Saturday, March 11, 2023

A history of the Fundamentalist-Evangelical divide

Roger Olson invited a modern Fundamentalist to post the other day on his understanding of the history of Fundamentalism. Today Roger gives his version. Below are my reflections on some of the things he mentions:

I remember Key-73; our UMC church participated. I remember knocking on doors and handing out scripture supplied by the ABS and talking about Jesus—I had become a Christian the year before. I also remember the fundies not participating and the “church on the hill” across the street from us (SBC) being very narrow and critical of BGEA and anything remotely Evangelical. The Northern Baptists were of a different stripe altogether; the local pastor was the IVCF advisor and brought in some excellent speakers.

One farmhouse I visited for Key-73 was an SBC one. The mother was very friendly and warm. We were having a good time talking about what God was doing in our lives when their son, around 24 or so, came home. He was quite militant and said that Christians needed to get involved in politics and basically “take the country back for God.” The mom was appalled at the idea and said we were to be leaven and pray, not militant and divisive.

Obviously, the son’s version of Christianity has carried the day : ( Whenever I travel back toward Menomonie (WI) on I-94, I pass that farmhouse and I wonder what became of the mom, her son, and their family. That was 50 years ago now, so she has undoubtedly died and the farm might not even be in the family anymore.

I also recall the rise of the home school movement. It was when forced integration was mandated; probably around 1973 or so. I don't recall the exact year, but I do recall one specific interview, largely because of a comment my dad made at the time.

One woman, who was working full-time and also teaching a home school class, said that it was exhausting, but misapplying Isaiah 40:31 (they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength) and Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me), she said that because she was doing the Lord's work by taking her kids out of an integrated school, she would be able to endure. My dad's comment (he's a master of understatement)? "I'm not sure that's the Lord's work." Amen and amen.

All that to say, Roger’s version is the one that rings true in my experience. YMMV, obviously, depending on where you lived and the circles you moved in. Menomonie was a college town, so the dynamics were a bit different.

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