Defining and Distinguishing Fundamentalism

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  • Topic: Fundamentalist Christianity, Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism
  • Pages : 13 (4342 words )
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  • Published : May 5, 2012
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Modern American Social Movements

As it exists in America, the Christian fundamentalist movement is comprised of Protestant evangelical fundamentalists who seek a complete restructuring of the social and political order, so that all proceeding generations may be brought up in accordance with their doctrine. The most central tenet to their movement is the idea that their sacred scripture, the Bible, is indisputably inerrant, and provides a strict set of rules and guidelines that can be applied to a person in any context. In Martin Marty’s anthology “The Fundamentalism Project,” he explores the role that fundamentalism plays in politics, the family, and society as whole. Understanding that “fundamentalism” is a word often misused or wrongly attributed to certain groups, Marty’s works primarily aim at distinguishing the term, and illustrating it’s distinct origin. Furthermore, he describes the integral role of women in sustaining a movement that is essentially patriarchal, and helps us to see how this fits into Manuel Castells notion that the patriarchal family may soon be a thing of the past. Defining and Distinguishing “Fundamentalism”

Fundamentalism, in the most general of senses, is a strategy used within religious communities to reclaim their sacred past, and therefore maintain their identity as a distinct group. They refer to selected doctrines and scriptures, which are considered to be the “fundamentals” of their beliefs. They are zealously driven by a sense of self-preservation, and the need to convert their adversaries (who, in their case, is anyone but themselves) (Marty, 1). Protestant fundamentalists fit this definition well. They emerged in the early 20th century in opposition to, what they considered to be, an increasingly morally corrupt world. They have since continued to revere the “fundamental” requirements for salvation by basing every aspect of their lives on the perceived “divinely inspired” writings of the Bible .

Several central features of Protestant fundamentalism shape its identity not only as a religious faith, but also as a strict, oppositional, closely-knit social cohort. The first of these is evangelism, which fundamentalists hold to the up-most importance. Since they see only themselves as saved, they expend most of their energy on convincing outsiders that they must avoid eternal damnation through conversion (to fundamentalism) by broadcasting evangelical messages over radio and television and various other means. Secondly, fundamentalists believe in a strict biblical inerrancy. That is, they claim “that the only sure path to salvation is through a faith in Jesus Christ that is grounded in unwavering faith in an inerrant Bible,” and that “the Bible can be trusted to provide an accurate description of science and history, as well as morality and religion” (Ammerman, 5). Hence their upsurge at the turn of the 20th century, when various scientific and philosophical theories (such as Darwinism) that did not adhere to the written word became increasingly accepted, and they sought to turn everyone back to the strict, unwavering accuracy of the scriptures (Moore, 46). Thirdly, fundamentalists are a pre-millennialist group who use their faith in the Bible to “predict the future,” that is, the coming of the End. This belief provides them with even more motivation to evangelize, because they think there is only a limited time before the second coming of Jesus and thus a limited time to save non-believers before they are condemned to hell.

Lastly, separatism is one of the more crucial features of fundamentalism, because it is the basis for how fundamentalists exist in society. They insist that a true believer will not only follow a strict set of guidelines for his or her own life, but will also shun any person who does not share their lifestyle. In fact, it is this desire to ostracize the mainstream population that originally set fundamentalists apart at the emergence of their movement, as they...
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