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Scott Appleby. Marty and Appleby viewed fundamentalism primarily as the militant rejection of secular modernity. They argued that fundamentalism is not just traditional religiosity but an inherently political phenomenon, though this dimension may sometimes be dormant. Marty and Appleby also contended that fundamentalism is inherently totalitarian, insofar as it seeks to remake all aspects of society and government on religious principles.

Despite its unprecedented breadth, The Fundamentalism Project has been criticized on a number of grounds. One objection is that many of the movements that Marty and Appleby categorize as fundamentalist seem to be motivated less by the rejection of modernity than by social, ethnic, and nationalistic grievances. Indeed, in many cases the people who join such movements have not suffered more than others from the stress and dislocation typically associated with modernization, nor are such stresses and dislocations prominently reflected in the rhetoric or the actions of these movements.

The term modernity itself, moreover, is inherently vague; Marty and Appleby, like many other scholars, use it freely but do little to explain what it means. A third objection is that the significant negative connotations of the term fundamentalism —usually including bigotry , zealotry, militancy, extremism, and fanaticism—make it unsuitable as a category of scholarly analysis. On the other hand, some scholars have argued that the negative connotations of the term aptly characterize the nature of fundamentalist movements, many of which seek the violent overthrow of national governments and the imposition of particular forms of worship and religious codes of conduct in violation of widely recognized human rights to political self-determination and freedom of worship.

For a discussion of modernism in the history of the Roman Catholic Church , see Modernism. The term fundamentalist was coined in to describe conservative Evangelical Protestants who supported the principles expounded in The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth —15 , a series of 12 pamphlets that attacked modernist theories of biblical criticism and reasserted the authority of the Bible.

The central theme of The Fundamentals was that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Associated with this idea was the view that the Bible should be read literally whenever possible and that believers should lead their lives according to the moral precepts it contains, especially the Ten Commandments. Fundamentalists opposed the teaching of the theory of biological evolution in the public schools and supported the temperance movement against the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor. Nevertheless, for much of the 20th century, Christian fundamentalism in the United States was not primarily a political movement.

Indeed, from the late s until the late s, most Christian fundamentalists avoided the political arena, which they viewed as a sinful domain controlled by non-Christians. A basic theme of Christian fundamentalism, especially in its early years, was the doctrine of separation: real Christians must remain separate from the impure and corrupt world of those who have not been born again. The apolitical attitude of many Christian fundamentalists was linked to their premillennial eschatology , including the belief that Jesus Christ will return to initiate the millennium, a thousand-year period of perfect peace see millennialism.

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A Brief History of Christian Fundamentalism (Periscope Video)

USA-Made Gifts. This equality is not simply a matter of legal standing or economics, but of a kind of general respectability which they feel has been denied them through a variety of social changes in the United States brought about by technology, immigration, global economics and what might be called a reduction in traditional reputational opportunities.

Marsden, like Jonathan Dudley of Broken Words , is an evangelical. He is also a widely respected historian. So, unlike mine, his motives are clean. Nonetheless, I think that even a sympathetic reading of Fundamentalism and American Culture confirms much of what I have suggested, namely that the evangelical movement from its origins was always primarily political rather than theological. It seeks to essentially reshape the legal structure of the country to eliminate what it considers Enlightenment errors. The Evangelicalism that Marsden documents has three distinctive characteristics which persist from the late 19th century through today: an anti-intellectualism which rejects the validity of scientific thought; a local communal attractiveness to those who are socially needy in the traditionally bleak socio-economic context of the United States; and a susceptibility to authoritarian leadership by what can only be called religious hucksters.

I will touch on each of these briefly. That scriptural vulnerability was further increased by the difficulties presented by evolutionary theory.

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Even into the 21st century the resistance to otherwise uncontested facts of successive biblical redactions, alterations and historical interpretations carry no weight among evangelicals. Similarly, the findings of anthropological, archaeological and biological science are either ignored or explained as a sort of cosmic divine charade.

The movement attracts a type. They make sense only in terms of the establishment-or-outsider paradox. The core of this tradition is the complete submission of the believer to the influence of the preacher within the context of a believing audience. He organized and directed followers beyond a local congregation. He told these followers what to think and how to act through a network, first of publications, then of broadcast media, and most recently, of course, the internet. All rely on a charismatic personality cult with a particular skill in fund-raising rather than theology.

It implies a straightforward political objective: not the salvation of souls but the re-formation of American society. A dangerous place this America. Let us hope with equal effect. View all 24 comments. Aug 04, Jacob Aitken rated it it was amazing Shelves: eschatology , american-foundationalism. The thesis of this book parallels that of George Marsden's similar book on American culture, Religion and American Culture, that Fundamentalism shaped and was shaped by the surrounding culture.

Marsden builds upon the work of earlier historians of Fundamentalism, namely that of Ernest Sandeen's book The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism. Sandeen's thesis is that Fundamentalism is the outgrowth of the "millenarian" movement that developed in late nineteenth-century Amer The thesis of this book parallels that of George Marsden's similar book on American culture, Religion and American Culture, that Fundamentalism shaped and was shaped by the surrounding culture.

Sandeen's thesis is that Fundamentalism is the outgrowth of the "millenarian" movement that developed in late nineteenth-century American, especially through Bible institutes and conferences concerning the interpretation of biblical prophecies. Sandeen's thesis, according to Marsden, has much to commend it in connecting millenarianism and Princeton theology to the movement; however, it does not deal adequately with the militant anti-modernistic slant of the movement.

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Fundamentalism can briefly be defined as militant anti-modernist Protestantism that took on its own identity as a patchwork coalition of representatives of other movements. Overview of the Book Marsden divides his book into three sections these sections are different in intent than the above themes. Marsden uses these sections to expand on his themes , Evangelicalism before Fundamentalism, the Shaping of Fundamentalism as a Movement, and the Crucial Years in which it gained popularity and its subsequent exodus of public life.


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In understanding the rise of Fundamentalism at the end of the nineteenth-century one must understand the backdrop from which it arose-nineteenth-century evangelicalism. Conclusion Marsden concludes the book by re-emphasizing his definition of Fundamentalism as a militant anti-modernist conservative force.


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  • For Marsden this should be the starting point for defining the movement. Militant anti-modernism applies to all types of Fundamentalism and any definition that goes beyond this must have qualifiers so that false stereotypes are not applied to the wrong group.


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    • As an Evangelical I enjoyed this book as I saw where the mind-set of conservatives and liberals developed. I also learned to what extent my own beliefs were influenced by this movement. I suggest that this book be read alongside another book on the shaping of American Christianity for a full understanding. I would also like to see an analysis of Fundamentalism from a more mainline perspective, although I believe Marsden is objective in this work.

      Fundamentalism and American Culture (New book by George M. Marsden

      My main qualm with this book is in Part Three. In discussing the peak and soon-to-come fall of Fundamentalism, Marsden tried to put too many ideas into too few words. To keep up with him I had to re-analyze several chapters. However, due to the length of the book already, I can understand his attempt to save space.