Christian Smith did all of us who follow the sociology of American evangelicalism a great service with his 1998 book, American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. Therein, he described how evangelicals had developed a “sub-cultural identity,” wherein they told themselves a story about their own position as an embattled minority, even as they became the most powerful voting bloc in the electorate.
That self-defining narrative has continued unabated. Witness Micharah Bachlin, using the bully pulpit of FOX News to decry the lack of balance in the “lamestream media.” And, mark my words, Bachlin’s presidential campaign will be premised largely on the view that conservative evangelical voters are an underrepresented minority.
In The Atlantic Monthly‘s annual “Ideas Issue,” Idea #11, “Gay Is the New Normal” shows that evangelicals are already continuing this storyline:
Perhaps this had to happen: the straight-rights movement is here. No, it does not call itself that. (Yet.) But opponents of same-sex marriage, and others who are unfriendly to the gay-rights movement, have adopted the posture of a victim group. They are, it seems … an oppressed majority.…This change is a watershed in gay-straight relations, and it brings a disorienting political role reversal. It is the condemnation of homosexuality, rather than homosexuality itself, that will be increasingly stigmatized as morally deviant. And it is the opponents of gay equality who will insist they are the oppressed group, the true victims of civil-rights violations. Indeed, they have already developed, and are vigorously marketing, a “gay bullies” narrative.
Read on at TheAtlantic to read unsurprising quotes from Catholic and evangelical leaders about how ungodly America is, now that the majority of Americans is accepting of homosexuality. Just watch how this issue will play into the evangelical sub-cultural identity as we approach the 2012 election — evangelicals who oppose marriage equality will add this to their narrative of an oppressed minority.