I am American by birth. And I admit it, I have American Christian Fundamentalist Weirdos in my family (henceforth AFCWs). I never knew much about them or their beliefs (my parents, thankfully, are weird in a mainstream secular way), except that they have a bazillion children, they homeschool, their children weren’t allowed to date, and when I was a child I remember the daughters being scolded for not playing like ‘proper young ladies’ (while playing with me, of course). I did attend the wedding of the eldest of the bazillion children. The preacher referred to nonbelievers as “THE WORLD” and believers as “us”; and one of the wife’s vows was to be “teachable”.
When I recently attempted to describe their weirdness to a friend (I do this often; everyone I know has heard about my AFCWs), said friend replied “Quiverfull! Vagina clown car!” And no, she wasn’t suffering a psychotic episode. I’ll explain the last first:
And then the first: Quiverfull, as I have now learnt, is the cross-denominational funamentalist movement to which my AFCWs apparently belong. It’s also charmingly known as “The Christian Patriarchy Movement”. Kathryn Joyce, who’s just written a book on the nutters called Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement has a nice article now on Salon.com. Joyce writes
Shunning all forms of birth control, Quiverfull women accept as many children as God gives them as a demonstration of their radical faith and obedience as well as a means to advance his kingdom: winning the country for Christ by having more children than their adversaries. This self-proclaimed “patriarchy” movement, which likely numbers in the tens of thousands but which is growing exponentially, bases its arguments on Psalm 127: [I won’t bore you; it’s here].
Pride [author of the quiverfull handbook, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality] told Christians to reject women’s liberation in exchange for the principles of submissive wifehood and prolific stay-at-home motherhood.
To summarise, and to explain the title of this post, I’ve compiled a helpful bullet-point list of core ideas within the Quiverfull movement.
• No birth control—not even so-called natural family planning
• Have many children to people the earth with christians
• Home schooling (for example; mother does the homeschooling, of course)
• Submission to husband; man is dominant in all things (it’s even explicitly a feature of the movement that men are to be in control in bed)
• “natural” childbirth; extra credit for home births; double extra credit for unassisted home births (if you die in childbirth, God will provide for your children; you will be, essentially, a martyr)
• Work, socialise, etc, within the Quiverfull community (this applies especially to the children; “Dare to Shelter” is a motto of the homeschooling branch of the movement); shun mainstream media, television, etc. The most committed Quiverfullers even “home church”
• Explicitly anti-feminist: feminism is not compatible with biblical teachings.
And if you’re even a little bit clever, you can surely see how perfect the plan is. Women are exclusively in the private home; submissive to their husbands; pregnant, postpartum, looking after babies or all of the above for most of their adult lives; working as full-time primary- and secondary-school teachers for no pay on top of being pregnant and looking after babies. These women will have no face whatsoever in the public world, even in public religion, save that of their husbands: even if they weren’t (pardon my French) fecking knackered, they wouldn’t be allowed to.
And what if she tries to flee this unhappy fate? Kathryn Joyce gives a link to the blog of two women who have done just that. The short answer is: she’s screwed. She’s shunned by her community; she’s penniless; she’s homeless; she has no work experience nor references; quite likely she loses her children.
But it’s better than that! The children, of course, have no exposure to competing world-views, receive no formal education, and no sex education at all. So they inevitably follow suit. The daughters disappear almost instantly. Barred from being educated or taking up meaningful employment, their only choice is to marry, and they’re of course under heavy pressure from their families to marry within the faith. And the sons, at least largely reliant on the AFCW community for their livelihood*, readily marry and make good Quiverfull women of their new wives, disappearing women from the outside population by marriage**. Original woman + 8-12 offspring women + 8-12 offspring women for each of the 8-12 offspring + etc. You can do the maths. POOF! Hundreds of women erased, all by way of the original AFCW couple, and all in the name of God.
As an American expat, I find it an interesting question just why AFCW groups like this thrive in America***. America is so modern and progressive in so many ways; so why is a woman-hating fringe religious movement like this growing in popularity there in the 21st century? You might be tempted to give an answer like “America values freedom of expression”. But I don’t think this explains it. It might surprise many Americans to learn that America, on this front, is really not much different to the rest of the western world. (It’s true! Surprise!) An interesting counter-theory was put to me as I was reading up on the Quiverfull movement: maybe a cult like this can survive and thrive in America because there is no welfare state. A disillusioned Quiverfull wife or daughter simply wouldn’t be trapped in the same way in, for example, the UK, because if she left, the state would provide her with job training, unemployment benefit, state housing, etc. In America, the same disillusioned woman would simply be stuck. What do you think?
NB. My tone is quite harsh in describing these people, I realise. And while that may be perfectly appropriate in one sense, it may by that taking such a harsh attitude towards them puts up an additional barrier for women trying to get out of this cult. So I think it’s important to say that, IMO, organised religions are powerful enough to brainwash *anyone* who happens to stumble into just the wrong circumstances, and women who have so stumbled are victims who can and should be respected and supported in their escape.
*This is how it goes in my family, for sure. It’s not clear to me whether my family is an especially extreme example, and perhaps other Quiverfull children are allowed to go into “mainstream” employment.
**The wife of my eldest cousin was “going to be a doctor” when she married into the family at the age of 20. Ten years later she is homeschooling 5 children (5? or 4, I can’t remember) and hasn’t completed even a bachelor’s degree.
***FYI they don’t in the rest of the Western world. I know, I know, you the American find it hard to believe. But it’s true. In the developed world, this is a uniquely American phenomenon. (Thanks Jender and Mr lp for input and info.)