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Canadian Review of American Studies Volume 23, Number 4, 1993, pp. 61-70 61 Women with Children: Evangelical Ministers' Views of the Role of Women in Society Lisa Langenbach Introduction Over the past decade, increasing attention has been paid to both the role of evangelicals in the political process and the attitudes which shape such activity , particularly evangelicals' attitudes toward family concerns and traditional values. Thus, the role of women in American society is an important issue in the study of evangelicals and their role in the political process. Evangelicals are conservative Christians with religious beliefs that dictate a literal or nearly literal interpretation of the Bible. As such, many evangelicals accept as necessary truth the Biblically stated hierarchy that "the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church" (Eph. 5:23). This theological justification for the inequality of women, however, is met head-on by an increasingly egalitarian American society. In a study of evangelical elites, R. B. Fowler (1986) found mixed views among evangelical elites on feminist principles. Clyde Wilcpx (1987, "Feminism '') found evangelical women divided on feminist issues. This paper takes these works a step further. I examine the attitudes of evangelicalelites in an effort to explain the reasons why they have such mixed feelingstoward the role of women in society. My survey of evangelical elites reinforces the findings of Fowler and Wilcox. I found that evangelical elites do hold quite mixed views toward women's equality. The principal question examined is drawn from the 62 Canadian Review of American Studies American National Election Studies.1 It is a standard seven point scale which taps views on women's proper role and equality in society. Respondents are asked to choose the number from one to seven which best corresponds to their feelings as to whether "women should have an equal role with men in the running of business, industry, and government." This is a scale,or a continuum, of attitudes with two extremes and several points in between. A choice of category "one,, indicates a belief in an equal role for women, while a choice of category "seven" indicates belief that women's place is in the home. Choices "two" through "six" indicate feelings somewherebetween those two extremes. For example, choice "two" means that the respondent feels some hesitancy towards women's equality, yet is close to accepting full equality of women. Choice "three" indicates that the respondent tends towards women's equality, yet is close to the midpoint of feeling between the two extremes. Choice "four" is a midpoint, exactly halfway between accepting total female equality, and relegating women's place to the home. Choice "five" means the respondent tends toward women's proper place being in the home, but is still fairly close to the midpoint of attitudes on this issue. Choice "six" means that the respondent is close to feeling that women's place is in the home, but is not totally convincedof that. Responses to this question can be seen in Table 1. Table 1. Frequencies of ViewsAbout Women's Roles ("womrole") based on 192 responses (American National Election Studies 1988) Scale of Responses 1 equal role 2 3 4 midpoint 5 6 7 women's place is in the home Total Percentage of Responses 15.5% 11.0 9.7 16.8 9.7 17.1 20.3 100.1% Lisa Langenbach I 63 As can be seen, the women's rights variable exhibits a good deal of variance, indicating differences among evangelical elites regarding women's equality. It has been commonly assumed by commentators and analysts alike,that the new religious Right, of which evangelicalsmake up a sizeable part, is heavily committed to traditional values and roles. Thus, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to discover such a range of opinion in their perceptions of women's equality.This study seeks to account for this variance, to explain evangelicals attitudes toward women's role in society. The Sample This study is derived from a survey of Pennsylvania's evangelicalministers conducted in late March 1988. Surveying evangelicals is never easy. The literature thus far has not been characterized by a consensus over an...


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