Last month I posted an article about the (slightly) updated first chapter of my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism: A Historical, Theological, and Personal Appraisal of Christian Fundamentalism (FuF), which I plan to re-publish at the end of the year. This article is about the updated and renamed second chapter.
Christian Fundamentalism from 1980 to 2005
The first chapter of FuF was largely a historical review of the rise and fall of fundamentalism as a major movement among Christians in the United States in the years between 1915 and 1940.
The second chapter is now primarily historical also, summarizing Christian fundamentalism in the twenty-five years from 1980 to 2005. That was a period marked by the renewal and resurgence of fundamentalist prestige and power, a period of unprecedented growth in denominational organizations and institutions.
Moreover, during those years the fundamentalist-fueled “Religious Right,” also called the “New Christian Right,” greatly increased in numbers and strength not only in ecclesiastical circles but especially in the political arena.
In fact, perhaps the major difference between the fundamentalism of 1915~1940 and the fundamentalism of 1980~2005 was its pervasive participation in politics during the latter period.
Fundamentalist Leaders from 1980 to 2005
In Chapter One I wrote about four main leaders of Christian fundamentalism from 1915 to 1940. Among many leaders that might have been considered in the second chapter, I focus on these four: Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Albert Mohler.
Two of these four have already died (Falwell in 2007 and LaHaye in 2016) and one is now quite elderly (Robertson celebrated his 89th birthday this month). Only Mohler (b. 1959) is still an active leader and spokesman.
Understanding the thought and public activities of these four men—and because of its inherent patriarchalism, the fundamentalist leaders past and present have been men—goes a long way toward understanding the growth and power of conservative evangelicalism in this recent historical period.
Moreover, their strong influence continues to the present day.
Fundamentalism in Other Religions
In the introduction of her widely-read book The Battle for God (2001), Karen Armstrong asserts: “One of the most startling developments of the late twentieth century has been the emergence within every major religious tradition of a militant piety popularly known as ‘fundamentalism’” (p. ix).
Interestingly, perhaps now more people associate the word “fundamentalists” with Islamists more than with Christians. At any rate, the third part of Chapter Two gives a brief summary of Islamic, Jewish, and Hindu fundamentalism.
As I say at the end of the chapter, fundamentalists in all religions are the “true believers,” committed to what they consider to be the absolute truth. Consequently, they are not willing to accept any compromise with anything they deem as deviant from their foundational faith.
While writing this chapter back in 2005, it seemed that there was every likelihood that in the years ahead there would be escalating conflicts between Christian fundamentalists and the fundamentalists in other religions—but now it seems as if that scenario has not developed as much as considered likely then.
However, I also wrote then that there would be ongoing conflicts between fundamentalists and other Christians in this country—and that has certainly been the case from 2005 until the present, seen particularly in the support of DJT by conservative evangelicals.
When working on FuF 15 years ago, I never dreamed that the fundamentalists, by whatever name they’re called, would be the demographic most in support of a President such as the current one.
Chapter Three, which I will write about next month, deals largely with this question: why in the years between 1980 and 2005 did Christian fundamentalism grow in such numerical strength and political power?