Early opponents and unsympathetic observers of fundamentalism held that the clash was between the country and the city. The country and the city served both as symbols for the ideas that clashed in the modernist controversy and as symbols of the constituency for each side. The fundamentalists were caricatured as the country bumpkins; the modernists were portrayed as urbane and learned. Change in general and progress toward the things modernists wanted to bring about were more welcome in the city than in country. The notion of city against country had some truth to it, but not enough.
There was a clash of cultures. The materialistic culture of progress and scientific knowledge bastioned in the industrialized cities of the North loomed threatening over the agrarian and rural culture, the vestiges of a non-materialistic culture such as the culture of the South. Secularism, the religion of a materialistic culture, threatened orthodoxy. While the threat was faced as a theological threat, the sense existed that there was some sort of a cultural threat, that the culture and religion of modernity were allied. Correspondingly there was a sense that orthodoxy also had a cultural ally, the culture of the folk rather than the culture of the elites.
I shall argue that the fundamentalism of the early twentieth century can best be understood as the attempt to preserve orthodoxy by sheltering it in popular culture.* I shall demonstrate that the consensus of fundamentalism tried to preserve orthodoxy in popular culture at the expense of degrading orthodoxy and still losing the battle. To do that I contrast the three leading proponents that Marsden mentions (Machen, Sunday, and Bryan). Each one of these three men identified with the fundamentalist cause, but they identified differently. To understand these men, sort out their allegiances, and interpret their identification with fundamentalism I want to look at a speech they each delivered. For Bryan the speech was the last great speech of his career. For Sunday it was the sermons delivered at the height of his popularity and influence. For Machen it was an early speech, but one that defined his course through all his career.
*Do I maintain that folk and popular culture are the same? This reminds me of a quip by the famous Mr. Joel Zartman who when asked what was worse than folk culture gave the insanely hilarious reply, “I don’t know.” Back in 1973, of course, people might have been outraged, but we live in more enlightened times. Nowadays most people would just grin and turn back to their comic books.**
**This is reminiscent of an aphorism which the famous Mr. Joel Zartman was fond of: “Everything in moderation, especially folk culture.” The famous Mr. Joel Zartman was not very partial to genuine folk culture in the least. He wanted it mitigated or traduced in order to partake of it, if at all, for a very short time. The raw and undiluted form he found as palatable as chewing on a leather boot.***
***From this degenerative series of footnotes the reader may gather that something in the way of a comment on folk and popular culture is required. The great Nathan O. Hatch, in his triumphant work, never was subjected to such an indignity. In fact, never along the way has anybody other than the unmentioned Ken Myers ever deal with the phenomenon as such. One cannot, alas, in a serious work of this nature introduce a reference to Ken Myers’s book as an authority, for an authority it is not, for all that is spends a whole chapter on the Kaplan article. What one thinks one will do, is to have in hand the requisite information and then find where it is most pleasing to one’s instructors to have it introduced.****
****This is a lot of blogging for one day. I have to go quickly for I have four more chapters to cover before the end of February and three are longer. And as you have noticed, commentary on the latest Nick of Time is rather on the unentertaining end of the spectrum.