Griego Family Likely Quiverfull

There’s something very odd about opening the news and seeing clips of information that make you realize you probably have a better understanding of the backdrop of a story than do the people reporting it.

…ten children…

…unregistered homeschoolers…

…Nehemiah … Zephaniah … Jael…

…prison ministry…

Honestly, it’s like having a checklist in my head. Check. Check. Check. Check.

Yesterday tragedy visited the Griego family. Fifteen-year-old Nehemiah shot and killed both of his parents and three of his nine siblings. While the news media is not yet reporting this, the Griegos were, almost certainly, Quiverfull. The family size, their sheltered homeschool lifestyle, their names, even their high involvement in church and prison ministry. It all fits. Quiverfull. And what with the children’s names and the family’s involvement in prison ministry, I suspect that they were followers of Michael Pearl and his No Greater Joy ministries. Sure, I could be wrong about all of this, but I don’t think that’s likely. Time will tell.

Of course, I don’t know why Nehemiah killed his parents and siblings and I don’t know what went on in the Griego family. My heart goes out to all of them, most especially to the smallest of the children.

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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.

  • Cristyn

    A good friend of mine used to go to church with this family, Calvary Chapel, I think. She talked yesterday on facebook about how wonderful and amazing they were and how the husband ran a prison ministry and his wife was the perfect model of a godly woman and wife. I didn’t know until I just read your blog about it that they had so many kids, or that it was one of their own kids who killed them. I’m not a Christian anymore, and have never been part of the quiverfull movement, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while so I’ve learned a bit about it from you. Anyway, it sounds like the parents were really great people (at least to outsiders, who knows how they treated their children), and my friend and a lot of people she knows are really saddened by this event. I find it very sad whenever there is a tragedy like this. But I’m also curious to know what details come out in the coming days and weeks about the son’s motivation. All around, it’s definitely a tragedy.

    • emily

      In a small and insular community there is intense pressure on the children of parents who are publically described as “wonderful” and “amazing” and “perfect models.” Obviously different kids respond to the pressure differently but the tendency for small religious groups to hold up families as examples of perfection doesn’t leave a lot of room for kids to reckon with their own and their family members’ shortcomings in healthy ways. It gets especially sticky when the kids’ behavior is the parents’ qualification (I.e. in churches where elders have to have 2 or more children and each child in the family must be a faithful adult member of the same sect as the parents.) I interpret that the behavior of quiverful kids is the parents’ credentials.

      • Sgaile-beairt

        ….lots of people at their church, said Lydia shatz’s parents, were wonderful godly loving parents….until they went to jail….and some STILL defended them after that….it must have been a misudnerstanding, accident, not their fault they killed her & her sister by beating them to death w rubber hoses….

  • Sue Blue

    Another horrific gun-facilitated tragedy. Another apparent mental health failure. And, seemingly, another instance of religious involvement in violence. The intersection of guns, god, and mental illness seems to be all too frequent, and never anything but horrific. I don’t know what went on this family, but I’m willing to be that fundamentalism was at the bottom of the problems. I often wonder if or when one of the Duggar kids are going to snap. Strict gender roles, gender inequality, denigration of intellectual curiosity and development, fame oddly juxtaposed with social isolation, overcrowding, lack of individual parental attention, relentless guilt over “sin” and fear of hell….

    • Ahab

      I hope none of them snap. Still all the factors you mentioned can’t be good for their psychological well-being. I hope they escape fundamentalism when they get older.

      • Judy L.

        Oh, you know the world is looking forward to the first courageous Duggar kid to grow up and embrace science and reason or be banished for being gay and getting a nice chunk of money to write their story of growing up in that family. I will buy that book just to ensure that kid has an income so she can do some remedial education and then go to college.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    I think it’s very telling that he did not play video games or watch violent movies.

    • Kas

      And that’s why we will never hear much about this in the mainstream media I bet.

      • BabyRaptor


  • Lana

    Plus no video games and TV, also homeschoolish. Awful story sad he took anger at his mom out on his siblings.

  • J-Rex

    And they can’t possibly say that it’s because God wasn’t in the picture.

    • Nea

      No point in saying it, because it can’t be used to force a specific religon back into schools or raise more donations. “Because you dissed God!” only comes out when it’s a public school that experiences mass violence. Families, churches, religious schools can’t be used to raise feelings of religious persecution or funding.

  • Carys Birch

    Anyone else recognize teens in full camo from their own childhood? I had my senior pictures for high school done in full camo. It was THE THING amongst my crowd. (For the record, I wasn’t from a Quiverfull family OR homeschooled, I went to private independent Christian school, about 25 kids in 7th-12th. Most of my friends were homeschooled.)

    • Judy L.

      Camouflage was a fashion trend in the 80s, and military garb always pops up as trends come and go (multi-pocket pants never seem to go out of style).

      But I sincerely don’t understand what your comment is getting at. What am I missing?

      • Carys Birch

        Possibly a confluence between the isolation/patriarchal/militia-glorifying manly Christianity movement and the rural environment I grew up in (late 90s, early 2000s). All the fundy kids wore excessive amounts of camo all the time. We dressed like we were leaving for basic training at any moment. I don’t know whether that’s something that appears elsewhere in similar movements or if it was unique to my peers, but the photo of Nehemiah Griego in his camo (!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/newmexico22n-2-web.jpg) really struck a chord with me. It could have been any of my friends. It’s exactly what we all looked like at that age, and it struck me funny.

  • Katie

    What is the fanatical religious sect mentioned above? Couldn’t find it. Terrible tragedy but we don’t know the whole story…

    • Libby Anne

      Fanatical religious sect? I mentioned the Quiverfull movement in the post. Not sure if that’s what you’re referring to or not.

      • Monika

        I thought maybe Kaite meant “No Greater Joy ministries” which you mention but you link them and Quiverfull so I am not sure.

  • WMDKitty

    I can’t wait for the rest of the story to come out.

  • Mariana

    I didn’t realize prison ministry was a Quiverful thing. Can you elaborate a little bit?

    • The_L

      Seconding the request for elaboration. I suspect this is one of those little details that doesn’t automatically mean anything by itself, but is important when combined with all the others.

      Like reading the Bible on a regular basis. That in and of itself isn’t a sign of fanaticism, but when combined with other, bigger signs, it can paint a rather clear picture.

    • Libby Anne

      It’s like L says. By itself prison ministry wouldn’t mean much. But Michael Pearl is a huge advocate of prison ministry, which he himself was involved in for many years. The kids’ names given in the article also sound very like the names used by the Pearls, so that is why I said I would guess, based on those two things, that they were followers of the Pearls and No Greater Joy. Again, that’s a guess and a longer shot than my suspicion that they are Quiverfull. Interestingly, you can sometimes tell Vision Forum, ATI, or Pearl families by their kids’ names. There are real differences between the three, though there is also variation and bleed, so it’s not perfect.

  • saramaimon

    and what are the clues that lead to the pearls?

  • ki sarita

    Whats more I think we should be cautious about blaming the religion, any more than we would blame mainstream lifestyle for killers who come from mainstream groups. Obviously, it all depends on the details that come out but to speak before knowing is as much prejudice.

  • Anonymous

    You are an idiot for putting this family in a box. Stop focusing on other peoples lives this was an amazing family there kids were outstanding. We are all sinners and potential of this stuff. No parents are perfect but it wasn’t them raising their kid wrong that caused this. Get a life of your own and stop judging others.

    • Libby Anne

      Where did I say that this happened because the kid was raised Quiverfull? Given the dearth of information currently available to the public, I very intentionally did not say that. In fact, there was no “judging” at all in this post, just a simple statement that the information released to the public so far suggests that the family was Quiverfull.

    • NotHerTheOtherOne

      No, we do not all have the potential to do things like this. I know it’s tangential to the main point of the post, but I’m really sick of this idea that everyone would be a murdering psychopath except for the specific intervention of some deity. Something has to go very, horribly, wrong in a family for an event like this to happen.

    • W.

      Children who are raised in a loving environment and given access to proper health to do NOT do things like this. Books such as the Gift of Fear point out that most violent incidents stem from a history of abuse and violence.
      Yes, there is a chance that this was caused by a very sick individual, but chances are good that there is an underlying motivation or history we don’t know about. The fundamentalist community does not seem like the sort of community that would support getting a child secular mental health care, and it also seems like a community where abuse is swept under the rug due to the assumption of absolute parental authority.

    • Uly

      No, we do NOT all have the potential to do this stuff. Maybe you do, but I can assure you, the worst I’ve ever done is put off feeding the cat for a few hours. If you really think that you might, at any moment, take a gun and start shooting people for no reason (and shooters generally have a reason, even if they do not have any valid justification), please do not comfort yourself with the delusion that everybody is like you. Instead, go get help. REAL help, because if your belief that all people are “sinful” is causing you to think that anybody might snap at any given moment, your religion is not very good.

    • The Other Weirdo

      I beg to differ. I know I’m a sinner and all that, and atheistic Jew besides, and according to many faiths destined straight to Hell, but it never even occurs to me to steal, curse my parentss, covet other men’s wives, let alone kill my whole family or even parts thereof.

      So I say to you FUCK NO! We do not all have the potential for this stuff.

  • pagansister

    But we don’t need more gun regulation in this country! Guess the NRA can keep their campaign going that says there doesn’t need to be a ban on assault rifles as I guess the child in this case didn’t use one! :-(

    • Don Gwinn

      OK, I’ll bite; what gun regulation do you propose that would prevent the murder of a family after one of its own members makes the decision that he’s going to murder everyone in the home? Don’t bother worrying about whether your proposed regulation is constitutional in the United States for now, just think of anything that would do that job if you were allowed to institute it.

      • Uly

        Well, we could require that gun owners lock up their guns when not in use in such a way that unauthorized people, like their children, cannot access them. And we can require that bullets be stored separately as well. We can encourage use of ring locks for guns as well.

        Sure, especially at first, some won’t follow those laws. But you see how over time more and more people wear their seatbelts and fewer and fewer drive drunk? Over time, most likely, more people would as a matter of course follow basic safety protocol.

      • pagansister

        What Uly said, Don Guinn. Thanks, Uly.

      • Judy L.

        Guns allow quick and efficient killing of both others and oneself. In the absence of a gun, someone who “makes the decision that he’s going to murder everyone in the home,” has a considerably harder time achieving their goal. Fire and gas take longer and rely on the victims’ inability to escape. Stabbing, bludgeoning, and garroting all require close contact with an individual and if that individual isn’t restrained or otherwise helpless, their ability to defend themselves makes death a less certain outcome. Drowning requires either trapping individuals inside something they can’t get out of (like a locked car) or rendering them immobile before immersing them or being physically strong enough to hold their head under water until they stop breathing.

        Similarly, and this is a biggie when it comes to gun violence, it is considerably harder to kill oneself in the absence of a firearm, and those who are suicidal but lack access to a gun are more likely to not act on this impulse. And it goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that not having a gun in the house or in the car where children (and adults) can get their hands on it decreases the likelihood that they’ll accidentally shoot themselves or others by about 100 percent.

  • heather

    This was on the Albuquerque Calvary Church’s website about parenting:

  • Gracie

    I too had a sinking feeling about some type of connection to Pearl/Gothard type child rearing. I’m aware that it is very early and even if the parents did use those methods, it would not be a total explanation for what happened. I’m terribly sorry for this family, what a horrific situation.