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Mystics and Messiahs

Paperback|Jan 2002
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$23.09

In Mystics and Messiahs--the first full account of cults and anti-cult scares in American history--Philip 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...


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In Mystics and Messiahs--the first full account of cults and anti-cult scares in American history--Philip 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 denounced for supposed ritualistic violence, fraud, and sexual depravity. But America has also been the home of an often hysterical anti-cult backlash. Jenkins offers an insightful new analysis of why cults arouse such fear and hatred both in the secular world and in mainstream churches, many of which were themselves originally regarded as cults. He 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 that swept the country in the 1980s.^ Without ignori
-Publisher

Are religious fringe movements a recent phenomeon in American history? Arewidespread fears of mass suicides, sexual abuse, and brainwashing in cultsjustified? Do marginalized religious groups play any positive role in Americanspiritual life? Do the panics over such groups follow any discernible pattern?Phillip Jenkins gives fascinating--and surprising--answers to these and manyother questions in Mystics and Messiahs, the first full account of cults andanti-cult scares in American history. Jenkins shows that, contrary to popularbelief, cults were by no means an invention of the 1960s. In fact, most of thefrightening images and stereotypes surrounding fringe religious movements aretraceable to the mid-nineteenth century when Mormons, Freemasons, and evenCatholics were vehemently denounced for supposed ritualistic violence, fraud,and sexual depravity. As Charles Ferguson observed in 1928, "America has alwaysbeen the sanctuary of amazing cults." But America has also been the home of anoften hysterical anti-cult backlash. Jenkins provides an insightful new analysisof why cults arouse such fear and hatred both in the secular world and inmainstream churches, many of which--Baptists, Quakers, Pentecostals, andMethodists--were themselves originally regarded as cults. Most importantly,Jenkins argues that an accurate historical perspective is urgently needed if weare to avoid the kind of catastrophic confrontation that occurred in Waco or theruinous prosecution of imagined Satanic cults in the 1980s.While not ignoring genuine instances of aberrant behavior, Mystics and Messiahsgoes beyond the vast edifice of myth, distortion, and hype to reveal the truecharacteristics of religious fringe movements and why they inspire such fierceantagonism.
-Publisher

PRODUCT DETAIL

Philip Jenkins

Philip Jenkins (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) has taught at Penn State University since 1980, and currently holds the rank of Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities in History and Religious Studies. His book The Next Christendom was named one of the top religion books of 2002 by USA Today. He has published articles and op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal, New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and other top media outlets. Most recently he has released The Lost History Of Christianity and Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way.
Koorong -Editorial Review.

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