I heard for the first time in the early 80’s that American foreign policy was being influenced by the joint ideologies of religious fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. It seemed far-fetched at the time, but the idea stayed around in my mind in the ensuing decades.
Whatever doubts might have been present were dispatched by Matthew Avery Sutton’s fine history of these movements in America in his newest book, American Apocalypse.
Sutton traces the rise of these movements in America beginning in the mid-1800’s and continuing to the present. In articulate, dispassionate prose, Sutton lays the case for the powerful and concerted influence of the Religious Right as embodied by Fundamentalism and its partner Evangelicalism.
Writing about the 1930’s era fundamentalism Sutton says this.
1930’s-era critiques of New Deal liberalism…[intersected with politics] in this decade to define the exploding fundamentalist movement and ultimately set the trajectory for evangelical activism across the century….They honed a politics of dogged determination, aggressive action, and uncompromising self-righteousness….they perfected the antistate, promarket worldview that subsequent generations of evangelicals and other religious activists adopted and used to shape American politics. Pages 261-262.
It’s no surprise, following Sutton’s eloquent description of Fundamentalist strategies in the United States to find ourselves in a battle for the future of our Republic. What is surprising is that a movement that used to denounce the use of liquor now embraces far more egregious moral lapses in order to win political battles.
Sutton’s book, though lengthy, is well worth reading in order to understand 1) the origins of our current politico-religious debate, and 2) what is at stake in our nation at this time.