Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

How Christian Fundamentalism Is Making A Concerning Comeback In America

 

American culture is currently experiencing what some, and now I, am calling New Wave Fundamentalism. The original fundamentalists stem from the early 20th Century, and was rooted largely in fear– fear over this new concept of evolution, fear that culture was growing too liberal, fear that the nation was drifting from God, and fear that it would all come crashing down if they didn’t take culture back.

(Swap out evolution for gay marriage, and you’ll get an idea as to where this is heading.)

They gave it a good run for the rest of that era. In time, however, fundamentalism drifted to the margins as Evangelicalism grew in prevalence– a movement that was reactionary against the fundamentalists, who many thought were too rigid and belligerent. While Evangelicalism shared many of the same goals, they wanted to get there differently, and give culture a better impression. A “kinder, gentler” fundamentalism, perhaps.

Like their fundamentalists counterparts, Evangelicals gave it a good run for their season, too– but times are shifting again.

Today we’re seeing a surprise resurgence in Christian fundamentalism/extremism that not many expected. Our culture is ripe for such a movement– movements like this cannot give birth or grow without the right conditions. While we *thought* they were busy building replicas of Noah’s Ark, the soil of Christian extremism was being tilled over the last 8 years, to the point where a new wave of fundamentalism is emerging– one that should be concerning to people of all stripes and flavors.

As your explainer-in-chief for all things fundamentalism, let me quickly walk through what we’re seeing and need to really be aware of. There’s a lot happening, but today I’ll just cover 3 points:

1. There’s a large chunk of Christians who believe they are “losing,” and they’re panicked as to what that means.

Ever since President Obama was sworn in, talking heads within the religious right started barking about how we are “losing.” They painted him out to simultaneously be an socialist atheist and a radical Muslim, which was a win-win since the group of people in question are afraid of both. These flames of fear were fanned by 24/7/365 conservative commentary disguised as “fair and balanced” news, which gave legitimacy to their fears, and allowed them to grow and blossom.

While the new wave fundamentalists can’t actually point to a single right they have lost (the right to discriminate doesn’t count), they are absolutely convinced they are losing them. They’re sure that the feds are just one step away from confiscating their guns, shutting down all Christian churches, and that a massive loss of religious liberty is about to take place– it’s the lie that has been fed to them, and they finally believe it.

Why is this concerning? Because when people are afraid they will do desperate things.

2. Right-wing extremists who would otherwise have nothing to do with Christian fundamentalism (or Christianity) are joining their ranks, giving them critical mass to stage a social movement.

 The rise of new wave fundamentalism in America isn’t just religious, it’s massively political. However, this time it’s a little different. The Moral Majority led by Evangelicals in the last two decades was tailored specifically toward Evangelical interests, meaning the movement was largely comprised of Evangelicals. New wave fundamentalism, however, is more representative of secular, conservative extremism– they want guns on their hips, gays in the closet, Mexicans only south of Cancun, and to be separated from Muslims by no less than at least one ocean.

This isn’t grandma’s Moral Majority we’re talking about here.

Since this new movement is rooted in run-of-the-mill racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, it is drawing allies from groups of people who otherwise probably would not find enough commonality to join a “Christian” movement– essentially, they’ve now tapped into a new demographic who can help them get further in the game.

When the fundamentalists rallied around Ted Cruz, these two groups were still separated, but once they all came under the umbrella of Donald Trump, they joined ranks together, even if neither one wants to admit it. This gives them concerning numbers that they otherwise do not have on their own.

3. The leaders of new wave fundamentalism are telling the masses that they have to do something, right now.

The sense of urgency felt among the fundamentalists and secular extremists is the most concerning factor to watch. It’s one thing to have a bunch of people in society who are racist, homophobic, and xenophobic, as long as they’re just flying their confederate flag on their own porch so that the rest of us know to stay away. It’s a totally different ballgame when those people all come together to seize political power because they finally believe the “time is right” to grasp it.

Fundamentalist leaders are sounding the alarm bells like never before. You have Franklin Graham traveling to all 50 states, warning people that that America is on the verge of collapse because of things like gay wedding cakes, and that the solution is for like-minded Christians to seize more power. You have others, such as Mike Seaver from Growing Pains, broadcasting himself to the screens of local movie theaters in order to communicate an identical message: America might die if we don’t do something, right now.

So here’s the volatile concoction we have right now: we have a growing number of Christians who are convinced they are losing and that the world is closing in on them. They are gaining critical mass by coalescing with conservative extremists who don’t share their faith, but share their political goals. Finally, they have well-funded and well-broadcasted leadership, daily warning them that this is their last chance to seize power and take control of the nation.

When Christian fundamentalism faded into the shadows and focused on building arks and trying to debate scientists, there was little cause for concern and much cause for amusement.

But when those people get panicked? When they begin broadcasting their racism, xenophobia, and homophobia to the masses, and begin finding like-minded people to join them? When they have leaders traveling the country, fanning the flames of fear and warning them that this is their last chance to take control? When they’re no longer content to debate the legitimacy of the King James Version versus the NIV, but instead are focused on how to control the Supreme Court?

Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I’d keep my eye on.

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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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  • I’d suggest this is Third Wave Fundamentalism:
    1. 1st wave: 19th c. to 1925 (Scopes trial)
    2. 2nd wave: 1947-2008 (beginning of Fuller Theo. Sem. to election of Barack Obama)
    3. 3rd wave: 1/20/2009 (Obama inauguration) to present.
    This form of American Christian reaction looks a lot more like 1st wave fundamentalism but now with an increasingly fragile and aggressive projection.

  • You mean the Fundiegelicals are stuck in the same “Oh no, what happens when people start drifting away from our idiocy?”
    In other words, the Fundiegelicals are in roughly the same place the “Progressive” churches were 25 years ago: Denial.

  • Sophie again your history is really off. Germany was not under U.S. protection. As a matter of fact there was this nation called East Germany that existed until 1989 that was under the control of the Soviets ( if you could ask Gerald Ford about this he’d tell you) You seem to have the same problem with socialism as with Quakerism, thinly veiled contempt which is the Christian politically correct party line. Not all government functions and expenditures are accomplished with equal ease. Soft socialism, simply providing health care for all, food for all, shelter and education for anyone who wants it is a fairly simple governmental function that most governments know how to do. It isn’t rocket science. Even Saddam Hussein had a food stamp program that probably kept him in power ( it lasted until 2006 when the Shiite government ran out of money looting the treasury for oil revenues and couldn’t afford it anymore). The Brits started their national health in 1948 when they were flat on their back economically. They hadn’t paid off their appalling debts from WWI when they tallied more debts for WWII. Britain had food rationing until the mid 1950s. They had one day in 1953 when the Labour government decreed that every child should have a banana. They had never seen one before. The architect of British socialism, Clement Attlee was found in 2002 to have been the best PM ever in the UK ( even Churchill whom he replaced)

    In contrast spending 5 trillion dollars on Middle Eastern wars is trickier than a 10 foot snake. Even with the best of intentions and the stream of unlimited revenue nothing worked out. It costs a lot and there is never any guarantee of success. What that 5 trillion could have paid for here in the U.S. . . . . .

    Costa Rica had wars break out all around them. Nicaragua was in a state of turmoil ( remember the CIAs plan to arm the contras, another military intervention that didn’t go well). We interfered with Guatemala in the 60s and El Salvador in the 80s. The Honduras had a revolution about 10 years ago ( I had friends who were there at the time). And then there was the infamy of the soccer war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 . . . .

  • Sophie your analysis of pacifism and nation states is a bit off. Costa Rica has no military. They are the only nation state that I am aware of that got rid of their military. They have thrived as a result in a fairly unstable part of the world. They are the most prosperous country in Central America and stable enough so that American retirees are moving there. Also they the fewest political extremes of right and left in Central America.

    Germany and Japan had pacifist constitutions imposed upon them after WWII. They both thrived economically. I don’t think anybody wants to see German or Japanese soldiers ever again.

    I hope the bill authorizing U.S. citizens to sue Saudi Arabia does not become law. If Iraqi and Afghani citizens were allowed to sue us we’d be bankrupt in no time.

    The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have almost bankrupted us already. The tab is almost 5 trillion dollars so far and going up. That is more $ than all of the oil that has ever been imported to the US. And what did we get out of it?

  • Sophie you are talking about something you know nothing about. Norman Morrison was not deranged. My father knew him well at that time and spoke to him several days before. He was absolutely sane. Nothing about him augered of the need for mental health. He loved to play hockey. His wife was my First Day School teacher that year. Another person involved in the events that day was the Secretary of Defense Robert S McNamara one of the policy architects of the Vietnam fiasco. He conceded years later that Morrison was no idiot.

    What was absolutely insane and deranged was the Vietnam War. The BJ students who signed up to fight in Iraq I respect. They did the right thing based on their theology. But I never heard an evangelical sermon or radio preacher during the Iraq debacle who urged American Christians to go to war so someone else without eternal security would not have to.

    The other people who never forgot about Morrison were the Vietnamese who honor Morrison.

  • By participation in a war you are killing people who might be deprived of eternal life. When Jesus said to love your enemies he probably meant not to kill them. You think ill of Quakers but when I was in 5th grade a man from our Friends meeting immolated himself in front of the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. He ( Norman Morrison) had more guts than all the draft age noncombatants singing worship and praise music with their comfortable just war theology during the debacle in Iraq.

    Where were the Christians who believe in just war when the US military experienced their lowest recruiting year since 1967 in 2005 and had to give away 20 K signing bonuses and recruit people who would ordinarily not be considered for military service (I.e. White supremacists people with criminal records high school dropouts)

    That’s when I soured on evangelicalism because it seems with their sort of soteriology they should be the first ones doing the fighting

  • Also your history is a little off. We didn’t resist the Nazis until their allies the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor well over 2 years into the war. Churchill said he got his best night’s sleep ever after this because he knew that with the US entry into the war against the Axis powers that the outcome was no longer in doubt. But Churchill also said wryly that the US could always be counted on to do the right thing as soon as it became apparent that no other possible alternative existed.

  • Sophie Jesus certainly preached nonviolence. I’m just reading Luke 6 and He certainly says to turn the other cheek, love your enemies pray for those who persecute you and that there is no credit in loving only people who are nice to you. This is a reason why I read the Bible seriously and daily. To show that the fundies and evangelicals the religious right and even yourself are not only wrong but haven’t bothered to read the Bible.

  • Sophie and Seabacon most varieties of fundamentalism tend to promote bloodshed. It seems that only non Christians are aware of Jesus’ teachings about non violence

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