Not too long ago I picked on the Pentecostals, so I thought this Sunday I’d tease the Fundamentalists.
Christian Fundamentalism is a North America phenomenon. Born out of a late 19th and early 20th century reaction to liberalism, this movement was fueled by some serious intellectuals.
They’re all but gone now.
And unfortunately, Fundamentalism threatens to overtake evangelical Christianity in America.
This is a problem. Because what appalls some atheists is the Fundamentalist version of Christianity.
So, let’s pry open this box and see what’s inside.
1. The basic elements of Fundamentalism were formulated around five core beliefs: inerrancy of the Bible, virgin birth, the atonement, Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the second coming.
2. In 1909 the brothers Milton and Lyman Stewart were responsible for underwriting a series of twelve volumes entitled The Fundamentals.
3. Sixty-four people contributed to The Fundamentals, including scholars, Episcopalian bishops, Presbyterian ministers, Methodist evangelists and even an Egyptologist.
4. Early fundamentalists wanted to combat three trends in mainline Christianity: one, the weakening of the Gospel into a mere social and political agenda…two, the embrace of Darwinism…and three, the higher criticism of the Bible.
5. Central to Fundamentalist beliefs was the idea of inspiration and inerrancy expressed by Benjamin Warfield’s notion of plenary-verbal inspiration.
6. Around 1920, journalists coined the term “Fundamentalist.” No pejorative sense…yet.
7. However, early Fundamentalist showman Frank “Texas Tornado” Norris, who would announce sermon titles like, “The Ten Biggest Devils in Fort Worth With Names Given” and draw large crowds, began to change the meaning of the word Fundamentalist.
8. Baseball player turned evangelist Billy Sunday [who’s pictured] preached a masculine, muscular Christianity…equating salvation with manliness and believed Christianity and patriotism were one and the same.
9. At the famous Scopes trial, lawyer Darrow and journalist H.L. Menken helped to spread the image of the fundamentalists as backwards by mercilessly trouncing Bryan’s understanding of Scripture.
10. Some argue that it was actually the death of Williams Jenning Bryan–the most public Fundamentalist figure–that created the movements retreat into the political and cultural background. That’s since changed.
11. Contemporary fundamentalists tend to love the Republican party and their moral agenda centered on abortion and patriotism.
12. In The American Religion, Harold Bloom deems Billy Graham “the archetypal minister” of contemporary fundamentalism.
I have to admit: Research on this one was hard for me.
If I identify with any movement, it’d be this one. And that disturbs me.
I don’t like the baggage it’s accumulated: narrowmindedness, intolerance and xenophobia. Things I’m prone to if not careful.
So…what do you think? Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.
**Part of the Quick Facts on Christian Cults series.**