Christian Fundamentalism and the Culture of Disenchantment

Christian Fundamentalism and the Culture of Disenchantment

Paul Maltby
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Christian Fundamentalism and the Culture of Disenchantment
    Book Description:

    Within the familiar clash of religious conservatism and secular liberalism Paul Maltby finds a deeper discord: an antipathy between Christian fundamentalism and the postmodern culture of disenchantment. Arguing that each camp represents the poles of America's virulent culture wars, he shows how the cultural identity, lifestyle, and political commitments of many Americans match either the fundamentalist profile of one who cleaves to metaphysical and authoritarian beliefs or the postmodern profile of one who is disposed to critical inquiry and radical-democratic values.

    Maltby offers a critique that operates in both directions. His use of the resources of postmodern theory to contest fundamentalism's doctrinal claims, ultra-right politics, anti-environmentalism, and conservative aesthetics informs his engagement with contemporary fundamentalist painting, spiritual warfare fiction, dominionist attitudes to nature, and a profoundly undemocratic interpretation of Christianity. At the same time, Maltby identifies some of fundamentalism's legitimate spiritual concerns, assesses the cost of perpetual critique, and exposes the deficit of spiritual meaning that haunts the culture of disenchantment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3346-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. Notes on the Text
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-32)

    In the current phase of the long-running conflict between religious conservatism and secular liberalism, Tim LaHaye and the late Richard Rorty may serve as this study’s emblematic figures. They are contemporaries (LaHaye was born in 1926, Rorty in 1931), and each occupies a preeminent position in his field. LaHaye, fundamentalist activist and coauthor of the best-selling Left Behind novel cycle, has, since the 1970s, been one of the most prominent leaders of the Christian Right. Indeed, since the partial retirement of the elderly Billy Graham, LaHaye’s influence among American fundamentalists is matched only by that of Pat Robertson and James...

    (pp. 33-52)

    In the twentieth century, dispensationalism became the dominant eschatology among fundamentalist Christians in America. According to Charles Caldwell Ryrie, the preeminent theologian at the Dallas Theological Seminary, “Dispensationalism reveals the outworking of God’s plan in the historical process in a progressive revelation of His glory” (37). This fundamentalist doctrine projects a model of history which depends on an abstruse numerology derived from archangel Gabriel’s prophecy in Daniel (9:24–27). In what, from the start, has been received as a highly contentious interpretation that builds on the significance of the number 7, “seventy weeks of years” was elaborated into a system...

    (pp. 53-90)

    Fundamentalists have fabricated a grand eschatology by drawing together dispersed passages from the Bible. According to their millennialist view of history, the Second Coming is conditional upon Israel occupyingallthe lands within God’s grant to Abraham (i.e., “from the river of Egypt unto . . . the river Euphrates”—Gen. 15:18) and the conversion of the Jews. Then Russia will wage war on Israel, initiating a great struggle between godly and satanic forces. Meanwhile, all “true believers” will be “raptured,” that is to say, they will suddenly be stripped of their clothes and rise to heaven, where they will...

    (pp. 91-112)

    Perhaps the most effective challenge to the political influence of fundamentalism will come from moderate Republicans, who feel that the hijacking of much party policy by the Christian Right will, eventually, prove an electoral liability. John Danforth, a former senator for Missouri, has spoken in theNew York Timesof his party as “transformed . . . into the political arm of conservative Christians.” Chris Shays, until 2008 the Republican representative for Connecticut, conceded that “this Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy” (qtd. in Nagourney). Other sources of opposition include mainline Protestant ministries, for whom fundamentalists...

    (pp. 113-129)

    Christian fundamentalist hostility to environmentalism typically finds its endorsement in the book of Genesis. A literal reading of the injunction that “man” should “replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (1:28) has ratified the view of nature as a God-given resource for unlimited human use. This view was provocatively expressed by Ann Coulter, the right-wing Christian radio talk-show host, when she observed, “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals,...

    (pp. 130-172)

    All the paintings discussed in this chapter are amenable to analysis as Christian fundamentalist art and, undoubtedly, appeal to fundamentalists. However, some of the paintings could have been produced by either fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist evangelicals. For example, those paintings I classify as “pastoral-sentimental” speak to both groups. Therefore, I discuss the art, here, under the broader rubric of “evangelical.” Nonetheless, we remain squarely in the domain of Christian conservatism, and most paintings discussed affirm faith in the literal truth of the Bible.

    Evangelical paintings constitute a multibillion-dollar business through their reproduction as prints, posters, greeting cards, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, and...

    (pp. 173-186)

    Fundamentalism developed out of a series of twelve pamphlets,The Fundamentals(1910–15), whose essays sought to defend the “fundamentals” of Christian faith against modernist culture and liberal theology. According to George Marsden, “Fundamentalism was originally a broad coalition of antimodernists. From the 1920s to the 1940s, to be a fundamentalist meant only to be theologically traditional, a believer in the fundamentals of evangelical Christianity, and willing to take a militant stand against modernism” (Reforming10). And insofar as we understand pre–World War II fundamentalism as, in large part, a strategic reaction to modernism, we may think of today’s...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 187-202)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 203-216)
  15. Index
    (pp. 217-232)