Both Newsweek and The Nation have both posted articles about the “Quiverfull” movement – the extremist anti-birth-control movement among right-wing Protestants. (The title of this post is a quote from a leader of the movement, quoted in the Newsweek article). Here are some excerpts from the articles. First, from Newsweek:
Beyond such purists, the anti-birth control message appears to be gaining ground among some evangelicals. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has become one of its most prominent advocates. “If a couple sees children as an imposition, as something to be vaccinated against, like an illness, that betrays a deeply erroneous understanding of marriage and children,” says Mohler. “Children should be seen as good by default.” His stance isn’t as extreme as that of quiverfull followers; for instance, he condones the use of condoms for married couples in extreme circumstances, like illness. Still, Mohler’s views are considered “an oddity” in mainstream Baptist circles, according to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Land admits, however, that Mohler has certainly expanded his following. “He is seen as the popularizer of a position that is still very marginal, but 15 years ago, it wouldn’t have even been discussed,” says Land, adding that he knows of at least two former students who had reverse vasectomies after hearing Mohler’s arguments. [...]
Stephanie Coontz, director of research for the Council on Contemporary Families, says she has increasingly noticed articles on the subject in the Christian press. Part of the reason, she argues, is that conservatives are reacting to revolutionary changes in women’s social roles and seeking to re-impose a more traditional order. “The rhetoric is getting more shrill because people are getting more desperate,” she says. “It’s a backlash that I don’t feel will triumph. In the past, large families were helpful economically, but today, they become a disadvantage, especially to younger kids who don’t get as many resources.”
Coontz has it right; what’s at issue here isn’t just how many children to have, but the sex roles for men and women. Men on top, ruling the household; women below, raising the kids. Lots and lots and lots of kids. From the Nation article:
Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship–”Father knows best”–and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess’s 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the “Great Physician” and sole “Birth Controller,” opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women’s attempts to control their own bodies–the Lord’s temple–are a seizure of divine power.
Though there are no exact figures for the size of the movement, the number of families that identify as Quiverfull is likely in the thousands to low tens of thousands. Its word-of-mouth growth can be traced back to conservative Protestant critiques of contraception–adherents consider all birth control, even natural family planning (the rhythm method), to be the province of prostitutes–and the growing belief among evangelicals that the decision of mainstream Protestant churches in the 1950s to approve contraception for married couples led directly to the sexual revolution and then Roe v. Wade.
“Our bodies are meant to be a living sacrifice,” write the Hesses. Or, as Mary Pride, in another of the movement’s founding texts, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, puts it, “My body is not my own.” This rebuttal of the feminist health text Our Bodies, Ourselves is deliberate. Quiverfull women are more than mothers. They’re domestic warriors in the battle against what they see as forty years of destruction wrought by women’s liberation: contraception, women’s careers, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and child abuse, in that order.
Although the Quiverfull movement is an extreme, it’s my impression that an anti-birth-control movement has been rising among American evangelicals. Having sex without women risking pregnancy is seen as abdicating the role women have been assigned by God.
You know what the scariest sentence in the Newsweek article is? “His stance isn’t as extreme as that of quiverfull followers; for instance, he condones the use of condoms for married couples in extreme circumstances, like illness.” Yes, that’s what makes someone a moderate on birth control: Condoms are okay if the mom is too deathly ill to risk pregnancy.
Note also the final page of the Nation article, in which DLC1 paid researcher Kenneth Longman is quoted recommending that Democrats should bid for these voters by urging a return to patriarchy (and giving up on abortion rights). Unsurprising, but still annoying as hell.
- DLC stands for Democratic Leadership Council, an extremely influential Democratic Party organ. [↩]