Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Feminisms, Rhetorics, and . . . Fundamentalism? | Righting America

by Susan Trollinger and William Trollinger

It is a big week here at the University of Dayton (UD). Thanks in great part to the heroic efforts of the conference organizers – our colleagues and friends Liz Mackay, Peg Strain, and Patrick Thomas (who also happens to be the rightingamerica.net website guru) – UD is hosting the 11th Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference. The conference features a great program that stretches over four days, and that includes a keynote address by Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric and recipient of a 2016 MacArthur “Genius” Award.

On Thursday afternoon Bill and Sue will be speaking on “Feminist Rhetoric and the Hegemonic Struggle of Patriarchal Fundamentalism,” a presentation that uses the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter as case studies. In keeping with Righting America at the Creation Museum, this paper has as its starting point the notion that from the movement’s origins in 1919 Protestant fundamentalism has been distinguished by a strong commitment to a set of core principles:

  1. Biblical inerrancy, that is, the Bible is factually accurate and without error. (Note: while there may be the occasional fundamentalist who disagrees with one of the following principles, in particular #3, we argue that to be a fundamentalist is to be committed to biblical inerrancy.)
  2. Creationism, that is, the first few chapters of Genesis provide a factually accurate account of the creation of the universe.
  3. Apocalyptic premillennialism, that is, the Book of Revelation (in particular) provides a factually accurate account of the “end times,” including the fact that the end is “imminent” and will result in the rescue of true Christians and the mass slaughter of non-Christians and not-really-Christians.
  4. Economic and political conservatism, including strong support for unfettered capitalism, strong opposition to the expansion of the welfare state, and a deep desire to return America to its former status as a “Christian Nation.”
  5. Patriarchy, that is, wives are to be subordinate to their husbands and women are to be subordinate to men in church.

But as we argue in the paper, while the commitment to patriarchy has remained consistent, the arguments in behalf of patriarchy have changed over time, in part because of the pressures placed on patriarchal fundamentalism by feminist rhetorics. About this, and about how all this plays out at the museum and the ark, we will have more to say after the conference!