Quiverfull (Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement)


Quiverfull (Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement) by Kathryn Joyce

I was first introduced to the concept of the Quiverfull movement about seven years ago in a feminist magazine, so when I stumbled upon Kathryn Joyce's 2009 book "Quiverfull (Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement)" I was interested in learning more.  Keeping an open mind with the expectation that there would be doctrine I don't believe in, I wanted to find out for myself what the movement was all about. 

The first half of the book is packed full of the multiple schisms and branches of Christian religion.  Not knowing my Protestant from my Episcopalian, I tried to follow along in explanation of their differing beliefs, but did become a bit confused as to how they define themselves.  However, I know this is no fault of the author, but rather the fact that a full religious history would be quite an undertaking.  Joyce merely ties together the fact that each of the branches she outlines embrace the belief of a submissive wife.  Filled with proclamations from pastors and quotations from the Bible, it is easy to see why the female followers of these congregations accept their submission as their religious duty.  Trying to stay open minded, my red flag was waving frantically, but I read on.  Then Joyce proceeds to tell the harrowing story of Mark and Jennifer Epstein and pastor Doug Phillips' personal attack on their marriage, specifically Jennifer's refusal to fully submit to her violent husband.  And now I am begin to get frustrated. So I gave myself a little pep talk "Ok, ok.  I knew it was going to get me worked up, but keep trucking along because what I really want to know about is the mass production of humans." 

While referenced in the first half, the second half of the book is where the movement is fully detailed.  This was what I'd been waiting for because the concept of large families fascinates me.  My family tree on both sides had 11-15 children in each generation until as recently as my mother and father each being from a family of four. Having grown up with one brother that annoyed me, I could not fathom the idea of a dozen siblings.  More recently, as a mother, my thoughts go to "How did they afford it?"  But many Quiverfull families possess the admirable traits of "strong beliefs against government assistance and personal debt."  To that I thought, if you can afford to have a large family and that's what you want, why should anyone care? But the mathematical factors come into play.  For example, a family with twelve children that each follow the movement will produce 144 children. The exponential growth with each generation massively outnumbers "general" population growth of 2.5 children per household.  But this is not a fad,  "Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they're building for God." 

The movement is social as well as religious.  While it is easy to think, "Let them do what they want. It has no effect on me."  Not true.  The beliefs are not simply focused on their own families, they can creep into our government.  This is most thoroughly embodied in Idaho state representative, Steven Thayne's 2007 campaign "aimed at keeping mothers in the home by ending no-fault divorce and cracking down on day care centers, pre-kindergarten and Head Start as 'free babysitting services' that make it too easy for mothers to leave the home...public school campaigns teaching children that 'the calling of each girl is to become wife and mother' ; an increase in homeschooling; the end of easy divorces; the rise of 'covenant marriages' that are more difficult to dissolve; tax penalties for unmarried cohabitation; incentives for larger families and more babies; a final scrubbing of school sex-ed and reproductive health education; and an explicit return to sex-segregated job listings and family wages that reinforce 'natural family bonds'."

At this point I've just about passed out because I have the exact opposite stance on every single point.  If this movement grows to the point of determining voting or just general majority rule of the future, the free-thinking and scientific growth of our nation will be swallowed by religious domination.  I pull myself back from the spiraling rabbit hole of my dystopian imagination and read on. ..

In current affairs, when extreme religious law is mentioned, one usually thinks of Sharia law. While the Jewish and Muslim birthing battles in the Middle East hold a similar set of beliefs, the Quiverfull movement generally encompasses white Americans. But any religion can be taken to the extreme.  The Quiverfull movement's expectations are purity balls, arranged marriages  and homesteading in lieu of dating, individual partner choice and college education.  They wish to return to Calvinist ideals where a daughter has no right to give herself away in marriage and any man marrying "a woman without her parent's consent was guilty of rape, as he'd obtained access to a woman who had no authority to say 'yes'."  These patriarchal beliefs are the antithesis of women's rights.  The patriarchy movement wants to return to a time of women and property:  women as property, and women unable to possess property.  I am especially concerned that lack of proper medical care and constant pregnancies will statistically increase the possibility of post-partum depression in these mothers.  While some families, such as the Duggars, thrive in this movement, others such as Andrea Yates are led to believe they are never loyal enough by extremists like Michael Woroniecki and drown their children in the bathtub. 

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in learning the full extent of this religious movement.  It is a very thoroughly researched., generally unbiased inside look at a growing (literally) religious movement.

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