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Fundamentalism Vs Modernism Essay

Fundamentalism beliefs, strictly following the Bible, creationism, nativism, and old values, clashed against Modernist ideas, primarily evolution and application of science, in the early 1900s due to differences of opinions. Four issues that reflect this ideological clash are the rise of the KKK, who harbored Fundamentalist and nativist beliefs; the Scopes trial, which pitted the curriculum of John T. Scopes and evolution against Fundamentalism creationism; the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, epitomizing racial bias and prejudice against immigrants; and the Prohibition movement, stemming from the World War I German scare and modernist acceptance against Fundamentalist resistance to alcohol. The clash between Fundamentalism and Modernism bitterly fought to prove one side or the other right, and eventually Fundamentalism would give way on their points to the advances and irrefutable proof offered by science.

The rise of the KKK idealized the Fundamentalist and Modernist clash because of the growing membership and forthright ideals of the group, holding nativist and creationist attitudes and denying evolution. Largely focused in the Midwest and the Bible Belt, the Ku Klux Klan, headed by members such as the Imperial Wizard, Grand Goblins, and King Kleagles, held firm Fundamentalist beliefs and denounced Modernist ideas such as evolution and progression found in alcohol and birth control “experiments.” The KKK was against gambling and adultery as well as anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-black, and anti-Communist. On the other hand, the KKK was nativist, isolationist, Protestant, pro-aggression, and pro-Anglo-Saxon. These stalwart stands were strictly followed by Klan members and those opposed to these principles would be harshly dealt with, to the point of violence and murder. The KKK idealized the clash between Fundamentalists and Modernists with its old values and scare tactics used to bolster support for a cause that was quickly losing validity. Ultimately the Klan collapsed after the pyramid scheme was exposed and undermined, leading to a sharp decline in membership and the death of a public and widespread Klan existence.

The Scopes trial portrayed the clash between evolutionary ideas of the Modernists and the opposition propositioned by Fundamentalists. Education advances in the 1900s led to higher public health standards due in part to the Rockefeller Foundation, which eradicated hookworm, and education through experience, championed by John Dewey. In response to these advances, John T. Scopes, a science teacher from Dayton, Tennessee, was charged and tried by Fundamentalists for educating his students about evolution and the ideas of Darwinism and modern science. The charges held that these principles opposed God and the Bible as well as corrupted youth with false ideas about science and the creation of life and the world. Former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan led the Fundamentalist case against the fiery lawyer for the Modernists, Clarence Darrow. The intensity of the evolution issue led to the degradation and eventual death of Bryan, but vaulted Darrow into fame and success in the field of law. Although Scopes lost the trial and was fined one hundred dollars, the absurdity of the Fundamentalist position created a false victory for them and enlightened the populace about the ideas of Modernism.

Fundamentalist ideas of nativism clashed with Modernistic ideals over the trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants accused of murdering a Massachusetts paymaster and guard. The case dragged on for six years until the two men were electrocuted, but were later found to be innocent and officially cleared of all charges. The men were convicted because of the wave of anti-foreignism and nativist ideas bred by Fundamentalist uprisings and Communist outbursts that frightened the public. The jury was prejudiced against Sacco and Vanzetti because they were Italian, atheists, anarchists, and draft dodgers. This brutality provided martyrs for radical liberals and Modernists to discredit the Fundamentalists as murders who jumped at the chance to kill those who opposed their position or did not meet their standards. Two men were killed because of racial and political bias, setting them apart from the Fundamentalist ideals held by the jury.

Prohibition, beginning with the Volstead Act and finalized under the Eighteenth Amendment, outlawed alcoholic beverages and supported the Fundamentalist beliefs against alcohol as an evil influence and deviation from a moral life. Anti-German propaganda from World War I jumpstarted the schism between America and alcohol because the majority of beer companies were owned and operated by German-Americans. The South and West supported drying up America, but immigrants populating the Eastern seaboard relied on alcohol as a social bond and a cultural privilege, and opposed the Amendment on these grounds. Fundamentalists championed illegal alcohol to create and maintain righteous lives, and relative success was achieved in increased bank savings and decreased absenteeism, but opposition to the Eighteenth Amendment made enforcing the law nearly impossible. The youth of America would find alcohol wherever they could, and even adults would engage in “bar hunts” in search of “speakeasies” to purchase illegal moonshine and bootlegged rum. Fundamentalists championed a just cause and had moral to support their cause, but outlawing alcohol was not the most efficient method to better America, as seen by the Twenty-First Amendment’s repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. Modernists clung to their alcohol and defeated Fundamentalists with the test of time.

Fundamentalists believed in creationism, nativism, and old values, such as teetotalism and Protestantism. Modernists viewed the Bible less literally and adapted religion and science to understand evolution while still believing in God and Christianity. The KKK portrayed extreme views of the Fundamentalists in their hatred of outsiders and strict adherence to the literal word of the Bible, as opposed to John T. Scopes, who taught evolution and attempted to educate his class about modern science and the innovations that technology of the time could provide. Further racism and biased attitudes were shown in the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, resulting in the death of two innocent men and a victory, although hollow, for Modernism and their logical approach to the issues of 1900s, such as government, religion, and alcohol. Prohibition won some victories for Fundamentalism, but ultimately died due to Modernist resistance and the cultural roots of alcohol in social events and immigrant life. Though radically different, both Fundamentalism and Modernism competed and even thrived in the early 1900s, despite clashes of religion, ethnicity, origin, and beliefs.


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