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Sun May 26, 2019, 04:54 PM

NYT - The Day Christian Fundamentalism Was Born (May 25th, 1919)

How a meeting in Philadelphia changed American religion forever.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/25/opinion/the-day-christian-fundamentalism-was-born.html?searchResultPosition=1

For many Americans, it was thrilling to be alive in 1919. The end of World War I had brought hundreds of thousands of soldiers home. Cars were rolling off the assembly lines. New forms of music, like jazz, were driving people to dance. And science was in the ascendant, after helping the war effort. Women, having done so much on the home front, were ready to claim the vote, and African-Americans were eager to enjoy full citizenship, at long last. In a word, life was dazzlingly modern.

But for many other Americans, modernity was exactly the problem. As many parts of the country were experimenting with new ideas and beliefs, a powerful counterrevolution was forming in some of the nation’s largest churches and Bible institutes. A group of Christian leaders, anxious about the chaos that seemed to be enveloping the globe, recalibrated the faith and gave it a new urgency. They knew that the time was right for a revolution in American Christianity. In its own way, this new movement — fundamentalism — was every bit as important as the modernity it seemingly resisted, with remarkable determination.

Beginning on May 25, 1919, 6,000 ministers, theologians and evangelists came together in Philadelphia for a weeklong series of meetings. They heard sermons on everything from “Christ and the Present Crisis” to “Why I Preach the Second Coming.” The men and women assembled there believed that God had chosen them to call Christians back to the “fundamentals” of the faith, and to prepare the world for one final revival before Jesus returned to earth. They called their group the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association.

A Minneapolis Baptist preacher named William Bell Riley organized the meetings. A tall, austere and uncompromising man, Riley was a natural-born crusader, who rarely saw a religious fight he did not think he could win. Under his leadership, the event drew participants from all around the county. Contrary to popular stereotypes, the centers of fundamentalism were in the nation’s major northern and western cities — New York, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle — and not the rural South.

The men and women at the conference were all white. On questions of race, fundamentalists defended the status quo. African-American and Latino Christians, even when they shared the same theology as their white counterparts, were systematically excluded from fundamentalists’ churches and organizations.

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Reply NYT - The Day Christian Fundamentalism Was Born (May 25th, 1919) (Original post)
Celerity May 2019 OP
DBoon May 2019 #1
gtar100 May 2019 #2
UTUSN May 2019 #3
eppur_se_muova May 2019 #4
smirkymonkey May 2019 #5
Ramsey Barner May 2019 #6
mia May 2019 #7

Response to Celerity (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 05:24 PM

1. K&R

Reagan weaponized the fundamentalists by tying their agenda to the interests of the ultra wealthy

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 05:37 PM

2. One of the rewrites of history I caught onto late in life was

the notion that the pilgrims and others came to the Americas to escape religious persecution. Instead, it's become clear that many of these groups were "fundamentalists" trying to find a place to practice their controlling, manipulative, punitive style of Christianity free from oversight of the established churches in Europe. They were not nice people. Their ideas and attitudes are reflected in the excessive influence they have on culture in the US and other countries in the Americas. Like Australia got pushed many of the criminals from Europe, the US got the influx of religious nuts.

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 07:19 PM

3. K&R

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Mon May 27, 2019, 11:14 AM

4. This is the problem with fundamentalists of all religions ...

What they are really opposed to is modernity itself. The rest of the population wants to move on and leave religion a reduced, if not vacant, place in their lives. "Jokes" about wanting to return to the 11th century (or whatever) are not jokes -- they describe the actual aim of fundamentalist "thinking".

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #4)

Mon May 27, 2019, 12:09 PM

5. +1000

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Tue May 28, 2019, 06:47 AM

6. Thanks for posting this article!

Today's fundamentalism has deep roots, which makes it especially frightening.

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."
-Ecclesiastes 1

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Tue May 28, 2019, 07:09 AM

7. Excellent article!

The author's conclusion says it all.

...The political positions embraced by early fundamentalists, all of which flowed logically from their apocalyptic understanding of the biblical text, hardened over time. They called for limited government and battled anything that seemed to threaten Christians’ rights and freedoms. They fretted about changes in the culture, and especially those that upended what they saw as traditional gender roles. In foreign policy, they championed isolationism and, when they did want the United States to intervene around the world, they called on American leaders to act unilaterally. They also became some of the country’s most ardent and unapologetic Zionists.

In 1947, William Bell Riley lay on his deathbed. An aspiring young evangelist sat at his side. The veteran fundamentalist told the rookie preacher that God had destined him to lead the fundamentalist movement forward, to take the mantle from Riley. The young evangelist was Billy Graham.

In the years after World War II, Graham and his fundamentalist allies began calling themselves “evangelicals.” But little else changed. They continued to emphasize the imminent second coming of Christ, and they avidly aligned biblical prophecy with current events. They maintained a staunch antigovernment ideology and consistently fought the efforts of American leaders to cede any power to international organizations. They became some of Israel’s most faithful American allies and defended their vision of gender and family.

When Riley announced in 1919 that the fundamentalist movement was going to be bigger than the Protestant Reformation, he was wrong. Yet there can be no doubt that the work of fundamentalists and their evangelical successors produced one of the most significant and powerful religious-political movements in American history. They have driven religion into the center of American politics and culture, where it is likely to stay for many decades to come.

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