My Life as a Daughter in the Christian Patriarchy Movement -- How I Was Taught to Obey Men, Birth 8 Kids and Do Battle Against Secular America
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This article first appeared on Butterflies and Wheels.
Deep within America, beyond your typical evangelicals and run-of-the-mill fundamentalists, nurtured within the homeschool movement and growing by the day, are the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements. This is where I grew up.
I learned that women are to be homemakers while men are to be protectors and providers. I was taught that a woman should not have a career, but should rather keep the home and raise the children and submit to her husband, who is her god-given head and authority. I learned that homeschooling is the only godly way to raise children, because to send them to public school is to turn a child over to the government and the secular humanists. I was taught that children must be trained up in the way they should go every minute of every day. I learned that a woman is always under male authority, first her father, then her husband, and perhaps, someday, her son. I was told that children are always a blessing, and that it was imperative to raise up quivers full of warriors for Christ, equipped to take back the culture and restore it to its Christian foundations.
Christian Patriarchy involves the patriarchal gender roles and hierarchical family structure, while Quiverfull refers to the belief that children are always a blessing and that big families are mandatory for those following God’s will (some eschew birth control altogether). While these two belief sets are generally held in common, they can technically exist separately. Now, not everyone who holds these beliefs actually claims the term “Christian Patriarchy” or “Quiverfull.” My parents certainly didn’t. In fact, I never heard those terms growing up. What matters is not the name that is claimed, but the beliefs outlined above.
My parents were originally fairly ordinary evangelicals. Like so many others --it's a common story -- it was homeschooling that brought them to Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull. They began homeschooling for secular reasons, and then, through homeschool friends, conferences and publications, they were drawn into the world of Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull. It starts slowly, one belief here, a book there. For those who are already fundamentalists or evangelicals, like my parents, the transition is smooth and almost natural. Suddenly, almost without realizing it, they are birthing their eighth or ninth child and pushing their daughters toward homemaking and away from any thought of a career.
Why are these movements so enticing to evangelical and fundamentalist homeschoolers? Simple. Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull offer the image of the perfect family and the promise that you can make a difference and change the world, raising up an army for Christ, without ever leaving your home. Organizations like Vision Forum and No Greater Joy promise parents perfect families in very explicit terms. If you follow the formula, you, too, can be like that pretty picture or happy face in the catalogue. They are the huckster traveling salesmen of the homeschool world, but they sell dreams.
The actual experience for children growing up in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements varies dramatically because every set of parents is different. I happened to have a mother with never-ending energy and a father who was fairly laid back. That meant that my home life was pleasant and my childhood happy. Others, though, have mothers who are debilitated by pregnancy after pregnancy and fathers who quickly become tyrannical and overbearing. These children may not have a very happy upbringing at all.
While my upbringing was fairly happy, it was anything but normal. For one thing, I was homeschooled. For another thing, I grew up with a dozen younger siblings. Other families commonly have seven, eight or nine children. A few have as many as 18 or 19. While there are some fun things about growing up with so many siblings, the sheer size of the family means that daughters of Christian Patriarchy have little privacy and many chores. And since they don’t go to school, their time with friends is limited and their time working by their mothers’ sides is maximized.