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The Quiverfull Movement: Raising an army for Christ


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Vyckie Garrison’s seventh child, Wesley, was born by emergency caesarean section, at the Faith Regional Hospital in Norfolk, Nebraska. She had planned to give birth at home, unassisted, but her uterus partially ruptured during labour, almost killing her. For a month, she was confined to bed, barely able to move, let alone look after her family.

The doctor said it would be reckless for her to conceive any more children. But when she turned to her friends, they offered bleak counsel, with the force of biblical truth. “I was told that a woman shouldn’t shrink back from supposed dangers and that we should honour God with our bodies,” she says. “Jesus died for us, we should be willing to die for him.” She became pregnant twice more, suffering two miscarriages.

Garrison and her husband, Warren Bennett, had originally decided to stop at three kids. He had a vasectomy, to make sure. But after reading The Way Home, by Mary Pride, they decided to reverse the procedure and called one of the “natural family planning” organisations listed inside the back cover. In the next six years, they were blessed with four more offspring.

Pride’s book is one of the founding texts of the Quiverfull movement, which encourages Christians to refrain from using all forms of birth control, including abstinence. Child-bearing women are like missionaries, to be commended for their courage and sacrifice. “I had it all calculated out,” Garrison says. “I had seven kids and they were each gonna have twelve. They were all going to continue in the faith, to be warriors for Christ when they grew up.”

Calvinist pastor Doug Phillips, whose Vision Forum Ministry provides spiritual guidance, educational materials and an online catalogue of approved activities and clothes, has eight children. He preaches that Christianity can only triumph over secular liberalism if believers practice “multi-generational faithfulness,” by raising an army of devout soldiers. His 200 Year Plan envisages a godly United States, six generations from now, with fundamentalist evangelicals in the majority and a theocratic government in charge.

Quiverfull is a radical offshoot of the Christian Patriarchy movement, which is itself a subset of fundamentalist evangelicalism, and the nuances of observance make it tricky to estimate how many people adhere to its beliefs. What is certain is that tens of thousands of American families are withdrawing from the world, educating their children at home and living according to a literal interpretation of the Bible that stresses absolute submission to male authority.

“It is growing, and the reason it’s growing is that there’s a lot of fear among evangelicals right now,” says Garrison. “The more fearful evangelicals become, the more they retreat and start home schooling, and that is where they’re going to encounter Quiverfull ideals. Families are taught that getting into powerful institutions is part of their dominion mandate. They get internships at state level, get involved in political campaigns and in the justice system. That’s the whole point of having all these sons: to have an influence on policy and reclaim the country for God.”

Patrick Henry College, the headquarters of the conservative Christian Home School Legal Defence Association, sent more interns to the George Bush White House than any other institution. Republican Presidential front-runner Rick Perry has close ties to Vision Forum, through multi-millionaire campaign contributor Jim Leininger.

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Related: My Life as a Daughter in the Christian Patriarchy Movement

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5 comments on “The Quiverfull Movement: Raising an army for Christ

  1. This article just scratches the surface of how dangerous Doug Phillips is…. For more info you can check out my friend Cindy Kunsman site: http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/ where she covers many topics of spiritual abuse, including the patriarchy movement….. here’s a link to her lectures on that topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxGD8uWE2_w

  2. Who needs Christ when you have an army of brainwashed children, a wife beaten and shamed into slavery, conservative activism and an arsenal of guns ready to be dispatched?

    I wonder how quickly they would condemn our Lord and shout “Crucify Him!” if He were to return. They seem to prefer Rome’s family values and system of morals than God-incarnate’s spoken Word.

  3. But then some of us have never read the books etc. We heard the Lord ask us to trust him for EVERYTHING, give HIM control of our lives, even allowing HIM to plan our family.

  4. Everyone loses in the quiverful scenario, especially the women who give until there is nothing left to give. There are too many Marthas and not enough Marys.

  5. I think that it helps some to understand that the whole Mary Pride approach is to a great degree a backlash against the self centered culture that preceded it. To some degree it even thrives in the secular world. Prior to Mary Pride, Christians where consumed along with the secular culture in focusing on career and viewing children as a sort of distraction. Children were shuffled off to learning institutions at a younger and younger age, first kindergarten, then pre-school, and then in some cases even earlier. This was always done, of course, for the sake of the child’s development, but nevertheless, was very convenient for the parent’s agenda which often revolved around career and self gratification. Mary Pride was among the first to reject that approach and she became an icon in home school circles as a result. I learned a lot from Mary Pride and, along with my wife, implemented a lot of her concepts in the raising of our children.

    The problem with all of this is, of course, that when we make needed corrections in life, we never seem to do it thoughtfully and cautiously. Instead everything become a reaction against prevailing excess and the result is excess in the other direction. Things worked out relatively well for us, in large part because we did not assume that we had reached perfection and did not expect perfect results. We also did not swallow the whole nine yards as many unfortunately do when new concepts come along. One of the things that I refused to buy in to is the idea that women should be expected to bear an unending number of children. As believers we are called to love our wives. To expect a wife to bear children even in the face of severe health consequences is NOT a manifestation of Christian love. It is an extremist interpretation of scripture that does NOT bear good fruit. And, even if the wife is in good health, pursuing a larger family when limited income brings that family to starvation is not an act of faith either, but rather an act of foolishness. If more children “happen” unintentionally, we should thank God for them and trust that He will provide. But a lot of what Christian families are suffering these days is a result of something other than faith.

    Joshua Harris is every bit as much a homeschooling icon as is Mary Pride. He has posted an interesting article on his website. This article touches on a lot of the nasty side of the whole movement: Having Self-Centered Dreams, Raising Family as an Idol, Emphasizing Outward Form, Tending to Judge, Depending on Formulas, Over-Dependence on Authority and Control, Over-Reliance Upon Sheltering, Not Passing On a Pure Faith and Not Cultivating a Loving Relationship With Our Children. A lot of these traps occur from an extremist application of Mary Pride. I’m all for Christian families having lots of children … but not more that they can lovingly care for. I’m all for Christian’s having influence in our secular world … but not in an ungodly authoritarian way which is the foundation of theocracy. The sad legacy of the “Quiverfull movement” is that a large percentage of the legions of children they have struggled to raise as “an army for God” have turned out to be anything but. Extremism has denied them the very result they were sacrificing so much to achieve. In the same way, theocracy does not result in an increase in godliness, rather most often the opposite is true as history clearly demonstrates.

    The article I mentioned above can be found here -> http://www.joshharris.com/2011/09/homeschool_blindspots.php

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