should early Fundamentalism have embraced the flappers?

One could come to that conclusion by reading Kevin Bauder’s latest. He is continuing his unproven thesis:

My thesis has been that the early Fundamentalist movement was deeply influenced by Common Sense Realism, populism, and sentimentalism.

And is now asserting:

Because of these three influences, the Fundamentalist movement was never dedicated purely to defending the faith. To some extent, its defense of the faith always presumed and included a defense of the ideals of Common Sense, populism, and sentimentalism.

As evidence he cites the example of Billy Sunday, who, he says, was defending Victorianism as over against the ‘flapper’ lifestyle of the Jazz Age. If this defense of culture is truly a characteristic of Fundamentalism, should Fundamentalism instead have embraced the Jazz Age culture?

I don’t think that is where Bauder would want to go, but would such a conclusion be out of place, given his arguments?

Here is an expansion of his argument:

Billy Sunday was typical of those Fundamentalists who rejected the new culture, though he embraced its technologies. Part of Sunday’s appeal—and part of the appeal of Fundamentalism in general—was that he gave voice to the concerns of the older Victorianism against the new culture. In doing so, however, he was not so much defending Christianity as he was defending an older cultural consensus. Neither he nor the churches rejected the pursuit of popular culture. Instead, they drove a stake into the air and attempted to fasten Christianity and American culture in general to the older Victorianism, trying to halt the slide into the new culture.

Wikipedia describes Victorianism this way:

The word is often specifically directed at Victorian morality, puritanism, and the Victorian Social Order with respect to the contradiction between the widespread cultivation of an outward appearance of dignity and restraint and the simultaneous, reactionary prevalence of hedonistic social phenomena.

Do you think early fundamentalists were defending Victorian hypocrisy? Victorian private hedonism in the milieu of public ‘dignity and restraint’? Exactly how much of the Victorian culture did Fundamentalists embrace? I would think that they saw much of it as being as worldly as they would see the Jazz Age, the youth/Rock culture, the Hip-Hop culture, and all kinds of other deviance through the years.

I realize that Bauder’s essays are brief and it is difficult to prove much in the space he has available to him. But he is making some assertions about Fundamentalism that ostensibly are the basis for a conclusion about where Fundamentalism should go in the future.

Don’t you think the assertions should be proven before conclusions are reached?

So far the claim is being made that Fundamentalism was a defense of Common Sense Realism, populism, sentimentalism and now Victorianism. So far I don’t buy it – the assertions are not proved to me, at least.

And, in fact, I think this last one is just bunk.



  1. Dave says:

    “One could come to that conclusion by reading Kevin Bauder’s latest.” Only if one were not interested in understanding his point.

    • Perhaps that is true, Dave. Or perhaps he hasn’t made his point clear, or perhaps his point is wrong. There are quite a number of possibilities besides “not interested in understanding his point.”

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Keith says:

    Regardless of whether or not one agrees with him, it seems like you are determined to NOT see his point. Are you really prepared to argue that fundamentalists did not latch on to certain cultural trappings of previous eras while simultaneously and often without explanation rejecting others?

    • Keith,

      I think Fundamentalism has always talked about separation in at least two ways: separation from apostasy and separation from the world. There may be some trappings of culture that are not worldly in any era – but most cultural trappings are worldly and generally Fundamentalism has tried to maintain a distinction or control of those cultural trappings to some extent. So today we will preach against music, movies, TV as such in general, while allowing for some disciplined use of the same.

      In this essay, Kevin seems to be arguing that Fundamentalists are in some kind of time warp, not fighting the world but fighting change. I don’t think that is correct. I don’t think we are arguing for Victorianism. I think Victorianism is fraud, a very worldly system that pretended to be moral. I don’t see Fundamentalists arguing for that.

      If Kevin is arguing for something different, I’d be glad for him or someone else to show exactly what it is he is arguing for.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3