Raised Quiverfull: Kiery’s Story

A post in the Raised Quiverfull series.

Part 1: Introductory Questions

Question 1: Please introduce yourself before we get started. Are you married or unmarried? Are you in school, holding down a job, or staying home? Do you have children? What religious beliefs or lack thereof do you ascribe to today? Provide whatever additional information you like.

I’m 21, married and building my empire, which is a fancy way of saying I’m employing myself while not making very much money. I have a seasonal job with a local non-profit in the winter which doesn’t pay much either, but it’s something and I enjoy the environment, the people, and being an elf for christmas. I don’t have children and don’t plan to. Religiously is all up in the air right now, for the sake of everyone I’m related to, I still ascribe to christianity, but not like they do and very loosely at that. Mostly, I’m searching, and letting my heart and intuition have a chance to lead. I have a cat.

Question 2: How did your parents first come under the influence of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull teachings? What leaders did they follow and what publications did they receive?

They sort of came to that on their own. When I was about 7 or so they became involved in a cult called “cleansing stream” which “taught” them how to read the bible and things just kinda spiraled from there. While they eventually left the cult and abandoned some of the crazy teachings, they never truly exited.

Question 3: In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?

They were typical in that they had oodles of spawn, were very strict and into gender roles. Atypically, my mom was instigating it and my dad is/was sort of her puppet (seemingly – it’s hard to tell). We weren’t skirts only either, could wear one-piece swimsuits without shirts over them.

Part 2: Living the Life

Question 1: What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?

There’s not really a “sort” of church that we went to – we went to and left (or were booted out) of all kinds of churches. When we were there long enough to start calling it a church home, we left. There were a few churches where P/QF families were prevalent but we didn’t stay in them long and it was more a families who happen to be thing than the church itself.

Question 2: In many ways, every Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull couple has a different dynamic. What sort of a dynamic did your parents have? Was one more sold on the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology than the other? Or, if you grew up in a broken family, how did this affect your experience?

I don’t really know how to describe my parents’ dynamic. My mom is very pushy for someone who talks until she’s blue in the face about submission. My dad goes along with whatever she says for the most part, but they both are equally into the thing, except my dad is less prone to control than my mom is. Which leads to dad saying one thing and mom changing his mind and saying something else later.

Question 3: How often did you, your siblings, and your parents read the Bible? Were you guided by your parents or pastors in how to interpret the Bible, especially certain passages, or were you generally free to form your own ideas about what the Bible said?

Every night for the most part there was family devotions, and every morning before school. If we stayed home on Sunday we’d have a full day (I mean 4-6-8 hours) of “home church” where they would study the bible and tell us how to defend the family beliefs (not how they’d describe it, but it’s what it was). They said we could think for ourselves and stuff, but we all knew better than to actually try to say something contrary.

Question 4: What role did race play in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull community in which you grew up? Were there any black or Hispanic families? Were they treated differently?

Well we didn’t really have a community…we kept leaving them. There were two families that were sort of hispanic, my family only was friends with one and didn’t treat them differently. We grew up in Florida and then moved to GA so it wasn’t weird to be around a lot of minorities and we didn’t treat them differently.

Part 3: A Gendered Childhood

Question 1: How many siblings did you grow up with? Did responsibilities in your family differ by gender, with the girls having certain chores and the boys having others? Explain.

I’m the oldest of 8, but there were 10 full term pregnancies. This always confuses me. Responsibilities absolutely differed by gender. My brother got away with a lot more things and only doing boy chores – he also got away with not taking crap and speaking up for himself. I did “household” things, and he did outside things.

Question 2: If you were an older daughter, do you feel that you were expected to play “mother” for your younger siblings? Explain.

I was sudo-mom. Every pregnancy my life would be placed on hold and as I got older and started objecting we would have “talks” that would berate me and tell me I was selfish for wanting to have a life of my own and not take over child raising for nine months every other year. They’d practically brag to other families about how I did that, and they told me that it was essentially my job on more than one occasion.

Question 3: In what ways were boys and girls in your family expected to dress or act differently from each other? Were there certain things it was appropriate for girls to do but not boys, and vice versa?

Most glaringly, my bother was allowed to have and visit friends on a regular basis and I wasn’t (I had lots of little sisters to take care of and didn’t need socialization?). Boys couldn’t do ballet or anything my dad considered feminine, I could play at politics but couldn’t be “above” a male or run for office where I might be “in charge” of a guy.

Question 4: In what ways were boys and girls in your family raised differently vocationally (i.e., the boys pushed toward careers and the girls pushed toward homemaking)? How did this play out as you came of age (apprenticeship, college, staying home, etc.)?

I wasn’t allowed to have a job – my brother was and has since he was 16 or 17. The one paying job I had they pulled me out of before I’d worked there a month. Girls were deemed to not need higher education (they’re only going to be making babies anyway!) and boys should all go to trade school. College, was of course a tool of “the enemy” because it made people “lose their faith”.

Part 4: Homeschooling

Question 1: Why and when did your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?

I’m told, originally, it was because my private school wouldn’t let me start first grade because I was ahead of my pre-k/kindergarten class. My mom went to college for deaf-ed but never finished and thought she could challenge me more. Over time, and many pregnancies later it changed to something more religious.

Question 2: Briefly describe your experience being homeschooled, including the amount of interaction you had with other homeschoolers or non-homeschoolers (socialization) and what sorts of textbooks or homeschool program your family used (academics).

When we first started homeschooling we had a lot of interaction with our huge homeschool group. Mom used the Noah plan for a while, but by the time I hit 5th grade I was schooling myself while she taught everyone else. I taught myself and took a few brief co/op classes from the age of 10 on. We primarily used Alpha-Omega but for history we read a lot of extra books and did unit studies. I had one extra-curricular a year, for 7 years that was “ballet” (actually just worship dance) and for 2 years after that it was NCFCA. I started making my *own* friends after we moved to Atlanta when I was 14, so that way I’d always have people to talk to on the interwebs when the inevitable life-stopping events came. They pulled me out of NCFCA because I wasn’t winning, but I went to TeenPact also a few times a year. My siblings all do church little league and I don’t know what my brother did after we moved and he couldn’t do baseball.

Question 3: What do you see as the pros and cons of having been homeschooled? Do you feel that your homeschool experience prepared you well socially? Academically?

I like that I got to study as much as I wanted the things that I wanted. But I wasn’t very well prepared to relate to people who weren’t homeschooled. I love that I know how to learn and that my parents unwittingly raised great thinkers, but I feel like I don’t quite measure up academically, at least as far as math goes.

Question 4: Do you perceive of your academic or social abilities differently today than you did when you were being homeschooled?

While I was in school, I thought that I was smarter than everyone because I was homeschooled. Now I see places where I am or was seriously lacking and I’ve had to adjust. I question whether or not I actually made the grades my mom said I did, or if she just said I did. I guess in short, I’m not sure I fully trust the education I got – graduating at 15 seemed cool at the time, now it feels a little insane. I wasn’t ready, but I didn’t know that until I grew up.

Question 5: Do you plan to homeschool/are you homeschooling your children? Why or why not? If you do plan to homeschool, in what ways will you/do you do it differently from your parents?

This is a weird topic. I absolutely do not ever want to homeschool. My husband does not want to send a kid to a school. So, stalemate much? Thankfully both of us absolutely do not ever want children. We’ve talked about it though and we decided that if we homeschooled, I’d have a part time job and we’d take turns and send it to classes and NOT homeschool the way we were homeschooled. We’ll have crypod taught by people who know what they’re talking about and fill in the gaps that we can’t cover. I guess really, if it came to that (god forbid) we wouldn’t do it alone, and we’d find non-religious support groups. 

Part 5: Purity

Question 1: What were you taught about physical purity, emotional purity, and courtship and dating? How was sex education handled?

There was a glass of water with a tiny drop of milk in it. Which meant that even a little bad ruined you. There was also a thing with a car and a tea cup? Courtship was how it’s done and dating was evil (said the people who dated and had sex before being married) You never wanted to “lead someone on” and you had to dress so no one would notice you. Emotional purity was largely shit I picked up on my own that no one bothered to dispel. I didn’t get in trouble for having a crush once, but I felt really guilty about it. Sex-ed. omg. That was like, not cool. I never studied my vulva in anatomy, so when my mom all of a sudden brought out technical terms in a 5 minute this-is-how-babies-are-made talk, I was clueless. I was like there’s a hole somewhere in me, and that thing I keep thinking I’m gonna break on my 9 month old brother is supposed to go in? it wasn’t good. Internet forever! Scarletteen and wikipedia and two days talking with my boyfriend/husband was marginally better (because his was just as bad or worse).

Question 2: Did you participate in a parent-guided courtship? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not?

Unintentionally. We were gonna do courtship, but my parents were initially going to be hands off but that didn’t happen. It was hell. In summary, they broke us up, I was depressed and borderline suicidal, I felt like my husband wouldn’t want me back and because of the glass cup analogy, I felt like because I had been in love with someone, no one else would want me either, because I was now “damaged goods”. Bad mind things going on, add guilt and berating from parents on top of and it was not a healthy time.

Question 3: How do you feel about purity and courtship teachings today? Have you rejected some parts of it and kept other parts of it? How do you plan to handle these issues with your own children?

All of it is bull made up by people who get kicks out of controlling other people. I would never recommend it – that’s one place parents absolutely have no jurisdiction on. They need to trust that they raised their kid well and instilled enough self-worth that they won’t go hit up drug lords and if they think they haven’t, they should stop beating down on their kid and tell them that they have value. If there is ever a spawn, they can go about having a relationship however and with whoever they want, I’ll tell them to value themselves and stay true to themselves and that they can say no (or yes) and always have options and that I’ll always be there, and that’ll be the end.

Question 4: Do you feel that the purity and courtship teachings you were raised with still have lasting impact on your life today? If so, how?

They used to, but I think I’ve fleshed them out now and their gone. Mostly, I just regret that I suffered so much unnecessary damage at the hands of my parents and authors who supported the idea that older people (who’ve made different choices and aren’t you) know better than you and you should always without fail listen to them and do as they say. I wish that I could stop the people I love from falling into that needless death trap too, because I see it happening with friends and relatives but I can’t say anything without damaging any other impact I may have and try to make.

Part 6: Questioning

Question 1: How were you first exposed to “mainstream” American culture? What were your first impressions?

Hm, probably after I was married. My first impression was that I was lied to, because the world out here really isn’t nearly as bad as it was made out to be.

Question 2: What first made you question the beliefs you were raised with? Was this initial questioning a frightening or liberating experience?

While I was courting, when I realized that I could no longer trust my parents with anything. That’s what got me started and it was really scary, it’s always scary. I’ve been sorting things ever since and revising and doing the one thing that was most evil of all, changing my opinion (which is only evil if it disagrees with their current opinion).

Question 3: What did you struggle with most when you were in the midst of questioning and/or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology? What was the hardest part?

Well it was just like, bits of my world started falling apart. Over the last two, maybe three years I’ve been trying to find my footing again, just trying to figure out what way to turn and where things are and what truth is. The hardest thing was knowing that in some ways I was lied to, and then having to go find the lies which were connected to other lies and half truths and things that I just could not accept. But it was the broken trust that hurt the most.

Question 4: Among those you grew up around who were also raised with Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology, what proportion has remained in the movement and what proportion has left?

It’s hard, because some of them are CP and not QF. The CP ones seem to have stayed for the most part, which is sad to me because I want to help but I can’t. The QF ones seem to have mostly left, actually, or at the very least deviated (which can sometimes almost be the same as leaving itself).

Part 7: Relating to Family

Question 1: How did your parents and siblings respond to you questioning/rejecting their beliefs? How did those you grew up with respond?

My parents sent me an email saying they basically wanted nothing to do with me until I came back and apologized and stopped being who I am. Most of my siblings are too young to understand. The people I grew up with and still trust are supportive, the others, I don’t know because we don’t talk.

Question 2: What is your relationship with your parents and siblings like today? What is your relationship with those you grew up with who remained in the movement like?

People who remained in the movement haven’t talked to me, which is fine, people who are fans of my parents haven’t talked to me either which is cool. My relationship with my parents is currently relatively non-existant. I keep getting emails about who I’m related to, but the break of not talking has been so good for me. My relationship with my closest -in-age sibling is coming back which makes me so very happy and I can be there and supportive.

Question 3: For those who are no longer Christian, are you “out” to your parents or siblings? If so, how did you do it and how did they respond?

I think my parents think I’m not christian, and that I’m going to hell if I don’t shape up. But they like to judge everyone’s salvation in accordance to how close to like my parents they are…

Question 4: Have any of your siblings (or perhaps even parents) left Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy ideology? How do you approach the relationships with siblings who have not?

I don’t know…only one is an adult right now, and my parents are still in it.

Part 8: Adjusting

Question 1: Do you still feel as though you are “different” or that your past experiences emotionally isolate you from society?

Sometimes. I’m mostly just frustrated because I can’t seem to escape this conservative bubble. I’m good with people, and I’ve been playing cultural catch up for a while, and I immerse myself in current culture, so I can keep up pretty well and seem normal as long as people don’t ask about my past.

Question 2: Since most of the world doesn’t understand Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy culture, do you feel this creates barriers in friendships or in romantic relationships? Do people have a hard time understanding you and your past?

Well, not so much anymore. If it comes up I explain it using terms people understand even if they’re misnomers and I’ve lately just realized that I don’t have to let what happened in my past define who I am today. I can be who-ever I want to be now. Finally, and people can accept that or not. It took me a long time to get here. Most people I talk about my past to are people who’ve been there and do understand. I don’t really get out much besides my hobby shop where we play games and just be, so it doesn’t really come up either.

Question 3: What do you think is the biggest way being raised in a family influenced by Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideas has influenced who you are today?

I’m more guilt prone, I put up with crap I don’t need to put up with and I second guess myself. My self worth was always in question until just recently and being around pregnant people or families send me into fight or flight mode and I’m very uncomfortable around them. I can’t go to church and not feel the need to have an escape route planned. It’s inhibited a lot of things that are developed in most people, so I try to find ways around them or to avoid those situations entirely.

Question 4: How did you perceive your childhood at the time compared to how do you see it now?

Depends on which point in my childhood you’re talking about. Pre-puberty it was cool, fine, fun, normal, even. After I started puberty it just started to collapse and I felt that way then too.

Question 5: Do you sometimes wish to go “back”?

Never – thinking about it gets my adrenaline rushing. I still have stress dreams about my family.

Part 9: Helping Others

Question 1: What advice do you have for other young adults currently questioning or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology?

Give yourself room, it’s a completely normal thing to do. It’s only in our bubble that it’s weird.

Question 2: What was most helpful to you when you were questioning and/or leaving the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?

Having people to talk to, and people who were going through or had gone through the same thing.

Question 3: What helps you the most today?

Having people to talk to, and who have gone through the same thing or feel the same way. And also having people I can hang out with in a place where my past doesn’t matter or factor in to anything.

Question 4: What suggestions do you have for those who might to help friends or relatives who grew up/are growing up in families influenced by the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?

Make yourself available, encourage the kids in there constantly. Tell them they’re valuable and good at things and let the older ones know you support them. Gain their trust, don’t tell their parents what they tell you, listen, and if it comes down to it, let them know that they’re always welcome with you, that you’re a safe place and that you believe in them, that they can do the things they want if they set their mind to it and that it’s okay to feel the way they do.

—————

Kiery blogs at Bridging the Gap.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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