Fundamentalism

Within Western evangelicalism there are many strands defined by adherents as much as by opponents. These include those of fundamentalist, conservative, open and liberal. This spectrum has sometimes been simplified into the three categories of right, centre and left.66 The fastest growing and most influential of these is fundamentalism, also known in the United States as the 'Evangelical Right'. Fundamentalism draws its support primarily from the Baptist, Pentecostal and Independent Bible churches associated with individuals such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Hal Lindsey and Mike Evans.67

The term 'fundamentalist' derives from a series of tracts entitled 'The Fundamentals' published from 1910 onwards in an attempt by American conservative evangelicals to defend the basis of historic Christianity and repudiate what they saw as 'modernism' and theological liberalism. The term 'fundamentalism' was first used by Curtis Lee Laws, the editor of the Baptist Watchman Examiner, in 1918 to describe the movement within Baptist circles dedicated to such a position.68

Much valuable research has already been undertaken into the nature of Christian fundamentalism,69 including the correlation between evangelical fundamentalism and anti-Semitism.70

Christian fundamentalism is the most active, exclusive, intolerant, and conservative wing of evangelicalism, both theologically and politically.71 The popularity of what is also known as the New Christian Right (NCR) is, in part, due to its near monopoly of Christian satellite, television and radio stations and programmes; the espousal, within its charismatic wing, of a success oriented 'health and wealth' gospel; and its propensity to provide simplistic, infallible, biblical panaceas for the world's problems.72

The sympathies of the NCR for Israel and Zionism are compounded by an implacable antagonism toward communism and Islam. Donald Bridge, for instance, in describing the significance of Jerusalem to Jews, Christians and Moslems, claims,

Jews world-wide mark their calendars with events that took place here. Muslims world-wide are eager to engage in holy wars here... Arab feeling soon runs high here, and is expressed in antiChristian and anti-Jewish frenzy. Mullahs shouting over the minarets' loudspeakers can turn a congregation into a rampaging mob within minutes.73

In the words of Gerald Butt, fundamentalism essentially, 'offers an outlet for frustrated ambitions.'74 Similarly, Michael Saward has compared some aspects of fundamentalism in its style to the culture of facism.75 Martin Marty succinctly describes fundamentalists as 'angry evangelicals.'76

Fundamentalist Christian Zionists are often outspoken and tend to advocate the annexation of the entire West Bank by Israel; support the lobby for other nations to return their embassies to Jerusalem as the undivided and eternal capital of the Jews; are committed to the building of the Third Jewish Temple and the re-institution of the priesthood and temple sacrifices as a precursor to the return of the Messiah.77 They have also helped facilitate the return or 'restoration' of Jews from around the world to Israel, especially those living in Russia and Eastern Europe, and deliberately encouraged their re-settlement in the Occupied Territories.78

There is a large and growing number of books written by evangelical and fundamentalist Christian Zionists presenting a largely pro-Israel yet apocalyptic scenario.79 Within contemporary Christian fundamentalism the most influential theological interpretation of history is known as premillennial dispensationalism.

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