Interview with Kathryn Joyce, Author of Quiverfull

If you heard the following, you’d likely find it sexist, misogynistic, and misguided.

When Martha Peace says it, though, she’s a hero to thousands of fundamentalist Christian women everywhere:

… [P]riorities [for Christian women] may include rising early to feed the family, being available anytime to satisfy a husband’s desires (barring a few “ungodly” or “homosexual” acts), seeking his approval regarding work, appearance, and leisure, and accepting that he has the “burden” of final say in arguments. After a wife has respectfully appealed her spouse’s decision — a privilege she should not abuse — she must accept his final answer as “God’s will for her at that time”… The godly wife must also suppress selfish desires (for romance, a career, an equitable marriage), practice addressing her spouse in soothing tones, and maintain a private log of bitter thoughts to guide her repentance. “If you disobey your husband,” Peace admonishes in The Excellent Wife, “you are indirectly shaking your fist at God.”

Peace is one of the women profiled in Kathryn Joyce‘s new book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

quiverfull

Quiverfull” refers to the notion that women should “receive children eagerly as blessings from God, eschewing all forms of birth control, including natural family planning and sterilization.”

Essentially, a Quiverfull woman breeds and keeps breeding, knocking out babies until her uterus gives out or menopause kicks in.

This leads to families with 6 or 10 or 14 or more children (in my mind, every batch of seven children is referred to as a “Duggar of kids“)… and if this trend continues… well, you can anticipate the problems.

You submitted questions about the Quiverfull movement and Kathryn’s thoughtful and detailed (and all-too-disturbing) responses are below:

What kind of education do Quiverfull children receive? Do a significant percentage of them go to college? Do females get the same opportunities for education as males?

Almost all Quiverfull children are homeschooled, and while there’s no single curriculum to point to, a number of leaders within the movement have advocated tailoring boys’ and girls’ education to the future roles they will hold. In the case of daughters, homeschooling leader R.C. Sproul, Jr., a prominent face in Quiverfull circles, argues that their education should prepare them to be mothers and stay-at-home wives.

In a particularly disturbing anecdote, he recounts the story of a 9-year old daughter of an acquaintance who couldn’t yet read, but was a very responsible and maternal older sister to her younger siblings: a situation that confirmed his view of the daughter as an “overachiever” well on her way to being a successful helpmeet and mother herself one day.

As for college, it varies a bit. Many sons are allowed to attend, particularly if they’re taking distance courses. This path is open for some daughters, but Quiverfull leaders strongly argue against allowing daughters to attend college away from home, as the encounter with worldly outsiders could damage or destroy their faith. Instead, they suggest that daughters stay at home after they graduate from homeschool, and practice being a helpmeet to their father as they will one day help and serve their husbands.

How many Quiverfull children marry and start their own families before the age of 25? Is this a movement that passes on from generation to generation?

It’s hard to give real numbers for the movement, and particularly for where the younger generation is now. As Quiverfull began in earnest in the mid-80s, it’s only in the past few years that there has been a real wave of second generation Quiverfull children marrying and having children. The movement, which has a vibrant internet presence, makes a lot of these developments, celebrating the marriages and new children of young believers. The older generation also stresses the dire importance of passing on their beliefs to the next generation, and to this end are focusing massive attention on outreach to daughters as young as five, inculcating a sense of their destiny in embracing the Quiverfull lifestyle. And they certainly also encourage women and men to marry early. While a number of children will leave the movement when they come of age, the lifestyle is structured to make that difficult, often keeping children sheltered from too much outside influence that could turn them away from the conviction.

Do female children in these families have much freedom regarding who they marry? Regarding anything, really?

A qualified yes. When children of the movement marry, it’s not through arranged marriages, but it is often through a courtship process that has an unusual amount of paternal involvement. Courtship is promoted through homeschooling and conservative religious circles as a chaste alternative to dating, which with or without sex is disparaged as the casual “trying on” of different partners. Courtship, alternately, is explicitly marriage-minded, and only occurs after a young man proves himself to a woman’s father. Quite literally, the male suitor is actually courting the daughter’s father, long before she is supposed to know that someone is interested in her. This is discussed as a way to protect vulnerable girls’ hearts from becoming emotionally invested before there’s the safety of commitment.

However, as advocates explicitly acknowledge, it’s also the best way of making sure that the daughter marries a man suitably in tune with the father’s ideology. For men concerned with keeping the movement going in the next generation, it’s important to make sure they marry their daughter to a man who will be similarly faithful to patriarchy and Quiverfull convictions.

Are any of the members of this movement actually adopting, or are they simply reproducing?

Yes, there is a good deal of adoption among Quiverfull families as well as in the broader conservative Christian community. Adoption usually supplements a biological family though, rather than replace the necessity of a woman leaving her fertility in God’s hands, so they may have six biological children and then adopt four more.

You mentioned in your Salon article that the Quiverfull movement “… likely numbers in the tens of thousands but… is growing exponentially.” Are there numbers/studies to back that up?

No. I don’t know of any real research on the Quiverfull movement yet. Hopefully there will be more in the future. My estimate is based on speaking with dozens of movement leaders, looking at the membership numbers for online communities, and considering that the conviction of having as many children as God gives you is considerably broader than the people who claim the Quiverfull name or participate in its forums.

What toll do all these births have on the mother — Emotionally and physically? You mentioned in your article one mother suffered a partial uterine rupture. Has it ever been worse?

Emotionally and physically, many women — particularly those who have left the movement — say the lifestyle is one of relentless work and exhaustion. Quiverfull mothers perform a staggering amount of labor in terms of pregnancy and childbearing, childcare, homeschooling, cooking and cleaning and being a submissive wife. There does seem to be a high incidence of reproductive problems among some mothers, though of course this could be due to the fact that the mothers are having far more children, and far later into life, than many other women.

Nonetheless, many women have spoken of extremely difficult pregnancies — a number of whom are put on strict bed rest — and labors. Additionally, there is often a focus on natural and even unassisted home births among Quiverfull moms. This isn’t a requirement of the Quiverfull conviction, but like many related facets of the movement (such as home churching or other, agrarian-minded efforts towards family self-sufficiency), it’s an idea many women are exposed to through movement literature. In a very extreme case in Australia, a Quiverfull mother died following the teachings of one fringe home-birth advocate. Though that seems to have been an anomalous case, home births, and continuing conceptions despite poor health do make for some serious health risks for some mothers.

What can we do for women who want to leave this movement? How can we ensure that the daughters and sons of these women and men get assistance out?

That’s a hard question. There are not many vocal exited women, though Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff and Vyckie Garrison are notable exceptions. Exited women face substantial difficulties as single mothers to large families, often including a number of young children, often limited financial resources, and a lack of outside work experience. Additionally, they’re often without references from a community that they left and which will often shun them. Understanding and respect — particularly that they came to their convictions not through ignorance but through devout belief — would likely be a relief to these moms. For both mothers and children, there are serious and very substantial psychological, emotional, spiritual and financial barriers to leaving the movement. Still, Quiverfull is not a cult, but a conviction that many women do choose willingly — however constrained their choices later become.

Are these people (women and children) on some sort of public assistance? If so, what’s being done about it?

Generally speaking no, they’re not. Most Quiverfull believers tend to have very strong beliefs about living debt-free and not accepting government assistance. They believe that churches are the proper custodians of public charity and welfare. However, if they did need public assistance, helping families feed and clothe their children is what public assistance programs are in place to do, so I don’t believe anything would need to be done about the proper functioning of a social safety net.

Are there allies within the religious congregations that perceive this movement as a threat? Or at least a bad idea?

There is abundant and lively opposition to patriarchy and Quiverfull ideologies within more liberal and moderate churches. Much of the momentum of Quiverfull began — like fundamentalism itself — as a backlash against liberalized theology in Protestant denominations. In this case, it was a reaction against the influence of feminism in Christian churches. Though Quiverfull is at the vanguard of a much broader resurgence of complementarianism, or “biblical” gender roles, across conservative denominations, there are many other mainstream and liberal denominations that are passionate advocates for women’s and reproductive rights.

What happens if it turns out that either one of the couple is infertile? If they are willing to accept 17 kids as “God’s plan” are they willing to accept zero, or do they go in for medical intervention? And what is their standing in the community if they can’t have kids?

The philosophy of Quiverfull, of leaving fertility in God’s hands, is ideally supposed to mean that parents accept whatever God gives them: 17 children or none. And I have met a few infertile women who still called themselves Quiverfull — though they spoke of feeling stung by some in the movement who focused predominantly on the number of children one has as a measure of spirituality.

Also, in some of the literature of the movement, Quiverfull mothers who had borne large families spoke of their sadness and loss of identity when they began menopause and began to lose their fertility. One even described herself as feeling dried out and withered when her childbearing years ended. This, significantly, is the same language that is used to describe the side-effects of using birth control, or even women who don’t have children. For me, it was a powerful illustration of what a no-win situation this ideology can be, even for women who followed the conviction diligently their entire reproductive lives.

Kathryn Joyce’s book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement is now available in bookstores.

  • mikespeir

    I don’t know why we get so worked up over this. These women, even among Evangelical Christians, are such a woeful minority. The “movement” is doomed to be a flash in the pan.

    That’s not to say that some of their beliefs (such as that a wife must obey her husband) ought not be addressed. After all, these are, indeed, widely held among Evangelicals/Fundamentalists. But this silliness about a woman’s supposed duty to bear all the children she can doesn’t have much of a future. Women, Christian or otherwise, simply don’t want to live their lives that way.

  • BornAgainHeathen

    Thanks, I was looking forward to this interview. It was interesting.

    I don’t have a problem with women wanting to be in submissive relationships with their husbands. Whatever floats your boat. The problem, for me, is that they are forcing this on their brain-washed daughters.

    Women, Christian or otherwise, simply don’t want to live their lives that way.

    This is true, but I think the struggle for these girls and young women to leave this life will be huge. The extent to which it appears they are sheltered from anyone or any views from the ‘outside’ seems formidable. I hope the urge to rebel is a strong one.

  • Jen

    However, if they did need public assistance, helping families feed and clothe their children is what public assistance programs are in place to do, so I don’t believe anything would need to be done about the proper functioning of a social safety net.

    This. When I read that question, I thought exactly that. What was the poster expecting her to say, “The government takes them out back and shoots them”?

  • http://yangandcampion.googlepages.com Margaret Y.

    Thank you for this interview, and for introducing this book.

  • Steven

    Even though the number of women who “choose” the quiverfull life may be small, they are just one facet of a problem that continues to plague every society to a greater or lesser extent.
    Patriarchal notions that require women to submit to their husbands (or any male)and are reinforced by religion do not belong in the 21st century. It is an enduring mystery that any man could treat a woman, his very reason for being here in the first place, like cattle or worse.
    Using God to justify and support this kind of behaviour is morally reprehensible. God is “all-loving” all right, but only if you are male. I just can’t fathom the kinds of women who willingly submit to being treated as “baby machines for Jesus”. I also can’t figure out why any man would want a woman he didn’t consider at least his equal (my wife says I can only wish that I was her equal – I think she’s kidding). It seems that slavery hasn’t been completely abolished in the U.S. – it lingers on in the kitchens and bedrooms of Quiverfull homes.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    From an evolutionary perspective the trait of obedience certainly seems to be successful. I doubt if it sustainable over many generations though. What sort of mate would an obedience and submissive female attract and how would she advertise her availability to males seeking mates? It seems that she advertises her availability by acting as a surrogate parent for her younger siblings. This demonstrates her skills as a mother suitable for mating but only to males who have access to family units. These males will generally be from extended family groups or closely linked communities. I wonder if there is a danger of inbreeding in these communities over many generations.

    I find the Quiverful ideas a little disturbing and more than a little amusing. Disturbing because they come across as completely focused on reproduction. They are almost like bees with the wife as queen bee and offspring as drones. I’m sure it is a successful construct but I’m not so sure it is conducive to happiness. We may be social animals but we have a solitary streak that requires moments apart from the group.

    I find them amusing when I try to compare my unwife to my imagined Quiverful wife. On the one hand I have a strong, independent, intelligent, honest and forthright woman who is a wonderful mother and sexual tyrannosaurus. On the other I imagine a downtrodden meat puppet. Actually this isn’t amusing at all. As for the men in these relationships, do they sometimes want a conversation or debate on a topic rather than “soothing” acquiescence? Do they have no room to be wrong? Ever? How stressful.

  • Larry Huffman

    I have not been too reserved about being a former mormon…quite devout. Well, this article also personifies much of what I…we…(I will say we, because at the time my wife seemed like she believed it as well…it was not until we left the church that I found out how damaging the lifestyle had been on her)believed and followed.

    When we got married we did not have great jobs or much money coming into the family. The president and “prophet” of the mormon church was Ezra Taft Bensen, who had been extolling the virtues of having large families for the lord for some time. He very irresponsibly told all young families to begin having children and raising them up in the ways of the lord in order to build an army for god, to build his kingdom. I am not exaggerating…that was the language used.

    My wife and I got preggers immediately…well, she did…one of the more blatant slips made in viewing the family building process. Our first child, due to a viral infection in the womb, was born with a terminal illness. Our lives came off the tracks. We had very little to cling to…but the church was there. We leaned heavily on our church friends and leaders. My wife got pregnant almost immediately after our first was born…so there was my poor wife, dealing with open heart surgeries and a gloomy prognossis for her first baby, while carrying a second.

    We had our second child, a son, while our first child was slowly dying. Soon we were being counselled to have more…and so that is how it turned out that we had one small child and my wife was preganant again for our third child when our first died at the age of 2 years three months.

    But we were not through…as our religious friends and leaders pointed out. We were still being counselled to ahve more kids. All of our babies had been born premature as well…not one had come home with my wife…but had to linger in the hospital for a couple of weeks. After going through what we did with our first, it was easy to go through…which I now find somewhat morbid…but it is true. Our third child came a year later, and for reasons unknown, she had a stroke the night she was born. The hospital had not even told us it happened…we found out three years later when she began to have seizures. She had always been really slow to develope…and we found she had Cerebral Palsy because of her stroke. We had had a fifth child by then…a son.

    So…becauase we listened…or as they would say, harkened to the prophets voice, we had a large family very quickly. 5 kids in 7 years. It left my wife with diabetes and health issues. It left us, young and still saddened by the loss of our first, with 4 kids to take care of at a very young age…and made the prospects of ever being able to get ahead financially almost impossible…the long death of our first child had completely sapped us and ended up requiring a bankruptcy because of very large medical bills.

    But here is the real rub…who were we doing this for? Who did this serve? We do not regret our children at all…we love each one very much. However, there is no doubt that we would have done things differently right from the start. Certainly not having 5 kids in 7 years. And yet, every time we turned around…there was the prophet telling us what we needed to do. Of course, that was not his only message…but that was a primary message for young families like us.

    It is no secret the mormons push for large families. But…I am certain most people do not understand the messages being sent and the expectation for young families to follow. As young married believers, our new family status put us in a very gullible and vulnerable place. We wanted to please the lord. Our leaders were telling us to go forth and multiply…as if god himself had said “hey, Larry and Tracy need to have more kids…get them going”. I know…how could we be so ignorant as to allow the outrside views of others sway us to such a course? Faith I suppose.

    Today, we are all happily atheist. Of our own choices. When I broke from the church, my wife did not miss a beat. Her response? Finally! No kidding. She had subjected herself to a religion she did not like out of her love for me. I felt so small. My older two kids, who had been baptized mormon, also said they never wanted to go back to church. Their former friends shunned them, making them certain they made the right decision.

    The lifestyle was all about having babies for the lord and how that family somehow made us closer to god…more in tune with god…more in keeping with his commandments…etc. And it was what was expected. Other young families were doing the same thing…though none that we were around had the experience of a terminally ill first child. While those other families grew, looking like picture perfect examples of the lords chosen…we struggled along in hospitals and sitting vigils waiting for our first child to die. All the while, trying to be good mormons. It tore us up emotionally and mentally. It hurt us financially…and still does. Most of all, it harmed my wife…in some ways irreperably. I was the head of the household. The priesthood holder and patriarch of my family. These are stong and always present mormon values in the family. But really…what had I done? I had allowed my wife to become a baby making factory with no thought to her health or if it was practical or reasonable to do so. I allowed faith to alter my rationale so that I thought not only was all of this good…but it was right. Or better…righteous.

    Thankfully my wife forgives me…always has…and that chapter of our lives is over. I tell any young mormon parents I meet…”use common sense when deciding the size of your family. The prophet telling you to have all those babies will not be there to help you when you need it.”

    I have been away from the mormon church for over 10 years now…so I am not sure if they are still as zealous about this. I hope they have softened, but I doubt it. I suppose the only upside is, the statistics show that more and more mormon kids are growing up and leaving the fold rather than lock-stepping into the faith as had been the case for so long.

    Sorry for the long post…I felt the theme of the article warranted my story. :-)

    • Sue Long

      Larry, I am so sorry you had this experience, but please, do not let a person, or erroneous religion keep you from believing in God altogether. There is a God and He loves you. Unfortunately, you were just listening to someone who claimed to hear from God but didn’t. Please open your heart up and ask the true God to reveal Himself to you and He will.

  • http://indieeducation.blogspot.com Patti

    I don’t have the book yet, so I wonder if the author deals with the high rate of ‘apostasy’ from the Quiverfull lifestyle.

    We homeschool our kids (for non-religious reasons), and we know quite a few Quiverfull-influenced families. It is not uncommon for women or couples to leave the movement. Divorce is rather common, also.

    The kids usually follow in their parents’ footsteps, even to the point of staying in the movement after their parents have left, except for the ones who rebel and get pregnant at 14, run away, get into drugs, become Evil Damned Atheists, etc.

    The more demanding and ‘patriarchial’ the father is, the more likely the kids are to leave.

  • beckster

    As as stay-at-home mom by choice, the thing that jumps out at me is how these parents are willfully ensuring that their daughters will be completely incapable of caring for themselves. They are raising their daughters to be dependents. Hubby AND I decided that I would stay at home and I do depend on him for many things. But if something horrible happened, the death of my husband for example, I could go back to work and support my children with my BA and previous work experience. What would these women do if their husbands left them or died? It just seems completely irresponsible to me.

  • Larry Huffman

    Oh…and for those who say this is a flash in the pan…well for some religions it may be. But not mormons. Mormons have had this view and this admonition almost from the start. hell, they were doing this when they had multiple wives in the 19th century. Ntohing flash in the pan about mormon reproduction rates.

    I do not think this a flash in the pan.

    Mormons began this practice…in part…to grow membership and make sure they had numbers. The early church was beset by a lot of persecution and were driven from place to place (usually they brought it on themselves…but the fact remains)…during this time, having large families meant more faithful to carry on.

    As christians get further backed into a corner…especially the fundamentalists…I believe this practice will increase. They will begin having as many kids as they can, homeschooling them to help to make sure they remain in the fold…attempting to keep their faith alive through reproduction. Not a flash in the pan at all…something I am betting we will see on the rise among the religious…though the number of religious people over all will continue to shrink. They cannot shelter those kids forever. Not today.

  • Polly

    Larry Huffman,

    Sorry to hear about all your troubles. Thanks for the post. It’s an eye-opener as Mormonism has certainly become more mainstream.

    The more I hear about things like this – people indoctrinated to do irrational and harmful things to themselves, the more I begin to doubt the efficacy of absolute “free will” when present in a vacuum devoid of alternatives.

    You can say these girls are “choosing” to remain, but frankly, when you’re indoctrinated, sheltered from outside influence and education, you really have NO choice.

    If 1/1,000 has a strong enough independent streak and manages to overcome the myriad social and financial hurdles to break free, so what? That doesn’t prove that free will conquers all. That just means some tiny minority of homosapiens get lucky or have unsually strong personalities.

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  • http://www.xanga.com/pass_the_aura Eric P

    You may perhaps be pleased to know (I sure am) that even many conservative Christians denounce this movement as “unbiblical.” Here is a link to an article from some very conservative home-schooling folks who denounce it, including encouraging but poignant letters from some people who have left the movement: Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families

  • http://virtualityforreal.blogspot.com Allytude

    It seems that off the mainstream religions and cults try to force their followers to do weird things( no that mainstream religions do not), like multiply like rabbits, but once there are enough of them, the pressure of conformity eases as these people get into the mainstream. Also once the religion has more followers, the more repressive of their policies need to go, or they die out or have some sort of schism? I think Quiverfull will also find some such thing. once there are more of them, they will rebel at their very oppressive “godly” life style and try to break away. But this is purely speculational. Do you think it happens?

  • Jason R

    If you can’t beat’em. Out breed’em!

  • SarahH

    @LarryH

    Thanks for sharing your heartbreaking story. It’s scary to think that the health of these mothers can be put in such jeopardy while church leaders are *still* urging them to have more kids.

    In my experience, there are tons of families out there who may have never heard of Quiverfull, but who still live a milder version of that doctrine – submissive wives, at least a few kids, and a definite emphasis on a Christian upbringing, education, etc. So long as each fundamentalist family has at least two kids who remain in the fold, the numbers will stay stable. It’s sad for the kids, purposefully sheltered and bereft of many of the tools that could allow them to think for themselves. Some kids have personalities that make it even more likely that they’ll follow in their parents’ footsteps, and they’re the ones I feel most sad for.

  • Miko

    Still, Quiverfull is not a cult, but a conviction that many women do choose willingly — however constrained their choices later become.

    Is this atypical of cult behavior? I wouldn’t necessarily assert that this is a cult without seeing more details, but it seems that “willing” entry is a fairly common feature of cults. Rather, I’d say that the predominate feature of a cult is the assertion that some individual has ultimate knowledge (of God’s will, say) and authority over others, in which case the patriarch in this situation seems like a cult leader for the family.

    mikespeir:

    Women, Christian or otherwise, simply don’t want to live their lives that way.

    The point of patriarchy is that whether they want to or not is irrelevant. They aren’t given the choice.

    Steven:

    It is an enduring mystery that any man could treat a woman, his very reason for being here in the first place, like cattle or worse.

    To be fair, if you’ve ever eaten meat, cattle are a significant reason for your being alive currently as well. And, since the woman being treated like cattle is not the one responsible for his being alive in many cases, your argument would actually tend to suggest that he should treat the cattle better than the woman, at least if he plans on eating cattle in the future but has no plans to eat the woman. The reason men should treat women well (and similarly in all other gender combinations) has nothing to do with birth, but with the fact that any theory of ethics must necessarily be agent neutral and focus solely on significant differences (cf. Dr. Seuss’ Sneetches for why we include the word ‘significant’). If we further impose the restriction that any theory of ethics should aim at the goal of eudaimonia (individual human flourishing), it becomes a necessary restriction on one’s own actions that one respects the liberty of others (unless they are truly inferior to you in some sense, which in the eudaimonic tradition could only occur if they were either not an individual or not human, and even then it isn’t clear cut). Thus, a man’s own flourishing necessarily demands that he allow the flourishing of a woman as well.

    I also can’t figure out why any man would want a woman he didn’t consider at least his equal

    I imagine it would depend what he wanted her for. Many people have slaves, or pets, or toothbrushes that they don’t consider their equals.

    hoverFrog:

    From an evolutionary perspective the trait of obedience certainly seems to be successful. I doubt if it sustainable over many generations though. What sort of mate would an obedience and submissive female attract and how would she advertise her availability to males seeking mates?

    From an evolutionary perspective, most men probably found mates through rape. Obedience was a successful trait because it could help convince the man that raped you to stick around and help raise the child. Yet another reason why evolutionary arguments have no place in ethical discussions.

  • http://www.allbeliefs.com B

    Re: Larry Huffman

    I’m a Mormon, and I hardly have felt that way at all. I know that during President Benson’s presidency, that this was emphasized, and I think it was emphasized too much. The amount of children one has is (if you are religious) between the Lord, your husband and you. Not anybody else.

    I’ve been married five years, and guess what, no kids. :p

    And, I’m not planning on having any until we’ve graduated college and have a house.

    It’s quite unfortunate that you had to deal with that, and I’m sorry. That sucks balls.

    Though, good luck with your life, and I hope you can continue on a good one.

  • Old Beezle

    @ Larry,

    Yup, Larry, the church still admonishes having many kids and having them early–no delay allowed to put yourselves in a better financial situation. My sister went straight from mom’s house to her new husband’s house and then dropped out of college to start making babies. Needless to say, her husband is the domineering patriarchal type–he’s a model Mormon actually. Quiverfull and Mormonism do have many parallels when it comes to having children and gender roles.

  • Old Beezle

    @ Polly:

    You can say these girls are “choosing” to remain, but frankly, when you’re indoctrinated, sheltered from outside influence and education, you really have NO choice.

    If 1/1,000 has a strong enough independent streak and manages to overcome the myriad social and financial hurdles to break free, so what? That doesn’t prove that free will conquers all. That just means some tiny minority of homosapiens get lucky or have unsually strong personalities.

    I couldn’t agree more. In Mormonism the choices are as follows:

    A) be righteous and remain in the church so you can be in the kingdom of god after you die
    B) leave and fall away into apostasy and obscurity–probably drugs and prostitution as well–and suffer damnation for all eternity

    When you present the world in such black and white hyperbolic terms to a child, you can’t really say that they have absolute free choice. They can either accept like they’re told to or leave and die. That’s what it translates to in a child’s mind. At least it did for me.

  • mikespeir

    The point of patriarchy is that whether they want to or not is irrelevant. They aren’t given the choice.

    The religion doesn’t; society does. I’m not unaware of how difficult it is to leave such religious bondage, but the choice really is always there. I’m convinced that as long as our civilization doesn’t crumble due to war or economic collapse, the extremes in religion will continue to abate. And that includes this one. After all, doesn’t the Roman Catholic Church effectively preach the same thing as the Quiverfull movement? And yet, how many Catholics in First World countries really don’t use contraceptives? Sure, if the world goes on for another 1000 years, it’ll probably be possible to find the odd Quiverfull-like mom. But it’s a dying idea.

  • Jodie

    OK ladies, I love giving this lesson in America where birth control is abundant, but here goes:
    Your uterus is like a plastic bag. If the bag is re-used too often or filled with too large a burden it begins to stretch out. Over time it will stretch until it rips. Don’t force your uterus to work against you! (Summarized from international development health education)

  • beijingrrl

    I had our second child at home and we homeschool (not for religious reasons, obviously) so I’ve met some Quiverfull moms online. I find them quite disturbing and I hate how they make things like home birth and homeschooling seem like choices only religious fanatics would make. Unfortunately, I do have this feeling that it’s a growing movement, but I hope the bubble bursts soon.

    Larry Huffman: Thanks for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  • stephanie

    Moo.
    I hope the husbands are at least charged with cleaning out the straw in their wives’ stalls…

  • http://atheistinanabsurdworld.blogspot.com/ Tina

    Thanks for article. I actually haven’t yet heard of this movement and feel like I can add another group to the list of oppressed women societies….

    Sounds like there is NO significant difference between the oppressed women of Saudi Arabia, FLDS, LDS, JW’s… etc!

  • http://scienceblogs.com/sunclipse/ Blake Stacey

    From an evolutionary perspective the trait of obedience certainly seems to be successful.

    This presumes that “obedience” is actually a genetically determined trait, or it conflates a cultural trait (a “meme”, for lack of a better term) with a genetic one.

    Genes do not code for behaviours. They code for proteins. The interaction of many genes, up- and down-regulating each other in a mosh pit of morphogenesis, creates structures of cells which then exhibit ranges of behaviour. Sexual dimorphism is restrained, because if selection pressure increases the frequency of some allele thanks to the effect it has on men, it will also show up in women — different sexes are not different species. (Knock out the genes responsible for men having nipples, and women won’t have breasts.)

    While the human brain is indeed a product of natural selection, not every story with that as its theme is automatically true.

  • Bacopa

    Interesting point about inbreeding. Isn’t there some genetically based jaundice that pops up from time to time among the Amish? I remember seeing Amish babies under UVB somewhere.

    At least Amish give every teen a chance to run wild for a while.

    If quiverfull develops into a self-sustaining subculture (And why couldn’t they? The Moonies are alive and well) I think they could avoid inbreeding throughvtheirvuse of technology. Websites and email would make it possible for young men to be exchanged between communities.

    Besides, inbreeding is not as bad as people think. Only the most isolated communities are truly threatened by lack of genetic diversity. Most of the time whatever genetic arises disease fades into an acceptable level of background disease and death. Tay-Sach didn’t stop Ashkenezi Jews. Sickle-cell anemia didn’t stop slaves of West African descent from increasing in number in the US.

    Seriously, I think Quivrefull can survive and thrive. Just look how well these guys are doing.

    .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kScJB63PBOI

  • Angus

    My girlfriend’s an atheist with five kids. Big families are cool. My mom was one of six.

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  • My Two Cents is Free


    Quiverfull leaders strongly argue against allowing daughters to attend college away from home, as the encounter with worldly outsiders could damage or destroy their faith.


    If you can’t test it, it doesn’t exist.

    Faith, that is ;) Among other things.

    Therefore, it’s not fear that their daughters’ faith may be damaged – just that it may be revealed their daughters never really had any true faith, they were just going through the motions they’d been taught.

    Imagine being stuck in a society like that when you didn’t even have faith in it. Gruesome.

    They should let them go, and weed out the faithless so they can go live their lives. The faithful will return and never leave. I mean, it would make the “religion” stronger, as it would only contain the faithful.

  • Seventhson

    Referring also to “flash in a pan”, I think that is the best way to weigh out the winsomeness of the quiverfull lifestyle. The children who are raised in these households will either accept it for themselves as adults or reject it as adults. The results are still out…

  • http://nonais.org esbee

    God does not make “cookie cutter Christians”, meaning each christian has to follow the individual path God has laid out for them….It is a personal relationship and we do not always follow closely, sometimes not at all. For some missionaries, they chose to leave behind their one or two children to let others raise them as they felt led by God into deepest darkest jungles to spread the Gospel.
    In my case, with my husband suffering illness after illness in our 30 plus yrs of marriage, we felt no kids was best for our situation. I never wanted any anyway, so God had already made someone to be my husband’s life partner.
    Joni Eareckson, a vibrant Christian, lives her life in a wheel chair after being crippled in a diving accident as a young woman. God gave her a husband who loves her deeply but they have no children.
    Jesus never married nor had children as He was about HIs father’s business.
    The problem is that sometimes we think that what God wants in our life is what He wants for every other christian, then we mistakenly try to put those ways of living on others as being the only way. Remember, there was only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, one Noah, one flood, only one David who slew Goliath, and one Mary who was visited by the Holy Spirit to become pregnant with Jesus.
    I once helped a family much like the Duggars homeschool as they were on their way to having 12 kids. The wife said to me all she could ever think of as she was growing up was having babies. I told her all I could ever think of as I was growing up was having horses, which God has blessed me with 3.

    • Sue Long

      Very well put esbee!

  • James

    This basically sums up the author’s knowledge of what she is talking about:

    “I don’t know of any real research on the Quiverfull movement yet.” -Kathryn Joyce

    Sad that she would just try to find a few disparate voices within the “movement” that support her hatred of Christianity.

  • http://friendlyathiest.com College Grad

    This is Christianity gone mad!!Any female who defends the Duggars and their lifestyle,ought to trade places with one of the older daughters,in that family for two weeks.After the second day,you’ll be saying:”I WANT OUT”!!They would not be able to wear jeans or slacks!!They would not be plunked down in front of the TV set watching shows like:Hanna Montana;American Idol;Dancing with the Stars;and especially Desparate Housewives!!They would have to wear attire that’s straight out of “Little House On The Prarie”!! How hideous those outfits are!!The Jumper dresses on the younger girls look as if they were “Pirated” off a “Chatty Cathy” doll!!This ain’t religion,this is a “Police State”,pure and simple!!

  • Laura

    I understand there is a lot of comparison between the quiverfull movement and the Catholic church. However, as a devout Catholic, I can honestly say, that while we believe the male represents the head of household, women are equal to men. women have just as many rights in decision making in a household as men do. While Catholic doctrine teaches generally to shun birth control, unlike the extreme ideal of the quiverfull, women and men space their children through natural family planning and long nursing periods. Birth Control pills and hormone use is also not shunned for women who have hormonal issues. and should a man demand sex, a woman has every right to deny or say no, for she has power over her body.

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  • mylilones

    Honestly you don’t even need to be religious to get Hijacked and stuck in this movement, I have given birth to 5 kids, I got out lucky, because the stress of to many pregnancies had the doctors attending my kids births (due to a complication with my third pregnancy) actually managed to convince my ex to allow a Tubal (or maybe they didn’t they just managed to get him out of the room) I was honestly absolutely terrified of this guy. I knew he was christian when I married him, he just seemed like the typical christian to me, after our first he started getting abusive and sabotaging any efforts at outside help or birth control. With each child it got worse, after the third due to catching chicken pox and having it  turn to pnumonia while I was 7 months pregnant putting me in ICU and making my son both preterm and later die, it got horrible, I finally left after 15 years in this, It took me that long to realize what it was doing to my daughters and overcome the fear of him. This movement teaches this, is ok, it teaches serving through fear. I know now I should have ran, the things he put me through were not good influences, his manners of punishment for me and the kids also not. 


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