How I Left the Quiverfull Movement and Other Stories About the Loss of Faith

What is it like to leave your religion and embrace atheism? The more devout you are, the harder it may be. But Jonathan MS Pearce and Tristan Vick have compiled a collection of beautifully-told coming out stories in a book called Beyond An Absence of Faith: Stories About the Loss of Faith and the Discovery of Self.

In the excerpt below, Vyckie Garrison writes about how she broke free from the Quiverfull movement, beginning with a short description of her previous relationship:

In one simple word: patriarchy. When you have this total imbalance of power, this form of relationship submission, the person who is the head can easily suck you in with promises steeped in biblical authority. Ephesians 5:25 was a favorite: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (NKJV). I call this the peanut butter and the patriarchy trap. This is what draws the women into this whole Quiverfull “women’s movement”.

What I have [learned] since leaving this particular world behind, since starting the No Longer Qivering website, is that it seems the case that it is often the women who are pushing these biblical teachings on the men. Why? It’s the whole “husbands love your wives” thing where you think you are going to get to be the wife of this servant leader, like Jesus. You believe that you are going to get someone who loves you like Christ loves his church. When you have this ideal embedded in your mind of what kind of husband you are going to get, and you are willing to pay the price, and the price you are going to have to pay is submission and obedience… Well, it’s twisted. Unfortunately, as you may guess, I didn’t realize this until much later and I got out. Too late, some might say.

When I finally recognized the insidious nature of the headship and submission scheme, here’s how I described it:

The very first thing that I had to learn as a Christian wife was submission. I needed to honor and obey my husband. And I had to be such a devout, godly woman that my husband couldn’t find any fault in me — and in that way, I could “win him without a word.” Of course, the Bible study ladies who were teaching me about this submission, in one meeting, reminded me that it was God’s job to get my husband saved, but they also assured me that I could do my part by following their advice and being a loving, respectful wife. What I took away from that meeting was this: all I had to do was be the perfect wife and the perfect Christian; and God would honor that and save my marriage.

Now, I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking that obviously it’s impossible to be perfect — but that wasn’t so apparent to me at the time; it seemed doable. I had little doubt that I could carry out all that those women told me I must do — I was young and I had a lot of confidence in my abilities — and when I did it, when I became this submissive helpmeet, God would have no choice but to come through for me. He would make a really great husband out of Warren.

This, as I have said, is twisted. Morally twisted and logically twisted.

When you counsel couples who are in co-dependent relationships, it is clear that you cannot change each other; all that you can do is focus on yourself. The equation here, though, is complicated when you throw God into the mix. Of course, I felt like I didn’t have to control my husband because God is the one who would be controlling him in honoring my obedience. The web of manipulation, or illusory manipulation, was quite intricate. And this has been the same for every patriarchal relationship which I have witnessed since breaking free. The more the man is submitted and catered to, and given this special place of authority and responsibility within the home, the more and more he begins to resemble the God of the Old Testament — that crazy and capricious man-God. And the wife? She looks more and more like Jesus, the sacrificial lamb. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15 KJV). What you have is the husband becoming ever more narcissistic, ever more feeling that he is superior, whilst the wife is becoming progressively more of a martyr, self-abdicating. The website which I set up to help people out of this mindset, out of this world, is called No Longer Qivering, and it drives people mad because they don’t get why there is no “u” in the word “quivering”. It’s simple: there is no you in Quiverfull. As such, that is the subtitle of the website. One often talked about JOY: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. This was the mindset which guided me; or to put it in biblical context, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 KJV). In the patriarchy paradigm, within Quiverfull, this is your expression of love. The wife completely subsumes herself for the good of her family and for her husband. For God. It’s all for God.

Again, the themes here are manipulation and, equally sadly, dysfunction.

And if it isn’t working, then whose fault is it? Surely we are not doing it right, not trying hard enough, not praying enough, not being submissive enough, we haven’t found just the right scripture… So you buy another book from Vision Forum. But the take away idea from it is always the fact that it is never his fault. I see this all the time, these days, in dealing with the aftermath of such relationships; that it ruins the men and it ruins the women. You would think that a set up which caters to the man would suit them just fine, but on reflection it infantilizes the man. Christianity is apparently always dealing with love and respect — the women need love, the men respect — but as soon as you adopt that patriarchal model of relating where you are completely submitting to another person, there is no respect in that. In reality, people need to take enough responsibility to foster respect for themselves. To earn it.

Beyond An Absence of Faith is now available on Amazon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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