This isn’t a religion blog, but we at the IWF know that religious values often shape the conservative values that we share with many of our readers. And we know that religious conservatives, especially evangelical Protestants, are the target of many a prejudice by our all-knowing and militantly secular liberal elites. Evangelical men in particular are stereotyped as authoritarian patriarchs who routinely abuse their wives and children.

That’s why I’m welcoming a new book, Soft Patriarchs: How Christianity Shapes Husbands and Fathers, by University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox. Wilcox argues that in fact, in families where the father is a churchgoing evangelical, there is less domestic violence and more affection than in the population at large. Here’s an excerpt from an interview Wilcox gave to Christianity Today magazine:

“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 violence. My findings directly contradict their claims.

“Domestic violence is an important problem in our society, but we should not confuse the matter by blaming conservative religion. The roots of domestic violence would seem to lie elsewhere.”

Wilcox notes that churchgoing evangelical fathers are typically stricter fathers than others when it comes to discipline–they’re willing to spank a kid who gets out of line–but they also typically temper their strictness with affection, setting a model of tough love. They also do about an hour less housework a week than the average secular father, Wilcox found, but they also are more appreciative of the work their wives perform around the house. (And since, even in our liberated age, it’s still wives who do most of the housework, it’s nice not to be taken for granted.)

Wilcox’s findings can probably be extrapolated to other kinds of conservative families–those of conservative Catholics, Jews, and even secularists, for that matter. What’s important is that the notion that conservatives are inherently dysfunctional hasn’t been borne out by the sociological research, and it’s high time that our pundits abandoned it as well.

Oh, and by the way, the Washington Post reports that conservative (and often, highly religious) “red states” have higher birth-rates than the liberal “blue states.” Heh-heh.