We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quiverfull Questions

Quiverfull on NPR? Yup! (HT: StandFirm)

But I must say there is a quote that really disturbed me: "'We'll be able to take over both halls of Congress, we'll be able to reclaim sinful cities like San Francisco for the faithful, and we'll be able to wage very effective massive boycotts against companies that are going against God's will.'"

I don't know - since when did this become the ultimate goal for Christian families? What about sharing the gospel? What about caring for widows and orphans? What about the poor, the sick, the oppressed?

Wait, let's back up. Is "quiverfull" a term you are familiar with? It is sort of "jargon" in many Christian circles...but not even all Christians would know what it refers to, I guess. The term "Quiverfull" refers to a verse in Psalm 127 that describes children like the arrows in a mighty warrior's quiver. The idea being that a mighty warrior would have LOTS not just one or two. (Of course, a really good archer might only need one or two to get the job done...but that is a different debate.) So, the Quiverfull Movement is one that encourages Christian families to see children as a blessing and to accept as many "as the Lord sends" - using no birth control of any sort.

Apparently, it has lately been the zinger topic in some liberal circles...you know, easy to "zing" with negative labels and attitudes, and generally writing it off as "nutty", without taking the time to really get to know some of the families who make up the Quiverfull Movement. (Do a google search and see how many negative articles come up on the first two pages.)

I did a lot of reading about the quiverfull movement (also called QF for short) around the time my husband and I decided we were not "done" (even though one of us had surgery to be "done"...which we then had "undone"). I read lots of the books, websites and such and was mostly convinced that this movement was on to something. Of course, this wasn't a huge leap for me. Since I was little, I've thought it odd that people who believe in a good, omnicient, omnipotent God would not trust him more with the size of their families. But there were some aspects to the basic ideas that I couldn't settle in my mind and some influences within the movement that I thought were going so far as to have missed the gospel in the search for "godliness".

Really, I found it hard to come to terms with the movement's emphasis that EVERYONE should be quiverfull (at least every Christian) and if they weren't they were sinning against God. All I'm going to say about that right now is that it strikes me as quite a legalistic approach to Scripture. (And having read the blogs and forums of some of these groups, it wasn't only a legalistic seeming...there was some pretty extreme legalism going on inside the group on all manner of issues.) There almost seemed to be an unspoken contest going on to determine who trusts God more, me or thee. However, legalism can be found in any group (Christian or not, religious or not...shoot, have you ever noticed the legalism in the Green movement...there it is "who is greener, me or thee".)

The quote from the NPR piece displays the attitude prevalent in the QF movement that I think is the most troublesome. There is quite an emphasis on gaining power through political positions in order to "Christianize" the country. (The QF is not the only Christian group today that holds to the belief that Chrisitans should be out to Christianize by conquest...it is also not the first Christian group to desire political influence and power...seems like I remember a Roman church that held political power for quite a few years - but that is a much larger topic!) And this is where I think it veers beyond, or rather, doesn't reach, the Gospel.

Christ eschewed political power as a means of evangelism, instead he chose and instructed us to evangelize by one-on-one interaction. Not only that, He also told us that "true religion" is the care of widows and orphans. This should be what we are filling our quivers with- children who love God and love their fellow human beings. Children who see the frailty and grief around them and want to present Christ to a dying world. And also, children who delight in God's gift of creation!

And while I have criticism for the QF movement, I also think that Christians in America can learn a LOT from the ideas of the quiverfull movement about getting our perspectives toward children and famlies in line with God's perspective. Why do we stop at one or two...because it is culturally acceptable? Because of finances? Our lack of patience? Or because we've invested time in prayer and thought and believe that is the Lord's will for our family? Which definitely sounds more like a people who believe in a God who loves them and their children.

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TwoSquareMeals said...

While we choose not to use hormonal birth control and consider ourselves very open to life, I definitely agree with you on the QF movement. While there are some things we could learn from their attitude toward family and life, the movement as a whole can be very legalistic and dogmatic. I don't think that QF is the only biblical way to be a family. I could probably write a whole post on that.

If we were a less developed society, letting children come as often as they do could work. Fertility rates would be lower because of poorer diet and healthcare, babies would breastfeed longer and space things out, etc..etc.. In other words, I don't think our bodies were made to naturally have so many children so close together.

I like your point about prayerfully deciding God's will for your family.

Interesting stuff...if a bit scary.

DebD said...

I haven't listened to NPR for a few days so I missed that story. I couldn't agree with you more! My husband and I searched the scriptures concerning this back when we started a family and couldn't find a "mandate" in scripture (certainly its implied, but not mandated like...caring for widows and orphans, oddly enough).

I'm very uncomfortable with an American flag in our sanctuary -so you can imagine what I must think about the QF's political aspirations.

Jessica said...

Kerry, this is a great post.

I especially appreicate your putting your finger on what's bothered me about some (not all) QF bloggers: the idea that it's going to be a political victory and the idea that QF=gospel. It's not that how and why we bear children is unimportant, it just seems that QF (unlike, say, John Paul's Theology of the Body) makes childbearing THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.

Important, but not paramount.

Anyway, thank you for letting us think over your shoulder as you ponder these things.

Dominion Family said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Having been on the edge of the QF I finally just couldn't take the militancy anymore. I am still happy that I have 9 children. As a matter of fact, my husband and I both came to the conclusion to trust God for our family size before we ever knew there were other people convicted the same way.

I think that is the way it should be: organic rather than a movement.

In the book The Twilight of American Culture, Morris Berman, a non-Christian, he makes a very good point that if we really want change we need to keep our ideas organic and small. He says to avoid at all costs becoming a 'movement'.

I have been very interested lately in how easy it is for movements to become fascist even when they are Christian movements.

Kerry said...

Thanks, ladies, for joining in the conversation with me.

Cindy - I'm gnawing on the idea of making change by keeping "our ideas organic and small".

randi---i have to say said...

This is an interesting post. I don't care for the "take over the country" mentality. I don't think that is what we are supposed to be doing. As Christians we are to live quiet lives and we are to reach out and serve those around us. He leads in this and guides us. It is always a little disconcerting to me when Christians groups want to dominate life in some area. Not good, if you ask me.

Lydia said...

Wow, thanks for this post. I had not read a really nuanced, subtle, intelligent assessment of it from either side -- I appreciate you laying it out so thoughtfully. As usual, one could say of either side of the issue: "They take it too far."

Thanks for visiting my blog, too. :)

~Karen said...


I was checking out your blog and came across this post. I reached some similar conclusions a few years back. Although I have been a Christian "all my life" so to speak, I had a strong spiritual renewal after coming into contact with more serious Christians when I joined the homeschooling community 20 years ago. And for a time, I "tried on" a number of other peoples' convictions that really didn't fit me. The quiverfull idea was one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe that Christians should be very open to God in this area of their lives. I just don't think God has the same exact plan for everyone. And I also became concerned about the large number of "requirements" that were being laid on Christian women including having lots of babies, breastfeeding extensively, homeschooling, etc, etc. In many cases, these women do not have the support network that women of another generation had and some women just cannot do all this. So I have both practical and spiritual concerns.

This was really struck home to me the summer after having my fourth, and final, baby. I had severe postpartum depression. It happened to be the same summer that the homeschool mom in Texas drowned her children. She had postpartum psychosis. I am not removing her responsibility at all but let me tell you, if what she had was worse than what I had, people around her also failed in their responsibilities, too, not just her. And as I went looking for information and support online, it disturbed me greatly that the sources that I was used to going to were doing nothing but calling this poor woman a monster. No discussion at all that maybe she had been pushed past her limits. That maybe we need to be more cautious about adding legalistic hoops for Christian women to jump through to be considered truly Godly. I finally found a very liberal source to talk to for myself to get some understanding, someone with whom I likely had nothing else in common. That was a real eyeopener for me.

Oh a different note, I can also relate to your southern notes. I grew up in rural Cracker Florida and the beach played a large role in my formative years though I generally lived a couple of hours from it. I have also lived on Delmarva not far from tidewater VA. My dream retirement would be to the beach. In the south, of course!

Kerry said...

Hi, Karen! I'm so glad you stopped by!

Thank you for your comment, too. You make a good point by taking my ideas a bit further and pointing out that having the right type of support is vital to having a large family. It certainly isn't the only issue, but it helps, I'm sure.

I think what Cindy quoted is so important to keep in mind, "keep our ideas organic and small" and to avoid becoming a "movement". Something about that really resonates with me. I like how it places the emphasis on the person/family calling rather than the group. That is still rattling around in my head.

And yes, I know the Delmarva area! The Eastern Shore is truly one of my favorite places in the world.