Civility Pledge: Creating a Safe Environment for Constructive and Healing Conversation

Civility Pledge: Creating a Safe Environment for Constructive and Healing Conversation February 17, 2013

by Vyckie Garrison

When it comes to a discussion of the inherently pernicious elements of the Quiverfull ideal, such as patriarchy, fundamentalism, bible “literalism,” Dominionism, etc., which result in the spiritual abuse of Christian women and their families, it is too easy to be sarcastic, condescending, harsh, dismissive, or just plain rude.

The longer I have been out of the movement, the less respect I have for the leadership – men and women whom I previously admired and believed to be godly role-models. Now that I have met countless walkaways who are sharing their stories of the blatant exploitation of a their genuine desire to know God and to be right with their Maker – I often feel angry, and sometimes bitter – which leads me to use more cuss words than are actually necessary to call attention to this issue of spiritual abuse.

Such snark, of course, is not actually helpful – so we do our best here at NLQ to check our tone and watch our language. When we started our daily “Quoting Quiverfull” feature, we made a deliberate decision to simply share the quotes and open it up for comments and discussion. Knowing that these quotes are incredibly outrageous and practically an open invitation to respond with something like, “What a load of crap!” – we added the following disclaimer in hopes of setting a civil tone for discussion of ideas rather than simply attacking the Believers who hold to QF/P ideals: 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 to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

Fellow Patheos blogger, Dan Fincke, has posted a “Civility Pledge” which is generating a good deal of conversation regarding respectful discussion of conflicting ideas and world views.

Read the full pledge here:

The Camels With Hammers Civility Pledge

Over at Love, Joy, Feminism, Libby Anne has endorsed the Civility Pledge while clarifying several points which are relevant when the topic under discussion relates to the ruinous ideals of fundamentalism and spiritual abuse. Considering that Christian families are devoting their lives – subjecting themselves and their children wholeheartedly to the most rigid, inequitable gender roles that practically guarantee dysfunctional relationships – addressing these issues is more complicated and more consequential than much of the usual Internet banter regarding philosophy and religion.

As Libby Anne points out:

One basic underlying idea of the pledge is that all individuals deserve respect as people, regardless of how vile their views are. On one level, I absolutely agree: there are plenty of people who hold incorrect or harmful beliefs but not necessarily out of malice. We shouldn’t automatically assume that someone who disagrees with us or holds views we deem harmful is worthy only of personal attacks and smears. We also shouldn’t assume that the fact that someone holds harmful views, or even ones that appear hateful, automatically means their motives are rotten—it is completely possible to do bad things with good intentions.

But the idea that I should respect every person as a person regardless of how vile their beliefs and, yes, motives may be? I’m not so sure about that. Is respect something that is innately deserved or is it something that has to be earned? Is one’s right to respect something that can be forfeited? I supposed I am reminded of being taught growing up that a husband is always deserving of his wife’s respect, no matter what he does or does not do to earn that respect.

Over all, I believe the Civility Pledge is a worthy effort and helpful guideline for establishing meaningful dialogue amongst those with whom we disagree on some very fundamental principles. Maintaining a presumption of good will – assuming that “Titus 2” women sincerely desire to encourage younger wives and new mothers when they endorse and promote these ideals which we, as survivors of spiritual abuse have come to abhor – rather than vilifying and discounting their motives, will go a long way toward creating a safe environment for constructive and healing conversations regarding spiritual abuse.

Comments open below

Read everything by Vyckie Garrison!

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

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

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


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  • Tori

    No pledge for me I’m afraid. I don’t think I need one. I don’t swear at people, I don’t disrespect innocent children, and I don’t judge opinions, only close mindedness. As far as I’m concerned anything else is fair game. We should not elevate religious discourse over any other, it is not any more important, or truer, or sacrosanct. After all, there are many who believe otherwise. If a culture is damaging to it’s members, if it removes choice and promotes harm, if it fails to recognize an individuals right to make their own decisions without societal repercussions, I will confront it, and debunk it, and slate it, and I WILL NOT hold back.

  • Chervil

    Working towards civil discourse is a great idea, but requires more than a one sided pledge. Disagreeing with another’s ideas is one thing, but a pillar of the fundamentalist movement is the us vs. them mentality. Good vs. evil, we are not just disagreeing, in their minds, we are literally evil and tearing their world apart and ruining everything . I’ve read all kinds of quotes comprised of lies and straw men, and I am normally a very quiet, extremely courteous person, but they haven’t earned civil courtesy and respect. An entirely new language needs to develop, since they’ve commandeered and twisted the meaning of the language we use, where women are equal only by surrendering all their rights to their husbands. A pledge is well intended, but there must be some other way.

  • Lynn

    Too often civility seems to mean shutting up and not calling a spade a spade. I know when I’ve been asked to be civil, too often what it means is tamping down my feelings, rather than choosing words carefully. It’s a habit, that the way to watch my words is to squash the feelings behind them. I still do it automatically, and so I choose to use a well-placed profanity now and then, to remind myself and others that I am damn serious about what I’m saying, even if I’m not ranting.

  • validated

    “Too often civility seems to mean shutting up and not calling a spade a spade.”

    You took the words right out of my mouth.