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Includes extensive discussion of Bahá'í history, doctrines, and the ideology behind the Bábí revolts. Link to thesis (offsite).
Thesis for Master of Arts in Global and International Studies, University of Kansas.

Theology of Revolution:
Messianic Traditions and the Revolutions They Inspired

by Jaime Lenninger McLellan

Abstract: Many scholars have long held that religious disputes are a major source of prolonged conflict. Accordingly, as religious zeal continues to be a primary motivator in conflicts throughout the modern world, the ability to understand the conditions under which religious movements erupt in violence and overthrow the existing government becomes increasingly important. This analysis examines four case studies to determine those factors most influential to a messianic movement’s overall success.

A qualitative regression analysis was then conducted across twenty-five messianic movements, both revolutionary and pacifist, to determine which of these factors is statistically significant. Of the characteristics identified throughout the case studies, only a portion were determined to be statistically significant indicators of a movement’s success. In a general sense it is a recent reversal of status, often the result of war, plague, or natural disaster, which prompted a messianic movement’s transition to violence. Those movements that have some level of mysticism inherent within them also influenced the movement’s escalation to violence. However, it is the charismatic authority, along with the presence of some outsider or ‘other’ particularly in a position of power, who unites a movement and ultimately impacts the movement’s ability to overthrow the government. If the movement has some feelings of elitism and antinomianism along with mystical elements, they are also more likely to succeed in overthrowing the government. The typical signs of the end times: plague, natural disasters, and war also play a role in a movement’s success. In the end, however, it is the element of permissive authority that is the most important factor. It is not until the existing government chooses to ignore the movement’s progress, or fails to defeat the movement in its first revolutionary act, that the movement can successfully overthrow the established authority.

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