by Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace
A host of resources exist exploring the characteristics of the subculture of the Quiverfull Movement (which is often synonymous with Patriarchy within evangelical Christian homeschooling circles). As the new generation that this movement produced finds their voice, there appears to be little information about the process of how this group in particular has affected the development of the now adult “arrows” of their parents’ quivers , especially for those who remain within their religious culture of origin.
Defining the Term: Second Generation Adult
Simply defined, children who are raised in a high demand religion whose followers view themselves as special have been described as “Second Generation Adults,” (resulting in the acronym of “SGA”). Their parents, those of the “first generation,” who opted to follow a particular ideology obligated their children to its demands — demands which shape how their children grow into their adulthood.
Parents’ choices burden their children with concerns and issues that people outside of their religious culture do not share. Even into adulthood, this burden alters normal growth and development as well as identity in predictable, lasting, and often in profound ways.
The Duggar daughters who appeared on the June 5, 2015 interview on Fox News represent the SGAs of the duplicitous Bill Gothard’s “Advanced Training Institute” homeschooling program.
A Very Complicated Subculture: Duggar Children as SGAs
Defining this for the Quiverfull Movement becomes more complicated because of the odd nature of clustered interests followed by these homeschooling families. It is by no means monolithic, Some local clusters of families focus on agrarian life and homesteading, but this is not universal. Many who are part of the larger culture have no idea about individuals like Bill Gothard, Mary Pride, or Gary North who helped to shape what filters down to them through the unspoken rules and ideals conveyed by their peers. They fail to recognize the profound influence that the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement fostered, just by noting that the [self proclaimed non-denomination] are the largest and longest-lived publishers of Christian homeschooling materials and textbooks.
The average evangelical Christian homeschooler has likely heard of the Duggar Family because of their penchant for media attention but may have no idea about the homeschooling organization to which they are beholden. Few know about the shaming and bizarre, abusive nature of the misogynous religious teachings demanded by their leader. Those who know of their leader usually wish to minimize or deny his well documented history of nefarious behavior, both past and present.
I am former member of this Christian subculture, and I’m the same age as Michelle Duggar. I’ve spent the entire length of my childbearing years in evangelical Christianity which expects all married couples to procreate and parent, perhaps as part of the zeitgeist of the whole generation. And though I did not grow up in a rigid fundamentalist Christianity, I experienced the same type of melding of parenting style with high demand religion within the Word of Faith movement.
From that experience, I believe that it is impossible to interpret the responses of the Duggar Family interviews this past week without consideration of the profound effect that their whole lifestyle has had on them, particularly on the daughters. The media attention which the family’s parents willingly sought further intensified these effects on their children, if only by what Robert Cialdini describes as the “weapon of influence” that he terms commitment and consistency.
What It Feels Like to be an SGA
This more specific description of what it feels like to be an SGA within the Quiverfull Movement and similar types of Fundamentalist Christianity borrows heavily from Michael Martella’s depiction ( featured HERE in a panel discussion on the topic). He speaks as both a licensed family therapist (non-nouthetic) and as an SGA who exited what many describe as a “pseudo-Christian” religious group. Many groups separate child and family, but for the “child of the quiver,” the focus on the father as a demigod patriarch and mother as suffering servant become something of secondary, middle management gurus within the larger, loosely affiliated Christian homeschooling culture. Thus, I’ve adapted his description specifically to the movement. (SGAs from other religious groups can be separated from family, but the general patterns and effects differ little between high demand groups.)
The SGA’s whole existence becomes the proof of the validity of a mixed collection of belief systems, of your individual family’s ability to meet the culture’s demands, and of the family’s favored gurus. While children are praised as the central focus of the culture, they also become the assets of that culture. They are objectified (reduced to objects), despite the irony that the homeschooling strategy claimed to exist for the best interests of children.
The SGA becomes the “dream come true” for not only Christians in general, the smaller subculture within Christianity, the effectiveness of homeschooling as an educational choice, and of the worth of the family. Without realizing it, the SGA doesn’t even realize that the only dream that the process neglects is their own. Because of the “tight margins” in which they are raised, they quite often don’t even know how to dream. Their needs are subjugated to so many in this hierarchical chain and their independent critical thinking so strongly punished that they may have no solid, viable core sense of self with which to dream. Those who manage some semblance of one are fortunate. The bounded choice imposed by their culture limits their ability to think beyond that which has always determined for them by others.
Martella’s Masks: Tools of Surviving the Christian Subculture
SGAs wear two masks, the first of which is the public one. The constant pressure to present a glowingly positive public persona (for the culture/parent/anointed visionary leader/homeschooling/Christian faith) dictates their public mask. As a consequence, they become highly efficient at understanding the subtle cues in any situation in order to determine what is expected of them. They also become amazingly successful at adapting to those expectations which constantly change because of the shifting dynamics of high demand religion. One learns quickly that the cultures only reward the public mask, based performance and becomes one’s strongest sense of worth. Achievement becomes a means of coping.
The mask of the private self cannot be worn, and it’s punished when it makes an appearance. This mask rarely if ever receives reward or validation, for its neglect is the price that one must pay to earn admission to the culture. Parents do not realize that they pass this burden on to their children, and it is generally very painful for the parent to even consider that their child pays any price at all. From their perspective, it is the parent who has sacrificed all for the best interest of both family, culture, and faith — all for their children. This difference in perspective accounts for great difficulties between SGAs and their parents (and the peers of their parents, too).