by Vyckie Garrison – Originally posted at secularwoman.org
Fifth article in Secular Woman’s Women’s History Month Series.
by Vyckie Garrison, No Longer Quivering
Life without choices is simple. As a young woman, when faced with what seemed to me to be an overwhelming question: What am I going to do with my life? — although I knew that the possibilities were practically unlimited, I made the choice to narrow my options by devoting my life to Jesus as an evangelical Christian. Why? Because it was the simple thing to do. Notice I didn’t say it was easy. In fact, my 25+ years as a fundamentalist Christian woman were exceedingly demanding and I paid a high price for my “free gift” of eternal life. That “gift” cost me everything.
From the moment I accepted the bible’s claim of ultimate authority over my life, the big question changed from, “What am I going to do with my life?” to “What is the Lord’s will for me?” The answer was simple: die to self – serve others, submit to God’s chosen authorities, procreate, build His Kingdom, spread the Good News. The most beloved verse for evangelical Christians, John 3:16, tells us that God so loved the world that He gave … and I was convinced that true love, God-like love, was by definition, martyrdom. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend … just like Jesus did … just as I must do. The longer I remained in the “biblical family values” headspace, the more regimented and regulated my choices became. I learned to loathe everything that feminism stands for: equality, choice, self-governance; I was convinced that such values were the embodiment of narcissistic selfishness.
I threw myself wholeheartedly into living out what I believed was my all-wise, all-loving Creator’s perfect will for women, patriarchy with a capital P. I may not have liked the subjugation and subservience, but considering that in the biblical paradigm the phrase “choose life” means take your pick: obey and receive everlasting life, or go your own way and suffer eternal separation from God … what choice did I have, really? I equated love with self-sacrifice, so it made sense to be submissive, to risk my life in childbearing, to home school, home birth, home church, work from home. I joke now about how I was a “home-ier-than-thou” Christian, but, at the time, I simply obeyed, chapter and verse, what I found in the bible regarding godly roles for women.
The more I searched the scriptures, the more convinced I became that feminism – particularly the “freedom to choose” – was the root cause of every societal evil in modern times. I studied “pro-life” literature and I rejected all forms of birth control even though I knew that with my health history, pregnancy was actually a life-threatening condition for me. I started a local “pro-family” newspaper and wrote for Christian magazines in the hope that my “testimony” of how God kept me alive – through several high-risk deliveries that nearly killed me and my babies – would give other women the courage to swim against the rising tide of “women’s rights” and “empowerment.” I decried the “tyranny of choice.” My message was simple: Throw away the Pill! To save your life, you must lose it. (I borrowed that line from Jesus.)
I thought I had it all figured out. As True Believers™ are apt to claim, God said it, that settles it!
By the time the reality of my abdication of choice caught up with me, I had seven children – five of them girls – and none of them flourishing due to the ignorance, isolation, negligence, dysfunction and outright abuse of my fundamentalist belief system. As hard as I had tried to deny my own self-determination, I could not escape my personal responsibility when faced with the obvious toll the imposition of absolute, non-negotiable gender roles was taking on my kids.
When I finally understood how wrong I had been about everything, I found myself back at square one, facing the big question: What am I going to do with my life? Only this time, the possibilities did not seem overwhelming – instead, I got excited for myself and for my children. I realized that, despite all my protests to the contrary, I had been making choices all along, and I was deciding to let “the will of God”, or, as most people know it, life, happen to me at random.
It’s common to hear women who self-identify as “pro-life” say something like this, “Yes, it is my body, but it’s not up to me to decide whether an eternal being will come into existence – that is God’s prerogative alone – it’s not my place to play God.”
And by “play God” they mean: evaluate, judge, determine … in other words, Choose.
Passivity is a choice. Choosing not to choose is simple, but the relinquishment of power does not mitigate the harsh and inescapable consequences of indecision. Now that I am taking ownership of my life, I am finding that although most decisions are complicated and some are even painful, having many options – rather than being limited by religious tradition and hierarchical authority – ensures that I have real choices which I will never again surrender for the semblance of simplicity.
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Vyckie Garrison started No Longer Quivering to tell the story of her “escape” from the Quiverfull movement. Over time, NLQ has developed into a valuable resource of information regarding the deceptions and dangers of the Quiverfull philosophy and lifestyle. Several more former QF adherents are now contributing their stories to NLQ and our collective voice makes these Quiverfull warnings impossible to dismiss or ignore.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce