Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement Hardcover – Mar 1 2009
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Engrossing . . . Skillfully reported by journalist Kathryn Joyce, Quiverfull has echoes of The Handmaid's Tale. Unfortunately, it's not fiction.—Rebecca Braverman, Bust
"An invaluable contribution to understanding how religious fundamentalism still stands in the way of sexual justice . . . An urgent call to dismantle fundamentalism's hold on our politics, and our policy-making."—Sarah Posner, American Prospect online
"Insightful . . . A call to reexamine our own beliefs . . . The issues Joyce's book raises are fundamental to our identity as human beings, and as Christians. Perhaps they could stand some reexamination."—Elrena Evans, Christianity Today
"[An] excellent, frightening new book . . . Quiverfull merits wide readership."—Edd Doerr, The Voice of Reason: Journal of Americans for Religious Liberty
"Riveting and deeply disturbing. This important book shines a light on a corner of the Christian right that has taken misogyny to sadomasochistic extremes, and reveals the sexual anxieties so often underlying modern fundamentalism."—Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming
"Joyce gives us a first-ever glimpse into the Christian patriarchy movement, and her riveting reporting makes it all the scarier. If you've been feeling complacent about women's status, read this book!—Barbara Ehrenreich
"A groundbreaking investigation . . . Future historians and journalists will owe Joyce a debt of gratitude for her foray into this still nascent religious group."—Publishers Weekly
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Kathryn Joyce received her B.A. from Hampshire College and her M.A. in cultural reporting and criticism from New York University. Her freelance writing has appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, Newsweek, The Massachusetts Review, and other publications. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and The Nation Institute and is former managing editor of The Revealer, a daily review of religion and the media published by NYU's Center for Religion and Media. Joyce lives in New York CitySee all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I consider myself to be a homeschooling success story, as I was homeschooled for several formative years of my education, and now happily hold two college degrees and a good job - and indeed, I am fully open to the possibility of homeschooling my own hypothetical children. Going into "Quiverfull", I held some concerns that author Kathryn Joyce might fail to clarify that the type of people her research centers on - many of whom "homeschool" (see note below) - are NOT typical examples of the homeschooling community at large. However, Joyce is an eminently fair writer, and frequently emphasizes that the movement she studies is "fringe" in most all respects - fringe Americans, fringe Christians, and fringe homeschoolers.
[[NOTE: Homeschooling families tend to be sensitive to accusations of isolationism and indoctrination, in large part because the public figures of homeschooling are often comprised of the "fringe" element - whereas the "normal" families who see homeschooling as one of many valid education options to choose from tend to be more interested in quietly getting on with teaching their children properly. In much the same way that there are educational private schools and indoctrinational private schools, such as there also educational homeschooling families to balance the indoctrinational one. The best parsing of the issue I have seen so far is the growing online meme to refer to these methods respectively as "private schooling", "private churching", "home schooling", and "home churching", to designate where the training is taking place, and what the training is focusing on.]]
Divided into three parts, "Quiverfull" carefully parses the duties and burdens on women within the Quiverfull movement - as wives, mothers, and daughters. With a predominantly respectful tone, author Joyce carefully balances the statements of the members of the movement with the cold facts, and keeps editorial comments at a perfect minimum (just enough to delight the reader, but never so much as to seem to co-opt the narrative). Joyce carefully highlights the contradictions within the movement at large, such as:
* the insistence that wives be submissive at all times to their husbands, even when the husband is wrong, but without a corresponding energy level directed into teaching the husbands to be loving, mild, and, well, not wrong. Why is so much energy directed at teaching the women to be submissive when that same energy could be directed at teaching the men to be kind, gentle, and wise representations of Christ?
* the disconnect between the fertility reasoning behind the Quiverfull movement (to allow God to direct the number of children within a family) and the actual practice of the Quiverfull movement: desperate women driven to despair because they "only" have 3-4 children, which means they measure as "less holy" than the women with larger broods - some women going so far as to use fertility pills, treatments, and schedules to attempt conception.
* the financial blinders within the movement - although God "provides" for the children, He will apparently only do so *after* the children are born (according to a divine "no backsies" rule), and in an apparent contradiction He refuses to pony up the cash for a vasectomy-reversal or tubal-reversal - those surgeries have to be paid for by charity organizations that select worthy candidates. There is probably a "pay for your own sins" analogy in there, but it breaks down quickly in light of the whole concept of Christ.
* the hypocrisy in the name of public relations - in a movement that insists that women "marry young" and neither earn money nor teach adults (usurpation of manly power), it is noteworthy that a huge amount of the books are written by Quiverfull women, and the prettiest daughters of the movement leaders are cultivated into public speakers for the movement in a blatant P.R. attempt to appeal to young women within the movement. If that means delaying the marriages of the chosen daughters, so be it - even the worst P.R. firm in the world recognizes that it takes time to build a brand, and you can't get a new spokeswoman every year without hurting your cause.
The density of information within this book is absolutely staggering, and the author has done a superb job of laying out the information clearly, succinctly, and with a rawness of tone that will scar even veteran readers of the patriarchy movement. Especially painful is the clear and open misogyny and racism of many of the proponents here - Joyce is not afraid to point out which of the leaders prefer to fear-monger about the lack of "the right kind" of babies being born, nor does she fail to point out which leaders are currently lobbying to revoke female suffrage in America. Are these fringe elements? You bet, and Joyce never pretends otherwise. But they are a fringe that we should be aware of, and "Quiverfull" provides an easy immersion into this terrifying culture.
~ Ana Mardoll
The reason I call this book a "must read" for homeschoolers is because you may not be getting an accurate picture of what is going on in your church until it is too late to avoid being sucked in and becoming victims yourselves. The chapters on the Epstein family ("Life in the Garden") and Cheryl Lindsay ("Exiting the Movement") are heart wrenching in describing the destruction that ensued when church discipline was exercised. And in many of these churches, discussing issues of conflict with leadership is labeled "gossip", so you likely will only hear bits and pieces of what is going on...and those who leave are labeled "wolves among the sheep" to discourage people from speaking to them firsthand.
I would have liked to have the author write a chapter on the psychology of what draws people to this movement and as well as more discussion on people who have left and how they recovered and moved on. But all in all, a book worth reading even if you do not agree with the author's opinions.
I pre-ordered the book and as I read it, I kept saying aloud, "I know these people!" All the names were familiar to me ~ Nancy Campbell, Mary Pride, Doug Phillips, Phil Lancaster, R.C. Sproul Jr., Debi Pearl, Anna Sophia Botkins, Jennie Chancey ... "Wow," I thought, "she even interviewed Charles Provan!" I used to own nearly every book mentioned in Quiverfull ~ and, yes ~ I read them all ... starting with The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality, the book which really started the current patriarchy movement that's becoming so popular among homeschoolers. Isn't it interesting that it has mostly been the WOMEN who are writing these books, teaching seminars, and leading other women into this life of subordination?
I really want to just encourage everyone who has been touched by the Quiverfull philosophy in any way to read this book. I wish I could quote the whole thing for you ~ and then sit back and read the comments which would sound something like, "OMFG!" and "Is this stuff for real? ~ People actually believe this and live this way?!!" Yes ~ it's true. The thing is, those of us who followed (and those who are still following) the Quiverfull / patriarchal lifestyle got into it gradually ~ just a little at a time. For us, it started with homeschooling which seemed pretty radical at the time. It was at our state's annual home school conference that I was introduced to some of the movement's books ~ mostly through Vision Forum, a supplier of Classical Education curriculum.
I started out with Nancy Campbell's "lovely" vision for godly wives and mothers ... discovered Phil Lancaster's Patriarch magazine which spread the idea to the men ... then found S.M. Davis's "Solve Family Problems" series in which the dynamic and often vehement (my kids said he just yelled a lot) preacher set us straight about what constitutes a truly godly family ~ and what dedicated Christian wouldn't want to do whatever the Lord requires to please Him and to be a "blameless" example of righteous living to our friends, family and community?
Now I will admit that when Debi Pearl came out with her book, Created to Be His Help Meet ~ even I couldn't stomach it. I guess there must have been some residual lesson I'd learned after trying to follow the bible study ladies' advice about how to be a perfect, godly wife in order to win my abusive, unfaithful first husband to the Lord ~ but I just couldn't support Pearl's book wholeheartedly the way I had Campbell's God's Vision for Families or Pride's All The Way Home: Power for Your Family To Be Its Best. I remember one Sunday morning when my friend Laura brought Created to Be His Help Meet to our home church and was raving about what an awesome book it was and how she was putting Debi Pearl's ideas into practice and could already see a change in the way her husband was treating her. Ugh. Poor Laura!
To me, the most startling part of Joyce's book Quiverfull, is the section towards the back entitled "Daughters." Actually, I am ashamed to admit that I used to look at Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkins with awe and envy ~ why couldn't my girls comprehend these Visionary Daughters' inspiring insight on godly femininity? I actually bought So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God for Angel's birthday and sent it to her in Nashville in the hopes that she would finally understand how much simpler her life would be if only she could "get" the idea that the only way to true liberation and peace is to follow her father and submit herself to his authority.
When I talked to Kathryn Joyce over the phone as she was interviewing me for an article on Salon.com, I told her I found it very affirming that for most of the book, she simply sticks to quoting the movement leaders ~ often with no commentary at all. "What that said to me," I explained, "is that to those who aren't steeped in this particular worldview, the craziness of it all is self-evident. There's no need to say, 'This is total crap!' because anyone who isn't already convinced can clearly see that it's truly insane to try and live this way."
Something else I really appreciate about this book ~ Quiverfull puts the whole movement on display all at once. The reason this is important is that for most families, getting into this lifestyle is a step-by-step process ~ a progression from "peculiar" to seriously bizarre which takes place incrementally over a period of many years.
If a family home educates their children in order to spare them from the humanistic curriculum in the public school ~ they'll soon pick up on the extra-biblical, humanistic teachings which have filtered into the church as well. And if that family recognizes the spiritual danger of allowing their kids to spend a lot of time in the company of public school peers, it's a small step to keeping the family together for church worship rather than sending the children to the age-segregated Sunday School program. Once a couple comprehends that children are precious in God's sight from the moment of conception ~ how could they possibly expect to witness to the pro-life message with any semblance of credibility when they ~ by their use of birth control ~ have accepted the "abortion mentality" ~ that babies are only a blessing when they fit into their parents' lifestyle conveniently? And once they've eschewed birth control and the babies start coming in rapid succession ~ Michael Pearl's child training advice is going to be a life-saver.
This is just a very brief example of how it all fits together into a comprehensive worldview which makes absolutely perfect sense to the family who started out simply looking for a supportive community of like-minded Believers which would uphold their family's biblical values in the eyes of their children.
Twenty years ago, if I would have read Quiverfull, I believe seeing the big picture of where we were headed would have shocked us enough to cause me to take a good, hard look ~ no doubt, I'd have gone elsewhere in my search for solutions to the everyday problems of family life. No way could you interest me in a harsh, demanding lifestyle of lots of babies (well, you still maybe could have convinced me of that part, since I do love babies), home schooling, home birth, home business, home church, no children's programs, no teenagers, no dating, parents choosing their children's spouses, husband making all the decisions and wife not daring to make the slightest commitment without first obtaining her husband's approval, no TV, only G- and some PG-rated movies, and absolutely NO Harry Potter.
Taken as a whole ~ there really is no appeal to the Quiverfull / patriarchy lifestyle ~ no matter how "biblical" it is and how "godly" a family might become by following those God-ordained family roles. It is my contention that this way of living is a package deal. Once a family takes that first step ~ if they're living it logically and consistently ~ they'll eventually find themselves living out pretty much the whole program ~ the "Vision" which, in its entirety ~ as clearly depicted in Quiverfull ~ turns out, in practicality, to be a very real, living nightmare.
I found the book to be an accurate depiction of Fundamentalist Christian mindset. Every human emotion involving self is sinful and immoral. To like yourself means you are vain, self indulgent and wicked. You have allowed evil/Satan to take over your life. You are not encouraged to think independently and question the idea's being spoon fed to you by Fundamentalist Christianity. The children grow up to have literally no self esteem or confidence in themselves. They have even less self esteem because they are a female and are not worth much in the Fundamentalist world except to breed. You are raised to think you should aspire to nothing more than marriage and motherhood. That's all girls are good for and nothing more. Most of them cannot think for themselves, they have to refer to the bible to find answers to life's questions or have their husband do their thinking for them like my Grandmother did. In their world Feminism is the great Satan. They blame all of society's ills on feminism rather than taking a good look at themselves and the evil that lies within their movement. They rely heavily on guilt and terrorizing the young into 'being saved'. Something for a lot of us only lasted as long as we were home, but was shed the minute we left home. I think a lot of them enjoy making themselves and others around them miserable. It often leaves me to wonder what people find so enticing about such a dark repressive religion that controls ones every thought. It's taken me 55 years to get over that terrible religion.
I will admit, I finally had to quit reading this book at around page 140. When it was divulged that they were heavily into the trying to eliminate birth control and force their beliefs upon a society around them, that's when it became too much for me. I find these people warped, immoral in their arrogance and irresponsible behavior. They have a right to their religious beliefs...but they DO NOT have a right to force them upon others around them. There is nothing admirable about the grinding poverty they promote with too many children, the misery, the starvation and the suffering of millions from overpopulation they are advocating breeds. The hapless people who didn't ask to be brought into the world to suffer. It's criminal to advocate the kind of immoral behavior they are indulging in...even if it's done for religions sake. In a world that's already been populated into oblivion and dying from excessive human population and all the problems that go with it, by past generations of thoughtless people like them.
It's almost like it is some sort of a twisted parlor game for their pleasure to outdo each other in the breeding department. There are too many offspring for the Mother to have any kind of a decent relationship with any of them. My mother was born into such a ultra religious household where she was the eldest of 10 children, who was expected to raise the younger siblings along with doing all the cooking of family meals, housekeeping and any other dirty chores her mother (my Grandmother) was incapable of performing because she was always pregnant. Her father (my grandfather) chased away every boyfriend she had until 26, so he wouldn't lose his built in housekeeper. I am not sure why he didn't chase my father away, maybe he had started to have a glimmer of a conscious by that time or people had begun to gossip about why Mom was still single and living at home...who knows?
That was something my sister and I learned early in life (there were only two of us), how much our mother resented the childhood she had been robbed of , because she had another one forced upon her by two thoughtless parents only interested in what they wanted and their religion. It was nothing our Mother said outright, but the anger was there right below the surface in body language on special occasions and rumblings within our family from siblings of our Mothers. Who viewed my Mother as their only mother, because she was the one who raised them. Our Mother on no occasion ever talked about her childhood. So to this day I know nothing about her younger years. My sister and I knew it was not a happy period in her life. So we didn't ask to many questions and bring her added pain.
My Grandmother had no relationship with any kind with her 10 children and even less of one with the 40 Grandchildren that came later . I didn't know the joys of having a doting Grandmother growing up. My Grandmother didn't know who I was at my Mother's funeral. Still, all my Grandmother could do was whine and complain that none of her children loved her. What did she expect...she wasn't a mother to any of them? Their only mother was dead now...my mother! There were too many to have one on one relationship with like I do my two. She didn't know any of them, she always had her nose stuck in the Bible. But, she was extremely good at moralizing to others through her poison pen letters (my mother's term not mine, when my mother finally tore into her for writing them and reminded her there was a federal law against sending such garbage through the mail). I got one when she accidently discovered I smoked cigarettes. She never confronted anyone openly something my Grandfather would not have tolerated, they just got a religious tract and a sermon in the mail. I threw it in the trash, but have often wished I had kept it to show my children what these so called Fundamentalist Christian's are really like. So I know all about these patriarchal family movements filled with more and more dysfunctional Christian's.
But, Kathryn Joyce does a great job in her depiction of the movement (the only reason I gave it such a high rating). I will give her an 'A' for not letting her feminist side get in the way of the story. I did on no occasion pick up on any bias or utter revulsion I was feeling for their lifestyle. It became too much for me just reading it (a devout Secular Humanist) and I had to let it all out or explode. So I quit reading the book and put it up. I am determined to never buy another one like it again as long as I live. These Christian cults are way too bizarre for me. They are giving Christianity a dirty name.
My daughter kept telling me about '19 children and counting' and the Duggars she watched frequently. So I decided much to my sorrow to check out this book and see what they were all about. They sounded a whole lot like my Grandmother, that I have never been able to put a label on until now. I bought a used copy of it that had been in a library from an outfit that donates the proceeds to literacy programs, so it wasn't a total waste of money. What little I paid for it went to a good cause. Thankfully my daughter has finally figured out it is all a boat load of propaganda. They are trying to sell the lifestyle of Christian Fundamentalism and excessive breeding to a skeptical public. That most of us are too intelligent to buy into.
The author of this book does a very good job of taking us inside the movement and helping us to understand the mindset and motivations of these people. She is never demeaning, dismissive or condascending towards these devout people which is a real breath of fresh air compared to the usual secular sneer one finds whenever an outsider tries to analyse a movement like this.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the future direction of the religious right and possibly of America.
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