Evolving Ideas I: What are the roots of Christian fundamentalism in America?

An issue that has been on my mind of late has been What are the roots of Christian fundamentalism in America?  On the one hand, we have the more liberal Christians and humanist Christians, who take much of the Bible in a nonliteral sense, are not particularly interested in enforcing Christian doctrine on the masses, are as accepting of alternative lifestyles as anyone else, and when they invoke the Bible and Christianity at all, they tend to emphasize messages that are encouraging of the pursuit of wisdom, growth, compassion, selflessness, and acceptance of others. They are generally fairly accepting of rational inquiry, tending to accept scientific theories like evolution (though often invoking God as some sort of director or occasional intervener) and that the universe is billions of years in age. At the other side of the spectrum are the far right literalists. These people claim to take the Bible literally, and often do, but are also selective. They might emphasize the story of Sodom and Gemorrah, while at that point not attending too much to the later teaching of judge not lest ye be judged. They are often markedly intolerant of non Christian fundamentalists, be they liberal Christians, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists, as well as homosexuals and the teaching of anything other than Young Earth Creationism. Rather than emphasizing values of caring for the poor, sick, and otherwise less fortunate, they tend to be economically conservative.

What sorts of psychological, sociological, economic and political factors push people toward one pole versus the other?

Click here to discuss this topic. To return to this discussion later, click the “Evolving Ideas I: What are the roots of Christian fundamentalism in America? link at the top of the right-hand screen panel.

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