It's about SUPERIORITY March 17, 2009


by Vyckie


(Hey, Berea & Chassé ~ don’t kill me for posting this picture, okay? LOL!)

Now, I never would have admitted this before ~ not to myself and certainly not to the general public ~ but the really big draw of the whole Quiverfull/patriarchy movement was the hope of living such an exemplary life that my husband and my children would one day rise up and call me “Blessed” ~ and that in The End, the Lord Jesus himself would say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I wanted to be the very best Christian that I could possibly be.

A popular topic of conversation in our home went like this: “Are we better than all the people who don’t live the way we do?” Referring, of course to those “Christians” (yes ~ we used the quotations to show that we weren’t convinced these people were actually saved) who send their kids to public school, let them watch television and sleep over at other kids’ houses, they even use the church nursery, send the older ones to Sunday School and Awanas and do the whole “boyfriend/girlfriend thing” ~ the ones who didn’t understand how dating is actually divorce practice ~ those “nominal” Christians who felt that they could barely handle the 1.8 children they already had and couldn’t imagine having more ~ the ones who went out at the first sign of inconvenience or discomfort and got a vasectomy or tubal ligation.

“Of course, not!” came the standard reply. “God shows different light to different people at different times. Just because the other families at church don’t understand this part of God’s will the way we do, doesn’t mean that He isn’t still using them.”

Ugh ~ I’m making myself ill.

I have a bunch of stuff that I’ve got to get done today ~ too much got neglected around here while we were all down with the crud. So ~ maybe I’ll get back to this post later. Maybe not. It’s disgusting the way we used to believe that we had a fuller understanding of God’s perfect plan for families and (all glory goes to Him), our family was being “salt & light” to the rest of our church and community. Oh the pressure! Oh the pride! Yikes.

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  • aimai

    Vyckie,You’ve put your finger on something really odd about the whole christian “we’re all sinners” shtick. I’ve been lurking, for a while, at the blog of a lovely woman who homeschools, submits to her husband, keeps an “open womb” and is on her eighth child. Its pretty clear from reading her posts that she is a really nice person with some big, big, big issues with non christians and with the other christians in her community none of whom she can value for themselves or respect for the choices and decisions they make. She spends half her time propping up her own ego and worrying (rightly) about her work load, anxiety, and depression and the rest complaining about all those other christians at her church who don’t submit to her dictates and her version of g-d. Every day as I drive my children to school I drive past a couple of baptist churches and for years I’ve been stunned at the anger and hostility their signs broadcast to the world. I’ve come to call them the “punch in the eye” church. You know the kind–“Jesus loves me, but not you” and “you all are going to hell!” sort of messages. One person who has detangled himself from this web of anger and fear of other christians and, ultimately, of the angry god is the Preacher Carlton Pearson. Have you heard this incredible interview at NPR about how he went from having a multi thousand person evangelical church to losing it all because he stopped believing in hell and stopped believing in a punitive g-d? One of the things he laughs about in the interview is that when he was an evangelist who believed in hell he was forced to witness to everyone around him and it really pissed people off as well as fed his own ego in unhealthy ways. Once he decided that g-d was love and that everyone would be saved he could relax and just try to be with people, and respect their choices and their lives without always having to be the teacher and corrector. Here’s a link to the podcast and a brief transcript.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Vyckie,I read your story on Salon.So many women live in misery and pass that misery on to others because they truly believe that their predestined lot in life is to be downtrodden. You have so much courage to have left the Quiverfull community, to have overcome internal struggles, and to be forging a better life for your children. My own mom took me and ran from my abusive father, and what we went through was hard, but it was nothing like your experience. We both really admire you!Also, even if you’re not a Christian anymore, remember that Jesus Christ destroyed the marketplace, and that Moses led his people out of slavery. By sharing your story, you’re showing other women, whatever the flavor of patriarchal oppression they labor under, the way out. You are truly doing God’s work (whom I refuse to believe is a misogynist monster like so many professed Christians!)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve met my share of “super-spiritual” Christians who thought because they had a certain gifting, a certain lifestyle, or a certain doctrinal slant, then they were better than others. I’ve been there myself. Truth is, we’re all in need, we’re all spiritually poor. Seeing ourselves as we truly are: fallible, limited, and weak, is humbling. Our sufficiency is not in ourselves or our own beliefs, it is in Christ.

  • Blue of Central Iowa

    Three more sources of truth and wisdom, ah, read that, … reason, rationality and balance! – her blog = all of lawyer – liz’s knowledge for comments re perfectly perfect mamas losing custody of and all Constitutional (- ha! re DEhumans’ Constitutionality of anything! [‘member: which gender wrote the Constitution? which gender wrote the Amendments — incl (today’s) pornography’s FREEEE (instead of its actual HATE) speech First One …]) rights to the human beings whom they alone chose to grow into … children.Blue of central Iowa

  • Bill

    My heart goes out to you, and to all women who have been abused by my sex. As regards the religious side of it, my own view is that Christianity — not Jesus, but Christianity — is perhaps the greatest catastrophe to befall humankind.Best wishes to you all.

  • Anonymous

    Regarding the topic of this post, I think there’s a name for it. It’s calledPharisee. It’s the great hidden sin, but it’s not actually hidden. The parable of the sheep and the goats is pretty telling. Looots of people claiming they were righteous because of this, that, and the other, but when it really came down to it, the only ones out of that whole bunch that “knew Him” were the ones who did very simple things that showed they cared about the weak, the poor, the unwanted. All the rest were goats—and were shocked at His refusal to accept them, because, hey, they’d been using His name all during their stay on earth! They’d thought that knowing the “right” doctrine or doing the “right” things (ie, voting Republican, etc) made them His. Turns out, that all had nothing to do with Him. The ones who actually “knew Him” cared about what He cares about: the poor, the have-nots, the ones that no one else thinks about. They cared about seeing justice, about keeping the weak from oppressors… Which means only one thing…and that is that Jesus is NOT a proponent of the “Biblical Family” movement. Love is the bottom line. And the patriarchal QF we’re-better-because-we-homeschool/headcover/longskirts/KJV-only/WHATEVER is not of Love. It’s all about the Pharisee way of life: perform, perform, perform. (I remember when I first cut my long hair…I came home and lost the contents of my stomach. Even after a year of being out of the “camp,” I was so indoctrinated that I was literally afraid of hellfire because I’d cut off my long locks!)…It’s sick. It’s so sick. It’s all done in the name of Christ but it has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with what He said or what He did. Just because they use His name to do it doesn’t mean He’s a part of it. (I think the only thing He’s truly a part of is helping the prisoners of this ridiculous brain-killing life-sucking system get FREE). I have so much more I’d love to say, but who’s got the time. Loving this blog. Thank you. Keep it up. Love,Former QF/Homeschooling/dress-wearing woman who got out and lived to tell about it…

  • Anonymous

    I was horrified that you posted that picture!!!

  • Anonymous

    I’m male and I found your article from Salon. I’m recovering from a semi-strict religious upbringing myself. (Still christian, though.) I was (Thank God) not involved in the Quiverfull movement (Though, sadly, I know some who are), and, strict in certain aspects as the church I went to was, it did recognize that women were not forbidden from working outside the home (and were even encouraged to in Proverbs 31, as someone mentioned earlier), and that, even with the religiously enforced inequality they taught, they gave women an equal position in certain religious aspects (prayer and salvation) and in matters pertaining to sex. (A bit nervous mentioning that.)Thank you for your example- not just to women, but to all of us trying to get out from an overbearing religious stricture.And, yes, not all men are suited to lead. After my experiences and my knowledge of myself, I’m not sure if I could be trusted to lead in a family relationship.

  • Vyckie

    I knew you would be, Berea ~ LOL! Do you want me to post a recent pic so everyone can see how totally cute you really are? Sorry about those horrible skirts ~ I’m rather mortified that I used to dress that way too. Hey ~ at least I never sewed you one of those modest swimsuits, huh?

  • Grimalkin

    What a great blog and thank you both so much for sharing your stories. I sincerely hope that even just one woman finds this blog and is spared this kind of religion-backed abuse.You have both been incredibly brave and I have no doubts that you were both fantastic mothers struggling under exceedingly difficult conditions.

  • Antonio

    Former Catholic here (turned deist last Xmas). I read about your story on Salon, and thought it’d be best to let you guys know you have my sympathy and utmost respect. It takes a pair of brass ones to stand up to religious fundamentalism, especially if it’s within a community you’ve belonged to for so many years. Quite frankly, you guys have shown way more guts than a lot of so-called religious leaders I have met on my lifetime.Once again, I wish you well.

  • Anonymous

    I remember those horrible swimsuits promoted by the patriarchalists. A woman would likely drown in them before she could swim. I guess swimming and many sports would allow the women to really enjoy life too much. 🙁 As an avid scuba diver, I had some really strange dreams imagining a woman scuba diving in them. LOL

  • Kristin

    It’s been fascinating to read all of this. I completely recognize the Quiverfull uniforms! I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and we had family friends involved in Quiverfull who tried to make me a “project” for a while. So, I know all about those…awful skirts. And, ZOMG, I hope I never see a denim jumper again. I’m curious about where this turns out. I suspect there will be other posts, but… So, you say that you’re not a Christian anymore, but you’re still involved in an evangelical church? (Salvation Army?) Did you stop situating your politics on the far right, and do you still stand by your previous racism (as articulated in the post below that you wrote in the ’80’s and the idea that cross-dressing is “perversion”? Also, how long ago did you leave the movement? In many ways, it all sounds very fresh. Finally, just wanting to note… As a result to my mere *exposure* to this ideology in some of my formative years (and wresting through it in early adulthood) only to later come to terms with my identity as a queer woman–and, heh, a leftwing theorist (not even a “liberal,” man, but a “lefitst.” :)). The experiences sound very fresh to you, and, seriously? My experiences (though much more short lived) seem very fresh to me. There’s something about the thought policing that goes on among these people that just…permeates your soul, in a way. It made me feel extremely paranoid and afraid all the time. And the injustice that grated most on my fourteen year old self was that *men got to wear normal clothes* and women had to don…stuff like what is pictured above. Not only that, but you couldn’t swim freely in the swimming pool. You had to be worried about being covered enough, and some people didn’t even agree with the idea of “mixed swimming” in the same pool, and jesus god, there was *so much* to keep track of. And, honestly…? Doing a scriptural study to find out, say, God’s take on “women and headcoverings” is kind of…a waste of time. Argh.Anyway, so final question (Sorry this is all a bit random)… I’m wondering about your take on racism within the movement? My understanding is that it is a pre-dominantly white phenomenon–and that it’s often under-girded by ideologies of white supremacy (i.e., not just endlessly giving birth to children to further God’s kingdom, but endlessly giving birth to *white* children to maintain racial dominance.). While I am would be surprised if this were ever said out loud, I’ve seen it alluded to in various…Quiverfull contexts. What’s your take on it?

  • Charis

    For me, it was about fear. I was so afraid that my children would be hurt by all the “bad things out there”. I had been raised in an alcoholic home and sexually abused in childhood, and I was afraid of anything bad happening to them, so the homeschooling seemed like a way to protect them, and I thought that practicing QF was a way to be obedient to God so I could earn His favor. To be totally honest: deep down inside, though I was not really in touch with this at the time, I was afraid of God. I thought he was pretty mean and abusive- like my earthly father was- so I better toe the line and do what He said, OR ELSE…I have come out of agreement with the lies. God ever so gently and patiently demonstrated to me that HE LOVES ME! He is NOT abusive; His Love does not depend upon my “performance”.

  • Tiffany

    I grew up immersed in Protestant Christianity until I lost my faith in my early twenties. Our family generally attended Anglican churches where we would kneel, stand, chant the prayer etc but despite what seemed like a high church manner, these churches always had a kind of evangelical fervor to them. I remember as a child in the 1970s that several of the Anglican families we were friends with had exceptionally large numbers of children – something like ten or eleven. Later I was told that these families did not believe in birth control and had made a decision to let God control the number of their children, just as you have described. However, they dressed like all the rest of us and mixed with the rest of us “other Anglicans”. Some of their children have gone on seemingly to practice the same principle of having limitless offspring.I also have never heard the term “Quiverfull”. When did this term start to be used? Has the concept of keeping an open womb been around in Protestant circles a lot longer than the “Quiverfull” terminology?

  • Jadehawk

    slightly off-topic, but I had to giggle when I read the “dating is practice for divorce” part!Dating is such a very American thing, and some of us (i.e. Europeans who moved to the U.S. and were blindsided by the whole “dating” thing) always thought of it as “having relationship try-outs” :-p

  • Anonymous

    When I was first married at 20 I thought if I kept a perfect house, decorated, made perfect meals, gave parties, worked at church that I would have a perfect family and please God. Finally came to realize I was just driving myself and everyone around me crazy and God really does not care about the place setting or if the bottom of the muffin is burnt. He cares about people. Since then we have had over 60 people in our mess for long and short term shelter. They have blessed us, I hope we helped them. I am glad I have lightened up, I would have missed every holiday locked in the kitchen.

  • Anonymous

    This post reminds me of an episode of The Waltons that I saw. Not because they had more than three kids, but because it was about pride. Erin, the very pretty daughter (the middle one) along with the rest of the family suffers when the family home nearly burns to the ground. I forget exactly how but she decides it was her fault and instantly changes to a plain Jane. She is constantly talking about being plain, and how to be more plain, and how being plain is pleasing to God and on and on and on. She advises th others to change also. Finaly her mom calls her on it, being so plain is getting her a lot of attention. By being so pious and plain she was more obvious and puffed up than ever before and really prideful about it. I wonder if their is really a component of that in this movement and many other religious movements, look at me I am godly. I wonder if Vykie or Laura could comment on this. I think this is parto of human nature.

  • Anonymous

    Charis,that second paragraph resonates with me, painfully. I’m still struggling with it. Dh said a few days ago that “God would protect us”, to which I answered “God is only interested in his glory. If protecting us will give him glory, he will. Otherwise, he won’t”. That sums up how I feel about God these days. It’s good that I’m facing it, and able to say it how it is, but it’s scary.Last anonymous:Absolutely! A lot of it is about pride, and competition, and let’s see who can have more children, live on a tighter budget, do more stuff from scratch, try out more homeschooling curriculums, wear longer skirts, be more “submissive”….It’s as pointless as a rat’s race on a wheel.

  • Phil

    Last anonymous: RE: G-d will protect us only if it will give him glory.Reminds me of a joke. A pious man sits on his porch swing in a pouring rain before a hurricane. A bus rolls up and the driver yells, “Grab what you can and get on the bus! There’s a flood coming!” The pious man replies, “I’m not worried. G-d will take care of me.”A few hours later, the water is up over the porch and a Humvee rolls up through the rising water. A soldier yells, “Hey! Come with me! The water’s rising!” The pious man replies, “I’m not worried. G-d will take care of me.”A few hours later the water is up over the first story of the man’s house. He’s on the second floor. A boat motors up to his window and a man yells, “Get in the boat if you want to live!” The pious man replies, “I’m not worried. G-d will take care of me.”A few hours later the water is up over the house and the man is up on his chimney. A helicopter hovers overhead and drops a ladder. The man yells back, “Go away! G-d will take care of me!”The man drowns. When he stands before G-d, he asks why G-d didn’t take care of him to which G-d replies, “What? I send you a bus, a humvee, a boat and a helicopter and you think I wasn’t looking out for you?”

  • Becky

    I had to laugh. For me, the skirts aren’t so horrible…it’s the shawls! They look straight out of the hippie era (to me).Actually, the shorter blue skirt looks like it would be currently in style. I was just in the states and saw several just like them for sale in the stores (and not the thrift stores). My daughters asked me to find them some “fun/flirty” skirts (not serious/ straight, khaki ones). I actually bought a couple of ones similar (but not as long as the one on the left…)