The Divine Institution


The Divine Institution: White Evangelicalism’s Politics of the Family (2021)

Winner of the Anne Bolin & Gil Herdt Book Prize from the Human Sexuality and Anthropology Interest Group (HSAIG), of the American Anthropological Association.

Available at:

Rutgers University Press


The Divine Institution provides an account of how a theology of the family came to dominate a white evangelical tradition in the post-civil rights movement United States, providing a theological corollary to Religious Right politics. This tradition inherently enforces racial inequality in that it draws moral, religious, and political attention away from problems of racial and economic structural oppression, explaining all social problems as a failure of the individual to achieve the strong gender and sexual identities that ground the nuclear family. The consequences of this theology are both personal suffering for individuals who cannot measure up to prescribed gender and sexual roles, and political support for conservative government policies. Exposure to experiences that undermine the idea that an emphasis on the family is the solution to all social problems is causing a younger generation of white evangelicals to shift away from this narrow theological emphasis and toward a more social justice-oriented theology. The material and political effects of this shift remain to be seen.
“Intersectionality is hard work, but Sophie Bjork-James applies it brilliantly to issues of race, faith, gender, and sexuality. Her study shows the ways in which race and racial supremacy structure and infect white evangelicalism’s entire approach to men, women, and children.”

–Edward J. Blum, co-author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America

From Matthew Guest, Journal of Contemporary Religion, “the careful disentangling of human relationships, their development and complex orientation to faith, morality, and social life makes for compelling reading and at numerous points its subtlety warns against the knee-jerk, stereotypical claims.”

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Reviews and Press

Page 99 Test, Sophie Bjork-James’s “The Divine Institution”

The Jugaad Project, The Divine Institution: Interview with Sophie Bjork-James, Urmila Mohan

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