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Protestant Fundamentalism in the US and Its Influence on Politics


1 Introduction

2. History and use of the term
2.1. Generally
2.2. Religious history
2.3. Social science

3. Fundamentalism - Function and Fascination

4. History of Protestant Fundamentalism in the USA up to

5. Current Protestant Fundamentalism in the United States

6. Protestant fundamentalism and politics
6.1. Fundamentalism in US politics using the example of the Gulf crisis
6.2. Comparison with politics in the current Iraq war
6.3. The networking of political and religious fundamentalism

7. Social psychological profile sketch of a fundamentalist mentality
7.1. George W. Bush

8. Conclusion

9. Bibliography

1 Introduction

"Fundamentalism" is a term that has been on everyone's lips since the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. We mostly encounter radical Islamists who plan and carry out suicide bombings and terrorist attacks all over the world.

However, in the recent past there has been a change in the use of the term. Protestant groups in the US get the addition "fundamentalist". Even the President of the United States, George W. Bush, is placed in line with Christian fundamentalists. Especially in connection with the current Iraq conflict, this topic plays a major role in the media and in public.

This term paper deals with the origin, history and use of the term "fundamentalism". What was originally meant by this and how is this term defined in the history of religion and in social science? After analyzing the term, I ask about the function and fascination of the phenomenon of fundamentalism. In the next part I present the historical development of Protestant fundamentalism in the USA up to the present day. Then the interlinking of religious fundamentalism and politics is examined using the example of the United States. The current political situation of the Iraq war will play a role here. In a final point an attempt should be made to create a profile sketch of a fundamentalist mentality. Are there similarities between people who join fundamentalist groups? A current example should also be used for this point.

2. History and use of the term

There is no denying that there is fundamentalism. However, in order to explain and understand what it is and what exactly this phenomenon means, it is important to shed light on the origin and use of the term in various scientific fields.

2.1. Generally

The term "fundamentalism" appeared for the first time in the self-designation of a movement in the USA in the 1870s. This movement consisted of Protestant-conservative groups. From 1909 to 1915 they published a series under the title: "The Fundamentals - A Testimony to the Truth". In 1919 they founded the "World Christian Fundamentals Association". The aim and concern of the magazine and the association was the recollection and defense of the biblical basic truths "The Fundamentals". Thus the term "fundamentalism" originated in the movement itself in 1920 by C.L. Laws.[2] The five foundations of the Christian faith were valid: the infallibility of the Bible in its wording, the virgin birth of Mary, the vicarious atonement of Christ, the resurrection of his body and its physical return on the day of judgment.[3] The movement represented an offensive counter-movement to liberalization and modernization, the hallmarks of the time. In German ecclesiastical and theological parlance, the term fundamentalism only became more widely known after the Second World War.[4][1]

We have seen a significant expansion of the term since the 1980s. In social, cultural and religious studies, as well as in journalistic and columnist areas, “fundamentalism” is used to describe a wide variety of religious and general currents and movements. At the same time, there is a tendency to understand fundamentalism solely as a manifestation of Islam.[5] The logical consequence of this approach is an increasing blurriness of the term.

For the scientific and diagnostic interpretation of the term, it is therefore important to understand fundamentalism not as anti-modernism, but as the appearance of modernity itself. This view is represented by the Marburg social ethicist Stephan H. Pfürtner. He justifies this by the origin of the movement in the modern history of industrial society.[6] Bassam Tibi describes this as a contradiction that is common to all fundamentalisms of our present day. They are directed against cultural modernity and at the same time arise from their global historical context.[7]

2.2. Religious history

In the history of religion, too, fundamentalism is understood as a phenomenon of modernity. The term describes an offensive counter-movement to a modernity-determined change in the respective religion of origin, the truth of which he sees threatened by relativism, pluralism, historicism and the destruction of authority.[8]

General characteristics of religious fundamentalism according to Küenzlen are: The abolition of the separation of religion and politics in favor of a direct validity claim of religious truth on political action. In addition, there is the "theocratic idea of ​​a religiously based societas perfecta"[9], that is, the idea of ​​a form of government determined by the will of God; Furthermore, the dualistic interpretation of the world, religious nativism and the conviction to live in a certain phase of salvation history, i.e. shortly before the final realization of the “Kingdom of God” on earth. Bauer adds further features. This includes the self-designation of the groups as the "true believers", their reference to the respective holy scriptures, the fundamental turn against secular values ​​and the rejection of feminism. Another characteristic is the commonality of certain structures.

This includes, among other things, the selection of a few guiding principles from the holy scriptures on guiding principles of thought and action and the orientation towards a charismatic leader and unrestricted obedience to him. The strong social component of fundamentalist groups means that the majority of their followers are younger people who are dissatisfied with their social position and with their lives.[10] The discrimination of the opponents and the building of enemy images are laid out at the origin of the fundamentalist movements.

There are fundamentalists in all religions; however, they represent a minority in every religious community. In addition, religious fundamentalism is not limited to one type of society, but is represented in democratically and non-democratically governed countries.[11]

2.3. Social science

Social science sees fundamentalism as the "attitude and behavior of a person or a group that is opposed to other, especially new,"[13]. The focus of this behavior is both the negation of individual freedom and responsibility, as well as the writing down and implementation of clear and unchangeable rules of human coexistence and right belief. These features often refer to a transfigured view of the past, the state of which is to be restored. The contempt for progress affects all areas of life; This results in a preference for the politically conservative direction and rigid ideas about family and gender roles and sexuality. Fundamentalist thinking people are determined by the fear of uncertainty and the relativity of moral decisions. Further fears exist of the indeterminacy of the future, of the complexity or inadequacy of democratic politics and of the threat to one's own identity.[12]

3. Fundamentalism - Function and Fascination

Now that the term has been defined, in this section I would like to pursue the question of what function fundamentalism has and what makes it so fascinating for many people. Fundamentalism seems to combine the longing and the attitude towards life of many contemporaries. If you see it as the security of a solid foundation on which you can safely stand in the storm of modernity, between scientific theories and constantly changing trends and opinions, this is what many people miss today.[14]


[1] See Küenzlen, Fundamentalism, 414.

[2] See Kienzler, Fundamentalism, 17.

[3] See Bauer, keyword Fundamentalism, 9; Pfürtner, Fundamentalism, 48.

[4] See Joest, Fundamentalism, 732.

[5] See Bauer, keyword fundamentalism, 7.

[6] See Pfürtner, Fundamentalism, 48.

[7] See Tibi, Fundamentalism, 15.

[8] See Küenzlen, Fundamentalism, 414-415.

[9] Ibid., 415.

[10] See Bauer, keyword fundamentalism, 9ff.

[11] See A.a.O., 13f.

[12] See Lutze, Fundamentalism, 423-424.

[13] Ibid, 424.

[14] See Hoheisel, Religious Fundamentalism, 12.

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