The Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium

The Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium

The Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium

The Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium

Synopsis

The story of the last millennium is, in largest part, the story of the rise of the Christian West. This fascinating book, assembled by the editors of the journal First Things, explores the religious and social development of the West during the past one thousand years by looking at ten people who defined the millennium. Written by a team of renowned scholars, the book treats the second millennium century by century, choosing one historical figure as the prism through which to view each period. While the individuals chosen are not necessarily representative figures--in some instances they are people who opposed the spirit of the times--the compelling personalities limned in these chapters help us to understand better where we have come so far. Insightful, authoritative, and a pleasure to read, these narratives not only open intriguing windows on key dimensions of the Christian West but also provide a panoramic view from which to comprehend all of modern history--a view well worth pondering as we begin the third one thousand years.

Excerpt

Richard John Neuhaus

It might as well be admitted. the dawning of a new millennium was something of a letdown for most people. More precisely, it was not a letdown because they were never very excited about it in the first place. There is the factor that two-thirds of the world is outside the orbit of what some persist in calling Christian civilization, and the idea of a “third millennium” is undeniably Christian in origin. Just because almost all the world is today compelled to mark time by the Western calendar does not mean that “others” have to invest that way of keeping time with spiritual or cultural significance. in fact, the suggestion that they should do so is frequently resented as an instance of cultural imperialism.

Then, too, there is the pedants’ point that the timing is all off. Actually, they have two points. First, Jesus was not born in the Year One but, most likely, in the year we call 6 B.C. By that reckoning, the third millennium began in 1994 or 1995. the second point of pedantry is that the second millennium did not end until the end of the year 2000. the chronological fuzziness about the date undoubtedly contributed to putting a damper on millennial excitements. Moreover, it is not only the two-thirds world that is disinclined to celebrate a date of distinctly Christian significance. Among the bien pesant of the West, there is a widespread, indeed dominant, sense that there is something not quite right about paying public attention to a Christian marking of time. in many cases, this sense is driven by hostility to Christianity; more frequently, I expect, it is based in a taken-for-granted assumption that ours is no longer a Christian civilization. To which some routinely add, “If it ever was.”

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