Bible-Carrying Christians: Conservative Protestants and Social Power

Oxford University Press
Free sample

In the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of Protestant churches whose members habitually carry their Bibles with them. These churches--often referred to as "evangelical" or "fundamentalist"--play a crucial role in shaping American society. In this book, David Watt draws on years of fieldwork to present an elegant reinterpretation of the way that conservative Protestants influence American politics and culture. At the heart of the book is a sympathetic, but far from uncritical, analysis of those forms of social power that are assumed to be natural among Bible-carrying Christians. While outsiders often presuppose that evangelical Christians take for granted the authority of certain institutions (among them the American state, corporations, ministers, men, and heterosexuals), Watt argues that the reality is far more complex. This is a concise and lively book that sheds new light on the way that Bible-carrying Christians influence the way that people in America think--and avoid thinking--about social power.
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Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Mar 14, 2002
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9780198023289
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Policy
Religion / Christian Life / General
Religion / Christianity / Protestant
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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David Harrington Watt

David Harrington Watt's Antifundamentalism in Modern America gives us a pathbreaking account of the role that the fear of fundamentalism has played—and continues to play—in American culture. Fundamentalism has never been a neutral category of analysis, and Watt scrutinizes the various political purposes that the concept has been made to serve. In 1920, the conservative Baptist writer Curtis Lee Laws coined the word "fundamentalists." Watt examines the antifundamentalist polemics of Harry Emerson Fosdick, Talcott Parsons, Stanley Kramer, and Richard Hofstadter, which convinced many Americans that religious fundamentalists were almost by definition backward, intolerant, and anti-intellectual and that fundamentalism was a dangerous form of religion that had no legitimate place in the modern world.

For almost fifty years, the concept of fundamentalism was linked almost exclusively to Protestant Christians. The overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the establishment of an Islamic republic led to a more elastic understanding of the nature of fundamentalism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Americans became accustomed to using fundamentalism as a way of talking about Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, as well as Christians. Many Americans came to see Protestant fundamentalism as an expression of a larger phenomenon that was wreaking havoc all over the world. Antifundamentalism in Modern America is the first book to provide an overview of the way that the fear of fundamentalism has shaped U.S. culture, and it will lead readers to rethink their understanding of what fundamentalism is and what it does.

Simon A. Wood
Through a collection of essays, Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History explores the ways in which the concept of global fundamentalism does and does not illuminate developments in modern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. At issue is whether, beyond the specific milieu of American Protestantism in the early decades of the twentieth century, the word ‘fundamentalism’ captures something important on a global scale that is not captured—or not as well—by other words. Readers will quickly discover that in exploring this issue the book is “at war with itself.” In Fundamentalism Simon A. Wood and David Harrington Watt have deliberately assembled a range of voices that is reflective of the broad spectrum of views scholars have offered on the topic, from those who find the concept not merely helpful but also important, those who have concerns about it but do not reject it, those who find that it has been misapplied in critical instances, and those who simply find it unhelpful and lacking in any meaningful specificity or content. While there are more than two perspectives presented, Wood and Watt identify two very broad groups of scholars from each end of the spectrum: those who find the concept illuminating and those who do not. The book does not privilege or advocate either of these positions, nor does it attempt to resolve the numerous problems that scholars on both sides of the debate have identified with the concept of global fundamentalism. Rather, it presents some of the key arguments on both sides of the contemporary debate. If it thereby provides readers with a sense of the current state of the discourse on fundamentalism it will have achieved its aim.
Mark R. Levin
Mark R. Levin has made the case, in numerous bestselling books that the principles undergirding our society and governmental system are unraveling. In The Liberty Amendments, he turns to the founding fathers and the constitution itself for guidance in restoring the American republic.

The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the delegates to each state’s ratification convention foresaw a time when the Federal government might breach the Constitution’s limits and begin oppressing the people. Agencies such as the IRS and EPA and programs such as Obamacare demonstrate that the Framers’ fear was prescient. Therefore, the Framers provided two methods for amending the Constitution. The second was intended for our current circumstances—empowering the states to bypass Congress and call a convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Levin argues that we, the people, can avoid a perilous outcome by seeking recourse, using the method called for in the Constitution itself.

The Framers adopted ten constitutional amendments, called the Bill of Rights, that would preserve individual rights and state authority. Levin lays forth eleven specific prescriptions for restoring our founding principles, ones that are consistent with the Framers’ design. His proposals—such as term limits for members of Congress and Supreme Court justices and limits on federal taxing and spending—are pure common sense, ideas shared by many. They draw on the wisdom of the Founding Fathers—including James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and numerous lesser-known but crucially important men—in their content and in the method for applying them to the current state of the nation.

Now is the time for the American people to take the first step toward reclaiming what belongs to them. The task is daunting, but it is imperative if we are to be truly free.
Mark R. Levin
#1 New York Times bestselling author and radio host Mark R. Levin delivers a "bracing meditation” (National Review) on the ways our government has failed the next generation.

In modern America, the civil society is being steadily devoured by a ubiquitous federal government. But as the government grows into an increasingly authoritarian and centralized federal Leviathan, many parents continue to tolerate, if not enthusiastically champion, grievous public policies that threaten their children and successive generations with a grim future at the hands of a brazenly expanding and imploding entitlement state poised to burden them with massive debt, mediocre education, waves of immigration, and a deteriorating national defense.

Yet tyranny is not inevitable. In Federalist 51, James Madison explained with cautionary insight the essential balance between the civil society and governmental restraint: “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

This essential new book is, against all odds, a likeminded appeal to reason and audacity—one intended for all Americans but particularly the rising generation. Younger people must find the personal strength and will to break through the cycle of statist manipulation, unrelenting emotional overtures, and the pressure of groupthink, which are humbling, dispiriting, and absorbing them; to stand up against the heavy hand of centralized government, which if left unabated will assuredly condemn them to economic and societal calamity.

Levin calls for a new civil rights movement, one that will foster liberty and prosperity and cease the exploitation of young people by statist masterminds. He challenges the rising generation of younger Americans to awaken to the cause of their own salvation, asking: will you acquiesce to a government that overwhelmingly acts without constitutional foundation—or will you stand in your own defense so that yours and future generations can live in freedom?
David Harrington Watt

David Harrington Watt's Antifundamentalism in Modern America gives us a pathbreaking account of the role that the fear of fundamentalism has played—and continues to play—in American culture. Fundamentalism has never been a neutral category of analysis, and Watt scrutinizes the various political purposes that the concept has been made to serve. In 1920, the conservative Baptist writer Curtis Lee Laws coined the word "fundamentalists." Watt examines the antifundamentalist polemics of Harry Emerson Fosdick, Talcott Parsons, Stanley Kramer, and Richard Hofstadter, which convinced many Americans that religious fundamentalists were almost by definition backward, intolerant, and anti-intellectual and that fundamentalism was a dangerous form of religion that had no legitimate place in the modern world.

For almost fifty years, the concept of fundamentalism was linked almost exclusively to Protestant Christians. The overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the establishment of an Islamic republic led to a more elastic understanding of the nature of fundamentalism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Americans became accustomed to using fundamentalism as a way of talking about Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, as well as Christians. Many Americans came to see Protestant fundamentalism as an expression of a larger phenomenon that was wreaking havoc all over the world. Antifundamentalism in Modern America is the first book to provide an overview of the way that the fear of fundamentalism has shaped U.S. culture, and it will lead readers to rethink their understanding of what fundamentalism is and what it does.

Simon A. Wood
Through a collection of essays, Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History explores the ways in which the concept of global fundamentalism does and does not illuminate developments in modern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. At issue is whether, beyond the specific milieu of American Protestantism in the early decades of the twentieth century, the word ‘fundamentalism’ captures something important on a global scale that is not captured—or not as well—by other words. Readers will quickly discover that in exploring this issue the book is “at war with itself.” In Fundamentalism Simon A. Wood and David Harrington Watt have deliberately assembled a range of voices that is reflective of the broad spectrum of views scholars have offered on the topic, from those who find the concept not merely helpful but also important, those who have concerns about it but do not reject it, those who find that it has been misapplied in critical instances, and those who simply find it unhelpful and lacking in any meaningful specificity or content. While there are more than two perspectives presented, Wood and Watt identify two very broad groups of scholars from each end of the spectrum: those who find the concept illuminating and those who do not. The book does not privilege or advocate either of these positions, nor does it attempt to resolve the numerous problems that scholars on both sides of the debate have identified with the concept of global fundamentalism. Rather, it presents some of the key arguments on both sides of the contemporary debate. If it thereby provides readers with a sense of the current state of the discourse on fundamentalism it will have achieved its aim.
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