Indeed, almost every feature of this new fundamentalism seems to be an uncomfortable fit with the classic list of the "Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth," first published in 1910. The new breed will not be preaching about "blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" since they prefer the company of the wealthy and the powerful.
A look at the history of "The Family" gives an indication of who they venerate on earth -- next to Jesus. The founder, Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant, selected Jonathan Edwards and Charles Grandison Finney from the religious sphere and James A. Farrell, president of U.S. Steel, on the secular side, as their ideal types.
These men were leaders, who in company with other "godly men" were the carriers of Vereide's "idea" to others. This trickle-down formula of faith would make up a "ruling class of Christ-committed men bound in a fellowship of the anointed, the chosen key men in a voluntary dictatorship of the divine."
This is very high praise for a typical "Robber Baron" who fought against all anti-trust legislation and New Deal depression correctives.
Ferrell, according to Vereide, "... pointed out that we have had 19 depressions -- five major ones -- and that every one was caused by disobedience to divine laws." The cure, of course, was a return to a "free" market and unfettered power to business interests.
The introduction of this more or less secret politico-religious organization to the world came about primarily because of the unintended notoriety of several members of the "family" who paid more than $900 per month rent for a room at a "family"-owned house on C Street in Washington, D.C. Republican Sen. John Ensign, Republican Gov. Mark Sanford and former Republican Rep. Chip Pickering were involved in activities held unacceptable to a "Jesus-only" organization.
These two expressions of Christian fundamentalism (elitist and populist) are studies in contrast. The populist segment, politically passive until the advent of the Moral Majority led by Jerry Falwell, will now be politically active until the second coming. The elitist element has been thrust into the limelight against its will and has always preferred a low-key, behind-the-scenes approach to a Christ-centered, theocratic society.
In the end, both segments make up a young, aspiring politico-religious social movement. These typically begin as cults. If successful, they advance to sects with signs of organization. If fortunate, they will become a denomination with some degree of respectability. As such, they will hope for eternal life and lust for wealth and power in competition with secular organizations. The "family" will then resemble "All in The Family."
From a historical perspective, it is hard to see how a theology so completely Jesus-centered and blatantly elitist can be acceptable to the segment with a populist theology, which prefers "a whole book rather than a book full of holes."
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Allan Powell is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College.