Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quiver Me Timbers.

I was feeling pretty good about life, and so decided to fix by that by reading Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,' by Kathryn Joyce. That knocked me into a depression in no time. I would say something along the lines of I should feel fortunate that it's just a fringe movement in the conservative Christian circles, but the book is pointing out that some of the more mainstream conservative Christians are making noise about how women should have more children, and using birth control is denying God's authority over your body.

Two things of interest: One, there's a mentality in the book about a "one of ours," and it's about how contraception is bad. To quote, a Quiverfull version of "He's one of ours": selectively appropriating historical figures who were the later-born children of their families to create a canon of the Waster world's six-, seventh-, or eight-born geniuses and greats. The moral is that the "contraceptive mentality" would have precluded the births of Washington, Mozart, Beethoven, and, by implication, possibly a savior."

The basic idea seems to be that if women use contraception, there will be a whole lot of necessary people no longer born. Now, I don't know if the implication in the quote is the author's interpretation, or if it's something Quiverfull people actually hinted at, but ... Jesus was the result conceived in the womb of a virgin. God didn't even use sex in the first place to create Jesus, so how could contraception have interfered with that in the first place? No only that, but my understanding is that conservative non-Calvinist Christians feel that people both have free will, and that God is in control, and has a plan, and is sovereign. So if God's plan involved Mozart being born, wouldn't God have seen that through, regardless if the woman was using contraception or not? Are they seriously suggesting that a hormonal pill is enough to stop an omnipotent God?

Then there's how this works in reverse -- perhaps we wouldn't have Mozart. But I believe Mozart considered his elder sister to be just as talented, if not more talented, than he was. Yet we don't know anything about her, because she was a woman, and only had two proper roles in society: wife and mother. How many geniuses have we lost in society because women had no rights, and were only expected to marry and produce children? How many geniuses have we lost because women couldn't have any control over their reproduction?

Second, one of the themes in the book is basically raising an army for God. Because these women are having anywhere from ten to eighteen children, they'll be able to take back society in a few generations, because they're rapidly out-breeding the non-Christians. The assumption on the Quiverfulls is that the children will be that type of Christian by default.

Doesn't that kind of conflict with the free will idea? One of the standard responses to why there's evil in the world, or why people will go to hell is that God loved us so much that He allows us to choose whether or not to follow Him. Yet these parents aren't saying that they'll give their children a choice in following God, they're raising their children to absolutely guarantee that the children will follow God. When the children reach the age of accountability, is anyone going to be surprised by their choice? Can we even say that they freely choose God, when no other option would've been presented?

Now, I can understand why these parents are doing this. Most parents do raise their children in the path they feel is morally right -- if a Christian feels that atheism is wrong, the Christian is not going to encourage his/her child to be an atheist. They would probably even say it would be extremely unloving of them to raise a child to be anything less than a Christian, considering the consequences of not being one. But in a way, are they respecting their child less than God is?

I just suddenly have this weird picture of all these people who were raised and accepted Christ as their Savior, suddenly faced with a God who tells them they aren't saved, because they didn't freely make the choice. Their parents made the choice for them based on their upbringing.

I'm also unsure how the Quiverfulls approach the concept of free will. There was a definite Calvinist/Reformed Theology trend in the book.

20 comments:

Bruce Gerencser said...

Everyone I know in this movement is decidedly Calvinistic in thinking.

My wife and I were attracted to this line of thinking years ago.........so we have six children.

I wouldn't trade any one of my children for all the money in the world, BUT I would never encourage my grown children to have a large family.

The bottom line thinking is to take over the world one birth at a time. (as the Muslims are in Europe.)

It is a scary philosophy because of the theocratic thinking that is prominent with people in this movement.

Bruce

OneSmallStep said...

Bruce,

Part of why I wasn't sure is because some of the people the author interviewed kept giving her literature and encouraged her to become saved -- which sounded like they felt it was up to the author. But I've never understood how Calvinists balance spreading the gospel with the idea of only God chooses you to be saved.

One of the downfalls I see in the movement is that the only way you can raise that many children is if you have help. Oftentimes, it seems that help comes in the form of the other children, and is that fair to the oldest kids? Where's their childhood if they're busy helping to raise the younger ones?

Lorena said...

The moral is that the "contraceptive mentality" would have precluded the births of Washington, Mozart, Beethoven, and, by implication, possibly a savior."--

Conversely, if birth control had been used, many scumbags like Ted Bundy may have never been amongst us. And the good people they took down might still be with us.

Some bedtime reading that book! Did it give you nightmares?

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**Some bedtime reading that book! Did it give you nightmares?**

No, just a hugely pessimistic view towards the human race. I had to keep reminding myself, "Fringe group, fringe group, fringe group leaking into mainstream group."

atimetorend said...

As far as the calvinist/free will thing, from what I've read it is left as a mystery, one of those unsolvable, unknowable mysteries of God. So you have the responsibility to teach/indoctrinate your children about God, but they have free will, but they were predestined to be born into your family where they would be indoctrinated, and that is God's grace to them to be saved. And God's promises are that he is faithful, so he will save your children, so it is good to have more and more.

Does that make any sense? I guess what I am saying is the issues are not really resolvable, and that at the lay person level there isn't generally much of an attempt to work through them.

That's really from reading and personal experience in a "reformed" church.

societyvs said...

Religious groups - namely conservative ones - havent cared too much for logic or substance to their thinking - and this book is just another example. They don't answer in questions anymore (see writings on Jesus for this type of reasoning) - but solid answers...they have faith - in their religious systems now.

As for Calvin and his writings - I have little use for the sole person that his written up theology that is used to write up 'crap' like this - and tons of other doctrines that are just as problematic (ie: determinism). To me, he's yesterday news trying to be re-manufactured to fit in a 21st century environment he doesnt work in (pun intended).

I think your points are 'right on' concerning women's rights and child-birth and child rearing. Why take back the world by virtue of having more and more children when you have no clue what those kids will turn out to be (God forbid they all are...wait...barrenless - lol).

The argument is quite dumb really. Why can't one person come up with the ideas that can change society - isn't that purpose of their examples? Mozart was one single person...same with Washington. What about the rest of the useful siblings they are also 'defending' in those families?

Quivefulls - take the movement back into the rock age it crawled out from.

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

**Does that make any sense? I guess what I am saying is the issues are not really resolvable, and that at the lay person level there isn't generally much of an attempt to work through them.**

It doesn't make any sense at all. But I think that reasoning like that is excused because of the whole idea of you can only understand this if you have the Holy Spirit, or God making the wisdom of the world look foolish, and God chooses what the world deems to be weak, and such.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**Mozart was one single person...same with Washington. What about the rest of the useful siblings they are also 'defending' in those families?**

The other thing it almost seems to be overlooking is the impact a parent can have on a child. If you have eighteen children, what type of attention and care does each individual child receive from the parent?

atimetorend said...

"It doesn't make any sense at all."LOL, thanks for calling a spade a spade! Very true. It's a paradox, was blocking on that word before. I've read it is a paradox mere humans can't understand, just like you said.

Bruce Gerencser said...

For it being a paradox Calvinists sure spend a lot of time preaching on it. :)

In Calvinistic doctrine no unregenerate person has free will. They are dead in trespasses and sin. Even in salvation, the person is passive, God makes them willing, God saves them. The person has NO part in their salvation. (regeneration precedes faith)

True free will is the ability to choose freely without compulsion. (or without God being the first cause,etc) Calvinists and Arminians alike would deny that people have this kind of free will.

Quiverfull is dominated by people with Calvinistic, Reformed thinking. It fits well with Covenant theology.

What better way to change the world than to have a bunch of covenant children? Then if their children have lots of children.........it is not long before you have a dominate culture. (as is happening with Muslims in Europe AND will happen here in the US with Hispanics in the next 50 or so years)

My wife and I have six children. We followed the Quiverfull methodology many years before it was the in thing to do. We were Calvinists. God is Sovereign. You will only have as many children as God wants you to have. It is determinism plain and simple. (and that is what Calvinism is, God chooses, you don't. Nothing happens that God has not preordained)

My wife? I could look at her and she would get pregnant. After #6 the doctor said.......no more.....that is IF I wanted to have my wife around in the years to come. He said "she is too pooped to pop." :)

Theology be **mned. We got off the Quiverfull bandwagon. It was one of those times where our theoretical theology got put to the test.

A few years later we abandoned Calvinism.......

OSS, you asked about the older kids raising the younger ones. So true. We put way too much responsibility on our older children. It did make them older and more responsible but I wonder if they missed out on some of life as a result?

Bruce

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

**I've read it is a paradox mere humans can't understand, just like you said.**

From what I've seen, there's almost a sense of pride in the fact that the whole doctrine doesn't make sense. That almost "proves" that it's true, because it doesn't match the wisdom of this world.

To which I'd have to come back and ask ... then what's the substance of your faith based on? If it's something that you can't make sense of, and thus must just have faith, doesn't that belittle the concept of God, in a way?

OneSmallStep said...

Bruce,

**God saves them. The person has NO part in their salvation. (regeneration precedes faith)**
Which would make me wonder why God bothered creating people at all? If God would do everything, and basically treat them as puppets ... what's the point?

**What better way to change the world than to have a bunch of covenant children?**
I find this chilling, in a way, because it almost reduces children to a sort of weapon used to "take back" the culture/country.

**We put way too much responsibility on our older children. It did make them older and more responsible but I wonder if they missed out on some of life as a result?**

I think there would be ways to help them be older and more responsible without making them permanent baby-sitters. Although, in Quiverfull philosophy, I'm sure it was just the female children who were helping out, and I doubt the parents felt they were robbing their children, since that was all the female children would do when adults anyway.

Sarge said...

I know some people involved in the 'quiverful' movement, but I kind of wonder, really.

My parents were very devout, daily devotions, everyday (until I could escape)something with church, and yet I remained an atheist, got access to clandestine literature, doubted, and continued to be myself.

The folks I know will probably be surprised at how much their culture sloughs off of their offspring, how much of the observance is just family duty...for now.

I have a young friend who married about a year ago, she is a once a month attender of church though a believer, but her husband has been showing signs of religious excitation and this is causing problems.

He started hinting around about the 'quiverful' philosophy, and my friend told him that her (vulgar words for reproductive organs and private parts) were NOT a clown car and accessories.

She is usually quite soft spoken, but she gave him quite a surprise. We'll see how he takes it.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

I had a moment like that at work. A supervisor -- not a Quiverfull supporter by any means -- told me that in no time at all, I'd be married and popping out babies. The conversation was in relation to how quickly time passes.

My thought: "I'm not a vending machine."

Yael said...

OSS,
You're not a vending machine? You rebeller against God, you....

I've been thinking about this post of yours for quite a few days now. Many good points have already been raised so I won't comment on them. My thoughts are about the assumption that if I wasn't born, no one would do the things I do. There is that expression, necessity is the mother of invention. If one person did not invent the wheel, someone else would have seen the need and invented it themselves. We have this teaching from Torah that the reason why there are no names included in the first Moses story is to show that it could have been anyone. If it wasn't Moses' family, it would have been some other family.

As far as the arts go, how do we know how many second rate artists might have been first rate if they hadn't become discouraged competing against whoever it was that became famous or hadn't been overlooked? How do we know how often one child is favored over another so that the talent of one is forever lost to the world? I think it is much too simplistic to say that if Mozart hadn't been born we would have missed so much. Maybe we missed something really great because he was born!

I think some people have watched "It's a Wonderful Life" too many times and absorbed its message as gospel truth. I think the story would have been much more realistic if it showed, hey if he wasn't born, someone else would have pulled his brother out of the pond or maybe his brother wouldn't have been there to begin with. Instead, the movie pumps up our egos by making us think we're the only thing standing between the world around us and disaster. Seems like an awfully simplistic view....

Sarge said...

When we got married my wife and I thought five or six kids would be just great. Not because of any religious thing, but, why not?

Then the first one came. Hmmmmm. Then the second one came. That was a smuch as we could handle and a bit more besides!

As to what Yael wrote, I have travelled quite a bit in the military and as a musician, and pay some attention to the people I've met.

I wonder a lot, because there have been people who could have been philosophers. musicians, writers, scientists, yet they never were encouraged to pick up an instrument, a pen, or to entertain a though other than in the 'now'. I've met quite a few folks like that, wondered about it.

I see this all around us. Talent is born all the time, just discouraged, stifled, or beaten out of the capable for one reason or another.

Tit for Tat said...

Talent is born all the time, just discouraged, stifled, or beaten out of the capable for one reason or another.(Sarge)

Sad, but true. Maybe the key is to persevere even in the midst of the ugliness.

OneSmallStep said...

Yael,

The way I see it, if God wanted me to be a vending machine, He wouldn't have given me all those other parts -- like a brain. Or legs. Or arms. Just a torso, because that's where the womb is. ;)

**My thoughts are about the assumption that if I wasn't born, no one would do the things I do. **
And I wonder how much of this is tied to the idea of God creating each person with a special purpose. I've heard quite a few times about the whole idea of God having a special plan for one's life, and you need to accept Him in order to access that plan ... as you said, it's very ego-affirming.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

I have a friend who wants five or six kids. I told her to try having the first one first, and then see where her views are.

**I see this all around us. Talent is born all the time, just discouraged, stifled, or beaten out of the capable for one reason or another.**

Yes. How many people are there out there like Susan Boyle who simply don't have the chance? Who aren't given the opportunities? When I was younger, many of my friends had these huge plans of what they'd do with their lives, and now? Not even close.

JEB said...

Hi All - I didn't see it mentioned here but there's a blog that was started by a woman who lived the Quiverfull lifestyle for 18 years or so. It's called No Longer Quivering, and for those interested in the thought processes that leads one into such a system it's interesting reading. Vyckie's come out of that now, as has her friend Laura. Vyckie has 7 children and Laura 11. If you should go there to explore don't overlook the Forums since there's a great group of commenters sharing there.