American Religious Movements

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American Religious Movements: Fundamentalism and Its’ Influence on Evangelicalism American fundamentalism and American evangelicalism seem to go hand in hand. Evangelicalism and fundamentalism both stress life based on the bible, repentance, and a personal relationship with God. No one would deny the massive influence that fundamentalism had on evangelicalism or the similarities between the two. Although some historians would suggest that evangelicalism was experiential and sectarian while fundamentalism was conservative and anti-modernist, it is clear that fundamentalism would never have survived as long as it has if it was not able to adapt to modernity and exist within a pluralist society. American Protestantism struggled in the 1920’s with the issues of biblical criticism, sources of authority in Christianity, and the theory of evolution. Presbyterians and Baptists experienced splits in their denominations as the events of this decade began to chip away at fundamentalism. For example, John T. Scopes was put on trial for the teaching of evolution, which violated a Tennessee state statute. The growing controversy between Fundamentalists and Modernists as to biblical criticism and evolutionary theories is not what is important in analyzing American Fundamentalism. What is important to analyze is, “in view of the acknowledged impact of these forces, why a minority of Christians responded in one fashion while the majority reacted in another”(Sandeen xi). It was this split in Christianity that made many people believe that fundamentalism should have died out seventy years ago. But fundamentalism survived and there has been a recent resurgence in its’ popularity. Moving to the post World War II era, the evangelical coalition began to appeal to the older generations, to the Hollywood population, and to leaders in Washington D.C. Soon after the war, the religious conflicts that infected fundamentalism in the 1920’s were no longer relevant. Protestantism, in its mainline form, had become much more evangelical in its’ nature and its’ sects became much more interested in becoming recognized publicly. Many historians agree that, “what has not often been recognized, however, is that one of the most important driving forces behind the postwar resurgence of religion was a cadre o... ... middle of paper ... ...er of evangelical history, in which the Pentecostal-charismatic movement is quickly supplanting the fundamentalist-conservative one as the most influential evangelical impulse at work today”(Carpenter 237). The neo-fundamentalist movement, stemming from Graham and Falwell, is just another story in the rise and fall of influential popular movements, as now Pentecostalism has become the fastest growing form of Christianity in the world, with three to four hundred million adherents(Notes 12/3). The pattern in this rise and fall tends to be pieces that overlap and pieces that change and fundamentalism is no different. This was a movement that survived through hardships and adapted to welcome every human being, but it appears that it will remain mainly a twentieth century phenomenon as new forms of the pattern take its’ place. Works Cited Carpenter, Joel A. Revive Us Again. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. Riesebrodt, Martin. Pious Passion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Sandeen, Ernest R. The Roots of Fundamentalism. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1970.
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