Patrick Henry College: Claims to be Anti-Quiverfull, Invites Quiverfull Speaker

Patrick Henry College released a statement after the New Republic article on its mishandling of sexual assault cases (which I wrote about here). To my knowledge, this statement was released only to alumni and students, though it may have also been released more generally. You can read it here. The statement was read aloud during morning chapel, and was met with applause. What I found most interesting about this response, in line with what I discussed last week, was this bit:

Some readers have wondered if the overall aim of the article is to associate PHC with a set of anti-women attitudes that we do not hold, and to insinuate that we are connected with outside movements that we positively reject (like the “Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy Movement”). This philosophy, incorrectly attributed in the article to Dr. Michael Farris, Chancellor, espouses that college is inappropriate for Christians in general, and especially women. As his own life at PHC and with his own children reflect, Chancellor Farris has never agreed with such an offensive philosophy.

As I have noted, this is a really strange definition of quiverfull (you can read how I have defined quiverfull in this blog post from several years ago). Quiverfull only means being convicted by God to give up birth control and and let God control your fertility. It is generally accompanied by the belief that children are always a blessing from God and a conviction of the importance of raising up a new generation dedicated to God. Whether they use the term or not, Farris and his wife Vickie are in fact quiverfull. They have never been shy about their conviction to reject birth control, their belief that children are always a blessing from God, or their conviction of the importance of raising up a new generation dedicated to God.

This idea that if you believe women should attend college you’re not quiverfull or patriarchal is simply bizarre. I know plenty of quiverfull families who also sent their daughters to college. Also, sending your daughter to college doesn’t mean you’re not patriarchal. I know this one from first hand experience here! And as for Farris, he believes wives should obey their husbands absolutely, and that daughters should be raised with the understanding that they should be full time mothers when they grow up. This idea that if you believe women should attend college you’re not quiverfull or patriarchal strikes me as Farris’s blatant attempt to define himself out of a term that has fallen into disrepute.

But I don’t really want to rehash that. What I want to focus on is Patrick Henry College’s open rejection of quiverfull and patriarchy ideology (or at least, open to alumni and current students). The reason I want to focus on it is that it rings more than a little bit hollow in the light of this semester’s Faith & Reason lecture. The semiannual Faith & Reason lectures are designed to showcase quality Christian thought and stimulate students’ intellectual thought. Last semester Stephen Baskerville spoke. This semester’s lecture, which occurred four days after the New Republic lecture and three days after the college’s response, was given by Allan Carlson.

Carlson’s lecture was titled the The Marriage Crisis in America: Historical Roots. Just what did Carlson say were the roots of the marriage crisis? The legalization and cultural acceptance of birth control. Yes, that’s right.

This is the Allan Carlson who makes his living preaching the evils of birth control and openly praising and endorsing quiverfull by name. Carlson was featured as an expert on the subject in The Birth Control Movie, a two-part virulent anti—birth control documentary promoted by the now defunct Vision Forum.

In The Birth Control Movie, Carlson appeared alongside Kevin Swanson, Geoffrey Botkin, Doug Wilson, and R. C. Sproul Jr. In other words, Carlson is deep into the most extreme wings of the quiverfull movement and has close ties and a warm relationship with individuals who would self identify as part of the “Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy Movement,” men like Kevin Swanson and Doug Phillips. The Allan Carlson who rejects the notion of marital rape, and wants to see that part of the law scrubbed. Yes, that Allan Carlson.

I have heard that there was quite the row during the Q&A section of Carlson’s Faith & Reason lecture. It seems that Carlson’s statements were so extreme that some of the students and even a few of the faculty openly called him out. What I want to know is why a university that supposedly so categorically rejects the quiverfull ideology would invite Carlson to speak, as a representative of sound Christian thought, in the first place. The Faith & Reason lecture is not designed to bring in diverse viewpoints so that students can hear divergent or contrary perspectives but rather to showcase the best in Christian thought.

If Michael Farris and the administration of Patrick Henry College have decided to reject the ideology of quiverfull and patriarchy, I applaud them. But—and this is a big but—actions speak louder than words.

About Libby Anne

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


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