Soft Patriarchs and New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
By W. Bradford Wilcox
In the wake of dramatic, recent changes in American family life, evagelical and mainline Protestant churches took markedly different positions on family change. This work explains why these two traditions responded so differently to family change and then goes on to explore how the stances of evangelical and mainline Protestant churches toward marriage and parenting have influenced the husbands and fathers that fill their pews.
According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the divergent family ideologies of evangelical and mainline churches do not translate into large differences in family behavior between evagelical and mainline Protestant men who are married with children. Mainline Protestant men, he contends, are "new men" who take a more egalitarian approach to the division of household labor than their conservative peers and a more involved approach to parenting than men with no religious affiliation. Evangelical Protestant men, meanwhile, are "soft patriarchs" - not as authoritarian as some would expect, and given to being more emotional and dedicated to their wives and children than both their mainline and secular counterparts. Thus, Wilcox argues that religion domesticates men in ways that make them more responsive to the aspirations and needs of their immediate families.
"There is hardly a church in the country that doesn't claim to be family friendly. But does church-going rally do anything to strengthen families? Does it matter which kind of church it is? Here at last is the definitive study we have been waiting for. Soft Patriarchs, New Men is an impressive accomplishment. Wilcox carefully analyzes all the relevant data. Some of it reinforc es popular impressions: a lot of it does not. This engaging book is a must read for scholars and practitioners alike."
- - Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University
"This volume makes a compelling and important case that religious traditions play a significant role in shaping the family and that cultural factors above and beyond structural and material variables influence male family relations. Soft Patriarchs, New Men contributes to the renewed appreciation for religious influences in social life. This is a significant work of scholarship."
- - Christian Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill