Soft Patriarchy, Firm Realities: A Conversation with Bradford Wilcox – Albert Mohler

(30 min read; 7,586 words)

This is a transcript of a podcast published November 8, 2010 in which Albert Mohler interviewed Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia where he also serves as associate professor of sociology and as a member of the James Madison Society at Princeton University.

Professor Wilcox is the author of a number of books including Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands published by the University of Chicago Press in 2004.

Mohler and Wilcox discuss the ample social research which identifies the importance of marriage in raising children and in the stability of a society – social research which simply reports the facts independent of any Christian prescription.  That is, secular society’s animus to marriage can be shown to be faulty relying on nothing but their own forms of study and analysis.  Of course, Christian prescriptions serve only to reinforce the case.  In other words, the Bible has told us all along what was right.  We didn’t have to do the wrong things and then study the consequences later in a research project to find out they were bad ideas.

Some excerpts [emphasis added]:

Mohler: You know I have followed your research for so many years. And have talked about it a great deal, documented it, and written about it. Thinking now just about something like the anniversary of the Moynihan Report, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote that report back in 1965 looking at the issue of black poverty, African American poverty, he said that family matters. The title of the report was Negro Family: the Case for National Action. Now, Moynihan was immediately charged with blaming the victim and was dismissed by many academics as barking up the wrong tree. Now you come along decades later and say that really wasn’t the case.

Wilcox: I mean clearly he was very concerned about the welfare of African Americans and particularly looking at the welfare of African American men and how as both employment and marriage kind of collapsed around black men the whole family became unraveled. So he was clearly trying to help the black family and yet because he made I think some very prophetic remarks about the consequences of family change for black families and for black kids, he was reviled in many different quarters in the culture.

Mohler: And he was reviled and his wisdom was rejected.  And as a matter of fact a recent study has been done just pointing the fact that the kind of pathologies that Daniel Patrick Moynihan was talking about then are now excruciatingly, horrifyingly, more dramatic then when he wrote about them in 1965.

Wilcox:  That’s right.  What’s now the case is that the white rate of out of wedlock child bearing is about 28% which is higher than the black rate was when Moynihan wrote that which was 22% at the time.  So what we see in our culture now is that many of the trends that Moynihan was putting his finger on back then in the 1960′s for African Americans are now working their way up the ladder into white middle class America.  And that I think should be a great concern to all of us.


Mohler: So let’s talk that through just a little bit.  Let’s talk about why marriage matters and let’s pretend for a moment that we have no theological or moral judgment to bring to this other than just the scientific question what happens when you marginalize marriage?  Or when you seek to displace marriage as an expectation in society talk to us about what’s left in the wake of that.

Wilcox: Well what we’ve seen basically is two different waves sort of hitting this country in the last forty or fifty years.  The first wave was really the divorce revolution when it comes to marriage.  And because of the divorce revolution you know a large number of men become less connected to their families.  The second wave is the cohabitation revolution which is kind of coming up behind that wave.  Where a lot of younger adults who have seen their parents or their friend’s parents or their aunts and uncles divorce, have lost their faith in marriage.  And they think that cohabitation is sort of you know a better way to kind of negotiate relationships and risk.  And of course the irony is that that’s even more unstable than marriage itself you know was and now is.  And so what we’re seeing is that many adults and many kids are getting caught up in sort of this relationship merry-go-round where they’re moving in and out of different households and different contexts.  We know that for both adults and especially for children that this instability is linked to any number of emotional and social problems and is also more likely to put these kids at risk of both physical and sexual abuse as they’re exposed particularly to unrelated males.  So one thing that marriage does on the positive side is it brings a measure of stability and security to adult relationship that helps both the adults and especially any kids that they bring into this world.

Mohler: So if our concern is for human flourishing we would have to look at marriage as an essential factor in what it makes, what is required for children and for families and for women as well as for men to flourish.

Wilcox: Yeah, [marriage] is clearly one of the crucial foundations for a stable and successful society. And you know every major civilization put a premium on marriage. This is just one of I think signals that is not a religious issue that if you go to China, if you go to Rome, you know if you go to our country, if you go to Britain at sort of their peak of civilizational power what you see is that they tended to place a premium on marriage as an institution and the virtues that are attended to successful marriages.

(30 min read; 7,586 words)

Soft Patriarchy, Firm Realities: A Conversation with Bradford Wilcox –

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