a very ancient theme."--David Bromley, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Virginia Commonwealth University "Philip Jenkins has provided a vital historical perspective to the contemporary conflict between new religious groups and those who condemn them as cults that destroy spiritual and moral values. It is a conflict that has persisted through the twentieth century, with roots as far back as the Reformation era of the sixteenth century, and is likely to continue many decades into the future. His research forces all of us to reexamine the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy, both in our allowance of the creative ferment of new divergent faiths that erode attachments to stable institutions, and in our tolerance of widespread critique of the unfamiliar that ranges from the rational to the bigoted."--J. Gordon Melton, editor of The Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America "This study offers sweeping cultural breadth and fresh insights into the role of new religions, though it remains to be seen whether Jenkins's prediction of a cult resurgence around 2010 will pan out."--Publishers Weekly "A fascinating look at the importance of the religious fringe in American life. Jenkins argues convincingly that cults and new religions are significant social and cultural contributors to the healthy development of society.... A fresh and thoughtful analysis that sheds much-needed light on an often overheated phenomenon."--Kirkus Reviews "Loaded with intriguing sketches of dozens of cults and distinguished by Jenkins' healthily nonjudgemental attitude, this is a superb historical primer on what, tomorrow, may be a hot topic again."--Booklist "A valuable tool....A fine resource and starting point for further exploration of a fascinating element of national life."--ForeWord "Serious and important"--Library Journal

Acknowledgments
Overrun with Messiahsp. 3
False Prophets and Deluded Subjects: The Nineteenth Centuryp. 25
Anti-Christian Cults?: The Christian Sects, 1890-1930p. 46
The First New Agep. 70
Black Godsp. 100
The Cult Racket: Anticult Campaigns, 1920-1940p. 121
The Purge of the Fortiesp. 149
The New Boom 1960-1980p. 165
Cult Wars, 1969-1985p. 187
Devil Cults and Doomsday Cults, 1980-2000p. 208
Teeming with Faithp. 227
Notesp. 241
Indexp. 283
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195127447
ISBN-10: 0195127447
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 1st June 2000
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 26.04 x 16.51  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.56

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