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Historic and Global Fundamentalism

Historic fundamentalism can be categorized as an occurrence that is distinctly Protestant, Christian, and American. Its early roots can be traced back to 1919, a year of what can be deemed extreme modernization due to the end of the first world war, the citizen status of African Americans, and the progression of attaining the vote for female citizens (Widmer, 2018). The progress enjoyed by the time may have been a catalyst in the rise of Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. at the time. In late May of 1919, theologians, evangelists, ministers, and other Christians met for a number of sermons and meetings in Philadelphia (Sutton, 2019). The group would later call itself the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, with a 1920 article by a representative of the group itself coining the term ‘fundamentalists’ (Laws 834). While not inherently political and more reliant on doctrine, the fundamentalists were strictly formed of White individuals. Despite the fact that they shared faith with African Americans and Latin Americans, they would uphold that the exclusionary and separated status quo was acceptable if not desired. As such, the reliance of fundamentalists on standardized norms was inherent.

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In terms of faith, one of the primary dividers between fundamentalists and other Christians was the belief in Biblical inerrancy. While a number of Christians recognized that the Bible has always been susceptible to human influence and cannot be considered completely perfect or true, fundamentalists rejected this perspective (Smith, 2021). This was clear in their literal perceptions of miracles and very detailed and certain views on the future, with their belief that the world would be in control of the Antichrist.

Global fundamentalism has more political connotations that are less connected to doctrine. Essentially, it applies the structure of historic fundamentalism to religions that are outside of its origin of, American Christianity. Essentially, certain academics such as Martin Marty believe that it is the rejection of modernity that can define fundamentalism and not any particular doctrine (37). While the thesis of Christian fundamentalism revolves around biblical inerrancy, an explicitly Christian concept, reflections of this ideology can be seen in other religions such as Islam or Judaism.

On the other hand, certain individuals believe that fundamentalism is either an inappropriate or overtly general term for certain acts or beliefs as a result of religious loyalty. In fact, Marty himself argues that the general American-centric term cannot or should not be applied to a movement or experience that occurs in a different country or religion. Despite this, he still believes that the rejection of the modern is the primary element of what can be considered fundamentalism. Similarly, such groups share other features, such as militant behaviors, fanaticism, and the belief that the state and religious organizations should not be separate (Razaghi et al., 2020). As a result, such global fundamentalism is often reflected within a political sphere. Examples of this can include incredibly violent encounters, such as the invasion of the Grand Mosque at Mecca, which resulted in the death of three hundred people due to the fact that religious fundamentalists did not see the current regime as befitting the faith (BBC, 2019). On the other hand, they may result in much more casual but doctrine-driven political choices, such as the selection of nationalist parties of Komeito and Clean Government by the Soka-Gakkai members (Hayat-Ashley, 2021). While qualities such as fanaticism or rejection of modernity may vary in intensity from group to group, they do not fail to appear in almost all instances of such religious congregations.


BBC. (2019). Mecca 1979: The mosque siege that changed the course of Saudi history. BBC. Web.

Hayat, M. & Ashley, R. (2021). The hidden power of Komeito on Japanese politics. East Asia Forum. Web.

Laws, C. L. (1920). Convention side lights. The Watchman, 8(1), 834-835.

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Smith, G. (2021). What is biblical inerrancy? A New Testament scholar explains. The Conversation. Web.

Razaghi, M., Chavoshian, H., Ebadollahi Chanzanagh, H., & Rabiei, K. (2020). Religious fundamentalism, individuality, and collective identity: A case study of two student organizations in Iran. Critical Research on Religion, 8(1), 3-24. Web.

Sutton, M. A. (2019). The day Christian fundamentalism was born. The New York Times. Web.

Widmer, T. (2018). 1919: The year of the crack-up. The New York Times. Web.

Marty, M. E. (1980). Fundamentalism reborn: faith and fanaticism. Saturday Review, 7(1), 37-38.

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