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A Powerful Personal Story This Week on God Discussion Radio – The Quiverfull Movement … and No Longer Quivering

You may have seen her on Joy Behar's show.  You may have seen her in The Secret Lives of Women.  Or you may have visited her site, No Longer Quivering (Technically, Qivering – Where YOU are left out). Our guest this Thursday is Vyckie Garrison, who left the Quiverfull Movement.

Vyckie Garrison

Vyckie Garrison, as seen in Secret Lives of Women

A Look At The Quiverfull Movement.

In the biblical book of Psalms, we read in Chapter 127:

127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

127:4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

127:5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

These verses, together with the Godly instruction to “be fruitful and multiply,” have birthed a patriarchal Christian practice known as “the Quiverfull Movement.”

In Kathryn Joyce’s article, ‘Quiverfull’ movement – birthing armies of God’s soldiers, Joyce notes,

Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship — "Father knows best" — and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies — the Lord's temple — are a seizure of divine power.

Though there are no exact figures for the size of the movement, the number of families that identify as Quiverfull is likely in the thousands to low tens of thousands. Its word-of-mouth growth can be traced back to conservative Protestant critiques of contraception […]

As a movement, Quiverfull has grown in a grassroots style. There's little top-down instruction or organization from church leaders; instead it spreads through community Bible studies, home-schooling forums, "prolife" activist circles or small ministries such as "Titus 2" wife-mentoring groups, which instruct Christian women in biblical wifehood. Supporter Allan Carlson, an economic historian who heads the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and advises conservative legislators like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, sees Quiverfull's most significant roots in the home-schooling movement, and as with the early days of home-schooling, he sees Quiverfull as a populist movement with "a wonderful anarchy to it."

Here's the clip from Joy Behar's show about Quiverfull.  Unfortunately, the second half does not appear to have been uploaded:

What are the fruits of this growing movement?

On the one hand, we can look back to June 20, 2001, when the AP reported that police discovered five children dead inside a southeast Houston home  after receiving a telephone call from the mother, Andrea Yates. Yates, 36, was taken away in handcuffs by police and was charged with multiple capital murder charges. She had drowned all five children in the bathtub. Two years earlier, Yates was s after an overdose suicide attempt.

It is unclear whether Yates was actually an adherent to Quiverfull, but she did appear to have fundamentalist Christian beliefs.  According to Wikipedia, citing CNN's transcripts of her trial,

“Although Andrea was originally raised Roman Catholic, she and her husband Rusty announced at their 1993 wedding that they "would seek to have as many babies as nature allowed", a cornerstone of their newly shared religious beliefs, which were formed by the itinerant street preacher Michael Peter Woroniecki, a fundamentalist Christian.”

Or we could look at the Duggar family, which has 19 children “and counting” and featured in a reality television program. The Duggars will be honored at this year’s “Values Voters Conference” in Washington, where they will receive the Family Research Council (FRC)’s first-ever “pro-family entertainment award.”  FRC's press release states,

"We're proud to announce that the Duggar family will be the recipients of our first pro-family entertainment award. Together with our sponsors, FRC Action will be honoring the Duggars' positive influence on American television during a special segment of the Values Voter Summit.

"As cameras follow the family around for their popular reality show, Jim Bob, Michelle, and the kids have been outspoken ambassadors for Christian values in a secular world. Together with parents from across the country, we want to pay tribute to their commitment to faith and family in an industry and culture that so desperately need it."

Vyckie Garrison is No Longer Quivering.

Vyckie GarrisonVyckie was once a prominent member of the Quiverfull community.  She  wrote a popular newsletter and home-schooled 7 children. She made waves when she left the movement, divorced her husband, and began speaking out against the lifestyle.

Featured in an article published at Salon, author Kathryn Joyce characterized her:

She may have looked like the perfect Quiverfull wife, but Garrison was struggling to care for her seven children, three of whom have a rare bone disease, while juggling the demands of her husband and coping with difficult pregnancies. Though she preached patriarchy to her readers, practicing it at home required a major suspension of disbelief. Her husband, Warren, had been blinded in a work accident years earlier and had trouble keeping a job. Garrison founded her paper in part to create a sales position for him, to maintain the illusion of his heading their family. But Warren chafed against his dependency and was verbally abusive, Garrison says, browbeating her and the children into frightened compliance.

Garrison’s compelling story is told by Joyce at that same Salon article. But  it is best told by Vyckie herself, who wrote an open letter on her website, No Longer Quivering, which she created to tell the story of her “escape” from the Quiverfull movement and to create a gathering place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse. In To Those Who May Be Shocked, Disappointed, and Hurt by the News of My Apostasy, Vyckie writes, in part:

This is a difficult letter for me to write ~ mainly because I was so convinced of, and committed to, the Biblical family ideals espoused by what has been termed the “Quiverfull” or “Biblical Patriarchy” movement. I was entirely sincere ~ and I never hesitated to do whatever I believed the Lord was asking of me, no matter the cost to my own personal comfort or convenience.

There is a great deal of heartache and drama in the story of how I came to disavow that whole lifestyle along with the Christian religion and the Bible upon which those family principles are based ~ which could make for some interesting reading if I ever actually get around to writing a book ~ but I guess what it really comes down to is this:

My children were not thriving in the isolated and controlling environment which had developed in our home as a result of following the patriarchal family structure.

I have never been much of a pragmatist ~ preferring to ground my thoughts, beliefs and actions on revealed Truth rather than following the inherently subjective standard of “whatever works.” But when my oldest daughter, Angel tried to kill herself ~ I could not help but think, “I could have kids in the psych ward for a lot less effort.”

I had knocked myself out for my Lord ~ following His will for my life and my family though it nearly killed me on several occasions. I had done everything according to the “Old Paths” and the “narrow way” ~ welcoming children from the Lord even though my pregnancies were horrendous and deliveries life-threatening, I homeschooled, home birthed (risky business for one who’d already had 4 c-sections), home churched, “dared to shelter” my children from worldly influences ~ I was a helpmeet to my husband in every way possible, upholding his authority to the children, supporting him even when he was clearly in the wrong, trusting that in submitting to him, I was actually submitting to the Lord and that being so, I was confident that He would work everything out for good according to His perfect will.

What I finally was forced to acknowledge is that there are limits to what is possible ~ and a lifestyle of martyrdom and self-abnegation is unsustainable. The stress took such a toll on my health that I was practically bed-ridden and in danger of suffering organ failure from lack of blood pressure since my stress-response system had been taxed to the limit and no longer produced sufficient amounts of adrenaline to keep me functioning. I felt like a zombie ~ the living dead ~ but I kept going because I could do all things through Christ and I had the Holy Spirit to strengthen me. My sincere and deeply held convictions provided the motivation I needed to live such a demanding and difficult lifestyle.

But then I met my uncle, Ron ~ and we undertook an email correspondence which changed everything for me. I’m sure many of you will remember Ron from the frequent prayer requests and updates which I posted in which I explained that my uncle is not a Christian, but I really liked him and we’d been writing to each other. I was so thoroughly convinced of the truth of Christianity ~ I had a good comprehension of the best arguments for the defense of the Biblical worldview and was an articulate apologist for the faith ~ so I was not at all concerned that my uncle’s influence might in any way jeopardize my well-considered, logically consistent, readily defensible belief system.

We wrote to each other for nearly a year ~ and over time, my way of thinking began to change. For now, I won’t go into all the details of how I came to doubt the Bible’s authority and even the existence of a personal, all-powerful, all-knowing God ~ but by the time Ron and I discontinued our writing, the unthinkable had happened, and I was filled with doubts.

For a while, I tried to figure how much of my Christian beliefs I could salvage ~ what of the Bible message could I still claim as valid and acceptable? ~ was there a “core truth” that I could hold onto despite my rejection of the strict, literalistic interpretation which included such narrowly defined family roles? ~ but despite my almost frantic searching, I came up empty. None of it makes sense to me anymore ~ and the things which used to be beautiful and inspiring to me now seem hideous ~ petty, warped, and sick.

Vyckie’s story is a compelling one. Her message is powerful.  Here's a clip from The Secret Lives of Women.

Show Details.

We hope you can join us for the God Discussion show on Thursday, July 8, 2010, at 7:00 PM Pacific time (time conversions below). As always, calls are welcome and the web-based chat room will be open, which we will monitor as best as we can in order to forward your questions and comments to our guest.

Also joining us will be Leah Burton, Board member of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and expert on Christian dominionism, who introduced Vyckie to our show and who will share some of her insight about this movement.

We’ll start the show off with Adam, the Man of Earth, for a quick review of what’s been happening in the news.

Time: Thursday, July 8, 2010 @ 7:00 p.m. PACIFIC (see time conversions below)

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About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
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