Within the past ten years the religious movement known as Quiverfull has grown considerably, establishing a world view that existed long before the Industrial Revolution. Basing itself in the style of Old Testament agrarianism instead of the New Testament urban sprawl, Kathryn Joyce documents the growth of the Quiverfull movement and its eventual consequences in modern human society.
Mention the word Quiverfull and names like Steve Scheibner, Jim Bob Duggar, Andrea Yates, and Tracey Moore come to mind. While Yates is the darkest side of the right-wing religious movement, having drowned her five children, Duggar is probably the best public image for the movement thus far, even though he and his wife Michelle have been criticized for their super-sized family and the potential health problems Michelle and her future babies face. Little Josie had so many health problems as a premature baby that she had to remain at the hospital for half a year after her birth. Having this many children is not just to see if one is going to be a good parent or not, even though this maxim holds true for so many people in America. With the rise in births, there has also been a rise in child abuse, as in the case of Sean Paddock, who died after being beaten with piping, a form of discipline recommended by Quiverfull child raising gurus Michael and Debi Pearl of Tennessee. Their book “To Train Up A Child” recommends such forms of discipline, even the use of plumbing, on a small child who misbehaves. While not all Quiverfull followers will actually beat their child with loose plumbing (some parents may resort to spanking so long as it is not done in anger), the concept of physical discipline on a child may be of concern to others who care about a child’s welfare. Pro-natalists argue that abortion is a sin in the eyes of God, but apparently some of them do not think that not using a strong device to discipline a child is anything but an act of love. Here, pro-life only remains so when the child is in a mother’s womb and not necessarily outside the womb. Thus Quiverfull churches, which are very conservative in Christian doctrine, rule over every aspect of the believer’s life.
What is even more compelling is the fact that when home based churches like Boerne Christian Assembly come up against members who question church doctrine or have a shady past, the self-appointed church minister will frequently expose the member and create a living hell for that person, not just by excommunicating him or her, as in the case of Jennifer Epstein, but to also engage in a major smear campaign. It seems that such churches take “an eye for an eye” too seriously and not heed the advice Jesus gave, “to turn the other cheek.” Not taking the widespread view that church is a hospital for sinners, but rather an elite and exclusive club for the saved (as many of their home churches do operate), it is natural that many of the home churches do not so easily accept new members right away.
It is worth noting that Quiverfullers look to the Old Testament instead of the New Testament for a Biblical way of life. Since the movement itself takes the name from Psalms 127, and Genesis 1 (“Be fruitful and multiply”) there is very little, if any, discussion about the Sermon on the Mount, or Jesus’ new design for the family, which was of one based on the spiritual brotherhood of believers, versus making lots of babies. The only time Quiverfull utilizes the New Testament is when it comes to the status of women in church, quoting the apostle Paul on how women should remain silent in church, and especially Timothy 2, which states women are the helpmeet of men, instead of a complement to the. Childbearing was what women was meant to do, despite the fall from the Garden of Eden when Eve’s punishment was to bear children in pain and suffering (Genesis 2)
While the Duggars in fact look to the modern world and not the agrarian world for their income (Jim Bob is a used car salesman and former senator of Arkansas, in addition to having a show on The Learning Channel in order to bring in income to help feed his brood of 19 children), the reality is that many who do subscribe to the Quiverfull lifestyle cannot afford to live as well as the Duggars do, who are an exception to the rule. Should the father of the Quiverfull family even decide to desert the family as a result of not being able to feed his children, the mother is left stranded, unable to provide for the children since she was taught it is a sin to be independent and self supporting. Of course, nowhere in the Bible does it state women cannot be self sufficient and strong (perhaps the Quiverfullers accidentally overlooked Ruth and Esther). To a Quiverfull woman, a secular woman who makes good money, gives back to society and improves society with her own talents and brainpower is considered to be a Jezebel, a witch, someone to be reviled and hated. Modern feminism is not only destructive to society but to the traditional family unit, since Quiverfull women recognize that no woman can really “have it all” due to time and energy constraints, and women who do think they can have it all are apparently delusional, according to their doctrines.
It is worth noting that the Quiverfull movement, once looking to the Bible for the ideal way of life on earth, sets a new standard for relationships: one where emotional intimacy is eschewed, even in a marriage, and only the reproductive ability remains. On a par with the more liberal view that sex is the only thing worth looking for in a relationship instead of emotional intimacy, which can end up in hurt feelings, Quiverfull prefers to base marital “love” in the mate’s character, values, and morals, not the amount of cuddling time one can give to the partner. One can only wonder if their lives are that empty, especially when the women look to Jesus for their emotional fulfillment. Understandably, there are a disproportionate number of women in the movement who want to not only reclaim the traditional purpose of females on earth – to keep the species and race going – but to also have that ideal lover who is romantic, gentle, and never abusing but rather gently admonishing: Jesus. Even Jim Bob Duggar, as positive a public image he represents for Quiverfull, does not exactly measure up to being Jesus on earth. However, man as the earthly representative of God has long been considered to be in the realm of kings and royalty, not that of your ordinary, average, Christian in the 21st century.
On the surface, the movement looks and sounds like it is doing the work of God but there is another underlying motive for the movement: the replenishment of the Caucasian Christian in America and especially western Europe. Nations like Italy which are dwindling in population due to the lack of births is not favorable to Quiverfullers, who see the looming threat of Islam growing in Europe, immigrant families who have a large number of children. Nancy Campbell, who was interviewed for the book, mentions Bin Ladin’s birth family and his 52 siblings but does not seem to be aware of the fact that his father did not have them all by one woman (Islam permit polygamy, whereas this practice is prohibited not just by the American government but also in the Gospels). Poverty is a bigger cause of large families and lots of children although there are exceptions in many cases.
Well written and researched, Joyce brings “Quiverfull” to life, interviewing members of the movement, including children. Few leave the movement on their own volition; one is more likely to be excommunicated and smeared as Jennifer Epstein was. Life after such a movement may result in a difficult adjustment to the modern world where women have no one to go to and cannot be self supportive due to years of indoctrination into the movement’s unusual world view.