Metropolitan Digital

The Conversation

  • Written by William Trollinger, Professor of History, University of Dayton

These days, the term “fundamentalism” is often associated with a militant form of Islam[1].

But the original fundamentalist movement was actually Christian[2]. And it was born in the United States a century ago this year.

Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive. And, as Susan Trollinger and I[3] discuss in our 2016 book[4], it has fueled today’s culture war over gender, sexual orientation, science and American religious identity.

Roots of Fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalism has roots in the 19th century, when Protestants were confronted by two challenges to traditional understandings of the Bible.

Throughout the century, scholars increasingly evaluated the Bible as a historical text[5]. In the process they raised questions about its divine origins, given its seeming inconsistencies and errors.

In addition, Charles Darwin’s 1859 book “On the Origin of Species[6]” – which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection – raised profound questions about the Genesis account of creation.

Many American Protestants easily squared their Christian faith with these ideas. Others were horrified.

Conservative theologians responded by developing the doctrine of biblical inerrancy[7]. Inerrancy asserts that the Bible is errorless and factually accurate in everything it says – including about science.

This doctrine became the theological touchstone of fundamentalism. Alongside inerrancy emerged a system of ideas, called apocalyptic or “dispensational premillennialism[8].”

Adherents of these ideas hold that reading the Bible literally – particularly the Book of Revelation – reveals that history will end soon with a ghastly apocalypse.

All those who are not true Christians will be slaughtered. In the wake of this violence, Christ will establish God’s millennial kingdom on Earth.

Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right Christian fundamentalists have remained consistent in their core beliefs for a century. Shutterstock[9]

Setting the stage

A series of Bible and prophecy conferences[10] spread these ideas to thousands of Protestants across the United States in the late 19th century.

But two early 20th-century publications were particularly key to their dissemination.

The first was author Cyrus Scofield’s 1909 Reference Bible[11]. Scofield’s Bible included an overwhelming set of footnotes emphasizing that the errorless Bible predicts a violent end of history which only true Christians will survive.

The second was “The Fundamentals[12],” 12 volumes published between 1910 and 1915 which made the case[13] for biblical inerrancy while simultaneously attacking socialism and affirming capitalism.

“The Fundamentals” provided the name of the future religious movement. But there was not yet a fundamentalist movement.

That came after World War I.

The birth of the Fundamentalist Movement

After Woodrow Wilson’s April 1917 declaration of war on Germany, the government mobilized a huge propaganda campaign[14] designed to demonize the Germans as barbarous Huns who threatened Western civilization. Many conservative Protestants traced Germany’s devolution into depravity to its embrace of Darwinism and de-emphasis of the Bible’s divine origins[15].

Six months after the war’s end, William Bell Riley – pastor of Minneapolis’ First Baptist Church[16] and a well-known speaker on the Bible’s prophecies regarding the end of history – organized and presided over the World’s Conference on Christian Fundamentals in Philadelphia[17].

This five-day May 1919 meeting attracted over 6,000 people and an all-star lineup of conservative Protestant speakers. It produced the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association[18], which birthed a movement that influences American political and social life today.

In summer and fall of 1919[19] Riley sent teams of speakers to spread the fundamentalist word across the U.S. In addition to promoting biblical inerrancy and apocalyptic premillennialism, they attacked socialism and Darwinism.

Soon, Riley and his newly minted fundamentalists began trying to capture control of major Protestant denominations[20] and eliminate the teaching of Darwinian evolution[21] from American public schools.

The anti-evolution crusade had some success in the South. Five states[22] passed laws banning the theory of evolution from classrooms.

In March 1925 Tennessee made it illegal[23] to teach “that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Four months later a science teacher named John Scopes was tried and convicted of violating the statute.

Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right A historic marker outside the Dayton, Tenn., courthouse where the 1925 Scopes Trial was held. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey[24]

Fundamentalism after Scopes

Though the Scopes Trial[25] brought ridicule by the national media, fundamentalism did not wither away.

Instead, it continued to advance[26] during the 20th century. And it remained remarkably consistent in its central commitments[27] of biblical inerrancy, apocalyptic premillennialism, creationism and patriarchy – the idea that women are to submit to male authority in church and home.

Fundamentalists also embraced political conservatism. This commitment grew more intense as the 20th century progressed.

Fundamentalists[28] despised President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal[29]. They saw welfare to the poor and increased taxes on the rich as an indefensible expansion of government powers.

When the Cold War brought the United States into conflict with the Soviet Union, their concerns about the all-encompassing, anti-Christian state intensified[30].

Then came the 1960s and 1970s.

Fundamentalists bitterly opposed[31] the civil rights and feminist movements, the Supreme Court’s rulings prohibiting school-sponsored prayer[32] and affirming a woman’s right to an abortion[33], and President Lyndon Johnson’s programs that sought to eliminate poverty and racial injustice[34].

Fundamentalists go political

Understanding Christian America to be under deadly assault, in the late 1970s these politically conservative fundamentalists began to organize.

The emergent Christian Right attached itself to the Republican Party, which was more aligned with its members’ central commitments than the Democrats.

In the vanguard was Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell Sr. His “Moral Majority[35]” sought to make America Christian again[36] by electing “pro-family, pro-life, pro-Bible morality” candidates.

Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right President Ronald Reagan with pastor Jerry Falwell Sr., in March 1983. White House/ Ronald Reagan Presidential Library[37]

Since the 1980s, the movement has become increasingly sophisticated. Christian Right organizations like Focus on the Family and Concerned Women of America[38] push for laws that reflect the fundamentalist views on everything from abortion to sexual orientation.By the time Falwell died, in 2007, the Christian Right had become the most important constituency in the Republican Party[39]. It played a crucial role in electing Donald Trump in 2016[40].

After one century, Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive in America. William Bell Riley, I wager, would be pleased.

Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right

References

  1. ^ associated with a militant form of Islam (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  2. ^ Christian (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  3. ^ Susan Trollinger and I (www.cambridge.org)
  4. ^ 2016 book (jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu)
  5. ^ historical text (books.google.com)
  6. ^ On the Origin of Species (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  7. ^ biblical inerrancy (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  8. ^ apocalyptic or “dispensational premillennialism (books.google.com)
  9. ^ Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com)
  10. ^ Bible and prophecy conferences (books.google.com)
  11. ^ Cyrus Scofield’s 1909 Reference Bible (books.google.com)
  12. ^ The Fundamentals (books.google.com)
  13. ^ made the case (www.uncpress.org)
  14. ^ mobilized a huge propaganda campaign (blog.oup.com)
  15. ^ embrace of Darwinism and de-emphasis of the Bible’s divine origins (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  16. ^ pastor of Minneapolis’ First Baptist Church (books.google.com)
  17. ^ World’s Conference on Christian Fundamentals in Philadelphia (books.google.com)
  18. ^ the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association (books.google.com)
  19. ^ summer and fall of 1919 (www.uncpress.org)
  20. ^ capture control of major Protestant denominations (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  21. ^ eliminate the teaching of Darwinian evolution (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  22. ^ Five states (www.antievolution.org)
  23. ^ made it illegal (web.archive.org)
  24. ^ AP Photo/Mark Humphrey (www.apimages.com)
  25. ^ Scopes Trial (books.google.com)
  26. ^ continued to advance (ecommons.udayton.edu)
  27. ^ central commitments (books.google.com)
  28. ^ Fundamentalists (rightingamerica.net)
  29. ^ President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (books.google.com)
  30. ^ intensified (books.google.com)
  31. ^ opposed (books.google.com)
  32. ^ prohibiting school-sponsored prayer (www.uscourts.gov)
  33. ^ affirming a woman’s right to an abortion (www.history.com)
  34. ^ eliminate poverty and racial injustice (www.penguinrandomhouse.com)
  35. ^ Moral Majority (books.google.com)
  36. ^ make America Christian again (theconversation.com)
  37. ^ White House/ Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (upload.wikimedia.org)
  38. ^ Focus on the Family and Concerned Women of America (books.google.com)
  39. ^ most important constituency in the Republican Party (books.google.com)
  40. ^ electing Donald Trump in 2016 (www.nytimes.com)

Authors: William Trollinger, Professor of History, University of Dayton

Read more http://theconversation.com/fundamentalism-turns-100-a-landmark-for-the-christian-right-123651

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Phish’s 2018 Fall Tour to Conclude with Four Performances at MGM Grand Garden Arena

LAS VEGAS (May 15, 2018) – Phish, the American rock band known worldwide for its dedicated fan base, recently announced a 14-date Fall tour which will conclude in Las Vegas with four performances at...

Blane Ferguson - avatar Blane Ferguson

Dave Damiani and The No Vacancy Orchestra are “Bending The Standard”

Tina Sinatra, Dave Damiani & Landau Murphy Jr. celebrate 100 years of Frank Sinatra in Los Angeles There have been stories about independent filmmakers, but how about the independent big band...

Tom Estey - avatar Tom Estey

Billboard Chart-Topping Saxophonist VANDELL ANDREW Returns With New Single

From the vantage point of 30, his age and the name of his infectious, sensually grooving new full length album, Vandell continues to be fueled by the impressive roar of accolades and achievements th...

Metropolitan Digital - avatar Metropolitan Digital

Metropolitan Business News

Office Cleaner Takes Ownership of the Neglected Dishwasher

In an office that a dishwasher is being used communally, it is pretty difficult to set rules on how a certain appliance needs to be taken cared of. A dishwasher is a responsibility of no one until you...

News Company - avatar News Company

Amazing tips to become a successful trader

Everyone is working very hard to secure their financial freedom. Most of the people find it hard to support their family even after having a 9-5 day job. For this very reason, people often look for ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Best Practice For Young Professionals Working Through HR Internships

The industry of human relations is vitally important to the health and prosperity of a business.   Whether they are operating in textile manufacturing, accounting, sports, IT development or hospit...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Easy Steps To Gaining SEO Momentum For Your Business

SEO (search engine optimisation) does not have to be a tiresome and overbearing exercise that diverts attention away from the core functions of a business.   SEO Shark affirms this as a smart and ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Manage An SEO Project On Limited Funds

SEO operators don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars to become successful.   What SEO practitioners needs more than ever is the skills and diligence to identify problems that are acting a...

News Company - avatar News Company

An Introduction To Coworking For Australian Business Owners

Advancing technology is bringing with it great advantages in communications and networking, and to survive in business you need to keep up. With the rate at which everything changes these days, that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt

SKYN LAUNCHES GUIDE TO THE BEST PLACES TO GET INTIMATE

SKYN®, Australia’s best-selling condom*, today launches its very first SKYN® Places of Intimacy Guide.   Curated in partnership with GQ Magazine and Conde Nast, the Guide features 30 lux...

SKYN - avatar SKYN