as a Social Phenomenon
After 1925, the fragmentation and relocation of fundamentalism was taken by many observers for evidence of its disappearance. Fundamentalism, they assumed, was the offshoot of a social adjustment. As the interpretation of the original movement passed into the hands of the historians, this became a recurring theme. On the first page of his History of Fundamentalism, published in 1931, Stewart Cole pronounced, "For a half century the church has suffered a conflict of social forces about and within it that accounts for the present babel of witnesses to Christian truth and purpose."1H. Richard Niebuhr, writing in the mid-30s, emphasized the "social sources" of fundamentalism "closely related to the conflict between rural and urban cultures in America."2 Statements like this abounded in textbooks on the 1920s.
After World War II many people were eager to discover the roots of the anti-intellectualism and extreme anti-liberalism prevalent in the McCarthy era. The fundamentalism of the 1920s seemed to provide an obvious precedent. Norman F. Furniss's The Fundamentalist Controversy, published in 1954, emphasized the anti-evolution aspect of fundamentalism and its predilection for ignorance in the face of new ideas. Two more popular works of the 50s, Inherit the Wind, a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee ( 1955), and Ray Ginger's popular history, Six Days or Forever? ( 1958), dramatized Bryan's last stand at Dayton. Both stressed the tension between rural and urban as a source of fundamentalist intolerance. The most subtle analysis of fundamentalist intolerance came from Richard Hofstadter in his Anti-Intellectualism in American Life and The Paranoid Style in American Politics, published in the early 60s. Hofstadter perceived status anxieties among fundamentalists. "By the end of the century," he wrote, "it was painfully clear to fundamentalists that they were losing much of their influence and respectability." Their anti-intellectualism and paranoid style were "shaped by a desire to strike back at everything modern—the higher criticism, evolutionism, the social gospel, rational criticism of any kind."3
The interpretation of fundamentalism as a side effect of the passing of an old order intimated that the movement would die away when the cultural transformation was complete and the social causes removed. William McLoughlin, whose outstanding work on American revivalism supplied Hofstadter with much of his material, subscribed to this "consensus" interpretation of American history. According to this view, American society develops