A Quick Question
Are Evangelical Gender Roles Changing?:
Are evangelicals circling the wagons on gender roles
or caving in to culture?
The quick answer: Yes and no!
The longer answer: In this study of American evangelicals sociologist Sally Gallagher explores gender and family ideals and practices among ordinary evangelicals. Beginning with a review of the history of ideas about godly manhood and womanhood from the Puritans to the Promise Keepers, she traces two strands of gender ideals – both hierarchy and mutuality – within the traditions that make up modern evangelicalism.
Key findings from this study are:
* Evangelical women are employed at about the same rate as other American women.
* Evangelicals increasingly emphasize involved fathering, not just as authority figure in the home but as an active presence in the everyday lives of their children.
* Most evangelicals think of marriage as a partnership in which husbands and wives are equal participants in decision-making and child-rearing.
* In spite of being pragmatically egalitarian, the majority of American evangelicals believe that final authority, leadership and decision-making is the responsibility of men in marriage.
* The ideas of “biblical” or evangelical feminism are reflected in the practices but not the ideals of most evangelicals.
Making sense of these findings, Prof. Gallagher argues that evangelical Protestants remain committed to ideas about husbands’s authority in family life because it reinforces husbands’ connection to family and provides a sense of security to wives. Yet men’s authority in marriage is largely symbolic – focusing mostly on a sense of ultimate spiritual responsibility before God for what happens inside the household, rather than direction in making decisions about children, finances, or housework all of which are more likely to be shared.
While evangelical husbands and wives look very much like other Americans in terms of income, education, parenting and standard of living, their distinctive ideas about men’s spiritual leadership provide a sense of continuity with religious tradition and a sense of religious community that set them apart from the broader culture.
You can read more about this study on this web site.
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