Christian nationalism seeks the preservation or restoration of a supposed religio-national purity. We argue that, within the racialized social system of the United States, this idealized religio-national purity is inextricably linked with notions of ethno-racial purity. Focusing on interracial families as a violation of ethno-racial purity, we theorize that adherents to Christian nationalism will be less supportive of family formations in which ethno-racial purity is formally transgressed. We demonstrate this by examining the impact of Christian nationalism on Americans’ views toward transracial adoption (TRA). Americans’ attitudes toward TRA provide an interesting test case in that, unlike attitudes toward racial exogamy, TRA implies no biological or cultural race-mixing between social peers, but only a socio-legal guardianship across races. Opposition to TRA thus taps Americans’ attitudes about the “ideal” ethno-racial composition of families socially and legally, rather than their beliefs about the biological or cultural incompatibility of ethno-racial groups. Analyzing national survey data, we find that adherence to Christian nationalism is strongly and negatively associated with support for TRA, net of relevant controls. We demonstrate that the influence of Christian nationalism is robust and independent of respondents’ trust of other races and their religious commitment, both that are strongly and positively associated with support for TRA. Findings affirm that Christian nationalism implies ethno-racial separation and purity, and thus, we propose that a resurgence of Christian nationalist ideology in the public sphere may serve to reinforce racial boundaries and exclusion in other realms of American social life.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Although some parents who adopt transracially (sometimes domestically, but more often internationally) take steps to integrate their adopted child’s “ethnic culture” into their family lives (ethnic foods, music, art and images, clothes) (Jacobson 2008), these cultural elements are selectively appropriated at the adoptive parents’ discretion, with other cultural elements of the adopted child’s culture discarded, and thus, there is no “confrontation” of distinct cultures, but a selective (re)appropriation of the child’s ethnic culture (see Quiroz 2012).
Multivariate models were also run with three or four categories in the dependent variable, using both ordered logistic regression (OLR) and multinomial logistic regression (MLR). OLR estimates on the dependent variable did not satisfy the proportional odds assumption, and thus, OLR was not the optimal analytical procedure. Smaller Ns in the “always or almost always wrong” category, particularly for the religiously unaffiliated, limited the explanatory power of MLR analysis. Binary logistic regression was thus chosen as the most appropriate procedure, given the data.
Additional analyses also utilized a more fine-grained measure of race/ethnicity identifying Hispanic (non-white), African American (non-Hispanic), white (non-Hispanic), and other race/ethnicity. There were no significant differences between the groups on support of TRA net of all other effects. Therefore, we utilize this parsimonious measure to control for race/ethnicity in our final models.
Due to negative odds ratios being bounded between 0 and 1, we divide 1 by the odds ratio in order to calculate the percentage decrease. Thus, 1/0.94 = 1.06, or a 6 % decrease in odds.
Aho, J. (2013). Christian heroism and the reconstruction of America. Critical Sociology, 39, 545–560.
Allison, P. D. (2002). Missing data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Allport, G. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Allport, G., & Ross, M. J. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(4), 432–443.
Bader, C., Mencken, C., & Froese, P. (2007). American piety 2005: Content and methods of the Baylor Religion Survey. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46, 447–463.
Barkun, M. (1994). Religion and the racist right: The origins of the Christian Identity Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Barn, R. (2013). ‘Doing the right thing’: Transracial adoption in the USA. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36, 1273–1291.
Bartholet, E. (1991). Where do black children belong? The politics of race matching in adoption. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 139, 1163–1256.
Bartholet, E. (1995). Race separatism in the family: More on the transracial adoption debate. Duke Journal of Gender Law, & Policy, 2, 99–105.
Barton, D. (2011). The founding fathers and slavery. Retrieved August 8, 2013 from (http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=122).
Bausch, R. S., & Serpe, R. T. (1997). Negative outcomes of interethnic adoption of Mexican American children. Social Work, 42, 136–143.
Bellah, R. (1967). Civil religion in America. Daedalus, 96, 1–21.
Bogardus, E. (1933). A social distance scale. Sociology & Social Research, 17, 265–271.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (1999). The essential social fact of race. American Sociological Review, 64, 899–906.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (2001). White supremacy and racism in the post-civil rights era. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Braunsberger, K., Wybenga, H., & Gates, R. (2007). A comparison of reliability between telephone and web-based surveys. Journal of Business Research, 60, 758–764.
Briggs, L. (2012). Somebody’s children: the politics of transracial and transnational adoption. Durham: Duke University Press.
Chima, F. O. (1996). Transracial adoption revisted: African American college students' perspective. Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology, 24, 43–48.
Davis, M. (2011). Children for families or families for children: The demography of adoption behavior in the US. New York: Springer.
Ellison, C. G. (1993). Are religious people nice people? Evidence from the national survey of black Americans. Social Forces, 71(2), 411–430.
Evan B. Donaldson Institute. (2002). National adoption attitudes survey: Research report. http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/survey/Adoption_Attitudes_Survey.pdf. Downloaded February 22, 2013.
Feigelman, W., & Silverman, A. R. (1984). The long-term effects of transracial adoption. The Social Service Review, 58, 588–602.
Fenster, J. (2003). Race, religion, altruism, and the transracial adoption debate: A survey of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish social workers. Social Thought, 22, 45–61.
Fisher, A. P. (2003). ‘Not quite as good as having your own’? Toward a sociology of adoption. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 335–361.
Froese, P., & Bader, C. D. (2007). God in America: Why theology is not simply the concern of philosophers. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46, 465–481.
Froese, P., & Mencken, F. C. (2009). A US holy war? The effects of religion on Iraq war policy attitudes. Social Science Quarterly, 90, 103–116.
Goldberg, M. (2006). Kingdom coming: The rise of Christian nationalism. New York: Norton.
Goldberg, A. E., & Smith, J. Z. (2009). Predicting non-African American lesbian and heterosexual preadoptive couples’ openness to adopting an African American child. Family Relations, 58, 346–360.
Gordon, M. (1964). Assimilation in American life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gorski, P. (2009). Conservative Protestantism in the United States: Toward a comparative historical perspective. In S. Brint & J. Schroedel (Eds.), Evangelicals and Democracy in America (Vol. 1, pp. 74–114). New York: Russell Sage.
Gorski, P. (2010). Civil religion today. Association of religion data archives guiding papers series. (http://www.palsresearch.org/rrh/papers/guidingpapers/Gorski.pdf).
Gorsuch, R. L., & Aleshire, D. (1974). Christian faith and ethnic prejudice: A review and interpretation of research. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 13(3), 281–307.
Grow, L. J., & Shapiro, D. (1976). TRA today: views of adoptive parents and social workers. New York: Child Welfare League of America.
Herman, E. (2008). Kinship by design: A history of adoption in the United States. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Hollingsworth, L. D. (2000a). Who seeks to adopt a child? Findings from the national survey of family growth (1995). Adoption Quarterly, 3, 1–23.
Hollingsworth, L. D. (2000b). Sociodemographic influences in the prediction of attitudes toward transracial adoption. Families in Society, 81, 92–100.
Jacobson, H. (2008). Culture keeping: White mothers, international adoption, and the negotiation of family difference. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Jacobson, C. K., Nielsen, L., & Hardeman, A. (2012). Family trends and transracial adoption in the United States. Adoption Quarterly, 15, 73–87.
Kennedy, R. (2003). Interracial intimacies: Sex, marriage, identity, and adoption. New York: Pantheon.
Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1993). Fundamentalism, Christian orthodoxy, and intrinsic religious orientation as predictors of discriminatory attitudes. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 32, 256–268.
Lee, J., & Bean, F. D. (2010). The diversity paradox: Immigration and the color line in twenty-first century America. New York: Russell Sage.
Lenski, G. (1963). The religious factor: A sociologist’s inquiry. Garden City: Anchor.
McDaniel, E. L., Nooruddin, I., & Shortle, A. F. (2011). Divine boundaries: How religion shapes citizens attitudes toward immigrants. American Politics Research, 39, 205–233.
McRoy, R. G., & Zurcher, L. A. (1983). Transracial and inracial adoptees: The adolescent years. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
National Association of Black Social Workers. (1972). Position paper: Transracial adoption. New York, NY: Author.
Pampel, F. C. (2000). Logistic regression: A primer. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Patton, S. (2000). Birthmarks: Transracial adoption in contemporary America. New York: NYU Press.
Perry, S. L. (2010). The effects of race, religion, and religiosity on attitudes toward transracial adoption. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 41, 837–854.
Perry, S. L. (2011). Contact, congregations, and children of color: the effects of interracial contact in religious settings on whites’ attitudes toward transracial adoption. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 42, 851–869.
Perry, S. L. (2013). Conservative christians and support for transracial adoption as an alternative to abortion. Social Science Quarterly, 95(2), 380–392.
Perry, S. L. (2014). Transracial adoption, neoliberalism, and religion: A test of moderating effects. Journal of Family Issues. doi:10.1177/0192513X14541445.
Quiroz, P. A. (2007). Adoption in a color-blind society. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Quiroz, P. A. (2012). Cultural tourism in transnational adoptions: “Staged authenticity” and its implications for adopted children. Journal of Family Issues, 33, 527–555.
Rubin, D. B. (1996). Multiple imputation after 18 + years. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 91, 473–489.
Samuels, G. M. (2009a). ‘Being raised by white people’: Navigating racial difference among adopted multiracial adults. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 80–94.
Samuels, G. M. (2009b). “Using the extended case method to explore identity in a multiracial context. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32, 1599–1618.
Silverman, A. R. (1993). Outcomes of transracial adoption. The Future of Children, 3, 104–118.
Silverman, A. R., & Feigelman, W. (1981). The adjustment of black children adopted by white families. Social Casework, 62, 529–536.
Simon, R. J. (1978). Black attitudes toward transracial adoption. Phylon, 39, 135–142.
Simon, R. J., & Altstein, H. (2002). Adoption, race, & identity: From infancy to adulthood (2nd ed.). New York: Praeger.
Smith, D., Jacobson, C. K., & Juarez, B. G. (2011). White parents, black children: Experiencing transracial adoption. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Steensland, B., Park, J. Z., Regnerus, M., Robinson, L., Wilcox, W. B., & Woodberry, R. (2000). The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces, 79, 291–318.
Yancey, G., & Lewis, R, Jr. (2009). Interracial families: concepts and controversies. New York: Routledge.
About this article
Cite this article
Perry, S.L., Whitehead, A.L. Christian Nationalism, Racial Separatism, and Family Formation: Attitudes Toward Transracial Adoption as a Test Case. Race Soc Probl 7, 123–134 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-015-9144-7
- Transracial adoption
- Interracial families
- Racial attitudes