The reason I am telling my story now (as opposed to 10 years from now when my kids are grown up and I actually have time to write), is because I came across this article on Alternet and read with interest about the people and the teachings which our family had followed for many years. I was kind of amazed that someone on that liberal news site knew about this movement ~ so I posted a comment on the article ~ and that’s how I got in touch with Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.
I pre-ordered the book and as I read it, I kept saying aloud, “I know these people!” All the names were familiar to me ~ Nancy Campbell, Mary Pride, Doug Phillips, Phil Lancaster, R.C. Sproul Jr., Debi Pearl, Anna Sophia Botkins, Jennie Chancey … “Wow,” I thought, “she even interviewed Charles Provan!” I used to own nearly every book mentioned in Quiverfull ~ and, yes ~ I read them all … starting with The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality, the book which really started the current patriarchy movement that’s becoming so popular among homeschoolers. Isn’t it interesting that it has mostly been the WOMEN who are writing these books, teaching seminars, and leading other women into this life of subordination?
I really want to just encourage everyone who has been touched by the Quiverfull philosophy in any way to read this book. I wish I could quote the whole thing for you ~ and then sit back and read the comments which would sound something like, “OMFG!” and “Is this stuff for real? ~ People actually believe this and live this way?!!” Yes ~ it’s true. The thing is, those of us who followed (and are still following) the Quiverfull / patriarchal lifestyle got into it gradually ~ just a little at a time. For us, it started with homeschooling which seemed pretty radical at the time. It was at our state’s annual home school conference that I was introduced to some of the movement’s books ~ mostly through Vision Forum, a supplier of Classical Education curriculum.
I started out with Nancy Campbell’s “lovely” vision for godly wives and mothers … discovered Phil Lancaster’s Patriarch magazine which spread the idea to the men … then found S.M. Davis’s “Solve Family Problems” series in which the dynamic and often vehement (my kids said he just yelled a lot) preacher set us straight about what constitutes a truly godly family ~ and what dedicated Christian wouldn’t want to do whatever the Lord requires to please Him and to be a “blameless” example of righteous living to our friends, family and community?
Now I will admit that when Debi Pearl came out with her book, Created to Be His Help Meet ~ even I couldn’t stomach it. I guess there must have been some residual lesson I’d learned after trying to follow the bible study ladies’ advice about how to be a perfect, godly wife in order to win my abusive, unfaithful first husband to the Lord ~ but I just couldn’t support Pearl’s book wholeheartedly the way I had Campbell’s God’s Vision for Families or Pride’s All The Way Home: Power for Your Family To Be Its Best. I remember one Sunday morning when Laura brought Created to Be His Help Meet to our home church and was raving about what an awesome book it was and how she was putting Debi Pearl’s ideas into practice and could already see a change in the way Dale was treating her. Ugh. Poor Laura!
To me, the most startling part of Joyce’s book Quiverfull, is the section towards the back entitled “Daughters.” Actually, I am ashamed to admit that I used to look at Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkins with awe and envy ~ why couldn’t my girls comprehend these Visionary Daughters’ inspiring insight on godly femininity? I actually bought So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God for Angel’s birthday and sent it to her in Nashville in the hopes that she would finally understand how much simpler her life would be if only she could “get” the idea that the only way to true liberation and peace is to follow her father and submit herself to his authority.
When I talked to Kathryn Joyce over the phone as she was interviewing me for an article on Salon.com, I told her I found it very affirming that for most of the book, she simply sticks to quoting the movement leaders ~ often with no commentary at all. “What that said to me,” I explained, “is that to those who aren’t steeped in this particular worldview, the craziness of it all is self-evident. There’s no need to say, ‘This is total crap!’ because anyone who isn’t already convinced can clearly see that it’s truly insane to try and live this way.”
Something else I really appreciate about this book ~ Quiverfull puts the whole movement on display all at once. The reason this is important is that for most families, getting into this lifestyle is a step-by-step process ~ a progression from “peculiar” to seriously bizarre which takes place incrementally over a period of many years.
If a family home educates their children in order to spare them from the humanistic curriculum in the public school ~ they’ll soon pick up on the extra-biblical, humanistic teachings which have filtered into the church as well. And if that family recognizes the spiritual danger of allowing their kids to spend a lot of time in the company of public school peers, it’s a small step to keeping the family together for church worship rather than sending the children to the age-segregated Sunday School program. Once a couple comprehends that children are precious in God’s sight from the moment of conception ~ how could they possibly expect to witness to the pro-life message with any semblance of credibility when they ~ by their use of birth control ~ have accepted the “abortion mentality” ~ that babies are only a blessing when they fit into their parents’ lifestyle conveniently? And once they’ve eschewed birth control and the babies start coming in rapid succession ~ Michael Pearl’s child training advice is going to be a life-saver. This is just a very brief example of how it all fits together into a comprehensive worldview which makes absolutely perfect sense to the family who started out simply looking for a supportive community of like-minded Believers which would uphold their family’s biblical values in the eyes of their children.
Twenty years ago, if I would have read Quiverfull, I believe seeing the big picture of where we were headed would have shocked us enough to cause me to take a good, hard look ~ no doubt, I’d have gone elsewhere in my search for solutions to the everyday problems of family life. No way could you interest me in a harsh, demanding lifestyle of lots of babies (well, you still maybe could have convinced me of that part, since I do love babies), home schooling, home birth, home business, home church, no children’s programs, no teenagers (Quiverfullers do not have teenagers ~ that’s for another post), no dating, parents choosing their children’s spouses, husband making all the decisions and wife not daring to make the slightest commitment without first obtaining her husband’s approval, no TV, only G- and some PG-rated movies, and absolutely NO Harry Potter.
Taken as a whole ~ there really is no appeal to the Quiverfull / patriarchy lifestyle ~ no matter how “biblical” it is and how “godly” a family might become by following those God-ordained family roles. It is my contention that this way of living is a package deal. Once a family takes that first step ~ if they’re living it logically and consistently ~ they’ll eventually find themselves living out pretty much the whole program ~ the “Vision” which, in its entirety ~ as clearly depicted in Quiverfull ~ turns out, in practicality, to be a very real, living nightmare.