Christian Fundamentalism and the Culture of Disenchantment
Publication Year: 2013
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.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Paintings of the Rapture tend to depict the saved not just floating upward but drawn upward, as if caught in a vortex; aft er all, lift ed free of the Tribulation, they ascend to heaven under the prepotent force of Grace. It’s hard to imagine another escape from worldly suffering as absolute as this...
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Notes on the Text
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Introduction: Creed and Critique
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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...
1. Fundamentalist History, Postmodern Contingency
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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). Th is...
2. End Times Fiction and the Ironic Reader
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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 occupying all the 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...
3. Fundamentalist Exclusivism, Radical Democracy
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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 the New York Times of his party as “transformed . . . into the...
4. Fundamentalist Dominion, Postmodern Ecology
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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...
5. Evangelical Painting and the Ironic Spectator
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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...
Conclusion: Disenchanted Christianity
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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...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013