With the publication of this article on the nexus between Orthodoxy and Protestant fundamentalism in America we are delighted to introduce the author as a new editor at Orthodoxy in Dialogue.
“A fundamentalist,” Jerry Falwell famously quipped, “is an evangelical who is angry about something.”
This isn’t a bad definition, either. Scholars have had a lot to say about Protestant fundamentalism over the past several decades, but Falwell’s simple statement remains strikingly relevant, appearing in just about every academic work on the subject since George Marsden’s groundbreaking Fundamentalism and American Culture was first published in 1980. Back then, Marsden was essentially pleading for his fellow scholars to pay attention to fundamentalism, to include it in their analyses of American religion, to not write it off as an oddity. In 2018, many scholars (myself included) would argue that fundamentalism has defined post-World War II American religion more than any other movement. How things change in such a relatively short time!
At this point you might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with Orthodoxy?” My answer to you is, “More than you think.” I am by no means a theologian. I am not a scholar of the Orthodox Church. I am, however, an Orthodox Christian and a historian who focuses on 20th-century American religion. I study fundamentalists and evangelicals. My purpose in writing for Orthodoxy in Dialogue is to make connections between Orthodoxy and the broader religious culture in the US, a culture dominated almost entirely by evangelicalism.
Falwell distinguished fundamentalists from the rest of the evangelical fold by emphasizing their anger. Today, the defining line between “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” has blurred to the point of often becoming indistinguishable. Some still proudly label themselves as fundamentalist, but the movement has now nestled rather comfortably beneath the wide net of evangelicalism, sharing the same beliefs and working toward the same goals. Their evangelicalism is rooted in the absolute inerrancy of the Bible, first and foremost. The Bible is literal, it is the rock upon which their entire faith rests. Alongside biblical literalism is the belief in the end times, of the imminent return of Christ to Earth to raise the faithful into heaven and usher in the millennium. Read More