19 Mar 2009
Talk To Action March 18, 2009
By Kathryn Joyce
Today my first book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, which I've written about at Talk to Action before, was published by Beacon Press. In it, I've investigated the growing ranks of the explicitly pronatalist, and self-named, "patriarchy" movement, which advocates strict interpretations of wifely submission to male headship, women forgoing all forms of contraception to bear as many children as God gives them, and homeschooling their daughters to do the same. So far, the book is being received as a fair and accurate depiction of a growing movement within conservative evangelicaldom (including kind words from Christianity Today) that deserves more attention than it has received to date.
An excerpt of the book has been published at religion journalism site Killing the Buddha:
There were complications when Geoffrey Botkin's first daughter, Anna Sofia, was born. The problems were physical--Anna Sofia's mother, Victoria, could have died--and more esoteric, too. Geoffrey Botkin is one of the leading voices of a ministry called Vision Forum, the intellectual avant-garde of fundamentalism. One of Vision Forum's chief concerns is child-rearing, which the movement considers both a process of theological conditioning and an art lost sometime in the 19th century. So as Botkin held his newborn daughter perfectly still in his cupped hands, he prayed to God for guidance: after having raised two older sons, how should he raise a daughter? He felt God move him to a specific prayer for the infant sleeping in his hands, a prayer for her body. He remembered baby girls are born with two ovaries and a finite number of eggs that will last them a lifetime. He placed his hand over his new daughter's abdomen and prayed for Anna Sofia to be the "future mother of tens of millions." He prayed that the Lord would order everything in his daughter's life: "What You will do with every single egg here. How many children will this young lady have? Who will be her husband? With what other legacy will these little eggs be joined to produce the next generation for the glory of God?" He explained to a room full of about six hundred fathers and daughters gathered for the annual Vision Forum Father and Daughter Retreat that he had prayed that his new daughter might marry young.
Today, Anna Sofia and her sister, Elizabeth, strikingly poised young women in their early twenties, are the preeminent Vision Forum brand for promoting biblical womanhood to the unmarried daughters of homeschooling families, girls largely raised in the patriarchal faith but susceptible to temptations from the outside world. In all their testimony to fellow young "maidens," the Botkin daughters, raised in both the American South and the Botkins' Seven Arrows Ranch in New Zealand, stress the dire importance of one of their father's favorite talking points: "multigenerational faithfulness." That is, the necessity of the sons and daughters of the movement--especially the daughters--cleaving to the ways of their parents and not abandoning the dominion project the older generation has begun.
Some children do rebel, as Natasha Epstein recalls. There were several runaway girls from Boerne Christian Assembly, the church pastored by Doug Phillips, the founder of Vision Forum, Epstein says. Some ultimately succeeded in leaving the lifestyle after having been caught and brought back to the church by their fathers and other men in the church. Natasha herself ran away from home following the excommunication of her family, living with her grandparents in Oregon for a period before returning to Texas and taking up the modern young woman's lifestyle that her mother grieves. But the more common--and more dangerous--rebellion is the quieter assimilation of movement children into modern society, not running away but merely drifting into more lax expressions of the faith and away from patriarchal adulthood.
A common nay-saying liberal reaction to the patriarchy movement and "Quiverfull," a conviction that Christian women should birth as many children as God gives them as a means of "demographic warfare," is to assume that the children of strict homeschooling families will rebel en masse--like the 1960s youth rebellions against a conservative status quo. However, the heads of the movement are already well aware of this threat, and they are taking all the precautions they can to cut off the possibility of such defection in the cradle.
As Jennie Chancey tells the Botkin sisters in their book, So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God, children of the movement should have "little to no association with peers outside of family and relatives" as insulation from a corrupting society. Daughters shouldn't forgo education but should consider to what ends their education is intended and should place their efforts in "advanced homemaking" skills.
Concretely, Geoffrey Botkin explains, this means evaluating all materials and media that daughters receive from childhood on as it pertains to their future role. The Botkin sisters received no Barbie dolls--idols that inspire girls to lead selfish lives--but rather a "doll estate" that could help them learn to manage a household of assets, furniture, and servants in the aristocratic vision of Quiverfull life which Botkin paints for the families around the room. The toys the girls played with were "tools for dominion," such as kitchen utensils and other "tools for their laboratory": the kitchen.
R. C. Sproul, Jr., in a book of advice to homeschooling parents, When You Rise Up, describes the critical secret of God's covenants as the cornerstone of the homeschool movement: the imperative of covenants, he says, is to "pass it on to the next generation." He's done so himself, he relates, in what he calls the R. C. Sproul, Jr., School for Spiritual Warfare, in which he crafts "covenant children" with an "agrarian approach" and stresses that obedience is the good life in and of itself, "not a set of rules designed to frustrate us but a series of directions designed to liberate us." In that freedom, boys and girls are educated according to their future roles in life, and girls are taught that they will pursue spiritual warfare by being keepers in the home.
To gauge the amount of secular baggage his homeschooling readers are trailing, he tells the story of a family friend whose homeschooled nine-year-old daughter still cannot read. "Does that make you uncomfortable?" he asks.
Are you thinking, "Mercy, what would the superintendent say if he knew?" . . . But my friend went on to explain, "She doesn't know how to read, but every morning she gets up and gets ready for the day. Then she takes care of her three youngest siblings. She takes them to potty, she cleans and dresses them, makes their breakfasts, brushes their teeth, clears their dishes, and makes their beds." Now I saw her, rightly, as an overachiever. If she didn't know how to read but did know all the Looney Tunes characters, that would be a problem. But here is a young girl being trained to be a keeper at home. Do I want her to read? Of course I do . . . . But this little girl was learning what God requires, to be a help in the family business, with a focus on tending the garden.
Read the entire excerpt at Killing the Buddha.
Order Quiverfull from Amazon.
This article was found at:
The Huffington Post - July 7, 2008
by Christine Wicker
Remember when George H. W. Bush promised us a kinder, gentler form of Republicanism? Did that happen? No. We're now being told that the Religious Right is becoming a kinder, gentler political force. Is that happening? No. In fact, core supporters of the Religious Right are moving only one direction -- farther out. And that is exactly where they want to take the country.
Last week, I told you about a sermon given by Bruce Ware, a professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He used the Bible to back up his notion that God means for women to be submissive to men and that men because of their sinful nature beat women who because of their sinful nature aren't submissive enough.
Now I want to tell you about some of the other ideas coming out of this seminary, which has become a primary mouthpiece for the most fundamentalist positions of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the seminary that defended the use of torture in the fight against terrorism. It is also the seminary that is bringing us a new theology featuring what Kansas City Baptist minister Keith Herron calls a religious sexual obsession that links the Bible with "the ickiest viewpoints about sex and procreation and pleasure."
This new teaching is being called "the full quiver theology" and is based on Psalm 127: 3-5 which reads: "Children are a heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. As arrows in a soldier's hand, so are the sons of the young. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them." So the more children, a couple has, the better.
But fundamentalists never stop with what's good. They always address both sides of the question. Obedient insiders get God's blessing. The disobedient get God's condemnation.
According to the seminary's president, Albert Mohler, couples who choose childlessness are guilty of "rebellion against parenthood [that] represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design." God will decide whether to open or close the womb. Using birth control is an act against God's will. The truly Christian couple will allow God to decide whether each act of sex will result in procreation and sex will be returned to its proper place in a Christian's life.
And the Christian woman? She'll submit, of course. Couples who delay marriage until they are older are also guilty of disobedience under this new theology. When President Mohler explained the teaching some years ago to the Chicago Tribune, he explained that under-population was a pressing concern.
"We are barely replenishing ourselves," he said. "That is going to cause huge social problems in the future."
That led Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics at Denver's Iliff School of Theology, to wonder exactly whom Mohler meant by "we." The world's population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. The United States' population is expected to grow to 400 million by 2040. No under-population there.
But wait. There is one U.S. population that's declining. White people. If present trends continue Euro-Americans will cease being the majority race in the United States by about 2050. Over the next half century, America will become a predominately non-white nation.
"Hence, the religious call for 'full-quiver' theology is white-supremacy code language advocating for the increase of white babies," writes De La Torre. "Mohler's call, whether he realizes it or not, is a race-based warning. It is a call for white fecundity, lest America becomes overrun with "colored" children, which would only lead, as Mohler puts it, to 'huge social problems in the future.' "
Oh, yes. And one more point, for decades Southern Baptists have loudly declared that their fundamentalism is the "right" Christianity and pointed as proof to their own growth while mainline denominations were declining. But the Southern Baptist Convention's growth rate has been shrinking since the 1950s, according to new statistics.
It has now fallen enough that the Southern Baptist Convention is recording membership losses. One reason? Birth rates among Southern Baptists are declining. President Mohler and Professor Ware back up their contentions with plenty of Bible verses. For some people, that means they are teaching the truth. But other evangelicals say their interpretations are as wacky as using the Bible to defend slavery, segregation, white supremacy, oppression of the poor and unjust wars.
"Dr. Ware needs to have his head examined. He and the others who share these views need therapy and should be banned from teaching the next generation of ministers who sit at their feet learning about God, about human pain and suffering," writes Rev. Herron.
"Warning signs should be posted at the entrance of the seminary: "Warning! Sexual Obsessions Abound Here ... Enter at Your Own Peril!"
Professor De La Torre writes, "It is the height of biblical naivete to impose modern concepts upon ancient texts." Women and children were considered property when the Bible was written. When Job's cattle and sheep and goods were taken away, his children were also killed, De Le Torre points out. In the happy ending, God restored them all. The property was interchangeable. Cows dead. Children dead. No real difference. Just get some more. Happy ending. That was a very different time.
Few commentators are going to be willing to call fundamentalist evangelicals' positions sexual obsessions. Few will be willing to call them racist. So this could be the only place and the only time that you will see them labeled as such.
These positions, in fact, are unlikely to be broadly brandished as the campaign moves on. But Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is not a fringe institution. Albert Mohler and Bruce Ware are well respected and their words are heeded. Young people do sit at their feet, learning.
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