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Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands

Recorded on December 8, 2004

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Do the religious beliefs of men make them a blessing or a blight on their family? Some opinion leaders might agree with journalist Cokie Roberts' characterization of a 1998 Southern Baptist statement on gender roles as thinking that the statement "can clearly lead to abuse, both physical and emotional." But a much different impression emerges from research on Protestant married men in a new book by W. Bradford Wilcox. Mainline Protestant men, Wilcox contends in Soft Patriarchs, 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. Either way, Wilcox contends that religion domesticates men in ways that make them more responsive to the aspirations and needs of their immediate families.