Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism

By George M. Marsden | Go to book overview

3. Evangelical Politics:
An American Tradition

MANY OBSKRVKRS SEEM to assume that fundamentalist and evangelical entrees into politics are a departure from the American way. In fact, however, for better or for worse, mixes of religion and politics have always been one part of the American political heritage. Perhaps, then, the recent fundamentalist and evangelical political ventures can be best understood as a revival of one of the nation's major political traditions.

In the American colonial era it was assumed that religion and politics went together. Western nations had established churches, and religion was often an integral part of one's national identity. Throughout the colonial era a central political theme was the cold war between the Protestants and Catholics. The British colonies were Protestant outposts in a predominantly Catholic hemisphere. The deep rivalry between Protestants and Catholics dominated American thought in a way not unlike the way the Cold War between Marxist and non-Marxist nations dominated world politics for decades after World War II.

Not only was anti-Catholicism a major foreign policy issue, rivalry between Anglicans and Calvinists was a primary theme in colonial domestic struggles. The heirs to Puritanism

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