Sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia works within walking distance of the Rotunda, the temple of knowledge that Thomas Jefferson modeled after the Pantheon. Wilcox, a native of Connecticut, arrived at the school as an undergraduate, earned a master's degree and Ph.D. at Princeton, and returned to Virginia to become an assistant professor of sociology. The University of Chicago Press published his first book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, in April. Both in the book and in earlier essays for academic journals, Wilcox has challenged stereotypes about evangelical family life. Wilcox, whose father and grandfather were priests in the Episcopal Church, is a Roman Catholic layman. CT contributing editor Douglas LeBlanc interviewed him in his office and by e-mail.

You quote feminist sociologists Julia McQuillan and Myra Marx Ferree as saying that evangelicalism is "pushing men toward authoritarian and stereotypical forms of masculinity and attempting to renew patriarchal relations." How does your work challenge their conclusions?

McQuillan and Ferree—and countless other academics—need to cast aside their prejudices about religious conservatives and evangelicals in particular. Compared to the average American family man, evangelical Protestant men who are married with children and attend church regularly spend more time with their children and their spouses. They also are more affectionate with their children and their spouses. They also have the lowest rates of domestic violence of any group in the United States.

Journalists such as Steve and Cokie Roberts and Christian feminists such as James and Phyllis Alsdurf have argued that patriarchal religion leads to domestic ...

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