Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

Is a "Christian America" a More Patriarchal America? Religion, Politics, and Traditionalist Gender Ideology

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

Is a "Christian America" a More Patriarchal America? Religion, Politics, and Traditionalist Gender Ideology

Article excerpt

A PERSISTENT AND PROMINENT narrative deployed by Donald Trump, both as a populist candidate and as a president, is that America must return to her Christian roots (Gorski 2017b; Jenkins 2017). This appeal has resonated with a large portion of the American population, particularly older, white, working-class Christians, so much so in fact, that holding such a belief--what may be termed "Christian nationalism"--was among the strongest predictors of voting for Trump in 2016 (Stewart 2018; Whitehead, Perry, and Baker 2018a). Importantly, Christian nationalism bolsters Trump's populist appeal not merely as a direct response to Trump's self-advertisements as a defender of religious freedom, but also indirectly through its connection to other predictors of Trump support, such as racism, Islamophobia, gun rights, xenophobia, homophobia, authoritarianism, and traditional views of the family (Brubaker 2017; Davis 2018a; McDaniel, Nooruddin, and Shortle 2011; Merino 2010; Perry and Whitehead 2015a, 2015b; Straughn and Feld 2010; Whitehead and Perry 2015; Whitehead, Schnabel, and Perry 2018b). What has yet to be explored, however, is the extent to which contemporary Christian nationalism--specifically, an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity and American civic life--may be closely linked with another ideology associated with Trump's brand of "MAGA" populism, namely, traditionalist views of gender roles and norms (Bock, Byrd-Craven, and Burkley 2017; Brubaker 2017; Frasure-Yokley 2018; Rothwell, Hodson, and Prusaczyk 2019).

There are several reasons why this connection would be expected. The whole research on Christian nationalism and Americans' political and social views suggests that a core concern for Christian nationalists is the protection of symbolic boundaries, including which religious or ethnic groups should be considered "American" (Edgell and Tranby 2010; McDaniel et al. 2011; Merino 2010; Shortle and Gaddie 2015; Stewart, Edgell, and Delehanty 2018; Straughn and Feld 2010), which families count as legitimate (Perry and Whitehead 2015a, 2015b; Whitehead and Perry 2015), and the extent to which Americans feel justified in defending sacred individual rights or national interests (Froese and Mencken 2009; Whitehead et al. 2018b). Given this concern with symbolic boundaries, it would be reasonable to expect that adherents to Christian nationalism would prefer unambiguous, traditional roles and expectations for men and women. Along with this, recent research (Davis 2018a) suggests that Christian nationalist ideology is a strong predictor of authoritarian views on social control, and thus, Americans who adhere to Christian nationalism would likely advocate for hierarchical gender relationships, a cultural artifact resulting from a particular, traditional interpretation of authority. Last, at a broader cultural level, Riesebrodt (1993) theorized that the primary critique of populist movements advocating a more prominent role for religion in civic life was the undermining of the patriarchal family structure. Such groups contend that the decline of patriarchy undermines the family and subsequently all society, and thus, must be bolstered by reinvigorating civic life with "fundamental" religious values.

While previous research has identified religion and politics as important correlates of gender ideology (for reviews, see Carlson and Lynch 2013; Davis and Greenstein 2009), such studies tend to neglect the significant overlap of religion and politics in the minds of Americans and in the social context at large (but see also Brubaker 2017; Davis and Robinson 1996). Identifying the degree to which Americans are comfortable with, or even actively desire, a close relationship between Christianity and American political institutions allows us to account for this overlap.

Analyzing data from a recent, national random sample of American adults, our study makes three important contributions. First, it demonstrates that embracing Christian nationalism is the strongest predictor of espousing a more traditionalist gender ideology for Americans, net of their religious and political characteristics. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.