by Keith Bates
University of Tennessee Press, 2021
eISBN: 978-1-62190-605-6 | Cloth: 978-1-62190-604-9
Library of Congress Classification BR535.B38 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 269.2092


In Mainstreaming Fundamentalism: John R. Rice and Fundamentalism’s Public Reemergence, Keith Bates embarks on a thematic and chronological exploration of twentieth-century Baptist fundamentalism in postwar America, sharing the story of a man whose career intersected with many other leading fundamentalists of the twentieth century, such as J. Frank Norris, Bob Jones Sr., Bob Jones Jr., and Jerry Falwell.

Unique among histories of American fundamentalism, this book explores the theme of Southern fundamentalism’s reemergence through a biographical lens. John R. Rice’s mission to inspire a broad cultural activism within fundamentalism—particularly by opposing those who fostered an isolationist climate—would give direction and impetus to the movement for the rest of the twentieth century. To support this claim, Bates presents chapters on Rice’s background and education, personal and ecclesiastical separatism, and fundamentalism and political action, tracing his rise to leadership during a critical phase of fundamentalism’s development until his death in 1980.

Bates draws heavily upon primary source texts that include writings from Rice’s fundamentalist contemporaries, his own The Sword of the Lord articles, and his private papers—particularly correspondence with many nationally known preachers, local pastors, and laypeople over more than fifty years of Rice’s ministry. The incorporation of these writings, combined with Bates’s own conversations with Rice’s family, facilitate a deeply detailed, engaging examination that fills a significant gap in fundamentalist history studies.

Mainstreaming Fundamentalism: John R. Rice and Fundamentalism’s Public Reemergence provides a nuanced and insightful study that will serve as a helpful resource to scholars and students of postwar American fundamentalism, Southern fundamentalism, and Rice’s contemporaries.

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