Let's Talk 2000

"The heartbeat of 2000 A.D. from cyberspace"

November 1, 1996, Volume 2, Issue 18, a bi-weekly bulletin

Topics covered in this issue:

The Millennium Doctor Speaks
News from the Field:
Talk from the Forum:
New Millennial Sites:
Contact Information

The Millennium Doctor Speaks:
"Taking the pulse of 2000 A.D."

On October 24th, I woke up, happy to survived Bishop Ussher's "End of the World." You'll recall that the 17th century bishop calculated the date of creation as October 23, 4004 B.C. by adding up ages in the Old Testament. Richard Landes (rlandes@bu.edu) came on the forum to say, "now it's time for all good owls to rally around the rabbinic count of 6000= AD 2240." :-)

So in honor of Bishop Ussher, this issue of "Let's Talk 2000" explores how the millennium is affecting religion. Our lead feature reports on an interfaith effort out of San Francisco to create a "United Religions" organization by 2000, parallel to the United Nations.

Our Forum section excerpts conversations we had about millennial rhetoric in today's Ukraine and Russia. And our Web Sites department features a great new site called Jubilee 2000, developed by Talk 2000 's own Henry Garman.

News from the Field:
"Here is the latest news on year 2000 efforts."

Since the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter in 1993, a San Francisco group, led by Anglican Bishop William Swing, has been working to establish a United Religions (UR), a permanent gathering place where representatives from the world's religions might engage in on-going dialogue and cooperative action to resolve the economic, environmental and social crises that "confront us at the dawn of the new millennium."

Cooperation over the past three years from interfaith leaders has encouraged UR Initiative leaders to move their proposed Charter signing up from the year 2005 to June 26, 2000. Organizers hope the creation of UR will be happen while a "walking pilgrimage for peace among religions takes place in villages, towns, and cities throughout the world."

This century has witnessed at least a dozen proposals for a United Religions body surface, only later to recede into obscurity. The most recent 1993 proposal was considered by the Chicago based "World Parliament of Religions" but failed to gain the financial support it needed move forward.

Some theologians, including World Network of Religious Futurist director Dr. Richard Kirby, feel any proposal for a UR body must not just aim at "making a better world" but also be self-critical and aim at "making a better religion." While embracing social and moral goals, Kirby feels any future UR body should see its primary purpose as "advancing the knowledge of God" through religious research. Ironically, this theological purpose has been absent from late 20th century United Religion proposals.

Before this latest UR Initiative targeted the millennium, Pope John Paul II announced his intentions in 2000 to meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders "in places of exceptional symbolic importance like Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Mount Sinai." Insiders report the Vatican feels greater commonality among the monotheistic faiths. In his statement on 2000, the pope expressed concern that interfaith dialogue would not "cause harmful misunderstandings, avoiding the risk of syncretism and of a facile and deceptive irenicism."

Executive director of the UR Initiative in San Francisco, the Rev. Charles Gibbs, admits that the United Religions proposal is still in a consensus-building process--and has a long way to go before it gets a green light. Gibbs plans to move the UR charter-writing process forward through a 200-person consultation in June of 1997. The UR web can be found at: http://www.united-religions.org Source: Bimillennial Press, talk2000@rmii.com

An English charitable trust called "People and Places" has proposed a twelve day campaign climaxing on June 21st, the longest day of the year 2000, focused on giving millennial gifts to children around the world.

"A Child is Born" managing director Raymond Hall claims the campaign "is about heart." Halls says the motivation to help children come from the simple fact that 2,000 years ago, a Child was born. Hall envisions their celebrations being typified by "a toy gift given to a child in Buenos Aires," or a "global televised fund-raising concert to finance new medical centres in developing countries."

To date, the "Child is Born" campaign has secured commitments from the host communities of Greenwich and Lewisham to plan a millennium event in June 2000 "perhaps on the Greenwich Peninsular itself."

"People and Places" children's campaign is illustrative of a mounting millennial interest in England, focused on shaping the "Centre of Time" National Millennium Exhibition at Greenwich. For more information, contact "A Child is Born," The Little House, 16 Belmont Hill, London, SE13 5BD. Tel.: 0181-318-9233 Source: Bimillennial Press, talk2000@rmii.com

Following Fox's impressive debut of its "Millennium" TV series to 32 million viewers on Oct. 25th, Fox's lawyers apparently have cracked down on unofficial "Millennium" sites using the copyrighted show images.

Hotwired magazine reports Fox's lawyer, David Oakes called the dean of students at the University of Texas at El Paso and "threatened to sue the university" if it didn't 'take care of' an unofficial site before the weekend.

The following day, student Gil Trevizo's internet account was suspended. Fox claims what is at issue is the use of pirated images of its TV series. Some "Millennium" fans, nurtured by paranoia from the sister "X-Files" series, see a more sinister motive at work. Whatever the case, Trevizo's "unofficial site" cut back on posts of illegal copyrighted materials from major news services this week. Read Hotwired special report on net censorship at: http://www.hotwired.com/special/millennium

Talk from the Forum:
"Here is a recap of recent conversations"

Out of conversations about the 1,900th anniversary of the book of Revelations last year, USC's professor Stephen O'Leary started a post on millennialism in the East. His UCLA colleague, Charles Cameron hipbone@earthlink.net writes:

Stephen O'Leary writes that the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I:
> applied the Book of Revelation to the ecology crisis, and that one
> topic of conversation at the conference was the synchronistic
> coincidence between the prophecy of "Wormwood" and the
> Chernobyl nuclear accident (the Ukrainian word for "wormwood"
> is chernobyl).

I suppose one could think of wormwood / chernobyl as an example of the "dark" side of the ecological / millennial connection, which emphasizes the doom-saying aspect of ecological rhetoric: and to understand just how persuasive that particular verbal "coincidence" might be for Russians predisposed to a millennial style of thought, I think we (in the US) have to imagine living very close to Three Mile Island, and reading in Revelation of a star falling from heaven named "Island of Three Miles" in a context of plagues poured out upon the earth, etc.

The magical "associative" aspect of thought fairly leaps at connections of this sort, in either a paranoid or an ecstatic manner...

There's an intriguing crossover between "doom-laden" and "utopian" versions of apocalyptic thinking in the Orthodox notion of Eucharist, which considers the sacrament as a "holocaust" or burnt offering, in which the whole earth is consumed.

Westerners nowadays tend to think of "holocaust" as referring to the gas-chambers of the Final Solution, or the immolations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- and perhaps Dresden. But the word is equally capable of a *glorious* connotation to eastern ears, exemplified by Kadloubovsky & Palmer's "Foreword" to *Writings from the Philokalia*:

:: Inaccessible to human conception is the inexpressible glorious
:: Majesty of the most holy, sublime Sacraments and Revelations on
:: earth of the Divine Incarnation and supreme Holocaust of Love of
:: our celestial Saviour and God Jesus Christ. They open for us the
:: way to possibilities that are not of this earth, forming, purifying
:: and developing the unseen parts of our being, helping us towards
:: Salvation.

Supreme Holocaust of Love...

The imagery of holocaust is, I am told, central to Orthodox eucharistic doctrine, which understands the eucharist as the offering of the whole world into the fire of love, which both destroys and purifies... and the purification of nature in this fire is (apparently) in turn viewed by some Orthodox theologians in quasi-ecological terms....

This is a strong and optimistic basis for what we can term "ecological hope" -- and I offer it as a counterpoise to the theme of "ecological doom"...

It also seems interesting that the word "holocaust" can serve in both optimistic and pessimistic formulations of apocalyptic ideas...

Getting back more directly to Stephen's post and the issue of apocalypticism in Russia -- Stephen asks:

> what is the relationship between [Greek and other] Orthodox
> Christianity and millennialism? Will Orthodox churches be any
> less susceptible to apocalyptic millennial speculation and
> movements in the coming decades, or what manifestations of the
> millennial zeitgeist can we expect to see from that corner of the
> world?

Like Stephen, I am only peripherally acquainted with Orthodoxy, and would be happy to learn more. But I did recently come across some interesting remarks James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, made during a presentation to the Woodstock Theological Center forum on "Religion in the Former Soviet Republics", 1992, in which he describes three different religious tendencies in the new Russia. The first of these, and the one which concerns us here in this forum, is apocalyptic:

:: It is a time of great change. There are three attitudes within the
:: Christian community, which is predominantly Orthodox. The first
:: is apocalypticism, which is very characteristic of the intellectuals.
:: Change is always explained in apocalyptical terms. There has
:: never been such a sustained apocalyptical mood in Moscow
:: among otherwise adult and responsible intellectuals. It is simply a
:: phenomenon and by no means a comforting one. People who
:: think of apocalyptical expectations begin with Chernobyl, which
:: also means wormwood, and is therefore reminiscent of the star
:: "Wormwood" in the book of Revelation (8:11). Such thinking
:: can lead to all kinds of occult and unbelievable calculations,
:: conspiracy theories, the sense of the impending end of the world,
:: the third millennium. This mood is off to a flying start in Russia.

So there's chernobyl / wormwood again. And I'm fascinated and a little surprised that it's the *intellectuals* whom Billington credits with apocalyptic fervor... Anyone interested in reading the rest of Billington's comments can find them on the web at: http://adminweb.georgetown.edu/woodstck/r-fea31.htm

New Millennial Sites:
"Here are new sites in cyberspace"

JUBILEE 2000: "Proclaim Liberty to All Peoples "
A first class web site covering how the biblical Jubilee dream of debt remission and economic recovery is being picked up by various economic and religious in reference to 2000 A.D. Includes graphics, sound files and primary documents of various Jubilee campaigns.

WHITEHOUSE 2000: "Early Predictions for the Millennial Campaign"
With the '96 campaign coming to a close, here is the first unofficial Elections 2000 web site predicting the millennial year 2000 will bring a democratic "bridge to the 21st century" with a Gore/Kennedy election win.

Contact Information:
"Your link to the third millennium"

Talk 2000 Forum Home Page: http://hcol.humberc.on.ca/talk2000.htm
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Publisher & editor: talk2000@rmii.com

Jay Gary, aka The Millennium Doctor
author, The Star of 2000
(719) 636-2000 Phone

Publication keywords: millennium, groups
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