is the sacred text of the Christian Fundamentalists. Indeed, if there is one single
thing which binds Fundamentalists together, it is their insistence that the Bible is
to be understood as literally true. Further, Fundamentalists see themselves as the
guardians of the truth, usually to the exclusion of others' interpretation of the
Bible. Fundamentalism in other faith traditions similarly proclaims guardianship of
Jeffrey K. Hadden has identified four types offundamentalism. First, theological fundamentalism was the Christian theological movement concerned with defending traditional Christian doctrine against modern thinking. Political fundamentalism is a combination of theological fundamentalism and the personal commitments of religious adherents to combat worldly vices. Manifestations of political fundamentalism include much of the activity in the temperance movement or the virulent anticommunism of Gerald L.K. Smith. Political fundamentalism suffered a major setback by their defeat at the Scopes Monkey trial. These two types of fundamentalism melded together to combine a caricature of culturally unenlightened individuals bent on preserving tradition at the expense of progress. This cultural fundamentalism was cynically portrayed by social critics such as H.L. Mencken and novelists such as Sinclair Lewis. William Jennings Bryan served as the prototype for Mencken after the debacle of the Scopes trial in Tennessee. The political activity engaged in by fundamentalists invited comparison to other religiously motivated groups around the world. Accordingly, global fundamentalism as a phenomena denotes many religiously motivated politically active groups existing in a variety of religious traditions and political systems.
Defining Fundamentalism: Given the many disparate uses of the concept, it is not surprising that fundamentalism has not been easy to define. Several recent works are helpful in developing a conceptual understanding of the phenomenon. Three important works are examined here:
Lawrence defines fundamentalism as " the affirmation of religious authority as holistic and absolute, admitting of neither criticism nor reduction; it is expressed through the collective demand that specific creedal and ethical dictates derived from scripture be publicly recognized and legally enforced ."
Lawrence argues that fundamentalism is a specific kind of religious ideology. It is antimodern, but not antimodernist. In other words, it rejects the philosophical rationalism and individualism that accompany modernity, but it takes full advantage of certain technological advances that also characterize the modern age. The most consistent denominator is opposition to Enlightenment values. Lawrence believes that fundamentalism is a world-wide phenomena and that it must be compared in various contexts before it can be understood or explained with any clarity.
Lawrence ends his general discussion by listing five "family resemblances" common to fundamentalism. 1) Fundamentalists are advocates of a minority viewpoint. They see themselves as a righteous remnant. Even when they are numerically a majority, they perceive themselves as a minority. 2) They are oppositional and confrontational towards both secularists and "wayward" religious followers. 3) They are secondary level male elites led invariably by charismatic males. 4) Fundamentalists generate their own technical vocabulary. 5) Fundamentalism has historical antecedents, but no ideological precursor.
The Fundamentalism Project, directed and edited by Martin E. Marty and Scott Appleby (see bibliography below for publications resultling from this project)
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences funded a multiyear project that brought scholars from around the world together to study Fundamentalism. Ultimately they produced 5 volumes containing almost 8,000 pages of material. Admitting some difficulty with the term, the project opts to use it anyway for a variety of reasons. Essentially, they argue that it is commonly accepted, here to stay, and the best term anyone can come up with for this phenomena. The last chapter of volume 1, Fundamentalisms Observed, discusses the "family resemblances" found in the various chapters.
These family resemblances include:
The Fundamentalism Project enumerates several more of these "family resemblances" but most are represented in this abbreviated list.
The last several chapters of the final volume, Fundamentalisms Comprehended, attempts to delineate several properties of Fundamentalism with the research of the previous 7,500 pages in mind. Appleby, Emmanuel Sivan, and Gabriel Almond list 5 ideological characteristics and 4 organizational characteristics of fundamentalism. The Five ideological characteristics are:
The organizational characteristics include:
Jeffrey K. Hadden and Anson Shupe, "Secularization and Fundamentalism Reconsidered"
At about the same time that the Fundamentalism Project was getting underway, Hadden and Anson Shupe offered the following definition of fundamentalism. It is " a proclamation of reclaimed authority over a sacred tradition which is to be reinstated as an antidote for a society that has strayed from its cultural moorings. " Hadden and Shupe note that fundamentalists refute the split between sacred and secular that characterizes modernist thinking. It also involves a plan to bring religion back to center stage in public policy decisions.
As the Fundamentalism Project makes clear, in every corner of the world and in
every major faith tradition, there are groups identified by some as
fundamentalists. Hadden and Shupe argue that fundamentalism is an attempt to draw
upon a religious tradition to cope with and reshape an already changing world.
The question arises: What changes are so world wide that a reactive movement like
fundamentalism can be found anywhere in the world? The answer, according to Hadden
and Shupe, is globalization. The range of religious responses to globalization
explains fundamentalism's global presence.
Hadden and Shupe argue that around the world there is a "common process of secularizing social change." This process contains "the very seeds of a reaction that brings religion back into the heart of concerns about public policy. The secular...is also the cause of resacralization...[which] often takes fundamentalistic forms."
Since Fundamentalism is not organized as fundamentalism per se, but as many
disparate groups, Internet sites tend to be equally disparate. The listing included
here includes examples of denominational groups, independent churches, and a sampling
of anti-fundamentalist pages. We have not included non-Christian groups, e.g.
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest fundamentalist body in the U.S. This home page links to the vast expanse of Southern Baptist organizational divisions and includes a history of the denomination.
Bob Jones University
Bob Jones University, founded in 1927 by Bob Jones, Sr., has remained one of the most conservative institutions of higher education in the U.S. The school received a flurry of publicity during the Presidential Primary season of 2000 at the result of a campaign stop by George W. Bush. You can read President Bob Jones III's response to the media the institution received. Also of interest is a brief history and philosophy statement. Bob Jones University also has a substantial archive of fundamentalism materials. See the The Fundamentalism File link just below. http://www.bju.edu
Bob Jones University is one of the oldest and strictest fundamentalist educational institutions. This link goes to information about a fundamentalist archive containing 80,000 documents in the BJU library.
Bible Believer's Resource Page
A web site of the Fundamental Evangelistic Association provides commentary on many topics of interest to fundamentalists. Click on "Biblical Fundamentalism" for the FEAs perspective on the history of fundamentalism and their take on many contemporary preachers who they see as having strayed from the truth.
Bible Believers' Home Page
A quite extensive site of writings of bedrock fundamentalists.
Lecture on Fundamentalism
This is a lecture by Professor Terry Matthews of Wake Forest University on the history of Fundamentalism in the United States. http://www.wfu.edu:/~matthetl/perspectives/twentyone.html
The Rise of Fundamentalism
This article by Grant Wacker, respected Duke historian of American religion, begins by defining fundamentalism and then offers important historical perspective. As part of the National Humanities Center web series on Divining America: Religion and the National Culture, it offers access to excellent instructional materials. http://ipmwww.ncsu.edu:8080/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/fundam.htm
The Christian Right
This in another article by Grant Wacker. It defines, locates, and offers a succinct overview of the religious right in the U.S. As part of the National Humanities Center web series on Divining America: Religion and the National Culture, it offers access to excellent instructional materials.
Thomas Road Baptist Church
Jerry Falwell became one of the visible fundamentalist preachers in the United States in the early 1980s as the result of his founding the Moral Majority, a politically conservative organization. This home page of Falwell's church in Lynchburg, Virginia provides an archive of his sermons.
Baptists International Network
An apparently unaffiliated page that links lots of Baptist resources on the Internet.
O'Hair on Fundamentalism
Madalyn Murry O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of organized religion in the second half of the 20th century. This is the full text of an address she gave on fundamentalism at Memphis State Universitiy in 1986.
Why the "Fundamentalist"
Approach to Religion Must Be Wrong
This article is found on the home page of Scott Bidstrup who describes himself as a "secular humanist liberal gay cowboy." In this and other articles on his site, Bidstrup attacks fundamentalists for being intolerant while dishing out a good bit of religious bigotry of his own. This is a good example of an abundance of anti- fundamentalist materials on the Internet. http://pe.net/~bidstrup/religion.htm"
This is a listing of the table of contents of the five volumes of The Fundamentalism Project mentioned in the text and bibliography above.
the Monkey Trial
This is a Christianity Today interview with historian Ed Larson about his Pulitzer Prize–winning book, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (1997), and hiscomments on why Christians should be taught evolution. The page includes several valuable links on the the Scopes Trial, legal cases on evolution and other related matters. A valuable resource.
Created by: Steven Jones
PhD Student in Sociology,
University of Virginia
Last modified: 07/16/01