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Fundamentalism and American Culture

Shaping of Twentieth-century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925

By (author) George M. Marsden
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom
Published: 31st Jan 1981
Dimensions: w 150mm h 230mm
Weight: 59421g
ISBN-10: 0195027582
ISBN-13: 9780195027587
Barcode No: 9780195027587

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Kirkus US
This is the sort of book that proves American Evangelicals (some of them, at least) have come of age intellectually: a masterful analysis of modern conservative Protestantism by a broadminded conservative Protestant. Marsden traces the rise of fundamentalism from its roots in 19th-century revivalism through its brief years of glory following World War I to its sudden collapse around 1925, the year of the "monkey trial" in Dayton, Tennessee. He is perfectly aware of the movement's "sordid and reactionary image"; he freely admits that jibes by H. L. Mencken and Clarence Darrow against fundamentalist bigotry, obscurantism, and naive bibliolatry were often on target. But while conceding the legitimacy of symbols like Elmer Gantry and the importance of political paranoia and social alienation (especially among the small-town and rural working class) in explaining the strength, not to say virulence, of the fundamentalist impulse, Marsden insists that at bottom the whole thing was theological. Fundamentalists felt, with some reason, that the liberal Christian establishment had sold out to modernity, had more or less given up on the supernatural, and so had betrayed the faith. It may have been absurd to try to restore an irrevocably lost world of Victorian stability by boosting teetotalism or attacking Darwin, but there was nothing absurd about rejecting materialism or the humanistic ethics of the Social Gospel. Thus, a generation or so after the worst excesses of fundamentalism had faded away, a "larger evangelical coalition" emerged, just as eager to contest modernity, but in a more rational, less contentious fashion. Marsden's story is a large one, and in cutting it down to size he's chosen to dispense with a lot of the color and biographical detail. Still, despite a certain schematic dryness, his presentation is marvelously clear, coherent, well-informed, and fair. This may be the best overview of fundamentalism available anywhere. (Kirkus Reviews)