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by Rudy Nelson

The Blob and I

Was the 1958 horror flick created to advance the agenda of a Christian fundamentalist cabal close to the dark heart of American power?

It's an early June morning this past year. I'm sifting through the accumulated e-mail messages and blogs, and have been momentarily snared by the title of an AlterNet interview: "Worse than Fascists: Christian Political Group 'The Family' Openly Reveres Hitler." I know I should hit the delete button and get on with the day's work, but like a shopper suckered by the tabloids in the supermarket checkout line, I let my eyes stray to the first sentence. And suddenly I'm shifting into a different gear. "Did you know that the National Prayer Breakfast is sponsored by a shadowy cabal of elite Christian fundamentalists?" [1]

So much for the comfortable assumption that this is probably an exposé of Christian white supremacists hunkered down in an Idaho commune. I've never been to a National Prayer Breakfast myself, but I've known a number of people who have. I decide I'd better read a little farther.

The AlterNet piece is an interview with an author named Jeff Sharlet, concerning his new book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The first question in the interview is also my first question:

"What is the Family?"

Sharlet's answer: "It's an international network of evangelical activists in government, military, and business. The Family is dedicated to the idea that Christianity has gotten it all wrong for two thousand years by focusing on the poor, the suffering, and the weak."

Well, I think, that will surely be news to Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. And others. Me too, as a matter of fact.

Sharlet goes on: "The Family says that instead, what Christians should do is minister to the up-and-out—as opposed to the down-and-out—to those that are already powerful. Because if they can win those people for Christ, they win the whole deal. That's what this network is dedicated to. It includes nonprofit organizations, it includes think tanks, it includes various ministries."

Never having heard of the Family, I have no idea whether or not this is an accurate description. But at least it's understandable. The idea, Sharlet says, goes back to a middle-of-the-night "new revelation" that the organization's founder, Abraham Vereide, had in the 1930s. What I'm more interested in, though, is the alleged reverence for Hitler proclaimed in the interview's headline. The Family's admiration, Sharlet says, is for Hitler's authoritarian leadership style. Not very reassuring. I read on.

"The Family is an American ideology," Sharlet says, "an imperial ideology, which is why I think it's ultimately worse than fascism. Since the Second World War, fascism hasn't been a very powerful ideology, but imperialism has."

I'm no cheerleader for American imperialism—not historically and especially not with an eye to what's been going on in the eight years of this administration. But Sharlet proceeds to expand his analysis of postwar history:

"In the immediate postwar era, they were talking about Christian D-Day and Washington as the world's Christian capital. And World War Three, they were very excited about that, all full-steam ahead. But they sort of subsided and were subsumed into the American Cold War project, which ended up being an imperial project."

Excited about World War III? I've just begun to process that horrendous notion when Lindsay Beyerstein, the interviewer, throws this question at Sharlet: "What did the Family have to do with a B-movie called The Blob?"

Is she serious? The Blob?

Sharlet's answer leaves no room for ambiguity. The famous 1958 horror movie, he says, was "the best illustration of the Family's involvement in the Cold War." In fact, the alien goo from outer space, with its insatiable appetite for warm-blooded earthlings, was "a metaphor for Communism."

All my alarm systems go off at once. I freely admit I'm no expert on the finer points of religion and politics inside the beltway. But as the crazy circumstances of life would have it, there's a lot of firsthand knowledge about The Blob in my memory bank. I was present at the creation. During the summer of 1957, my wife Shirley and I and our two young sons were in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania for the studio and location shooting of the film, when I was involved in revisions of the script.

Sharlet's full answer to Lindsay's question about The Blob is a litany of misinformation, one incorrect fact after another. So I now know I'll have to check into his book. Our town library doesn't have it, as it turns out, nor does the local independent bookstore. I even come up empty at Barnes and Noble. But I want the book in a hurry, so I resort to Amazon. When the package arrives, the first impression on opening it is weird. The book jacket is designed to look like an old-timey family Bible.

I note, with some dismay, that there's an entire 23-page chapter titled "The Blob." What on earth can Sharlet say about the movie that will fill 23 pages—especially when what he thinks he knows is all wrong? As I read, I find that The Blob is mentioned only in the chapter's first two pages and in its concluding sentence. Then why the title? That seems like a good question, but I set it aside. First I need to know whether the record in the book is any more accurate than the interview.

It is not.

Like the interview, the book pinpoints the 1957 National Prayer Breakfast as the time and place of the film's birth. Strike one. The film had been under discussion for over a year. In fact, quite by accident, I attended an exploratory conference at Valley Forge Films in the spring of 1956 when a delightful raconteur named Irv Millgate was present to pitch a film idea. He had with him a small container with a gelatinous mass of silicone. His goal was to see whether he could interest the company in doing a film that would, so to speak, have this stuff as its main character. I don't recall that anyone actually used the word "blob," but I do clearly recall the tactile sensation of the silicone ball that was passed around the table.

Strike two: The film's director, Irvin "Shorty" Yeaworth, is identified as an "evangelical minister." An understandable mistake. Shorty was a junior. It was his father, the Reverend Irvin Shortess Yeaworth, who was a Presbyterian clergyman in West Philadelphia.

Both the interview and the book claim that a woman named Kate Phillips was the writer. Wrong. Her contribution to the film was minimal. Ted Simonson was the writer, and by the time Kate Phillips was brought on the scene, supposedly to add some professional polishing, the screenplay was well underway. But this too is an understandable error. With her experience as both a Hollywood actress and screenwriter, Ms. Phillips was named writer in the finished film credits along with Simonson, at the insistence of the executive producer (not Yeaworth). He reasoned that the input of a professional among this bunch of amateurs might make the film more salable to a major studio. So Sharlet gets a pass on this one.

Back to the interview: Sharlet says, "As I recall, they have to blow up the town at the end. The logic of The Blob is that we must destroy the village in order to save it. That's the logic of Vietnam." Bad mistake. As any blobster could confirm, the teenagers in the film, led by Steve McQueen in his first screen role, actually save the town when they realize that freezing the creature with CO2 fire extinguishers is the only answer and collect enough of them to do the job. Nothing was blown up. The monstrous mass from outer space was cut into sections and dropped over the Arctic ice cap. Strike three.

But these inaccuracies are minor compared to the most egregiously mistaken claim of all—that the blob was intended as a metaphor for communism. When Lindsey Beyerstein asks what the Family had to do with The Blob, Sharlet replies: "This is their imagination of how Communism spread. At the time, the American imagination couldn't grasp ideology, so it had to be an actual goo that globs more and more people and grows and becomes expansive." No, no, no. In fact, the motive behind the company's involvement in the production was totally commercial, the universally recognized capitalistic one of making some money. The company badly needed money, and someone had discovered that there'd rarely been a monster movie that had failed at the box office. Bottom of the ninth. Three outs. Game over.

In my experience of working on the movie, I was not aware of one single stray reference to anything remotely connected with communism. Not at the initial story conference, not throughout the shooting schedule. As "Third Assistant Director in Charge of Daily Script Revision" (a string of important-sounding words to describe a responsibility that finally didn't rate a screen credit), I was in daily contact with the writer and the director. If communism had been on anyone's mind, I would have known. [2]

One reason I am so stunned by the ominous communism connection is that over the years our memories of that summer have been playful. If our kids felt the need to boost their status among peers in the hood, they would let it be known that their father worked on The Blob and their mother bawled out Steve McQueen for waking up children with his motorcycle between the takes of night-time scenes.

I send off an e-mail to Lindsay Beyerstein and Sharlet with a low-intensity (and good-natured, I hope) correction of the misinformation, not really expecting a reply. But within ten minutes the computer bell rings, announcing a new message. It's from Sharlet, a courteous response also in the low-intensity register.

He thanks me for my message, offers apologies if he's misunderstood The Blob, and then goes on to point out, with several apt illustrations, that art can take on meanings not intended by its creators. This trend of thought leads to the observation that today The Blob, like other similar films, is widely interpreted as a metaphor for communism. Sharlet concludes the message with this statement: "With much respect, and apologies for the currents of historical interpretation." Well, respect is good. But the apologies, undoubtedly sincere, overlook the fact that by implying it is "the currents of historical interpretation" that are responsible for identifying The Blob with communism, Sharlet's own theory of the 1957 Family-Blob-communism linkage has been undermined.

Sharlet's casual approach to factual accuracy is a surprise, because he is an experienced journalist (a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone) and also has an academic position (associate research scholar at New York University's Center for Religion and Media). He also edits an online journal, TheRevealer.org. It's clear not only that I should read the rest of his book but that it would also be a good idea to do a little research of my own on the Family.

Yes, I could get instant results via Google, but—traditionalist that I am—I head instead for the Amherst College Library, where the reference section has a copy of The Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism. [3] None of the three names given in the AlterNet interview (Family, Fellowship, International Foundation) appear as entries. Nor does founder Abraham Vereide. Under "Prayer Breakfasts," however, I make a little progress. Vereide is identified there, but only as a "Methodist minister" who started the first prayer breakfast in Seattle in 1935. Two other encyclopedias on religion in America are equally unhelpful. I am getting the sense that by design this organization has flown under the radar right from the start. As I continue reading Sharlet's book and consulting other sources, that impression is confirmed, a point that will require some elaboration in due time.

But right now I want to get back to The Blob. I should make it clear that in doing so, I'm not suggesting the film itself has any great significance. Who needs a nostalgic trip to a low-budget horror film of the 1950s? The film is important here only in terms of what Sharlet tries to make of it. And in spite of his collection of misinformation on its origin, Sharlet did get one important basic fact right. The Blob was produced by a Christian film company—Valley Forge Films, aka Good News Productions. As staff members, we could see all too well a possible disjunction in this bow to popular culture. But we certainly didn't think we were making a pact with the devil. We'd do the film, replenish the company's bank account, and then get back to our real work. Even this monster film would be held to certain moral standards. At one point, someone involved used the phrase "wholesome horror film."

Shooting a feature film in any genre is a serious venture—expensive and artistically demanding. But it was also, in this case, a source of ironic amusement for us, that as Christian filmmakers we were actually involved in this bizarre other world, imaginatively interacting with an alien thing from outer space. The office in which we met—almost daily, during the shoot, as I recall—had a large blackboard on the front wall. Because at this stage the film had only a working title, "The Molten Meteor," that everyone knew would eventually be discarded, we were invited to write possible titles on the blackboard. A few people took this assignment conscientiously, but most of us considered it an opportunity to let our creativity run loose. Titles accumulated as the workdays moved along. Only three have clung to my mind after a half century: "The Cruise of the Carnivorous Ooze," "The Glob that Girdled the Globe," and "Something Up There Doesn't Like Me," playing on the uplifting autobiography of boxer Rocky Graziano, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which had recently been made into a film starring Paul Newman. So much for our serious anti-communism.

Although Sharlet was right on target in assigning us a Christian identity, clearly his larger intent was to fold us into the Family's covert "elite fundamentalism" at the heart of American power. However, in addition to making clear that nobody connected with the Family had anything to do with the evolution of The Blob, perhaps it's time for me to make a disclaimer. As a card-carrying alumnus of Good News Productions—whose multiple times of employment there added up to almost three years—I do hereby solemnly swear that whatever the label "fundamentalism" is intended to mean (and I want to turn eventually to Sharlet's use of the label), it could not accurately be applied to us. In the half dozen years that the company had been producing films, we consciously rejected the fortress mentality we perceived in the fundamentalist movement. To be sure, we did films in those years for a wide variety of clients—including some who probably classed themselves as fundamentalists—but in every case it was the client's message we tried our best to put on film, not our own.

My memories of that summer fifty years ago are inevitably a collection of fragments. But one stands out as clearly as if it happened yesterday, and it reveals a good deal about who we were as a Christian group. It's a staff meeting in the Yeaworth living quarters, the night before shooting is to begin. There are some 15 or 20 of us seated all around the double living room. After the responsible crew chiefs have finished giving their reports and we've discussed a number of impending problems, Shorty turns the meeting over to Ted Simonson, who proceeds to end the evening with a closing session of prayer. Ted, as I pointed out earlier, was the lead writer of the screenplay. A devout Christian, he was also a sort of chaplain for the company at that time. On this occasion, rather than open the meeting for wider participation, he chooses to lead in prayer himself. At first I'm skeptical, but then I realize what he's doing. It's a long prayer but not in the least perfunctory. Every member of the staff—including those who aren't present—is individually prayed for in specific terms related to his or her tasks. I know in my gut that everyone in the room is feeling exactly as I am; with all our uncertainty, we're assured that there will be divine help when it is needed. Finally—after perhaps fifteen minutes—Ted stops. The story could end there. Who needs more? But there is more. Ted pauses briefly, then asks softly, as if still in prayer, "Have I forgotten anyone?" Another pause. Then someone near him says, just as quietly, "Shorty." He has forgotten to pray for the director of the film. Fully aware of the irony, Ted laughs quietly, in the most natural way, still—as it were—in the divine presence, and goes on to lift up the special needs of the film's director. For anyone who was a part of the evangelical subculture of the time, there is nothing at all strange or unusual about this prayer session. But I wonder what Sharlet would have thought if he had been a fly on the wall. Would we have slipped right into his fundamentalist anti-communist paradigm, an example of a group seeking the Lord's blessing on this piece of cinematic propaganda with its underlying purpose of attacking the Red Menace?

The AlterNet interview and Sharlet's book forced me to look at the film again for the first time in years. Truthfully, I've had better nights at the movies. But viewing it inevitably massaged my memory. What came to mind was a bit of backstory about the film's final scene, worth noting, I think, because even though it has nothing to do with communism, it unintentionally fits neatly into one of today's most controversial political and scientific issues.

Just three of us had gathered for a script conference near the end of the shooting schedule. We had filmed the blob eating away an old man's arm (that was easy); we had filmed in the doctor's office a somewhat enlarged blob (that wasn't so easy; we used a partially inflated World War II barrage balloon, blown across the floor by a large fan just off the set); and we had not yet reached the Special-Effects-on-Miniature-Set phase when the blob is about to devour the human contents of an entire theater and diner. But now it was high time for us to fill a serious scripting gap. We knew how the film would end (for sure, not by blowing up the town). An Air Force cargo plane would drop the frozen, cut-up carcass over the Arctic ice cap. But as yet we had not written any closing dialogue for the main characters. We decided on a line for Dave, the chief of police, the voice of official authority: "I don't think it can be killed, but at least we've stopped it." That didn't quite do it. No one said anything for a moment or two. Then, in a rare moment of inspiration, I suggested a closing line for Steve McQueen: "As long as the Arctic stays cold." The term "global warming" hadn't yet entered the environmental lexicon, nor had any of us entertained the thought that the Arctic would ever be anything but a solid ice pack. But there you are. My chief claim to Blob Immortality over the years has always been that I wrote that prescient last line. And since I was (as you may recall) Third Assistant Director in Charge of Daily Script Revision, who is out there to argue the point? I rest my case.

But I'm not done yet. If the author of a serious work of investigative journalism can go so far astray on a relatively small segment of his story—the alleged connection with a low-budget horror movie—how much credence should we give to the grand sweep of the work? It wouldn't be fair to build an upside-down pyramid of objections to the work as a whole on the pinpoint foundation of the author's less than stellar job of dealing with The Blob. Sharlet's larger research and conclusions concerning the Family should be judged on their merits.

The scope of his research is impressive—the years of work, especially the drudgery of digging through those 600 boxes of archival materials at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton. As a matter of fact, although I can't judge the accuracy of the data as a whole, it seems to me that the thoughtful reader comes away from the book with some troubling questions related to the activities people connected with the Family (or Fellowship, as the group prefers to be called) have been involved in. In Sharlet's view, the organization has always played a high-stakes game, hobnobbing with politicians, CEOs, Pentagon generals, and representatives of all sorts of countries around the globe, some of them a considerable distance from anything resembling real democracy. When you put that together with the Fellowship's rigorous internal demand for secrecy, there's a lot of room for suspicion to grow—the creepy sense that there might be something unhealthy at the heart of the organization's work in the political and religious scene. The secrecy factor received wider notoriety when Time magazine, in its February 7, 2005 issue, named Doug Coe, the Fellowship's current leader, one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals, pinning on him the label "Stealth Persuader."

To say that the Fellowship has not earned immunity from close inspection of its policies and practices is not to suggest that Sharlet's approach is the best way to do that inspection. Rice University sociologist D. Michael Lindsay has taken a different approach, a carefully designed study of the Fellowship's pattern of secrecy. [4] Acknowledging that from its beginning, the organization "has straddled the boundary between publicity and privacy," Lindsay draws a distinction between, on the one hand, secrecy and, on the other, privacy—which he considers more legitimate. Sharlet mentions the Lindsay study in his notes, but dismisses its argument—much too glibly, it seems to me—as typical of the "justifications for power by the ivory tower so often derided as too leftist by conservative pundits."

This essay is not meant to be a full-scale review of the book. That would demand an insider's knowledge of how religion and politics operate not only in this country but on the international scene as well, given the connections of Fellowship members around the globe. However, an adult lifetime teaching composition and literature has taught me a little about the way the many decisions necessary in the writing process—matters of style, diction, syntax, figures of speech, all of which add up to the tone of the book—convey a writer's attitude toward both the reader and the subject. I will hazard a few thoughts along those lines.

In his book Islam Observed, Clifford Geertz uses a striking analogy: He points out that "the events through which we live are forever outrunning the power of our everyday moral, emotional, and intellectual concepts to construe them, leaving us, as a Javanese image has it, like a water buffalo listening to an orchestra." [5] The buffalo hears all the sound, but none of it translates into music.

Sharlet has collected a dazzling array of data concerning the actions and statements of dozens of people over a span of half a century—all of them arguably connected in some way to the Fellowship. But in attempting to tease out interpretations of that data, he appears not to hear any music. Or if he does, it's the repetitive strain of a single motif, carrying with it the implication of something vaguely unsavory. For example, there are countless examples in the book of people praying—individually, in pairs, in small groups, in large gatherings like a prayer breakfast. In Sharlet's portrayal, these prayer times are always suspected of having a political agenda. Who can doubt that he's right at least some of the time? But I found myself often reverting to a sort of mantra: Just as Freud needed to be reminded that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, so should Sharlet realize that often a prayer meeting is just a prayer meeting.

As for tone that colors the author's presentation, here is one fairly obvious example. Before the reader even cracks the cover of the book, there's the title. Surely Sharlet discovered during his research that the organization much prefers the name "Fellowship." Then why choose The Family as the title? When the mind starts playing with this question, it isn't long before The Godfather and the Corleone family rise to the surface. And can anyone doubt the effort to lure a certain kind of reader with that string of loaded terms in the subtitle? The word "secret" and the phrase "the heart of American power" need no comment, but I would like to say something about Sharlet's choice of the term "fundamentalism." It's been used for so long, by so many writers, in so many situations, that at this point it does little more than point a finger at the benighted Others. What it also does in this book is immediately plug into popular distortions and latent fears and suspicions. Sharlet takes a stab at defining it: American fundamentalism is "a movement that recasts theology in the language of empire." Historically, it has moved "from liberation to authoritarianism." It is "a creed that is both fearful and proud even as it proclaims itself joyous and humble." He wonders whether fundamentalism is "too limited a word for such utopian dreams." I should rather wonder, given the kaleidoscopic array of people and groups he ranges through, whether it is too unlimited a word.

In an endnote to his introduction, Sharlet commends Nancy Ammerman's essay in Fundamentalisms Observed, the massive study sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. [6] Ammerman's essay takes us to a realm of discourse vividly different from Sharlet's. Her picture of fundamentalism is inscribed with a calligrapher's pen. Sharlet's—quite purposely, I should think—is spread in broad strokes with a four-inch paint brush. In a recent online column, Martin Marty comments on the confusion that results "if the term [fundamentalism] is always used pejoratively and polemically to cluster everyone, especially the religious, whom one does not like. There are real threats out there, without question, but we do societies no service if we lump all movements to the Right together, homogenize them, and mis-label some of them." [7]

Earlier I raised the question why Sharlet would title a 23-page chapter "The Blob" when the film is mentioned only in the first two pages and the last sentence. On one level, the answer is obvious. Having declared that the blob metaphorically stood for communism in the collective mind of the Fellowship and that the film's idea was born at a National Prayer Breakfast, what better title could there be for the chapter which chronicles the anti-communist activities of the Fellowship? The basic problem with that decision, as we have seen, is that the Fellowship and The Blob share no common DNA. I have a hunch that Sharlet sensed the weakness of his theory. He tries to make sure the reader's mind will hang onto the alleged Fellowship/Blob/communism connection throughout the chapter by gratuitously inflating the metaphor into instant historical analysis: "Between the rebirth of fundamentalism in the 1930s and the '40s and its emergence as a physical force during the Reagan years sits the historical blob of the Cold War, an era as bewildering to modern minds as any in American history"(emphasis added).

But it's not enough. By the end of the chapter, having made no further mention of the film, Sharlet has to bring The Blob back onstage to justify the title. He finds an apparently perfect solution in an awards ceremony at the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge on February 22, 1957. There's nothing bush league about this occasion. The keynote speaker is J. Edgar Hoover, still riding high as director of the fbi. Other honored guests are Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson and Senator Frank Carlson, representing the Fellowship. The recipient of the "Spiritual Values Award" is John Broger, a World War II veteran at the time jointly employed by both the Fellowship and the Pentagon. On this day he is being honored for a film on which he was the creative visionary. The subject of the film is the dangers of communism and how it can best be opposed. Reading this part of the chapter, I recall that Sharlet, in his response to my email, had pointed out that "Yeaworth was indisputably also involved with explicitly anti-communist films, including Militant Liberty, a fundamentalist film by any definition." The film to which he referred in that email is the one being honored at the ceremony. I don't find much to argue with in his statement, though he got the title wrong. It's Liberty Militant. Yeaworth did indeed direct it for Broger. As for the content, I haven't seen the film, but, as Sharlet acknowledges, neither has he.

Then Sharlet springs his big surprise. He has come across a photograph commemorating the occasion. After pointing out that Broger and Secretary of Defense Wilson are the central figures, he concludes the chapter with these words: "Standing with them are Carlson and the two producers of the film, an assistant to Abram [Vereide], and a handsome, sandy-haired man, visibly proud to be counted among such august company: Irvin 'Shorty' Yeaworth, just months away from the Prayer Breakfast at which The Blob will be born."

I can well believe that Shorty was proud. The film his company had produced for a client had just been given a prestigious award. But "visibly proud"? I have a copy of that photograph in front of me as I write. I'm no more of a mind reader than Sharlet is, but if I had to choose an adjective to describe Shorty's expression, I think I'd settle on "distracted." He appears to be speaking to someone off camera. Not that it matters. Another, more serious discrepancy undercuts the eloquence that brings the chapter circling around to its neat conclusion. Sharlet has the time sequence all wrong. The Valley Forge ceremony is on February 22. The Prayer Breakfast isn't "months away." It's history. It took place in the first week of February. But that doesn't matter either. The real problem is that there was absolutely no reason to bring The Blob into the book at all. [8]

But why end on a downer? Let's briefly visit one more time the closing words of the chapter: "just months away from the Prayer Breakfast at which The Blob will be born." Leaving behind the realm of mere fact or error, I choose to focus instead on the gift that Jeff Sharlet has given to The Blob in his eloquent conclusion—a cachet of cultural class that it hasn't ever enjoyed in the half century of its life, a magic touch of William Butler Yeats, no less, as the blob, rough beast though it may be, rises to a new mythic level, its hour come round at last, and slouches toward Washington to be born.

Rudy Nelson, associate professor of English, emeritus, University at Albany, is co-producer/director (with Shirley Nelson) of the documentary film Precarious Peace: God and Guatemala.

1. Lindsay Beyerstein, "Worse Than Fascists: Christian Political Group 'The Family' Openly Reveres Hitler," www.alternet.org/rights/87665/.

2. Both Jean Yeaworth, Shorty's widow, who was deeply involved in every aspect of the production, and screenwriter Ted Simonson have confirmed that observation.

3. Randall Balmer, ed., Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, rev. and expanded ed. (Baylor Univ. Press, 2004).

4. D. Michael Lindsay, "Is the National Prayer Breakfast Surrounded by a 'Christian Mafia'? Religous Publicity and Secrecy within the Corridors of Power," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 74, No. 2 [June 2006], pp. 390-419. For sympathetic personal portrayals of the Fellowship by longtime members, see Charles Colson, Born Again, 30th anniversary ed. (Chosen Books, 2004); and Mike Timmis, with Harold Fickett, Between Two Worlds: The Spiritual Journey of an Evangelical Catholic (NavPress, 2008).

5. Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed (Yale Univ. Press, 1968), p. 101.

6. Nancy Ammerman, "A Brief Introduction and Definition," in Fundamentalisms Observed, Martin E. Marty and Scott Appleby, eds. (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 1-65.

7. Martin E. Marty, "Fundamentalism in Europe," http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/sightings/ archive_2008/0721.shtml.

8. While this essay was in page proofs, a related article appeared in the September 15, 2008 issue of The Weekly Standard, pp. 32-34. In "Alien Nation," Shawn Macomber reports on the ninth annual "BlobFest" in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Macomber touches on Sharlet's book and debunks his reading of The Blob, drawing on an interview with Shorty Yeaworth's son, Kris.

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