The Sociology of Religion’s Obsession with White Evangelicalism and Social Problems

Originally published at

“By privileging White Evangelical accounts of religion, we not only miss the great variety of religiosity that exists,…but we also contribute to the dominance of Whiteness and of a certain way of being religious.”

This is speaking of sociologists. This includes critical research. I am glad somebody finally put it in writing.

With sociological research now being a common primary source for popular discourse on evangelicalism, our obsessing over one expression shapes the social construction of this and other identities. With this in mind, think about what it means to literally intentionally exclude or delete minority group members from samples of one of the more diverse religious demographics in the country. Think about what it means to erase entire other traditions. Think about what it means to marginalize those trying to elevate these expressions and lived experiences as an intentionally acquired instinct. Yet this is exactly what is being done, often by people who believe they are doing the opposite.

No, not every study is bad (but a lot are). This is very much a sum of its parts story. White, US, voting self-identified evangelicals/people-who-belong-to-denominations-that historically-have-been-evangelical-probably-but-not-always-and-come-to-think-of-it-it-varies-regionally-so-we-just-dropped-a-lot-of-the-right-people-and-added-a-lot-of-the-wrong-people are an important and politically consequential demographic. It is important to understand them. They are just obsessed over disproportionately to their impact and to the erasure of others.

Collectively, the field has been irresponsibly mindless of how this line of research contributes to the public sphere. An enterprising graduate student or professor should take on qualitative research on how the sociology of religion to press pipeline is interpreted by marginalized religious communities and wielded by the powerful. We can capstone our post-2015 research agenda with From the Sociology of Religion to Social Problems: Doing (Garfinkel 1968; West and Zimmerman 1987) Research in the Age of Trump™®.

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