Bearing Babies for God

I was struck by a recent article in the conservative evangelical magazine Boundless. It was called Why Have Babies? What struck me were the reasons the author gave, and must how much these reasons undergird so much of what I saw growing up in a Christian homeschool family.

Good Reasons to Have Babies

The world says babies are expensive, that they diminish your happiness, and that they limit your spontaneity. They are, they do, and they will — just like a whole host of other things (some worthwhile and some not) that you’ll say yes to in your lifetime. Those negatives are not the whole story. And they’re not reason enough to delay starting your family. Babies are wealth. They increase your joy, and any challenges they may bring are God’s means for your sanctification.

Babies are God’s blessing. God’s first words to His newly created man and woman were a blessing but also a command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Children are a reward from God. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). The blessings God promised His chosen people in the Old Testament when they entered the land always included the fruit of the womb: babies (Deuteronomy 7:12-14).

Babies are part of God’s good design. The only thing that was not good at creation was man being alone (Genesis 2:18). We were designed for community, fellowship and family. Sex and babies were part of the created order, and the procreative process was in place before sin entered the world. Having babies is part of the normal order of creation. Why?

God wants the earth to be full of people. Isaiah 45:18 says, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” And how will all these babies come to know God and worship Him?

Married couples are called to make babies — disciples of Jesus Christ. All Christians are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), that is, spiritual children. But Christians who are married have the added calling — where God enables them — to make physical offspring (Malachi 2:15). Couples are called to be fruitful and faithful to raise children in the fear and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), to the praise of His great glory. And where will that glory be fully realized?

Heaven will be full of worshipers. Only people are made in God’s image. Every baby born is an eternal being made in God’s image, with the potential to praise Him. We know that one day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Babies born and given hope through Christ are those people who will one day enter heaven. Where there will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

In other words, Christians should have babies because: (1) children are a reward God gives to people; (2) God designed procreation; (3) God wants there to be even more people in the world; (4) by having babies Christian parents can create Christians rather than converting them; and (5) God wants lots of people to tell him how great he is. I’m sensing a theme here.

Interestingly, the author starts by suggesting that having children will indeed diminish your happiness. But she asserts that you’re supposed to have children because God said so, not necessarily because you want them or because they will make you happy. She does say  that children will bring you “joy,” but in evangelical circles “joy” often serves as a code word–it’s the thing Christians are always supposed to feel even if they aren’t happy. The basic idea here is very much a theme in evangelical Christianity—God does not call you to be happy, he calls you to obey him. Your happiness matters less than whether you follow what God lays out in his word (as interpreted by various church leaders, of course).

Why have babies? This question seems to be an important one in a generation where delaying childbearing or eschewing it altogether is increasingly common. But answering the question with “because God said so” rather than actually exploring what’s causing today’s young adults to put off childbearing strikes me as backwards.

The reasons this author gives for having children have nothing to do with how having children will benefit you—instead, they are all about how having children will benefit God. The thing is, I want every child to grow up in a family where she is wanted and welcomed for her own sake, not simply because God said so. There are plenty of articles out there expounding the benefits of having children in an attempt to convince the unconvinced, but unlike this one they usually focus on the way children will enrich your life, not on the idea that you should be having children for, well, God.

Sorting Out the Good from the Bad
Things HSLDA Opposes: Social Workers in Schools
What the Ruff, the Spotted Hyena, and the Cuttlefish Taught Me about Gender and Sexuality
When We Expect More of Our Children than of Ourselves
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.

  • ako

    It’s interesting, because the first couple of sentences seem to be making a valid point. There are a lot of things you can do that cost money, limit how you spend your time and result in less happiness, but are none the less worth doing. For many people, parenting can be one of those things, where the long-term results are worth the stress and unhappiness caused, and that’s a perfectly valid decision, the same way it’s perfectly valid to take on the time, stress, and expense of learning to play the violin, or run a marathon, or other life challenges. (I do a lot of artistic work, and it’s

    But then they jumped right into God Says and religious guilt, and any hope of a good point went out the window. Parenting is a potentially rewarding challenge you can choose to undertake, not an obligation for everyone who’s biologically capable of it.

  • Norm Donnan

    Your free and under no obligation to have or not to have as many children as you so choose.There are benefits and responsibilities both ways,you choose…..its called free will and Gods all for free will.

    • Stev84

      But if – out of your so-called “free will” – you chose anything but what god wants you to, it’s off to the eternal barbeque.

      • Sally

        Actually, that’s not the Christian model. You can be out of God’s will (sin) and still go to heaven. As long as you believe in Jesus and ask him into your heart, your sins are forgiven and barbeque for you.
        Now, if you do live out of his will (sin so that grace will abound), that may be an indication that you’re not saved in the first place. So you are expected to bear fruit (do good things with good results). But the sins themselves, once you’re really saved, don’t earn you hell.

      • Feminerd

        The Christian model says that using the brain I have to reject utterly the idea of any creator deity, and most especially an invisible, reincarnating, three-in-one, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent one means I’m going to Hell.

        If apostasy/heresy means going to Hell, that means thought-crime is the one crime God can’t forgive. Not murder, not rape, not massive planetary pollution- all that’s totally forgivable. But not believing that some dude sacrificed himself temporarily 2,000 years ago to force his all-powerful self to forgive all of us for our great-great-ancestress eating a magic apple because a talking snake told her to? That’s just beyond the pale.

        You’ll forgive me if I’m underwhelmed, I hope.

      • Alice

        Yeah, I saw a Mr. Deity video on this topic today, and it was like getting punched in the gut.

      • Sally

        You’re preachin’ to the choir (at least one member). :)

      • Deird

        Which Christian model? There are heaps.

        I only mention because many Christians – myself included – would disagree with most of what you said there. It’s believed by some Christians, but it’s not “the” Christian model.

      • Sally

        Well, there are variations on everything I said, but if you believe something other than: Jesus died for our sins, you need only believe that and you are saved. Being good doesn’t get you into heaven. Being bad doesn’t get you into hell…. if that’s not your basic set of beliefs, I’m afraid most Christians around the world would say you have missed the Gospel message.
        Again, there are variations and differences in emphasis, but I’m afraid that’s the basic, stripped down, Gospel message in a nutshell.

      • Sally

        Being bad doesn’t get you into hell….
        What I meant by this was that the idea is we all deserve hell so no one particular set of bad things gets you into hell.

      • Norm Donnan

        Not at all,you can jump off a bridge using your free will and when you hit the bottom is God to blame for your death ? I suppose He should have sent a legion of angles to catch you …if He really loved you that is. You choose.

      • Feminerd

        If you jump off a cliff expecting an imaginary invisible sky wizard to send imaginary sub-deities to catch you, you probably deserve the inevitable outcome when physics works as predicted.

      • Norm Donnan

        I agree,and if you choose to have 19 children and it becomes difficult to feed them,or if you choose to have none and you regret that in your old age you also deserve the inevitable outcome.Dont blame God or anyone else for your choices.

      • Scott_In_OH

        No atheist would blame God for any of this.

        Many, however, would be pretty upset at the religious industry that encouraged a woman without means or desire to have a quiverful of children.

      • Norm Donnan

        every time you turn on the tv,advertizing encourages you to buy things you might not want or can afford,same thing,you choose.

      • Feminerd

        So using free will to disobey God’s direct commands is a good thing in Christianity now? I’m confused …

      • Norm Donnan

        Feel free Fem,but like all the choices we make ,there are consequences,you choose.

      • Feminerd

        Still very confused. God has a plan/commandments. We can choose to follow or not, but if we don’t, really bad shit is going to happen to us. But it’s totally our choice?

        Are you really saying God is like the Mafia? “Nice soul you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it” *smacks baseball bat into hand* Do try to make sense.

        EDIT: Here’s Norm’s position as far as I can tell. Feel free to tell me I’ve misread it. God tells people to have lots and lots of babies- a whole quiver full of them, in fact. However, you shouldn’t let that lead you into extreme poverty by not doing any planning, because then you are a moocher. Yet, you are interfering with God’s plan by controlling your fertility, which will damn you to Hell, but you should not whine when your kids are starving either because you totally chose to follow God’s plan. This is rather incoherent and doesn’t make any sense. It sounds like you’re fucked either way.

      • Norm Donnan

        How you came to these conclusions is beyond me. Here’s how it is….and your not going to like it. There are 2 commandments,Love the Lord your God with all your heart,soul,and mind and your neighbour as yourself. If you do that all the others will happen naturally. The bible gives instruction how we should live,for our benefit.When you tell your kids to do their homework,who does it benefit? Dont jump off a bridge because it is likely to cause problems for you.God says dont do this or that because its going to bring you or society problems and do this or that because its best for you or society,but in the end ,you choose how you live. This of course is while your alive,when you die,He will say either welcome home or depart from Me,I never knew you! Not,sorry you didnt have enough kids,the question you need to be asking is ,”do I know Him”,and if not why not .

      • Feminerd

        But some people argue (with appropriate bible quotes) that one of the things God commands is that you have lots and lots of babies. That having lots of babies is part of loving oneself and one’s spouse. And you have to follow god’s commands, right? And if you don’t, you’re going to Hell, right?

        How do you answer those people? Do you tell them they’re wrong about what God says?

      • wmdkitty

        It’s kinda hard to get to know someone who DOES NOT EXIST.

      • Norm Donnan

        Ahhh yeah,whats your point.?

      • wmdkitty

        You said: “the question you need to be asking is ,”do I know Him”,and if not why not .”

        I cannot know someone who does not exist.

      • wmdkitty

        Gravity always wins.


      • Michael W Busch

        Except when compared with dark energy.

      • wmdkitty

        Fair enough.

        I’ve had more issues with gravity than I have with dark energy.

    • Sally

      God has a plan for your life. This movement teaches that that plan is to have a “Quiverfull” of children. Sure, you can live outside of God’s plan, but that’s a dangerous place to be.
      Adam and Eve had free will. That doesn’t mean it was OK to eat the fruit.

      • Feminerd

        Ignorance is bliss, eh?

        I much prefer the aphorism “knowledge is power”. If God wanted permanent ignoramuses with the morality of toddlers (if you don’t know what Good and Evil are, you can’t take them into consideration now can you?), he shouldn’t have been dumb enough to put the tree right in the middle of everything. Seriously. If God knows everything, he knows the best way to get a human being to do something is to tell them not to.

      • Mr. Pantaloons

        I think you’re deliberately ignoring how dangerous it is to live INSIDE god’s plan when it’s construed as “have kids for no other reason than because god said so!” How you get away with mentioning Quiverfull and not the generations of trauma it’s caused as a result is just dishonest.

      • Sally

        It appears you completely misunderstood the tone of my post. I will clarify.

        I do not believe in God, but many Christians including those in this movement believe God has a plan for each of our lives. This same movement teaches that the plan is for all Christians to have a “Quiverfull” of children. These people believe that you can live outside of the plan, but they believe that’s a dangerous place to be.
        Creationists believe Adam and Eve had free will. But they believe it was not OK for them to eat the fruit.
        I hope that clarifies what my post meant.

      • Mr. Pantaloons

        Yes, indeed it does. It isn’t obvious at all inside this thread that you’re NOT speaking your own viewpoint.

      • Norm Donnan

        A movement can teach what they want,that doesnt mean it’s biblical. We all have free will.That doesnt mean there are no consequences for our actions.

      • Sally

        Norm, you seem to be arguing with the choir. I don’t think anyone here, certainly not the people you’re replying to, think there are no consequences for our actions. The whole point of this discussion is the problem with the disconnect (between actions and consequences) in this movement.
        Are you really trying to say this movement doesn’t represent all of Christianity? If that’s what you’re trying to get it, just say so. It’s very confusing the way you’re posting. Or are you not trying to say that?

      • Norm Donnan

        Of course they dont represent the vast majority of Christianity,they are more like a cult.So the point is why is this post even here except Libby Anne relates to it.Its not normal.

      • Libby Anne

        I’m sorry, you’re arguing that the evangelicals at Boundless are a “cult”? Are you aware that Boundless is a creation of Focus on the Family? This organization is practically synonymous with evangelical Christianity. Are you aware that by most counts, well over a third of Americans are evangelical Christians? (See: Are you seriously calling evangelical Christianity a cult?

      • Christine

        I thought that Focus on the Family was really just a conservative group. Is American evangelicalism that different from what they’ve managed to export?

        The problem is that evangelical Christianity really does fit the difference. Worship and belief differ substantially from the mainstream, it’s an easily differentiated group, and outside of the US it’s a tiny group.

      • Libby Anne

        I grew up in a fairly mainstream evangelical megachurch. It was conservative, sure, but the kind where the kids listened to Christian rock and the girls wore those tiny short jean shorts to church. (Note: I wasn’t in the youth group so I didn’t do these things.) Focus on the Family was the gold standard there. The local Christian radio show played a million and one Focus on the Family programs. I didn’t know Focus was considered extreme by anyone until relatively recently. In my experience, Focus on the Family and mainstream evangelicalism are wedded. I mean for goodness sake, my parents considered Focus on the Family a bit too liberal! We were a bit more conservative than mainstream evangelicalism but we were also quite a bit more conservative than Focus on the Family.

      • Norm Donnan

        No,not at all but if this group is saying what you say it is then yes they are a minority.They would be like orthodox in Judaism,Taliban in Islam ect.This is why we have different denominations in Christianity,because people see things differently and thats ok,unless your their kid and you dont get it,like you were.So move on.

      • Michael W Busch

        God has a plan for your life

        To say that and be taken seriously, Donnan would first need to demonstrate the existence of any sort of god. And then Donnan would need to demonstrate that that god makes plans and punishes people who don’t follow them.

        Since the first claim is unsupported, the rest can be rejected.

        Edit: And your clarification below was certainly needed.

    • The_L1985

      We know that, but the idiots who wrote that article want everyone to have huge numbers of babies–not as little human beings to care for and nurture to adulthood, but as “arrows in your quiver.” That sort of parenthood sounds deeply unhealthy to me–I’m already dealing with the emotional fallout of living with a father who acts as if the slightest deviation from his idea of The Perfect Child is a deep personal insult, and will yell at me for hours on end about it. Even 2 years after moving out, I’m still vaguely worried about a dangerous loud yelling thing that can hurt me.

      • Norm Donnan

        The article is someones opinion,nothing more,turn the page.People can choose how to live their lives and get feed back from as many sources as they like.When its your own parents its another issue.Its very difficult to confront a assertive parent but confront you must and their response is their problem.Having adult children of my own you do realize they have to make their own choices and be responsible for them and when you can see them making obvious mistakes it is frustrating but you back off.Your dad has worked out if he has a tantrum,he gets what he wants.If it is unwarranted then walk away and let him deal with it.Oh,and if you want 2 children or no children then thats fine as well.

      • The_L1985

        We KNOW that. The point is that we’re talking about people who want everybody to view child-rearing like that. I’ve read stuff about the Pearls and ATI. The central message of al the books and websites is “This is how God wants you to view family and child-rearing, and if you don’t do it this way, you’re doing it wrong.”

        A lot of people are gullible enough to fall for this. That is why it is a problem, and that is why any of us bother caring about the article in the first place.

      • Libby Anne

        “The article is someones opinion,nothing more,turn the page.”

        Newsflash: This blog is nothing more than someone’s opinion. And yet, you seem to be hanging around. Apparently sometimes people’s opinions are worth discussing and critiquing.

      • Norm Donnan

        Yes they are but dont be offended if someones choice for their life is at odds with yours,just say,”no thanks” and walk away.As one who is pro homosexual,you should be the first to get that.What l pick up is that it brings up personal pain and offense for you and that is what we are really dealing with here.

    • Michael W Busch

      I’m glad you apparently understand the importance of reproductive rights. But there is a problem with what you have said:

      Gods all for free will.

      To have any grounds to say that, you would first need to show that there is any sort of god.

      • The_L1985

        No, he just needs to believe in one. :) People say things like that based on their opinions all the time.

    • Anat

      How do you demonstrate the existence of ‘free will’? Not just ‘will’, but one that is ‘free’? That would get you some attention in philosophical circles.

      What do you answer to Schopenhauer’s “You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing.” ?

      • Norm Donnan

        Sounds deep Anat,but embarassingly simple to me. Demonstrate free will by standing up and walking away,by saying NO,by activly choosing to speak out and make a difference,by knowing what is right and doing it,or not ,thats your choice,it might come at a cost but it will keep you free. As for Schopenhauer, obviously a man because he doesnt seem to relate to a “womans perogative to change her mind”.Its called free will,or you choose .

  • Gordon Duffy

    I think you should only be having babies if you are going to want, love and nurture them. They should not be a scorecard.

    • Sally

      Scorecard. Exactly. The more babies I can raise successfully, the more feathers I have in my cap. If they’re not “successful,” well, that’s their own (the children’s) fault.
      But if someone else’s babies aren’t successful, that’s a reflection of secret (or maybe obvious) sin in the parents’ lives.

      • persephone

        More probably it’s the mother’s fault. Isn’t everything the woman’s fault?

      • Sally

        You’d think, but I’m seeing a trend of blaming the kids for their own shortcomings socially, academically, spiritually. We’ve discussed it on this blog and here’s another post showing what I’m talking about. It’s a two-parter, called Spoiled Homeschooler Syndrome.

      • wmdkitty

        Socially, it’s the parents.
        Spiritually… it’s irrelevant, because how can one have a spiritual “shortcoming”?
        Academically… yeah, it’s the parents, especially if we’re talking homeschoolers, ‘cuz (wait for it) the parents chose to take on the role of teacher, and more like than not, are nowhere near qualified to be teaching.

  • Christine

    I find it interesting that they don’t mention one of the big reasons to not have children – worries about the carrying capacity of the planet (and all other related concerns, I can’t come up with a good catch-all). Nor does it recognise that individuals may have reasons – not wanting to pass on bad genes, having emotional traumas in their past that would make them bad parents, etc, that also aren’t at all about not wanting to be a parent. Are these ignored that thoroughly in Evangelical circles, or is the author of the article just trying to not have good arguments to have to counter?

    The thing about joy vs happiness reminds me of a discussion (not so much a debate, because it was largely the teacher) in grade 11 ethics class. The teacher was trying to explain utilitarianism, and we discussed kinds of happiness. I think that the mindset in which “joy” can be a code for “better off than if you were happy” takes this past its logical conclusion. Some kinds of happiness are better than others, so even if you have less happiness it’s ok, because it’s a deeper happiness. Therefore some kinds of happiness are so much better, that it’s better to have them and never be happy at all than to be happy all the time in any other way.

    • Mogg

      Not wanting to pass on bad genes is pretty well ignored unless they are really awful ones – one of the issues I have with having a child is doubling up on two health problems with at least partial genetic basis, one of which my partner and I both have and one which I have and he doesn’t exhibit but has a family history. Neither are necessarily fatal, but both can be crippling or at least require some careful lifelong management, depending on the manifestation. As far as my experience goes, that would be considered a ridiculous, potentially hysterically unfaithful reason to not have a child.

      I never did understand what the difference was supposed to be between happiness and (Christian) joy, although I had the concept that they were seperate things presented to me as a child. I’m not sure I thought to ask for more detail.

      • Christine

        Well there are arguments against the “not wanting to pass on bad genes” concern, I just found it odd that it wasn’t addressed. Even if you think it’s ridiculous, you can still express why you think it’s a stupid reason.

      • Mogg

        I’m sorry, I seem to have been unclear. I was trying to say that in fundy circles being worried about passing on bad genes is, at least in my experience, either not thought about at all, or if a potential parent expresses such a concern they may be chastised for being unwilling to “accept whatever God chooses” for them and their potential child. About the only exception *might* be if you were a known carrier of a really deadly gene.

        I’d suggest that it wasn’t addressed because it didn’t occur to them. With the mindset behind this article, producing a child with a genetic disease is better than not producing a child at all, so taking steps to avoid genetic disease or being worried about it is being unfaithful and exhibiting a lack of trust in God. This is the same reasoning behind fundies not having an ultrasound or other screening during pregnancy because they’re going to keep the baby no matter what – and never mind that ultrasound is used for all kinds of other things apart from diagnosing Downs’ Syndrome, including problems that could be corrected or at least planned for if detected.

        I would like to emphasise that this is my interpretation of my experience only. I’d be very interested in other views.

      • Trollface McGee

        I don’t know the views behind it, but I do occasionally watch the religious channels (masochism on my part) and they very regularly feature children who are born with horrible defects that cause them a lifetime of suffering or that died, or that died after prolonged suffering. It’s usually part of the “pro-life” message but I don’t get it, I really don’t. It’s not that they (the people on the telly, I’m sure people in real life don’t think like this) worry about bad genes, it’s like bad genes win you the martyr family lottery.
        I understand a family choosing to keep or adopt a child with disabilities, even if they are profound. On the other hand, fetishising the disability which they seem to do, or completely ignoring the suffering of the child because something to do with abortion makes no sense to me.

      • Sally

        Their body will be restored in the afterlife, I guess is the idea?

      • wmdkitty

        As someone with a disability, uh… dude. It’s really not cool to parade us around like we’re some kind of “special blessing from ghawd” under any circumstances. It’s exploitative.

        It’s even less cool to do what (feels like) a lot of religious families do and turn right around and gossip about what the parents “must have done” to “deserve” a disabled child.

        And seriously, stop, stop, STOP using us for money grabs!

      • gimpi1

        At the risk of offense, AMEN, wmdkitty, AMEN!

        I suffer from a moderate degree of disability, due to rheumatoid arthritis. Both my parents were disabled, my dad due to brain damage incurred in an industrial accident, and my mom both from childhood polio (before vaccine) and RA (which I inherited.)

        One of the reasons I decided not to have kids was because of the genetic propensity to RA. Another was the need to help care for my parents. Both valid reasons for my choice, in my opinion.

        My mom deeply resented both the “special blessing” showcase and the snarky gossip in Christian churches, both of which we dealt with as a family. In my experience, the conservative Christians I have known are far less likely to actually help disabled people in any meaningful way, perhaps because of the belief that you must have “done something to deserve it,” and that helping you is somehow interfering with God’s judgement. When you get right with God, you’ll be healed, right? (I have actually been told that. Wow. Just wow.)

        And, yes, opposing effective governmental assistance to the disabled, while using disabled kids as a photo-opp to raise money for your religious-political action group, that’s hypocritical and creepy in the extreme.

      • Christine

        The mind boggles. Partially because the people I know who express the most concern about passing on bad genes are the ones who are closest to coming from that sort of belief system. (One I’m thinking of in particular called me up in tears the day that she found out that her fiancé wasn’t a creationist.) This makes sense, of course, because everyone else is fine just saying that they aren’t going to have kids. But I would have expected that to show up more in actual fundamentalist circles.

        As for not getting the standard ultrasounds – it says I’ve been immersed in Mommy culture for too long when I can react with “well at least they’re not going to be able to obsess over the sex of their unborn child”, right? But how do their doctors react? I mean, I know that you can’t be forced to get medical procedures you don’t want (witness the friend’s cousin who gave birth at 42.5 weeks), but they have various ways of encouraging you to do so. Doctors and even midwives will often not point out that you have a choice (or even phrase things as if you don’t), you can be refused other choices you’d like to make (“I will not attend a home birth that late in the pregnancy”), etc.

      • Mogg

        Well, the person I know who actually did this and had a Down’s baby only diagnosed after birth has a midwife sister who attended the delivery. There is a subculture of midwifery here which is anti-obstetrician and rather anti-male involvement during birth even if the male happens to be a qualified professional, so I guess she was able to find support for her particular choice fairly easily. Admittedly, that is the extreme end of that particular thinking, but I’ve certainly seen several examples of a family with a strong history of something continue to produce children even when the same problem is showing up in multiple siblings and cousins. The spin is that God never gives people more than they can handle, suffering is the way to perfection, and therefore he must have had a good reason to give them “special” children who suffer and whose difficulties cause their families to suffer.

      • Christine

        Ok, correct me if I’m wrong, but in some states midwives aren’t licensed, right? Or aren’t required to be licensed? Because if around here, if a midwife doesn’t follow good practice guidelines she* can lose her license. (My official due date was 5 days early because of this, so I had to go for a 4th ultrasound). And I’m sure that some of them (and more of their clients) are anti-OB, but if they failed to do a transfer-of-care (or continued to allow a homebirth, etc) when it was necessary, they’d be in big trouble.

        *yes, that’s a gender-specific word. The province’s first male graduate from a midwifery program made the news recently, so I think I’m entitled.

      • Mogg

        Midwives are licensed as a specialist nurse here, but it’s impossible for them to get professional indemnity insurance to practice independently of a hospital so choosing a home birth is very difficult – there are very few midwives who will do it. From what I gather, this particular woman delivered in hospital with an obstetrician available, but was managed by her midwife sister and personally, due to her particular religious convictions, chose not to have what I would consider a full, normal management of pregnancy in that she chose not to have ultrasounds. Fortunately all went well, apart from discovering that the baby had Downs. I’m glad for her and the child that all went well, and she loves her child dearly, but not everyone would have an outcome like that.

        I used to work at a specialist women’s hospital. There were two male midwives there, one of whom had gone on to work as a NICU nurse, but I suspect they got a very difficult time due to the attitude prevailing among some of the other staff. There was seriously rabid anti-male sentiment there! Rumour had it that it was propagated by the teaching staff of the biggest midwifery training program in the state, so hopefully as people have moved on it’s died down a bit.

      • Christine

        I wonder, then, if the sister just decided that ignoring the licensing body’s guidelines on how to manage a pregnancy was a risk she was willing to take for Jesus, or if she just did it because she figured her sister would lie for her.

        “Yes, she had all the ultrasounds, no signs of this problem showed up.” (I’m not saying that the midwife would end up in trouble for Downs, more as a hypothetical if there was placentia previa or some other easily identifiable problem that can be handled well that is why you get sent for so many ultrasounds.)

        That said, given what you’re saying about the midwifery training programme, I’m not overly impressed with the local standards. (I expect general behavioural as well as technical standards from professional programmes.) I mean, obviously the fact that home births aren’t really allowed under any circumstances means I’m not impressed, but that’s a different kind of not impressed.

      • Mogg

        I have no idea what it’s like now, although the professional indemnity issue is the same. I can’t get it for my profession either :-(

      • The_L1985

        I’ve been toying with the idea of having a midwife and birthing in a “natural” stance, but since my mom and grandma both had to have C-sections, I’ve never been too keen on a home birth.

        Good to know I can do that in an actual hospital. :)

      • Christine

        It depends on the hospital. Just because you have a midwife doesn’t mean that the hospital has the facilities for the labour you want. The local hospital is a certified baby-friendly facility, so there were no problems, but if there’s a transfer of care, the midwife looses a lot of power. (I probably would have needed to stay in the hospital for 24 hours after the birth, for example).

      • The_L1985

        Thanks! I know I’ll need to look into it in more detail when I’m ready to start a family, but just knowing that some hospitals (and certified midwives) can do this the way I wanted makes me feel better.

      • Gillianren

        I had an ob-gyn, but my doula was a friend who is a licensed midwife. I ended up having an emergency c-section, and my friend called me the next day to reassure me that, had she been doing a home birth with me (which she wouldn’t have, because of certain risk factors), that would have been the point at which she packed me up to the hospital. The nurses were actually really cool about interacting with her, too, and gave her a seat next to my monitor to keep an eye on things.

      • Sally

        Ah, yes. It’s as if these disabled babies are floating around in heaven waiting for a good family, and the fact that a particular family gets several disabled children is really a compliment to their ability to take them on, right?

      • Mogg

        I once saw a poem something to that effect, yes. Urgh!

        I feel I should add that I don’t believe that people should be made to feel bad for choosing to have and raise a disabled child – or for having a child disabled without there being a possibility of choice, for that matter. One of the most rewarding and satisfying jobs I’ve ever had was as an attendant carer to a profoundly disabled child, and I’ve known various people over the years with differently abled bodies and minds, all of whom were just as worthy of respect and human dignity as anyone else. The point here is that some can do it, but not everyone can, and those who feel they won’t cope are made to feel that the choice not to have a child diagnosed in utero with a disability is an evil and selfish one.

    • AndersH

      I think the argument is that God gave the Earth for humanity to use, and many who believe what the author does believes either that God will provide (and thus anthropogenic climate change or overpopulation can’t be a problem) or that the Rapture will come before the situation becomes critical (that it is more than critical for people of the Maldives and Bangladesh and other places already matters little).

      Likewise, whatever concerns you might have in regards to genes or emotional problems, Gift From God overrules that, I suppose.

      The happiness discussion is always interesting – a decade ago a friend asked me about a philosophical dilemma: if we had a pill that could make you happy, completely and comprehensively, with no side effects, and regardless of your life situation, would that pill be a good thing? It’s a question that still comes back to me now and then. I don’t see a difference between “artificial” and “real” per se, so that’s not really the problem, and happiness is certainly a good thing. But that would mean happiness if you’re a slave, or live in an oppressive system, and so on. What of liberty and human rights, and what happens to the impetus for change towards a better world? I guess my problem is basically that it seems to rob us of free will (whatever that is), even though I would agree that it’s better to be happy than unhappy.
      In that context I guess I can understand what those in the Church talk about when they talk about joy over happiness – the eschewing of an happiness that seems empty in favour of “meaningful” emotion, i.e. joy in following God’s word in their case. It’s just that I disagree wildly with what they call meaningful.

      This is not to say that people should not be happy when they suffer under various forms of oppression – people are wonderful and hardy and will find joy where they can and that is awe-inspiring. The difference is that that kind of happiness doesn’t crowd out other emotions.
      Sorry for getting totally sidetracked there.

      • Sally

        AndersH wrote: “God will provide…”
        I agree this is part of the whole point. I guy I dated in college (who later went on to be a missionary) said to basically that you have to put yourself out there in such a way that you’ll need his help in order for him to provide for you. If you live too comfortable a life, how can God provide?
        His solution was to become a missionary under difficult circumstances. OK, but what do the Christians who don’t want to be missionaries do who have this same kind of mentality? I think they create circumstances for themselves where they make life difficult for themselves and then see what amazing ways “God provides.” Sometimes God provides through surprises (I didn’t know I was going to inherit from my distant uncle), sometimes they get into poor-mouthing so that everyone around them knows what their needs are and can in turn be led by God to help them. Look, they have all those kids, let’s help them out with X, Y, or Z.
        I do believe people can be sincere and have the best of intentions while setting themselves up for this kind of God provides lifestyle. But I know there are people who work this very deliberately too. I’ve seen people who go around living off various churches and friends until they wear out their welcome and then move to new churches and friends with their sad story.
        Budget for everything except babies? Babies will be the most expensive things in your lives. Name me one thing God provides that isn’t actually provided through another person? Until I see actual manna, don’t tell me God provided.

      • Jayn

        “that you have to put yourself out there in such a way that you’ll need his help in order for him to provide for you.”

        That sounds an awful lot like testing God to me. The ‘God will provide’ line always sends up warning flags to me–it’s great to believe that He will send help your way, but I also worry that people who espouse this view aren’t actually working towards being in a better situation, just waiting for help to come their way. Kind of like that joke about the guy stranded on his roof during a flood.

      • Sally

        Well, this guy was not really one to test God, per se. It was more a sincere desire not to live the comfortable, American, evangelical lifestyle. In many ways, this guy was more honest, imo, about what the Gospel message really is. But it was kind of a back door way of saying it’s right to make yourself uncomfortable by doing hard things (like going to “unreached peoples” and living a very primitive lifestyle among them). The message I got was how can you live a comfortable American lifestyle and expect to be in the truest communion with God when there’s so much work to be done for Him around the world? This model did not involve having a lot of kids, but rather having only a few kids and sending them to Christian boarding school at age 7 so that both spouses could devote themselves to full time missionary work.

        To me this model is the antithesis of the quiverfull model. I think this guy’s model was much more a servant model which would give up a large measure of personal control (at least for a time). The quiverfull model is more a make-your-own fiefdom model by having babies. I’ll have control in my life by having a tribe of children I control and lead. I’ll make lots of bad, irresponsible decisions so God can provide for me in my “need.” I guess I see the quiverfull model as testing God. But while the Bible says not to put the Lord to the test, they don’t realize they’re “testing God” because no matter what the results are of their “test,” God never fails the test. He just might give them a response they didn’t expect. This didn’t work out, so now I know we’re supposed to do something else.

      • Mel

        Yeah, I’ve known people like that before. The folks I’ve known show a great combination of immaturity, self-centered viewpoint and overly optimistic view of what “God’s provision” means. The couple I’m thinking of spent years throwing money at their old VW bus since “it would be wrong to buy a new car.” Eventually, we made them do the math. They realized that they were spending more money on that piece of trash than they would on a decent used car. That alone wasn’t enough to sway them, though. Their main group of friends and I refused to keep giving them rides everywhere. Funny how “God’s providence” always consisted of using other people’s time and money……

      • The_L1985

        You are reminding me so much of my cousin right now. This same guy refused to sleep on my couch (not even a bed!) because “Paul slept on the floor.” He views mooching off of other people at his church as “God providing for him.”

        That’s not trusting God, you nitwit, that’s you using other people and pretending God said that was OK.

  • Mel

    The article doesn’t actually address reasons why people don’t have children. I’m going to give some reasons I know of personally. Please jump in with others.

    1. They don’t want children. (While painted as a selfish choice, this to me is a very moral choice for people who know that they don’t want to be parents.)

    2. They can’t have children. (Infertility treatments and adoptions can be very costly and emotionally wracking.)

    3. Babies cost a lot. (They are really expensive both in terms of time and money. Not everyone has time and money right now.)

    4. Unemployment (Can you afford to feed the family you have right now and have a baby?)

    5. Family needs (Sick parents, sick grandparents, special needs children…. all of these can reduce the amount of time available for a baby.)

    6. Career issues (Can we have a baby while the family business is in crisis? Or your partner is in a professional school?)

    7. Mental or physical health (How will I feel combining depression without meds and no sleep? How about lupus, or diabetes or obesity or……?)”

    8. Not in a relationship or in unstable relationship. (Some people don’t want to be single parents, but don’t have a partner. Or feel their relationship is falling apart.)

    Stating that “God wants you to have children!” in response to any of these situations + many others is callous. Adding “God never gives you more than you can handle” makes you sound like an idiot.

    • Jayn

      #3–There was a ‘Quoting Quiverful’ on NLQ not long ago that included the line, “Babies are wealth. Budget for everything but babies.” Which is absolutely irresponsible.

      #7 was also a concern for me because of depression. Fortunately the medication I’m on is okay for pregnancy, and pregnancy hormones haven’t been aggravating it, but the LAST time in my life when I’d want to be tinkering with changing or going off medication would be when I’m preparing to have a child! “I’m about to have a tiny human being completely dependent on me to take care of them, let’s flirt with me becoming completely non-functional whilst hormones are waiting in the sidelines to totally screw around with my emotions.”

      • aletha

        Amen. I’m bipolar on some seriously fabulous anti-psychotics. And while the dr says it’s OK to take during pregnancy, I’m not sure…
        though I shudder to think of myself without meds. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m infertile.

      • persephone

        But depression doesn’t really exist, it’s your sin of selfishness of refusing to spend your life pregnant that is making you sad. If you were too busy to think about it, let alone sleep, you wouldn’t be depressed. Duh.

      • The_L1985

        I have generalized anxiety disorder that’s treated with anti-depressants. Plus I’m on prescription NSAIDs for migraines…going off my meds when I’m ready to have kids is going to be BRUTAL.

    • Sally

      #9 Hereditary disease you don’t want to pass on to offspring. Sometimes this can be very serious.

      • Alice

        Absolutely. The years of watching almost every single relative suffer and one commit suicide after decades of misery have convinced me that I want my own genes to die whenever I die. Now I was luckier genetically than my relatives, but it’s still a life-long struggle that I don’t wish on anyone, and I’m not a gambler.

    • Liz

      Oh yes, 1 and 7 for me.

      1. I have a feeling I’d make a terrible parent… I’m not the most patient person, and I just can’t tolerate no sleep, too much noise, and too much mess. It’s not selfish, it’s a matter of being able to function enough to take care of *myself* let alone a child.

      7. I have an anxiety disorder, and I’ve lived with it my entire life. Even though I’ve been pretty sure for a long time that I don’t want kids, that was the first thing I thought of when we talked about risk factors for anxiety disorders in my freshman psych class. Knowing that there is a good chance I could either genetically pass this on to a child or that they would learn it through me modeling anxious behaviors makes me think twice about reproducing.

      • Miss_Beara

        I have anxiety and depression my entire life as well. My mom had it and my grandma and grandpa had it. I think being pregnant would do some serious damage to my mental state with the wacky hormones and I would probably get full blown post partum depression like my mom had. She couldn’t even breast feed me because of her anxiety and depression, luckily this was before the whole shaming women who do not breast feed thing, but it might have been around in the 80s, i am not sure.

      • A Reader

        These are basically my reasons too. I have anxiety/depression, and not only is it scary that I could pass it on/teach it to my kid, but I know I’d be at a VERY high risk for postpartum depression, especially with the crazy hormones/lack of sleep.

      • The_L1985

        I am so glad that my anxiety disorder seems to be environmental rather than genetic. One less thing to worry about, and if there’s one things folks like us with the disorder are good at, it’s worrying! :P

    • Emma

      Adding to #7: Physical Disability.

      I was born with a rare (but thankfully moderate) form of muscular dystrophy. I can walk, but other things (like stairs) are difficult, and others (standing up from the ground) are impossible. This lends three concerns to having kids form me:

      a. Passing it on. The doctors think they’ve identified the gene causing it, and it’s probably dominant. My condition isn’t horrible, but I see no reason to create a human being who will have to live with it if I can avoid that.

      b. Effects of pregnancy. Do you know what being pregnant does to women with muscular dystrophy? Because I sure don’t, and don’t really want to find out firsthand.

      c. The demands of parenting. When I think about all the stuff required for parenting: chasing after kids, crawling with toddlers, etc, it exhausts me. I’m not sure I’m up to that. Luckily, I’m in my early 20s, so this is all hypothetical anyway.

    • Sophie

      7. I have chronic pain in my back and pelvis, my pain is so severe that I can’t walk further than 20 metres and that’s using crutches. Standing and sitting are both very painful, so I spend most of my day lying down in bed. If I were to get pregnant, I would have to go off all my pain meds and I would be completely bedbound and screaming in pain for the whole pregnancy. Then there’s the issue that my skeleton is quite malformed and I barely have room for my organs, so there isn’t room for a baby, certainly not a full term one. So I’d be looking at a c-section at least a month before my due date, probably earlier. Which means the baby would be higher risk for health problems. And then there’s my depression and anxiety, plus my mother’s history of severe post-natal depression which makes me high risk for it too. My mother failed to bond with me and subjected me to a life of emotional abuse, the idea that I might do that to my child I just can’t bear it. So I have an IUD and if I did get pregnant I would most likely have an abortion, which I’m not sure I’d ever get over because I desperately want children.

  • MargueriteF

    “God’s first words to His newly created man and woman were a blessing but also a command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).”

    Yes, but surely God in all his omniscience has not failed to notice that where there were (supposedly) once two, there are now billions upon billions. It seems to me that God would be smart enough to understand that now that we’re at the top of the food chain, we’re bound to overpopulate if we keep reproducing willy-nilly. I would imagine God’s latest words might be, “Haven’t you people ever heard of birth control?”

    • Sally

      Well, if the unsaved use birth control, let’s take advantage of that situation and not use birth control so that we Christians become a greater percentage of the population.

      • MargueriteF

        I’m an atheist, actually. I also have four kids, so to be honest I’m really not one to talk *grins*. I had them all because I like kids, which seems like the best reason to have kids to me. But I also stopped at four because I didn’t think I could reasonably support more than that.

      • onamission5

        Which backfires for a lot of the quiverfull types, because of all the offspring who do, indeed “depart” from “the way they should go,” even when their parents did their best to “raise them up” in it.
        My own parents are still waiting for the “when they are old” part of that edict/prediction because when I was young and middle aged hasn’t worked out so well.

  • Trollface McGee

    I feel bad for kids that were created to glorify someone’s God. It’s like – they, themselves, as a person weren’t wanted. It’s fitting they use the quiverful description for their cause. The kids were wanted as arrows in a quiver as part of a grand armoury of weaponry for God. An arrow doesn’t need (or should have) unique characteristics, it’s generic, it’s an object.

    How selfish is that? To create a unique human being as just an object or tool in your religion/ideological war. To me, it is much more loving to have someone say, I chose to have you because I wanted you in my life rather than I had you because of my obligation to procreate so that you may glorify my God.

    • Kate Monster

      I’ve never seen any indication that children in these families ARE thought of as unique individuals. For the Quiverfull system to work, you have to hold as a baseline the idea that all humans are going to think and feel and react in the same way. That one formula (submit to your husbands, or suppress your toddler’s will, or arrange your daughter’s marriage to that nice boy down the street, since you and his father both agree it would work out) will work, with the same godly results, for every person taken into it. That those who deviate aren’t different or unique–they’re flawed and dangerous and sinful. Quiverfull, as an idea, doesn’t want people. It wants those little pink and blue peg people from the Game of Life (with a plastic minivan full of pink and blue peg children, of course)

    • smrnda

      The whole goal seems to be an army of praise-bots with no individual wills or personality, kind of like a Christian Borg (from Star Trek, TNG.) It’s like saying “I’m going to have a mess of kids so I can raise them to root for Arsenal.” (no offense intended to fans of Arsenal, just had to pick a football club someone would likely have heard of.) Most people conceive of purposes for their kids that leave a little room for individuality. This is just mass production.

      • wmdkitty

        I think you’ll appreciate this….

      • The_L1985

        XD Excellent! A perfect description of what happens when Christianity gets twisted into a “culture war.”

  • persephone

    If children are a gift from god, then why does he give so many of them to non-believers?

    • Sally

      Even the ones living in rat holes?! /reference to previous post by Libby Anne

    • Alice

      Rain on the just and the unjust…blah blah blah…so they can be converted later…blah blah blah….if they aren’t converted later then only God knows why…blah blah blah.

    • Sarah-Sophia

      They’re not gifts they’re punishment for having non-marital sex.

  • onamission5

    The thing that gets to me the most is these are the inner thoughts of people who’d like to make my health care choices for me. Never mind if the parents actually want the child, because god wants it, and the concerns of us piddly humans are irrelevant.

  • TLC

    From the article Why Have Babies?:

    “The point is that it’s not about money. He went to the deeper issue: ‘Babies are wealth,” he said. “Budget for everything but babies.’ ”

    And here we have, in a nutshell, why so many of these quiverfull and polygamist families have so many children, regardless of their ability to support them, feed them, clothe them, educate them, and nuture them. I finally get it.

    If “babies are wealth”, then these people are expressing a new form of greed. The Bible says “the love of money is the root of all evil.” I guess since these people aren’t collecting money, they think they aren’t being greedy. But they’re collecting and hoarding babies instead of stocks, bonds and cash. The problem is, those are inanimate objects that don’t need sustenance, other than a broker who knows when to buy or sell. Babies need so much more to reach full maturity! And these children aren’t going to get what they need — not even to meet their basic physical requirements — from parents who are irresponsibly having children so they will have “wealth.”

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    The idea that “babies are expensive” is not a good reason to delay starting a family really struck me as a big red flag for lack of empathy. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking of ‘selfish’ people who are saying “Having to take care of a baby means I’ll have to drive a Ford instead of a Ferrari, waaaah”. Those people probably do not exist, or at the very least they are rare.

    But in this economy, people are actually delaying having kids because they can’t find good jobs, can’t get full time work with benefits, have to go back to school to get another degree because the first one isn’t getting them anywhere. They aren’t delaying having kids because they’d rather have fancy stuff – they’re delaying child-rearing because they can barely afford to pay the rent, and another mouth to feed is not an option.

    To tell those people that you should go ahead and have a baby whose care you literally cannot afford, and whose existence will hamper a caregiver’s ability to work outside the home and make ends meet, smacks of a level of privilege I see way too often in way too many conservative types.

    • Jolie

      I’d be curious how exactly do they reconcile the idea of “leaving family planning to God”/not factoring in how many children you can actually afford with accusing parents on benefits of being “scroungers”.

      • Mel

        Oh, it’s easy. Parents who go on benefits are scoungers. Real parents teach their children how to do without. Especially food, medication and education. You don’t really need those.

    • Renee MArtin

      ANd when you DO go ahead and have a kid when you cannot afford it, they want to deny you food assistance and other forms of help that would make your situation safer. They call you lazy, stupid, and a moocher, and say you have kids for the payout (insane!! its not like you get more than 150 in TANF for a new kid! And that is IF you work for it, and IF you haven’t used up your paltry 5 year maximum…Maybe they mean the $100 in food? Are they serious?)

      They want to pass laws for their version of the perfect” world with ZERO regard for REALITY. But this is a common theme amongst the fundy set.

    • Christine

      There is a lot of in-between as well though. I know a lot of people who are surprised that we’d have started a family while still in school, because for some reason they think that we don’t have enough money. Now, I’m sure that this is partially because they don’t realise the amount of financial incentive that the government gives to starting a family at this point, but they seem to think that things like cars, meat*, cell phones, TV, buying clothes new, etc are necessities. I agree that it’s definitely possible to not be able to afford having kids, but the definition of when you can afford to have kids is somewhere in between.

      *note that we’re not vegetarians and eat a lot of meat, but I know people who eat meat as a main dish multiple times a week, and am using that sort of extreme behaviour as the comparison here.

      • The_L1985

        “I know people who eat meat as a main dish multiple times a week”

        The way I grew up, it took years before I could even conceptualize having more than 1-2 meals a week without any meat in them, other than breakfast.

        On the other extreme, Dad says his father used to eat the fat from the meat if anybody else didn’t want it, because after the war, a lot of the livestock in Italy were malnourished to the point that for years, he didn’t see any fat on what meat he ate. So when American meat had the fat on it, he wanted as much as he could get.

      • Christine

        And that’s the sort of cultural conditioning that makes us think that life takes more money than it really does. Sure, most of it is a relatively small amount, but when you’re trying to live on not very much money it can really screw you over. Sure, my savings from eating low meat are only a couple hundred dollars a month, but if you’re low income that can be a huge difference. (It can even matter in the US, with food assistance programmes, as that sort of thing, even with the subsidized meat prices, can mean the difference between “food” and “healthy food”.)

      • The_L1985

        I’ve discovered the wonders of lentils, myself. Dal is one of the best high-protein, meat-free dishes out there, and it’s fun to dip.

        My food prices have gone down so much from trying out veggie proteins. :)

      • gimpi1

        Any good recipe sources, L1985? I love lentils and black beans, but my husband won’t touch them. I’m on the lookout for a way to sell him on eating less meat.

      • The_L1985

        For dal, take some red lentils (regular don’t taste quite as good for this), salt, turmeric, and a bit of curry or chili powder for spice. You can also add whatever vegetables you like that go well boiled, but make sure to dice them up really tiny. Boil the same way that you cook any other beans, but with a little more water. It should be thin and mushy for best results.

        Dal has enough protein for a whole meal, but feels more like eating any other dip. I’ve had it all sorts of dip-able foods on the side–naan bread, flatbread, tomatoes, cucumbers, even chips. It’s a very versatile food.

      • gimpi1

        Thanks. L! Hubby likes indian-spiced curries, so he might go for this. I’ll give it a try.

      • Christine

        I also find that dal is amazing with just straight lentils & a bit of salt.

        If you want to convince him to try either red lentils or black beans – I love making grain/legume fried patties. Take some cooked rice & soak some lentils in hot water (to mostly cook them). Put everything through a food processor/decent blender, along with some garlic, onion, turmeric, etc. Shape into patties & pan-fry. You can do the same with cooked black beans, and rolled oats soaked in boiled water. (I like to add onions, mushrooms, thyme, etc to those).

      • gimpi1

        Another good idea, Christine. He loves mushrooms, so I can try a mushroom-flavored lentil patty. The only vegetarian dish that I know he likes is a mushroom-based pasta sauce. Thanks for the ideas!

      • Feminerd

        That sounds amazing. I shall have to try this. I don’t like beans very much, but lentils I do like.

      • lindseylou31

        make lentil burgers! :)

      • Theo Darling

        In some places, cars ARE necessities…

      • Christine

        While those might be a majority of places, a minority of people live in them. (There’s also the fact that a lot of people choose to live there, because they “can’t afford” a better location, and then complain about how expensive cars are/try to screw the rest of us over by voting down transit improvements so the city has to put in magic roads that have higher capacity, but don’t take space that doesn’t exist.)

      • Theo Darling

        Right, I’m not about to suggest that my parents were not part of the demographic voting down ANYTHING that didn’t directly benefit them in the short run, because they definitely were. However, they had four kids, and we were not consulted about our preference in housing arrangements or given any sort of choice, and cars were, in fact, necessary out in the sticks (unless of course you were ok with never leaving the house and your parents’ control, and I wasn’t).

      • Leigha7

        “There’s also the fact that a lot of people choose to live there, because they ‘can’t afford’ a better location”

        You say that like you don’t believe that’s a reasonable explanation, but it is. If you’re living in an area where $30,000/year is enough to live pretty comfortably (but not build up a huge savings) but you have to drive a half hour to and from work each day, do you honestly think you can afford to just pack up and move to a place where 1. $30,000 is now just barely enough to live, 2. you now have no job and no income, 3. you have to buy a house that costs $100,000 when your old house only sold for $50,000 (assuming it sold at all, since it’s hard to sell houses in those places), and 4. you also have to pay to move? Add in the fact that you don’t so much choose to live there as it’s where you grew up, and moving would mean leaving every person, place, and thing you’ve ever known.

        ALSO, it isn’t just poor rural areas where you need cars. I live just outside of a city (~2-3 million people in the greater metro area), and while there are buses, it’d be pretty obnoxiously inconvenient to live without a car. Before his office moved, my boyfriend would’ve had to spend 4 hours on the bus each day, on top of the 9 hours spent at work (I have no idea how long it’d be now, but probably about 2-2.5 hours). He could theoretically ride a bike, but we live almost 20 miles from his current office. A taxi would cost about $75 each way. A car is by far the easiest option.

      • Christine

        Sorry, the background for my statement that I didn’t include was that I’m coming from a city point of view. There are people who commute from my city, spending $30k p/a on the commute, to a job that they already have, because they can save $50-100k on the house that they buy. There are people who “need” a large house, with a rural-sized yard (or, more oddly, a large house with a city-sized yard), and then complain that the development in the city is all apartment buildings, when what they want are houses. There are definitely places where the city is non-functional, but in what way does their existence negate the fact that a lot of people want everyone else to make their inconvenient choices less so?

      • Leigha7

        “we’re not vegetarians and eat a lot of meat, but I know people who eat meat as a main dish multiple times a week, and am using that sort of extreme behaviour as the comparison here”

        I’m curious what you mean when you say you eat a lot of meat, if you consider eating it multiple times a week to be “extreme.” Where I grew up, pretty much the only time you didn’t eat meat as a main dish was 1. if you were having pasta (but that often included meat) or pizza (which almost always included meat), 2. you were Catholic and it was a Friday during Lent, or 3. you were on a diet…maybe.

        And most people did this on $15-30k a year.

      • Christine

        We eat meat probably 5-6 times a week, but it’s rarely used as a main dish (1/4lb of ground beef in a dutch oven of pasta sauce, a few slices of bacon in a casserole, etc), and we have it as a main dish 1-2 times per week (fish for lunch, sausages for dinner, steak at a party, etc). I live in a country that doesn’t subsidize the meat particularly heavily, so a meal with meat as the main dish tends to run $3-4 a serving, at a minimum.

    • wanderer

      Yeah that whole “babies are expensive but this is not a good reason to delay” thing actually shocked me right from the start. I’m thinking…um…yeah…that’s actually an excellent reason to delay. There are studies that show each year a woman delays having a baby (up to a capped age, can’t remember when exactly) her chances of living in poverty to decrease significantly.
      Delaying for financial reasons is a real reason.

    • Sophie

      To be honest I never understood the whole ‘children are so expensive’ thing, my older brother and I were brought up by separated parents neither of whom worked until I was 7. We had second hand toys and clothes from charity shops, but we never did without. I think this is one of the biggest differences between the UK and the USA, here in the UK there is free healthcare, child benefit (which was £15 a week for the eldest child and £10 a week for every subsequent child last time I received any) and vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables for under 5s if you are on benefits. Growing up poor wasn’t always great and I know that my parents went without so we could have things we wanted but we were healthy, well fed and had a lot of books and toys.

      • Sally

        Well, I am very grateful for any society that recognizes that people below a certain level of income need help. I think that’s the right thing for society to do. However, I do have to say that when a family receives vouchers and free healthcare and such, that doesn’t lower the expense of the child. It shifts the payment to society in general- specifically to those who have more money and are paying more into the system. Children are so expensive. It’s just a matter of who pays for what. That said, expenses can certainly be controlled in some areas by shopping for second-hand clothes and other used items like you mention. That, too, is dependent on some members of society purchasing clothes new and donating/selling them. So again, at least part of society has to pay “full price” so to speak. Parents going without so their children can have things they want- that is commendable and not really dependent on society.
        I hope this is coming across the way I intend. -Not to criticize your upbringing in any way. It sounds like the UK is doing things right, imo. But we do need to recognize that when society pitches in with very real benefits where needed, that doesn’t lessen the cost of the babies, it shifts who is paying what. (And again, not to discount the sacrifices your parents made in addition to that.)

      • gimpi1

        Virtually none of that support exists in the U.S. What little poverty-relief we have is bitterly resented and often regarded as a form of theft by many Christian conservatives. See the U.S. House of Representatives de-funding food stamps. One of the movers and shakers in that action is a wealthy man who receives large farm-subsidies and referred to any poverty aid as “stealing from taxpayers.” He was voted in by U.S. voters. We’re nuts, apparently.

      • Leigha7

        It actually does lessen the cost, though. Government funded programs are typically run at lower cost than independently owned ones are.

        Also, the cost of raising a child isn’t necessarily anywhere near as high as “experts” say it is. The calculator linked suggests that, for a 14-17 year old in the area and situation I grew up in, some of the expenses would include:

        $3,030/year for childcare and education
        $880/year for clothing

        Know how much it actually cost? I went to public school (so free, not counting the taxes everyone has to pay regardless). Every year I bought one notebook and/or binder for each class besides gym, chorus, and band, a pack of pens, filler paper for the binders, and a student planner, for a grand total of no more than $50 (I used the same backpack all through high school, but even if I hadn’t, that’s less than $100 more). Oh, and I was relatively expensive, buying notebooks with neat patterns that cost about $3. My boyfriend’s family got 15 cent notebooks, so they probably spent less than $5/year per kid.

        And for clothing? Apparently that’s supposed to be $880/year just for one child’s clothing? Bahahaha no. Maybe $200. Plenty of people probably spent no more than $100 (shoes would be the only iffy part there, really, especially for athletes), especially since high schoolers don’t need whole wardrobe replacements anymore since they usually aren’t growing that much.

        So the experts say childcare, education, and clothing cost about $4000 a year for a high-schooler where I grew up, but they really cost $100-300. Yeah. I’m not saying kids aren’t expensive, but the “experts” definitely overestimate how a lot of people actually live.

      • Heather Scholl

        College is expensive. Presently, college is not considered a luxury….it is a necessity. Even retail and restaurant jobs will NOT hire for management without the candidate having a Bachelor’s degree. I have a 2 year degree in Respiratory Therapy and work for a hospital. My degree will go four year BS starting in 2015….hospitals will grandfather in some 2 years but after that a four year degree is what you need to be hired. We have one child. I have NO idea whether we will be able to afford her degree…but, we will contribute a major portion. She will most likely still pay off a loan. How responsible is it to have child after child and say to them: “You worry about the economy we left you and how to get a job in it”. “Not our problem”.

      • Sophie

        That is another big difference between the UK and US, here our current system is that you pay your tuitition and student loans back after you are working and earning over £21K. And the rate you pay the money back is dependent on your income i.e. the higher your wage, the higher the percentage that comes off your gross salary. It’s by no means a perfect system but it’s better than saddling 18 year olds with thousands of pounds of debt before they’ve even attended a class. I don’t think it is responsible to have children that you can’t afford, my point was that in the country that I live in very poor people can still afford children thanks to our welfare state.

      • Mogg

        That’s similar to the Oz system. In addition, there’s a system where any citizen here is entitled to a government loan for tuition for post-grad or additional education which is not normally covered by the studant assistance scheme, or for vocational training, which is payed back in the same way. It’s capped, and you have to pay it back, but you don’t pay it back until you’re earning a reasonable amount.

      • Christine

        Around here (Canada) student loans are done on a by-province basis. In Ontario they will forgive some of your debt after you graduate if your earning potential is too low for the amount of debt. (I don’t know what exactly the requirements are for you having finished the degree, and it being done in a reasonable amount of time, etc). My sister-in-law got all but 6k forgiven (I know, that’s an insane amount of student debt to start with, but she was a music major, and textbooks are crazy expensive, and she had switched into that programme after a year in business, so she had no savings)

      • Feminerd

        It must be nice to live in a world where 6k is “an insane amount of student debt”!

      • Christine

        That covers most of a year’s rent around here. It’s several years to pay off unless you have a professional salary.

      • gimpi1

        With a professional salary, many graduates in the U.S. are looking at decades to pay off student-loans. It’s really the equivalent of a mortgage. We’re seeing a lot of debate if a college education is actually worth the cost, since your increased earning-capacity may not make up for the costs incurred in obtaining the degree. We’re the only first-world country actually having that debate. Again, I think we must be nuts.

      • Leigha7

        Here, depending on where you live, it’s a little under half a year’s rent.

        But most of the people I know have about $20-30,000 in loans, and I know a few with $75,000+ (and that’s JUST for undergraduate degrees, you don’t want to think about things like medical school).

        ETA: I have about $30k in loans, and that’s AFTER paying several thousand each year out of pocket, because my financial aid didn’t cover everything. The amount paid out of pocket each year was more stressful than the loans, because I was never certain if my family would be able to afford it. Fortunately, they always did, but I’m sure they went without some things because of it.

      • Beutelratti

        Similar to the German system as well. There’s a difference though. Until 2006 university was almost free. You “only” had to pay like 150 – 200€ ($200 – 260) each semester, so per year that was 400€ max. Of course you had to add costs for books etc. to it, but it was still affordable even for those whose parents weren’t upper middle class.
        My state is going back to that next year and there are other states that never implemented changes that made uni cost up to 2000€ a year.
        We still have a generation of students with high debts now though, but those debts are not comparable to US-American standards and they don’t have to pay them back until they actually can.

      • Sophie

        University used to be free in the UK until 1997. Unfortunately the system became unsustainable because a higher percentage of people were going to university. It’s still free in Scotland for Scottish students, due to there being far fewer universities so they are still subsidised by taxes as well as by the fees of students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland plus International students. That has caused a great deal of resentment to people from other parts of the UK. If Scotland does become independent, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to continue that system.

      • Feminerd

        Man, I wish people graduated with only $2500 in debt in the US. I was debt-free (I got a full scholarship + stipend) but that’s extremely rare. My husband had about $25,000 in debt when he graduated, which is about average. It’s been about five years and we are, of course, still paying it off.

  • Mira

    So, like, how are people like this supposed to feel when their kids don’t believe in their god?
    Sometimes I wonder if my parents churned out their four kids simply to check a box, or say “look see we’re doing it right!” I don’t have much of a relationship, if any, with my mother: when I came out as atheist to my parents (3/4 of us are agnostic/atheist) my dad acted like I personally attacked HIM.
    So, have kids to churn out these magical warriors, if they aren’t jesus-y enough you did it wrong? But don’t be happy about it because it’s not about YOU or YOUR happiness or their fulfillment in life.

    • J-Rex

      My parents had ten kids. Out of the nine of us who are old enough to know what we believe, a grand total of 1 is still Christian. 4 are atheist. 4 don’t really know what they believe. So my parents had 10 good Christian kids and now 8 or 9 will end up burning in hell for eternity. I wonder how my mom would feel about his fourth point?

      • AnotherOne

        Yeah, this is pretty much what I was thinking. So far, of my siblings who have left home, three-fourths of us are merrily cavorting our way down the wide path that leadeth to destruction. Even if the rest of the ones still living at home tread the straight and narrow, my parents will still have produced more hell-bound heathens than righteous arrows who will worship God for all eternity.

      • Christine

        Ah, but the question here is what is the total number of righteous arrows? After all, if Satan can steal that many souls, we’d better have lots of babies to makes sure that we can contribute one or two believers.

      • Mira

        I STILL don’t get the whole “you’re gonna burn in hell” thing. I mean, if we are going against god, isn’t Satan like “hell yeah, let’s partaaaay!”? /confused

      • Christine

        Have you ever seen the movie Dogma? It’s quite entertaining. Anyone who doesn’t take religion seriously enough to laugh at it would find it horribly blasphemous. There’s somewhere where one of the fallen angels complaints, because the punishment in hell used to just be that you were apart from God, and that was enough. But humans were messed up enough to bring in lakes of fire, and all this other stuff.

      • Anat

        And there’s Pratchett’s Eric, where for a long while the demons had used the hellfire type punishments – which were fine for the dead, because they had no bodies. But then hell was taken over by a different faction of demons. The new guys forced the dead to listen to lectures about safety regulations of rolling a rock uphill and similar things and that was real torture.

      • Nancy Shrew

        Sometimes I wonder, especially in regards to the Old Testament God, how Satan could be worse.

      • Feminerd

        I really think that if there is any truth at all to the OT, Satan won. Humans worship Satan, because there is no way Satan could be more sadistic, cruel, inconsistent, and just vicious than the OT god.

        Could be Loki, too, I suppose. That sort of joke is right up his alley.

      • wmdkitty

        The book was written by the villain’s minions, of course!

      • Alice

        Yes, I don’t get the fundie logic in having a big family. Having only 1-3 kids sounds like a better plan because then you have more time, energy, and money to overprotect and indoctrinate them. But then again, if I hadn’t been an only child in that environment, maybe it wouldn’t have driven me as batshit crazy. :)

      • AnotherOne

        Yeah, on the one hand I’m exasperated that my parents had so many kids they couldn’t take care of. But if I had been an only child . . . Lord have mercy. The only saving grace was that by virtue of numbers we managed to thwart some of my parents psychotic, superhuman ability to control our every move and thought.

    • ArachneS

      My dad did the same thing. My mom acted like I told her I was going to murder my children. Literally. She said “How can you do this to your kids?!”.

    • The_L1985

      My dad is likely to react the same way once he realizes I’m Pagan. “Why would you do this to me?!”

      He’s spent my entire life telling me to marry a rich Catholic, and the nice Jewish man I’m with is neither. He says he respects people of other religions (except Muslims, which is a separate rant), but the truth is he can’t conceive of a moral system at all that isn’t based on a carrot-and-stick form of Christianity.

  • Kit

    I got halfway through this article and thought, “This would be incredibly distressing to people who are infertile.” As far as I know, infertility can be INCREDIBLY distressing on its own to people who want children, who spend thousands upon thousands of dollars just to try to get pregnant, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Reading an article about how God wants you to have children and how you’re CALLED to make children would be incredibly distressing to these people. While the article clearly isn’t aimed at this group, this attitude in and of itself is pretty awful.

    That said, how do infertile women manage in Quiverfull circles???

    • Lucreza Borgia

      From what I have read, not well. They are considered cursed or are assumed to have some deep sin in their past that is keeping their womb closed by god.

      • Jayn

        Maybe they’re following the wrong god. They could try lighting a candle to Eisheth instead.

      • Alice

        I can’t remember where I was reading the story, but one ex-Quiverful woman wrote about how she constantly felt like a failure and the community treated her like an outsider because she was only able to have a couple of children. So it must be even worse for infertile women.

    • Christine

      Well at least the push to marry young means that there will be fewer women who aren’t able to have kids at all. Which will make it that much harder for the ones who can’t.

    • Mogg

      It’s incredibly distressing for the many women who don’t have an option to marry, too, given the greater numbers of women in these circles.

  • Rilian Sharp

    That second website doesn’t even say that babies make you less happy. It says that *couples* who fail to communicate with each other about caring for the baby become less satisfied with their *marriage*.

  • Anat

    Time to link the song Children are Happiness by Shlomo Bar.

    For those of you who don’t read Hebrew, the song translates as follows:

    Bring two, bring three
    Bring four children.
    You’ll get apartments with a hallway and a kitchen
    And two small bedrooms

    Bring four, bring five
    Bring six children.
    You’ll get enjoyment and respect from your relatives,
    You love children

    Children are a joy
    Children are a blessing
    And you have hearts of gold
    It’s written in the Torah
    Maybe in the Gemara
    Go ask the Rabbi.

    Bring six, bring seven
    Bring eight children.
    This is no joke,
    The country needs many nice youngsters.

    Bring a dozen, why not eighteen?
    Bring twenty children.
    God will provide,
    Welfare will too
    Whatever children need.

    God is great,
    He cannot tolerate
    That one gets everything.
    So to one he pushes money, power and fun,
    And to you he gives children.

    Children are a joy…

  • Lunch Meat

    That second-to-last point is a flat-out lie. The Old Testament wasn’t written to Christians. The only people in the New Testament who are told to have babies are widows so they won’t get flighty and gossipy (1 Timothy). The only reason Christians are even told to marry, other than that, is so that they won’t sin by committing adultery. Jesus never told people to marry and have kids; in fact, he often seemed to be against biological families, telling people to leave their families and that he would turn parents against their children. Paul urged people in 1 Corinthians not to get married; he didn’t say anything about kids but I assume he would think they are worse than spouses at keeping one from serving God. Again, other than 1 Timothy, the only command Paul gives regarding kids is to raise them right and not provoke them to anger. He certainly doesn’t urge people to have more.

    • Alice

      Plus the early church and most of the New Testament writers believed that catastrophic events and the end of the world were on the horizon, so it was much more important to evangelize than to marry and start baby factories. I’ve read books by Bart Ehrman that argue Jesus believed this as well.

      • Sally

        When I first understood this, it was a huge aha moment for me, and so much stuff that made no sense to me suddenly made sense. Of course! It wasn’t just the disciples who thought Jesus was ushering in the apocalypse, Jesus thought so too. That makes the weird family stuff, and the big rush, and even one of the statements on the cross make so much more sense (My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?).

    • Michael W Busch

      And it wasn’t even Paul who wrote the letters to Timothy – they were forgeries from the early 2nd century CE.

  • Alice

    I think this is one of the main reasons conservative Christians put so much pressure on other Christians to have children:

    Churches need children to survive. A high percentage of people convert to Christianity by the time they are 13. Conversions after the age of 18 become rarer with every decade. Of course, many people leave the church in their 20′s when they start to ask hard questions and think for themselves, but some stay.

    It is common for adults who stopped attending church a long time ago to return to church once they have children. Not everyone of course, but it is common. I also know a lot of parents who did not like their particular church very much, but they kept going because the church had a wonderful child and youth program, and their kids loved it and had many friends. Pretty much everything churches do is geared toward nuclear families so they are more likely to feel comfortable than the single, divorced, or childless people will.

  • Gail

    While the having quiverfulls of kids thing didn’t happen in the evangelical environment I grew up in, the mentality of raising your kids to be Christian disciples was very prevalent. I know my parents had kids because they wanted them and not because they felt they had to for God, but I know my mother thinks her parenting failed because she’s 1 for 3 on the children still being evangelical Christians (and she doesn’t even know that two of us are atheist and agnostic; she thinks that we’re progressive Christians and that is literally the worst thing she can possibly imagine). The fact that the list implies that children are like programmable robots for Christ is probably the biggest issue I have with this list, but all of the other things suck too, frankly.

  • Deird

    There’s such a contradiction between “kids will decrease your happiness” and “kids are a blessing”. It’s like they think that “blessings” won’t necessarily have a good effect on your life – apart from the fact that you can call them blessings.

    If God is blessing us with something, that thing will have a positive effect in our lives. People in the Old Testament weren’t dealing with an abstract concept of God blessing us with children and hence deciding to have them; they thought kids were a really good thing and hence called them a blessing from God.

    The fundy mindset baffles me, it really does.

    • Sally

      And until fairly recently, children were blessings in a practical sense. You needed the hands to get the work done. You needed their support in your old age. Now in most situations, we just don’t need children for those reasons. We may want them, but we don’t need them to run a farm or tend the flocks.

      • Alice

        And until fairly recent history, a high number of children didn’t live past the toddler years, so the ones who survived were considered great blessings. This is still true in many developing countries.

  • renee

    AH, I would love to have a whole bunch of babies. But I am an atheist, so I am sure Im not encouraged even though I am married and already have 2 happy kids :)
    Imagine if atheists were going around saying “have babies for atheism”!

  • Ryan Hite

    All the wrong reasons to have a baby. Don’t be concerned with an afterlife you are not totally sure of. For all you know, this is the only life you have.

  • tesyaa

    In the right-wing Orthodox Jewish world, there is also a huge amount of social pressure to have a large number of children, even though the actual detail of the commandment to procreate means (in 2 different opinions) 1) two children no matter what sex, or 2) at least one girl and one boy. So why do people have large families of 4-12 kids or more? Social pressure.

  • AztecQueen2000

    I stopped at two deliberately. My now-estranged husband was no help. Now that we’re separated, it was definitely the right decision. I don’t think I could handle more than two children on my own.

  • Hilary

    When I read about families like this, my heart goes out to the people, men, women, and children trapped in families that are overstressed beyond their limits. One scenario in particular always comes in my head. I’ve struggled on and off for over a year with De Querviens, that’s tendonitis in my thumbs. Not carpal tunnel in my wrist, but the tendons that stabilize the base of the thumb are inflamed in both my hands. Sometimes it’s not too bad, sometimes picking up a piece of paper hurts like hell, and I can feel the tendons inflamed and pulling all the way up my fore arms. (If anybody reading this has the same problems, I can give plenty of tips to deal with it!)

    One of the risk factors for De Querviens is being a new mother. Something about the hormone changes can put a woman at risk for this, and all the holding and handling of an increasingly heavy baby can put stress on the thumb tendons. So what would happen to a woman already worn out from bearing several children, who now has a new baby even though picking up even a pen or paper is agony, and all her life she’s been told to ignore her own physical needs to ‘die to the self’ or whatever other reason it would be considered selfish for a woman insist on self-care?

    What would happen if she dropped that baby from pain, and falling it sustained permanent brain damage? Because every time I hear about these large families with women giving birth to child after child, I wonder if this has ever happened.

    • Sally

      I know in some of these families, they would consider something like this a sign from God that they should stop having babies (she had more than 6 already). I know of one case where the wife had her tubes tied for health reasons. They took some flak from some of their otherwise like-minded friends. But they felt it would be irresponsible to keep having children when there was a physical reason for the mother to stop (again, a sign from God). Now how exactly they would explain why they had to have her tubes tied rather than God just magically preventing her pregnancy I don’t know, but I was grateful they were sensible about this.

      • Sally

        “(she had more than 6 already)”
        Oops, meant to add that in to the next sentence.

  • Alice

    As if the Boundless articles aren’t bad enough, the blog comments are ten times worse. It’s a cesspool of patriarchy-worshippers, especially the comments on a recent post about missionary dating.

  • Rose

    Having babies for God is easy. Keeping adult children tied to religion is harder. I’m always intrigued by how Quiverfull stories (Above Rubies comes to mind, because that’s the one my mom reads) always focus on babies, rarely on teens or adult children.

  • kisarita

    Any reason for having children is problematic I think. That would make the child a vehicle for the adult’s gratification if the adult is too emotionally invested in having the child.

    • The_L1985

      I want to have kids so I can give them the reassurance, acceptance, and encouragement that I always felt like I was missing from my own parents. There was always this undertone of You’re Not Good Enough, and I figure if I can contribute even just one person to the world who wasn’t raised with that mindset, the world will be that little bit better.

  • Sue Blue

    Wait….I thought we were all filthy sinners worthy only of death from the instant of birth. Why make more filthy sinners?

    • onamission5

      Because god needs more kindling for his fireplace.

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