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Christian Fundamentalist Group Preaches Patriarchy and Women's Fertility as Weapons for Spiritual Warfare

Author Kathryn Joyce explains the bizarre Quiverfull movement dedicated to exploding the birthrate of ultra-conservative Christians.

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Karlin: You said the many arrows in the quiver represent children as being important to Christian warfare. I remember reading that Sarah Palin was part of something called the spiritual warfare movement. The idea was to belong to society, and to take over positions of power. Do the people in the Quiverfull movement see themselves as missionaries?

Joyce:  I recall reading about that, in regard to Sarah Palin, and that was a specific group. Spiritual warfare in the most basic sense is how a Christian engages with the culture by bringing this Christian influence, and knowing that they are there to convert the world and not become more of the world. Spiritual warfare can mean a lot of things, but in terms of using children, and viewing your fertility as a weapon of spiritual warfare -- that is particular to Quiverfull, I think, or people who follow Quiverfull convictions without using their name, which a lot of people do.

Spiritual warfare is about using all of your gifts in a Christian mission against the world. It's not necessarily to be aligned with a literal militaristic way of talking about things. But when people start to talk about spiritual warfare and the Quiverfull movement, it's very clear that they have a lot of earthly goals.  They talk about reclaiming the city of San Francisco for the faithful, or saying we can reclaim Massachusetts for the faithful. We can take over both houses of Congress, and we can take over the government and start doing things the way Christians should be doing them. We can ban offensive movies, and we can wage huge massive boycotts against companies that violate God's standards. 

Eventually, the people who really write about this are hoping that they can set the country legally back into a Christ-law government -- something like the Colonies, the Massachusetts Bay Colonies, the Christian colonies, is the ultimate example they see. 

Karlin: What drew you to look so closely at this movement? 

Joyce: I first starting researching and writing about this movement when I was looking into the phenomenon of pharmacists who were claiming conscientious objection to filling birth control prescriptions. I was really surprised that these people who are anti-abortion would also be anti-contraception. And, of course, that's the rub. More and more people are understanding in the past five years is it's not one or the other with Quiverfull and anti-contraception advocates. They are advocating an extremely conservative and extremist anti-sex philosophy.

Looking back on the people supporting this, there was a really organized movement of people behind the anti-contraception movement, and they were really talking most about how feminism had led to birth control, which had led to abortion. They had to attack the root of this problem, which was attacking women's rights, and women's right to control their fertility. 

Karlin: Historically, female subservience to the male has been the rule rather than the exception. What motivates a woman in this contemporary modern culture to accept this? How do we as secular people get inside such a woman's head and understand her being subservient and obsequious to the male head of the family?

Joyce: I think, first off, there's a bit of a trade off offered to women who sometimes don't see a lot of options for themselves in the workplace. They re-embrace these traditional roles with astounding vigor because basically, if it's a question of being a blue-collar laborer, and you're not offered a fulfilling role, or being some kind of angel in the house, then she'll choose the angel in the house.