This article describes the fluidity of evangelical gender ideology during the 1970s and posits that belief in male headship became one of the distinct marks of evangelical identity in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At that time, the Christian Right led a campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, arguing that the ERA was the means by which feminists were seeking to destroy the family. It became politically expedient for evangelicals to assert their support for male headship over and against a feminist paradigm of the family. In the 1990s and 2000s, as evangelicals had begun to feel less animosity towards feminism and had actually absorbed many feminist assumptions, the Christian Right's campaign against gay marriage gave evangelicals a new reason to cling to the ideology of male headship. The campaigns against the ERA and gay marriage have made evangelicals aware of the very real presence of different models of family in American society. This awareness has enhanced commitment to the headship model of marriage.
Historians Betty DeBerg and Margaret Bendroth have done much to point historians to the way in which gender ideology has been important to evangelical identity over the last century. By analyzing anti-ERA and anti-gay marriage evangelical literature, this article argues that gender ideology was integral to the formation of evangelical identity during the last third of the twentieth century. Thus, the article seeks to extend the argument of DeBerg and Bendroth into the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s and to present gender ideology as a key feature in defining twentieth-century American evangelicalism.
- © 2014 by The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture