The more things change…

Pastor Matthew Best
4 min readSep 23, 2021

…the more they stay the same.

This is why learning history is important. When we learn history — actual history — then we see patterns and themes emerge. We see the same reasoning and logic run through a variety of topics and issues. We see how the same arguments have been going on for a long time.

For example, I’m reading “The Evangelicals” by Frances Fitzgerald. It’s the story/history of the Evangelical movement in America. It’s really quite fascinating. What is most interesting though is reading the arguments that Evangelicals have been making all along.

Part of the Evangelical story is the rise of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism rises up as a way to combat what was considered modernism at the time. The key battles take place in the 1910’s and 1920’s around the time of World War I. This is when evolution is put on trial, the world has been at war, and the order of things is changing.

Sounds similar to our current time in which we face a pandemic, economic uncertainty, arguments around race, climate issues, and political unhealthy. Things are changing. In both cases, this leaves people without a sense of control over their lives. When the world (and people’s lives) are out of control, many respond in one of two ways — to embrace the uncertainty and know that things are changing and adapt accordingly, or to assert more control. Its of the usually doesn’t end well when we try to assert more control and make reality fit our desire.

In the book, the author tells of Evangelicals/Fundamentalists writing about the alarming threat of modernism.

One example is of William B. Riley, a fundamentalist preacher who was pastor of a large church and a Bible School, as well as editor of religious journals and a speaker at conferences. “[in 1917], he published the Menace of Modernism, a book with a more alarming message than the first. Numerous Antichrists, he reported, had invaded not just the seminaries but also most of the institutions of American higher education, including the state universities and many of the colleges founded as Christian schools. Wishing these hallowed halls of learning, professors were teaching Darwinism and contempt for biblical truth. In alliance with modernist ministers they were attacking the nation’s Christian heritage and undermining the more foundations of the society. The book was pervaded by a sense of alarm about the danger to American culture…” (Pg. 114)

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Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.