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Fundamentalism expert to deliver 35th annual Staley Lecture

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- This year’s Bethel College seniors, when taking the capstone course Basic Issues of Faith and Life (BIFL), have spent many hours reading, analyzing and discussing "fundamentalism and American culture," both a topic and a book title. Now they will have the rare opportunity to talk with the author of their major text.

George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and author of Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century American Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (Oxford University Press, 1980), will visit Bethel College on Monday, April 10, to deliver the 35th annual Staley Lecture in convocation.

Marsden earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1965. He taught at Calvin College and Duke University before going to Notre Dame in 1992. His books have won numerous "Book of the Year" awards, and he has received J. Howard Pew and Guggenheim Fellowships. Christianity Today named Fundamentalism and American Culture one of the top 100 books of the 20th century.

Fundamentalism and American Culture was chosen as this year’s primary BIFL text largely because of the immediate impact of fundamentalism on today’s society, said Mark Jantzen, assistant professor of history. "The questions fundamentalists raised are currently being actively debated in many venues, including the Kansas State Board of Education," he said.

Added Patricia Shelly, professor of Bible and religion, "The modernist-fundamentalist debate of the early 1920s is quite similar to some of the same issues in our society today."

Marsden’s speech, "How ‘otherworldly’ fundamentalism became political," will address a new chapter recently added to the second edition of his book. The chapter traces developments in fundamentalism since 1925 with special focus on how and why adherents to the movement, which was initially apolitical, became so interested in politics.

He will present his speech in convocation at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center on the Bethel College campus. From 2-4 p.m. the same day, Marsden will meet with current BIFL students in Krehbiel Auditorium.

Admission to both events is free and open to the public, though students will have priority in asking questions during the afternoon session.

The Staley Distinguished Scholar series is one of the projects of the Thomas F. Staley Foundation of New York. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Staley established this lectureship in the fall of 1969 in memory of their parents, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Staley and Judge and Mrs. H. H. Haynes. The Thomas F. Staley Foundation is "firmly persuaded that the message of the Christian gospel, when proclaimed in its historic fullness, is always contemporary, relevant and meaningful to any generation." The foundation seeks to bring to American college and university campuses distinguished scholars who also believe in this statement and who can clearly communicate to students.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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