“ ...Older women ... admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5
Quiverfull is a growing fundamentalist movement within evangelical Christianity which shuns all forms of birth control and follows the “biblical” marriage model of male headship and female submission.
Think Duggar Family.
JimBob & Michelle Duggar with their 19 kids and growing extended family are the embodiment of today’s back-to-Patriarchy biblical family values movement: half a dozen kids or more, homeschool, home church, home birth, modest dress, heavy emphasis on homemaking for women and girls, rejection of higher education and all things modern including popular music, movies, television, and science … children are sheltered, no dating allowed, but instead, kids are pushed via parent-led courtship and betrothal toward early marriage and exuberant spawning.
Quiverfull is a contemporary manifestation of capital-p Patriarchy, but what if I told you that the majority of fundamentalist Christians pushing women to live Quiverfull lives of wifely submission and prolific childbearing are WOMEN?
Believe it … because it’s the truth!
Titus 2 Women
Admittedly, the public face of Quiverfull (also known as “Complementarity”) is overwhelmingly male: John Piper of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John MacArthur of Grace to You ministries, Dennis Rainey, radio host of Family Life Today, mega-church Pastor David Platt, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board and author of “Counter Culture” which calls on women to ditch feminism in favor of wifely submission, Voddie Baucham, author of “What He Must Be If He Wants To Marry My Daughter,” Scott Brown of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (in which “family integrated” is code words for Quiverfull), “Kill The Gays” pastor, Kevin Swanson, the “pissing pastor,” Steve Anderson, and so so many more.
But honestly, no sensible woman would give these misogynistic jerks the time of day if it weren’t for the influence of dedicated Christian female mentors: the “older women” of Titus 2 whom the apostle Paul charged to “teach the younger women” to be obedient keepers at home.
In the past, influential women like Phyllis Schlafly, Beverly LaHaye, Elizabeth Elliott, Edith Schaeffer, and Mary Pride decried the rise of feminism and the devaluation of full-time motherhood and homemaking.
Today, one of the leading ministries influencing Christian women to adopt bronze-age roles of rabid fecundity and hyper-domesticity is Above Rubies, a magazine “to encourage women in their high calling as wives and mothers” which has a worldwide circulation of nearly 200,000. The magazine and correlating ministry are headed by a charismatic and commanding woman named Nancy Campbell.
“Mother, you are not wasting your life in your home. God says that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom of God. When you take time to hold a little child on your lap, you are wielding a mighty power. You are in the perfect will of God. You are not only doing something that is good. You are doing what is BEST. You are in the very center of God’s heart." -NancyCampbell
Other prominent female leaders in the Christian Patriarchy movement include:
Nancy (Leigh) DeMoss Wolgemuth of Revive Our Hearts Radio and the True Woman Movement, as well as author of the book, “Lies Women Believe” … “lies” such as these: “I have my rights,” “If I submit to my husband, I’ll be miserable,” and “It’s up to us to determine the size of our family.”
Debi Pearl, author of Created To Be His Help Meet, teaches wives to study their husbands’ idiosyncrasies in order to anticipate and meet the patriarchs’ every need. To the wife of an abusive husband, Debi has this advice:
God says that as a husband looks on and sees the way his wife responds to him, he will be won. He will hear and see her cheerful countenance. He will notice her willingness to help and forgive. He will see her giving up her rights and not taking offense when he knows he has wronged her. He will see she honors him, obeys him, treats him with respect, and serves him with a non-rebellious, non-resistant attitude. He will see her spirit is not raging outwardly in emotional fits or inwardly in silent brooding of hurt, but her spirit is quiet, restful, and peaceful. He will see she doesn’t puff up and talk incessantly in criticism of him—or others. He trusts her. He knows she is not going to discuss him with her pastor or friend. He sees she is wise with what little money he gives her. She is a remarkable woman, not because she is classy in the way she dresses or looks, but in the way she controls her spirit. She rejoices for an opportunity to bless him, and he knows her heart is good. He tries her; he deliberately tempts her into hurt or anger; he judges her unfairly; he demands things of her that he knows embarrasses her, yet she is in subjection to him in all things. And in the end, she wins him by her chaste conversation. It is a promise from God to you.
“Lady Lydia” Sherman and Jennie Chancey of Ladies Against Feminism -- a website devoted to “promoting beautiful womanhood.”
Kelly Crawford, mother of ten, blogs at the popular large-family, Christian homeschooling website, Generation Cedar.
Teri Maxwell, homeschooling mother of eight, who blogs about loving your husband and homeschooling your many, many children at Titus 2.
Other popular pro-patriarchy ministries which are run by women include: Young Wife’s Guide, The Humbled Homemaker, Loving Life at Home, Far Above Rubies, Equipping Godly Women, Hearts At Home, Victorious Christian Women, Simply Living For Him, In the Nursery of the Nation, Raising Olives, Molding Into a Lady, Christian Feminine Homemaking, Beautiful Life of Joy, Ladies in Godly Holy Teaching, Life in a Shoe, Large Families On Purpose, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Club 31 Women, Love Your Husband, Planet Mommyhood, Time-Warp Wife, …
Jesus Christ, there’s no end to the madness ... but I am becoming weary and disheartened finding all these websites run by women who encourage other women to cooperate in their own oppression. Ugh.
This story becomes even more incredible when you consider that ordinarily young women would pay little more than lip service to the ideals espoused by these Titus 2 women and their back-to-the-old-old-ways ministries … except when an older, seemingly wiser woman from their church, bible study group, or homeschool co-op personally recommends taking a closer look. That’s when they really pay attention and take the pro-patriarchy teachings to heart.
You might be wondering, but why would any woman promote this garbage to her friends, family, and neighbors?
Why, Why, Why?
From my own experience, as well as from listening to the stories of the women from No Longer Quivering who have left the lifestyle and are in the process of healing from seriously abusive relationships, here are the most common reasons why Christian women follow Paul’s Titus 2 directive to pursuade younger women to devote their lives to the pursuit of biblical womanhood:
They’re married to losers
Every Christian woman knows the bible says that God hates divorce. While some churches allow a few exceptions to the “till death do we part” marriage vow - perhaps for reasons of abandonment or adultery - the primary message is that the union with her husband is a sacred representation of the relationship between Christ and the Church and she must therefore make every effort to save her marriage.
Take Anna Duggar for example. While it’s true that Josh cheated on Anna, she is being counseled to forgive him and to trust the Lord to restore their love and make something beautiful from her brokenness. Jesus said if you don’t forgive others for their sins, the Heavenly Father will not forgive yours. Sure Jesus allowed for divorce in the case of marital unfaithfulness, but he also noted that exception was granted “because of the hardness of their hearts.” In other words, in theory, Anna can divorce Josh - she has every right - BUT, in practicality, the only way she would/could is if she’s willing to admit to having a hard, unforgiving heart that’s too bitter to trust in God … and take her chances that Jesus will understand and not doom her to Hell for all eternity.
So what’s a good Christian woman to do if she’s married to deadbeat man?
She’ll have to dig in, try harder, pray more, trust more … be a better Christian. That’s where “biblical family values” come in: according to the Christian headship model, the more of herself she surrenders to God and submits to her husband, the greater the likeliness that the Holy Spirit will intervene and change her husband’s heart. (See Debi Pearl’s advice to an abused wife above.)
Christian women who are trapped in unhappy marriages will seek out biblical solutions, and when they discover the key: male headship and female submission, they tell their husbands in the hopes that he will do the godly-man thing: step up to the plate and lead the family in the paths of righteousness.
True story: I have never encountered a happy couple in an egalitarian partnership that, when presented with the bible verse, “The husband is the head of the wife …” actually took it seriously and changed their relationship patterns to fit the patriarchal blueprint for marriage. It is only when the marriage is already dysfunctional - when the husband and/or wife are controlling, manipulative, petty … abusive - these are the couples who latch on to Christian patriarchy and implement the strict gender roles in the extreme.
Tragically, the advice a troubled couple is most likely to receive in Christian marital counseling is the worst instruction ever and will only lend biblical credence to the abusive partner’s worst tendencies. The power imbalance which is inherent to the headship/submission model is guaranteed to compound every pre-existing problem and create new difficulties as the woman’s indiscriminate catering to her husband transforms him into a narcissist and herself into a living martyr.
The need to believe
The Quiverfull lifestyle is extraordinarily demanding and frankly, a truly stark and exhausting way to live. Everything must be done in the hardest, most tedious way possible.
A cursory perusal of Quiverfull blogs reveals the exponential demands of “biblical womanhood” including: perpetual pregnancy, child-bearing, adopting sibling groups, breastfeeding, baby wearing, chronic sleep deprivation, raising half a dozen or more closely-spaced, “stair-step” children, homeschooling – year round through chronic illness, child-training,character training, tomato-staking, discipling children, homemaking, penny-pinching, organic gardening, baking from scratch, once-a-month cooking, homesteading, sewing modest clothing, showing hospitality, operating a “cottage” business, staying trim, fit and healthy, and of course, serving as loving helpmeet … all without the modern woman’s “village” of helpers: daycare, preschool, play dates, public school, the boob-tube babysitter, pre-packaged and frozen foods, day spas, “me time,” credit cards, government assistance, “allopathic” medicine, Sunday School, youth group, therapists, Ritalin for the kids, or Xanax for mom.
These women pay a high personal price putting very lofty ideals into practice ... and when you’re that invested in something so unconventional, you have to believe that you are not misguided, delusional, stupid, or just plain silly.
What better way to convince yourself than to convince others? So they order a bulk subscription to Above Rubies magazine and share the extra copies with their friends. They start a women’s group at church to study “Created To Be His Help Meet.” They quote bible verses to explain why they’re living the way they do in the hopes of making converts - misery loves company?
Money … of course!
Not every mega-family gets their own TV show to finance their procreative extravagance. The real reality is that many Quiverfull folk are barely getting by. The ultra-conservative lifestyle demands that Dad provides while Mom stays home with the kids. So these are one-income families supporting an impossible number of children: often a new baby every two years. Finances are further constrained when the family opts out of free public education in favor of homeschooling (revisionist history and creation science curriculum are not cheap!), refuses to accept any form of government assistance (because socialism) including Medicaid and food stamps, insists on debt-free living which means no home mortgages or credit cards to fall back on in emergencies, and some go so far as to forego home, health, and life insurance because it means trusting in a policy rather than in God. Add to that the biblical mandate to tithe the first 10% of their income to the church and to generously support various “pro-family” ministries with monthly donations.
(Side note: if you’re extra broke or just needing to put aside funds for a rainy day, check out all the money-saving, stretch-a-dollar tips on the above-linked Quiverfull blogs. These mega-moms are expert penny-pinchers and true Cheapskate Queens! Oh, need organization or time-management tips? … you will not believe how proficient these moms are at downsizing and delegating.)
One of Nancy Campbell’s daughters, Serene Allison, once wrote in Above Rubies magazine about a time when she had eight children aged 12 and under … due to poor plumbing, the family was without running water. Serene and her children were “forced to haul water from the stock tank (after breaking the ice), then fetch water down the hill and back up again in 5 gallon buckets, survive in a freezing cold house, then suffer as smoke billowed out of the wood stove, then wear goggles to keep smoke out of their eyes, then lay on the floor while the children opened doors and windows to air out the place. Finally, to escape the smoke, they went outside in freezing weather to run laps around the house to stay warm. And poor Serene cried.”
While truly godly women do not work outside their homes, many do help make ends meet by working from home in what is known as “cottage industries.” That’s exactly how Serene saved her family from dire poverty: she and her sister, Pearl wrote “a biblical approach to food freedom” and started the “Trim, Healthy Mama” movement to teach perpetually pregnant and nursing mothers how to slim down and keep the weight off once and for all. “Trim, Healthy Mama” is currently #2 in Amazon’s “health, fitness, and dieting” category.
Because God’s not happy enough for a woman to bear as many babies as her body is able to produce … the Quiverfull mom-of-many also must have vibrant health and a slim waistline.
Quiverfull is clearly a specialization of the “family values” niche market that has proven so profitable for the Christian publishing industry in general. So yeah – it is about MONEY and that’s a huge motivator. The idyllic big, happy, Christian family is so entrancing that TLC just announced they’re bringing back the lucrative Duggar Family for a “19 Kids and Counting” spin-off called, “Jill & Jessa: Counting On.”
And so it continues … a new generation of women teaching women to be submissive babymakers for Jesus.
Vyckie Garrison was once a minor celebrity in the Quiverfull Movement, made famous by TV’s Duggar family. As a devout, Bible-believing Christian and the mother of seven homeschooled children, Garrison spent 16 years, with her husband, publishing a newspaper for families on a similar path. Today, via a website called No Longer Quivering, she publishes resources for women leaving the movement.