Religion as Cultural Power: The Role of Religion in Influencing Americans’ Symbolic Boundaries around Gender and Sexuality



In this article, we describe recent research that explores the power of religion to influence understandings of gender and sexuality in the United States. We argue that sociologists of religion should draw from symbolic boundaries theory, a theoretical innovation in the sociology of culture. In particular, we discuss a rich body of research in the sociology of religion to show how Americans use religious tools to draw boundaries around ideal and stigmatized gender norms, family forms and sexual identification. We combine symbolic boundaries literature and this literature to show that religion is a source of cultural power that assigns meaning to, and draws boundaries around, certain cultural categories. We end by describing some productive directions for future research in this area.