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Myth Of The Millennial Nation

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An Errand into the Fires of Injustice

The myth of the millennial nation is one that describes the vision and perception held by the American people that suggests that the United States is the Nation responsible for heralding in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Hughes ties this vision to the American idea of manifest destiny which held much responsibility for our nation's growth and overpowering force, not merely in our hemisphere - but in all of the world.

Hughes initially dissects the myth into its national cause and effect, both good and bad. His emphasis on the crude and regrettable parts of our nation's history may lead readers to assume his discontent with our nation's history; though eventually his revealed views are more salutary and beneficial. I find Hughes' apparent apathy and objectivity on this subject to be most disturbing and even perplexing.

Hughes starts the chapter by giving consideration to the millennial myth by using it as a means to harmonize the other myths into a quintessential and more universally held belief. From this, the nation could legitimize its expansion and influence into the remaining and unestablished parts of the New World. Hughes begins this explanation by tying these thoughts to earlier Puritan values and movements (95-96).

As the Puritans came to America they brought values such as religious reform and social uniformity to the religious melting-pot. They found that their influence would not be felt as readily as they had anticipated. As a result of this and rising competition felt from rival religions; Puritans convened into a synod to hopefully recoup lost membership. The result was reforms such as half-family membership and Old Testament-style preaching (97-99).

One of the most famous pastors that spoke in this style was Jonathan Edwards. He enhanced the preaching style by pushing to its theological limits and bringing Premillenialism to the forefront of its message. Edwards used the examples like the Great Awakening and the French and Indian War to bolster his view that "in addition to a coming golden age, Revelation seemed to predict a cosmic Battle of Armageddon (98-99)."

Many in America were already convinced that the nation's birth had launched the golden age spoken of in Revelations, thus giving validity to Edwards' preaching. The nation's seal itself gave evidence to this new way of thinking in its reverse inscription: "Novus Ordo Seclorum," which means, "a new order of the ages (100)."

In this first section of the chapter, Hughes appears to be very clear and accurate in his description. Unfortunately the events he describes so clearly are the faults that lie in the development of human theology. The mentioning of the Half-Way synod, solely as a method to bolster the membership of a rapidly declining religion, is really no way to encourage an eventual view that ends will justify the means. Hughes continues his historic dissection as he delves into the concept of American manifest destiny.

The "doctrine," as Hughes call it, of manifest destiny does not, in his eyes, qualify as a myth because of its short-lived existence in American culture. Hughes says that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, those that subscribed to the doctrine of manifest destiny "typically embraced a very different view of things" than their millennialist counterparts who understood the nation's role merely as exemplary (105-107).

Hughes divides the connection between manifest destiny and the millennial myth into two parts. The first part is its connection to the "Myth of the Chosen Nation." He does not necessarily say this connection had anything to do with the bible, only that "the reasons were manifest." It was God's will that we were chosen, logically because of America's standards of liberty and self-government. This nineteenth-century viewpoint is a far-cry from the covenant communities of the seventeenth. According to Hughes, this perspective has gradually transformed itself from a divinely bestowed responsibility to, more recently, our privilege and right (109-110).

In conjunction with the "Myth of Nature's



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