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Someone wrote wanting to know more about this "millennial madness" we keep hearing about. Here goes: Since the calendar we use, the Gregorian calendar, is based on someone's notion of when Christ may or may not have been born, this, basically, is a Christian phenomenon.
The afflicted rants in John's Revelation describe an oxymoronic thousand-year reign of Christian peace. Peter and David say a thousand years, to God, is as a day.
The symbolism behind a "millennial day" is applied to the six day creation myth and hung upon a frame of Bishop Usher's chronology, which dates the creation at 6,002 years ago. So, September 25, 1996, marks the end of the six millennial days of creation's travail, making the millennial "day of rest" two years late. But then, Usher could have been a bit off. (This is how the Bible is made to say anything.)
Mainstream Christianity, in its high-flown orthodoxy, looks down at all this. The fundamentalists point to a verse in Matthew 24 where Christ allegedly said, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." This signals that anyone claiming a date for the end is, de facto, a false prophet. (Is there any other kind?)
In the same passage, Christ is quoted as saying of those then living, "This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled" -- including the end.
In April, Pope John Paul II declared: "Attempts to predict the end of the world are illusory and misleading." The turning of the calendar, he says, is not a signal of the end. (Tell us something we don't already know!) But a month later the Pope unveiled new plans for the Vatican's celebration of the year 2000.
Basically, those making a big deal of this are the ones on the fringe. It's people handing out pamphlets at Grand Central Station; it's those who flock to a statue of the Virgin said to be menstruating. The good news is that the fringe, being the fringe, cannot organize and thus will never become very dangerous.
A legitimate fear is computer code developed during the Cold War (when many thought we'd all be vaporized by 1999), which stored the year in two digits, not four. This problem will no doubt account for much superstitious ritual on that day.
Some point out that it isn't every day the calendar changes its thousands digit. Such people probably jump and shout when the car's odometer goes past zero.
Every moment is the two thousandth anniversary of something. If people want to get excited over this, let 'em.
Good excuse for a big party as any!
Copyright ©1998 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon