I have just finished a book by Jose Leonardo Santos, Evangelicalism and Masculinity: Faith and Gender in El Salvador.

Jose Santos studied the interaction of evangelicalism and masculine ideals in  violent post-war El Salvador. Evangelicals in El Salvador (who have Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and Holiness traits) have attracted equal numbers of men and women, unlike most other religious groups in the Americas. Evangelicals tell a compelling narrative in which men reject a masculine code of violence, honor, drinking, promiscuity in order to become patriarchs, servant leaders who dedicate themselves in self-giving, affectionate love to their wives and children and to society at large. They separate themselves from the masculine “world,” rejecting even the universal passion for soccer, and begin a new, Christian life.

Santos does not know why, but Evangelicals have had more success in effecting male conversion than similar Catholic groups such as the Charismatic Renewal, which uphold a similar idea of true manhood. Perhaps the Evangelicals are able to present divinely ordained rules of behavior in the Bible, while Catholic voices are sometimes discordant and uncertain. For Evangelicals there is no doubt that male and female roles are divinely ordained, and that fatherhood “is a divinely commissioned responsibility and authority.”

Also the Evangelicals have the advantage of many pastors. One priest has the care of several large parishes and has little contact with his flock of 10,000-15,000 nominal Catholics (mostly women). Evangelical congregations are much smaller. There are a few large churches, but most congregations number in the scores or low hundreds. Evangelicals also realize that when the father is converted, the rest of the family almost always follows; but the same is not true if the mother converts.

As a secularist Santos is not happy with the patriarchy, however benign, that the Evangelicals foster, but he admits that Salvadoran women like it, and it is vast improvement on the hyermasculine, destructive male behavior that is common in El Salvador.

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