August 14, 2006 at 4:05 am Leave a comment

Percy, Martyn. 1996 Words, Wonders and Power: Understanding Contemporary Christian Fundamentalism. S.P.C.K, London.


O’Callaghan, Michael.  2000.  Global Vision: Science and the Sacred: On Fundamentalism.  accessed on 6/8/06 at 12:15pm.



The above pieces provide an outline of the phenomenon of fundamentalism.  Martyn Percy, in his study of Christian fundamentalism details an essential and basic history of the term fundamentalism: its origins in the Fundamental tenants to its use as a widely applied designate of particular forms of religiosity.  Percy emphasises the “relational” aspect of fundamentalism: that fundamentalism can be largely described as a reaction against the ambiguous variety of the modern world.  For Percy, and others, fundamentalism denotes an anti-modern struggle to return to a previous, simplified order.(1)  Percy’s description of fundamentalism is concerned with what Christian fundamentalism is, rather than how it has developed, or the ambiguities of the term itself. 


Michael O’Callaghan’s essay concerns itself with the wider phenomenon of fundamentalism in the current global world.  For O’Callaghan, fundamentalism denotes an authoritarian, exclusive mindset that is not reserved to the modern era.  O’Callaghan, in contrast to Percy, provides an explanation for the development and rise of fundamentalism.  O’Callaghan recognises that fundamentalism is often a product of the individual or community being caught in a relationship with a larger community, that in turn marginalizes and pressures the former into a certain type of behaviour.  Rather than a movement, fundamentalism is a religious tendency: “a hazard of homo religious.”(2) While O’Callaghan outlines that fundamentalism is often a product of poor socio-economic conditions, his definition allows for the consideration of evangelical movements in Latin America, along the upper class religious right in America; or the workings of certain left-wing psychedelic circles.  The tension between the approaches of Percy and O’Callaghan outlines a dilemma in academic study of fundamentalism; the dialectic between movement and mindset.  While Percy’s definition is obviously refined due to the nature of his text, and also that ‘fundamentalism’ does indeed denote a particular movement, it is also clear that it has also come to denote a form of religiosity, rather than a religion. 




  1. Lechner, F. Encyclopedia of Religion and Society: Fundamentalism. accessed on 6/8/06 at 1:00pm


2.  Cameron, Peter. 1995. Fundamentalism and Freedom. Doubleday, New York. pp. 5-6; p. 9


Entry filed under: American politics, Fundamentalism.

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