Debating the Data: Book Review of Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life -- By: Carrie A. Miles

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 18:1 (Winter 2004)
Article: Debating the Data: Book Review of Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life
Author: Carrie A. Miles


Debating the Data: Book Review of
Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life

Carrie A. Miles

Reviewed by Carrie A. Miles who holds a doctorate in social and organizational psychology from the University of Chicago and is the associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture at George Mason University. She is the co-author of Male and Female in Christ: Discover What the Bible Really says about Women—and about Men, available from the CBE Bookstore.

Evagelical Identity and Gendered Family Life, by Oregon State University sociology professor Sally K. Gallagher, is a detailed study of evangelical attitudes toward gender and the family. Although many CBE members will be familiar with the basic issues summarized in part I of the book, there remains much to be learned from part II, where Gallagher reviews and interprets results from a major survey of American evangelicals. While her conclusions, presented in part III, are more problematic and must be reviewed cautiously, they still offer provocative and potentially useful ideas.

Part I of the book presents a concise history of gender attitudes and debate among American Protestants, beginning with the Puritans. This history includes the origins of Christians for Biblical Equality. In fact, CBE is offered as representative for the views of “biblical feminists.” Gallagher draws her understanding of the more traditional perspective from the works of Larry Christianson, Elisabeth Elliot, James Dobson, and others who believe that gender differences are not just socially-conditioned but biologically-based and willed by God.

Part II contains the book’s major contributions—data from the large-scale survey of American evangelicals and “how their religious identity . . . shape[s] their ideals for gender, work and family and influence their practices in everyday life” (p. 181). The study consisted of a telephone survey of over 2,000 randomly selected, “religiously committed” Protestants (together with a smaller comparison group of non-church-goers and non-Protestants), followed by face-to-face interviews of 173 religiously committed evangelicals. Gallagher focuses on questions concerning male “headship;” family responsibilities, leadership, and decision-making; and work both in and outside the home, including childcare and housework.

Gallagher’s study demonstrates that contemporary Christians have convictions that seem to contradict one another. For example, despite the fact that a solid majority of all Christians support male “headship,” (90 percent of evangelicals, 70 percent of mainline denomination members, and 59 percent of liberal Protestants) most are ambivalent ...

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