The Monkey Trial and the Rise of Fundamentalism: Christian History Interview - Spurring on Secularism
What happened to fundamentalism and liberalism after the ruckus died down? In the long run, was the fundamentalist-modernist controversy a "tempest in a teapot," or a significant event in modern American religious history? To help us bridge the gap between the 1930s and today, Christian History spoke with George Marsden, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. George is author of the now classic Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, 1980).
What happened to fundamentalism after the 1930s?
After losing a number of public battles, like the Scopes trial, the fundamentalists regrouped; they formed independent denominations, Bible churches, and parachurch and revivalist organizations. They mobilized the radio—Charles Fuller and his Old Fashioned Revival Hour is a good example.
The watchers of mainstream culture were writing off fundamentalism, assuming that as people became more educated they would become more liberal. In fact, fundamentalism was moving on the popular front and was still quite effective. In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell revealed to the country that fundamentalism had not gone away and was still a powerful movement.
What about liberalism?
Liberalism flourished, and mainline Protestant churches were very influential in the culture; they tended to think they spoke for Protestantism in America.
For instance, in the 1940s, major radio networks were expected to donate some time for Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant programming. The National Council of Churches, which determined who would represent Protestantism on this free air time, refused to invite fundamentalists to participate. Charles Fuller arguably had the most popular religious radio program of the day—air time for which he paid. When he demanded equal ...