Quoting Quiverfull: Christianity Improved Women’s Lives?

Quoting

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers [Read more...]

Raised Quiverfull: Introductory Questions

by Libby Anne Welcome to Raised Quiverfull! Nine young adults who grew up in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements have come together to answer a series of questions about their experiences. All of these young adults have since questioned and left these ideologies and have chosen their own life paths. The goal of the [Read More...]

NLQ FAQ: Does Someone Always Have To Be In Charge? Part 2

NO LONGER QUIVERING FAQ: DOES SOMEONE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IN CHARGE? PART 2: HIERARCHY – ORIGINS, THE TRINITY AND MARRIAGE

by Kristen Rosser ~ aka KRwordgazer

God has ordained authority structures in every area of life.  In every enterprise someone has to be in charge– otherwise there will be anarchy and chaos. Even within the Godhead there is authority: God the Son submitted to the will of the Father. Doesn’t a solidly biblical worldview require a chain of command within the Christian family?  A family is not a democracy, after all.  In saying husbands should not be in charge of the home, aren’t you just attacking one aspect of God’s divine plan for authority?

In Part 1 we examined what the Bible actually teaches about authority, which we defined as “the power or right to command.” God in the Old Testament simply does not appear to be interested in setting up God-ordained human authority structures, but rather prefers to raise up individual, Spirit-led leaders who act in God’s authority, not as part of a top-down chain of command. And though the New Testament teaches submission to earthly institutions of human authority, its focus is on the new creation kingdom of God, in which hierarchies of human authority are eliminated in favor of equal brother-sister relationships.  In fact, though it can’t be denied that some areas of human life here on earth need some form of authority structure, there is simply no biblical justification for the concept that authority structures are ordained of God to cover every area of life, or that God has determined that there will be chaos if there isn’t “someone in charge” of every sphere of human relationship.

So where did the idea come from, that God has ordained top-down chains of command, both in earthly and in spiritual relationships, with human authority structures in every area of life?

Plato (429-347 BC) was possibly the greatest of the Greek philosophers. He conceived of the nature of reality to consist first of ideal “Forms,” and then objects/beings which were types of each ideal. Plato conceived of the Form of Absolute Good as the ultimate, universal object of human desire, and this Idea of the Good became synonymous with God in the writings of his student, Aristotle. In order to be the ultimate Good, God would, in Absolute generosity, also give existence to every other possible good thing. Aristotle then arranged all creatures into a graded scale according to how closely they approached “perfection.” The Neo-Platonists, a group of Greek philosophers in the 3rd-5th centuries AD, who expanded Plato and Aristotle’s ideas, particularly in terms of religion and spirituality, developed this notion further. Macrobius, a Neo-Platonist writing in the early fifth century AD, wrote:

“[T]he attentive observer will discover a connection of parts, from the Supreme God down to the last dregs of things, mutually linked together and without a break. And this is Homer’s golden chain, which God, he says, bade hang down from heaven to earth.” Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, Harper & Brothers (1936) p. 63.

This idea of a graded, hierarchical creation came to be known as the “Great Chain of Being.” Alan Myatt, in his paper “On the Compatibility of Ontological Equality, Hierarchy and Functional Distinctions,” writes:

“As Greek philosophical notions were appropriated by early Christian apologists in their defense of the faith, it [the idea of the Great Chain of Being] eventually became entwined with the theology of the church and set the agenda for its theory of society. . . In the Middle Ages, this concept translated into the division of society into ‘Three Estates,’ each stratified according to the Chain of Being. The first estate consisted of church officials beginning with the pope. . . The second estate included the ruling classes of kings, nobility and knights, while the peasants and merchants made up the third estate. Any violation of the established authority within each estate was seen as a threat to the creation order, and subversive to the state and to the stability of Christian culture. Any attempt to leave one’s place in the chain was therefore an act of rebellion. It is critical to note that in the family, there was a hierarchical ordering of husband, wife, children and servants. Each was subordinate to the previous due to their immutable places in the Chain of Being.”

By Elizabethan times (1500s), the Chain of Being had become “one of those accepted commonplaces, more often hinted at or taken for granted than set forth.” (Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture, Vintage Books, page 26.) The Elizabethan philosophers and theologians envisioned not just a hierarchical gradation of beings, but a “primacy” within each specific class of beings, such as “the dolphin among fishes, the eagle among birds, the lion among beasts, the emperor among men.” Ibid, p. 29-30. This conception of hierarchy among the animals is never hinted at in the biblical creation story— but it became part of Christian/Western thought through the infusion of pagan philosophy. Even now we still think of the lion as “the king of beasts.”

Another “commonplace” assumption of Elizabethan times was that “the order in the state duplicates the order of the macrocosm.” Ibid, p. 88. The Homily of Obedience written in 1547 stated,

“In the earth God has assigned kings, princes with other governors under them, all in good and necessary order. The water above is kept and raineth down in due time and season. The sun, moon, stars, rainbow, thunder, lightening, clouds, and all birds of the air do keep their order.” Ibid, p. 88.

Thus, building upon Greek pagan thought, the idea of a hierarchical order of authority in every strata of human relations, based upon the order of creation, became infused with Christianity to the point where no one even thought to question it. This legacy became part of our Western conception of the universe, which still exists today. Alan Myatt notes that a hierarchical understanding of the universe is the tendency in eastern systems of thought as well, “so universal in human society that it could be said to be the default mode of human existence.” He adds that in our churches today, “Traditional hierarchical biblical interpretation has been filtered through the lens of a cultural vision of human relations compromised by a pagan worldview [which] effectively blinded it to the egalitarian implications of the biblical text.” In other words, hierarchical thinking is so natural for humans, and so much a part of our Western mentality, that we have been reading it back into the biblical texts ever since the end of the Age of the Apostles.

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The Myth of the Weaker Vessel

by Eric Pazdziora

In response to a popular pastor’s perplexing pronouncement that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel,” Rachel Held Evans asked Christian men to write a blog post “that celebrates the importance of women in the Church.” Here’s mine.

Lately, both from online creepers and respectable preachers, I’ve seen several comments that come back to one idea: Of course we give lip service to the idea that women are equal to men, but actually they’re inferior, because the Bible says that a woman is a “weaker vessel.” Here’s a composite portrait, based very closely on wording I’ve seen in various places:

There is a difference between men and women, regardless of what you would like to believe. The Bible makes this clear: 1 Peter 3:7– “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the weaker vessel.” Either this passage is true and women are “weaker vessels,” or it’s not. If it’s not, why believe any of the Bible? God says that because women are weaker, they are more vulnerable to deception and temptation. There are lots of things they don’t know or can’t deal with. That’s why God has raised up men to be the godly authorities they need to guard their hearts and spirits…..

I find that rather unsettling. Continually dwelling on how someone is weak and vulnerable and in need of help is disturbingly similar to what’s called “learned helplessness” (or sometimes “gaslighting” after the Ingrid Bergman film). In its worst forms, it’s a technique of psychological abuse. It works with a chilling simplicity: the more a feeling of helplessness is reinforced on you, the more likely you are to believe it. If every time you go to pick up a bag I say, “Let me get that for you; you’re too weak,” eventually you’ll start to say, “You’ll have to get that for me; I’m too weak.” Even if you’re not.

So it’s no surprise that this Bible verse about the “weaker vessel” is a favorite weapon in the arsenal of religious people who want to dominate and control women (see The Bondage of Betrothal.) Even when people don’t intend to put women down, though, it can have much the same effect. If you say “Women are inferior” with the very best of intentions and disclaimers, you’re still saying it. Learned helplessness works in either case. Some of the most belittling statements in the example above were taken straight from a blog post written by a young woman. It’s bad enough when misogynists belittle women; it’s distressing when women do it for them.

Belittling someone is not a good way to celebrate them. The way it’s presented there, though, it looks like we have to embrace some form of sexism or else throw out the entire Bible. As a Christian, I don’t especially like either option. So here’s the question: Does the Bible really say that all women are “weaker vessels”?

Well… it does use the phrase “weaker vessels.” But to quote the philosopher Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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Steadfast Daughters in a Quivering World ~ Part 4: Acknowledgement & Apologies

[Note: this series is dedicated to Quivering Daughters by the former-Quiverfull moms at No Longer Quivering.]
In this part of our series, the ex-QF moms of NLQ are speaking directly to our own Quivering Daughters ~ though we’ve already said our apologies in person, we want to acknowledge the abuse we inflicted on our children publicly for their sake, though we’re doing it anonymously out of respect for their privacy.

Trigger warning: As painful it has been for us to write these confessions down ~ it may be even tougher for the Quivering Daughters who were on the receiving end of our neglect and abuse to read.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

My children were everything to me. I remember the feelings I had when I gave birth to my first child, emotions that surprised me with their ferocity. I’d spent my entire life focusing on me, more than anyone else, and yet now, after a few hours of the most horrible pain I’d ever experienced in my entire life (so much for the pain-free birthing books I’d read and committed to memory), this bloody squalling thing suddenly became the Most Important Thing On Earth.

I looked in shock at my husband, holding that baby that, up until then, I’d never even seen with my physical eyes, and, my gaze wide with amazement at the power of the raw protective urge coursing through my body, said, “I’d do anything for her. I don’t care if it is a Mack Truck on the highway—I’d willingly let it run over me if it would save her life.”

I was absolutely, totally and emphatically in love.

So when a woman from church gave me an innocent looking white book with an Amish-style family on the front cover, telling me it was the best book on raising children she’d ever read, I was interested. Two pages into it, I was hooked. Here was a man telling me that there was a sure-fire way that I could raise my child and guarantee that she would grow up to love and serve the Lord. As a devout evangelical conservative Christian, there was nothing more important to me than that. As bad as a Mack Truck accident might be, there was no “accident” or situation worse than the thought of my child not growing up to follow Christ—because that would mean an entire eternity of Hell. A Mack Truck can’t begin to compare.

So with my mother-love highly aroused and my fears fully engaged, I read, page by page, all about the way to ensure that your children are properly trained so that they will grow up to love and serve God.

If I could sum up the message that this book spoke to a young mother who deeply loved her baby, it was this:

“Momma, your baby is a sinner. He/she will try to manipulate you. Things like a child not liking a diaper change and squirming to be free are an example of a sinful will attempting to dominate you. You may think this is a little thing, but it’s huge. Why? Because if you let the child dominate you, the child will win. If the child wins, the child will learn that rebellion pays. The child will then grow up to probably reject God and go to Hell, because a rebellious heart will not want to follow God. So, Momma, never ever let your child win. Your child’s exertion of will [which includes anything you deem unacceptable---grumpiness, for example] is an act of war, and parenting is about the parent winning any and all battles of wills.”

I loved my baby. How grateful, absolutely grateful I felt, that someone was there to show me the way. Now, at last, there was hope! My baby would get the joy of growing up in a home where things were done right. She wouldn’t have to go through the things I went through! No, she was going to have a godly home where she would be trained properly, and she would grow up happy and obedient and full of love towards God. It was so exciting.

So exciting that I bought ten of those books and passed them out to my friends so that they could all join in the delight of knowing we could raise our children in a way that would ensure both their happiness now and their eternal future in Heaven.

I didn’t know. If I could go back now and re-do the way I parented that little baby, I would. Out of all the things in my life that I deeply regret, that is the most painful, the most difficult, the most horrific set of memories to revisit. Because the thing is, I love my children no less now than I did then. It’s still a ferocious mother-bear kind of love. It’s still so powerful it is palpable.

But seeing your children as enemies in a war creates a fundamental crack in the parent-child relationship. Even if there is the most powerful love in the universe on the other side of the crack, the divide is still there…including the distortion of communication it causes. I entered into a performance-based parenting model out of love for my child. But that model does not feed love, or nurture love, or engage love.
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