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New Book: Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement

A little over a year ago, I blogged about having been interviewed by Kathryn Joyce, who was writing a book about the Quiverfull Movement. The book has now been published, I’ve received my review copy, and though I haven’t read the entire book yet (and will begin tonight), what I have read is excellent! I am so pleased and excited! Chapter 19, “Exiting the Movement,” of Quiverfull — Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, tells my story. Kathryn did such great job! I am always vaguely terrified in situations like this because my story is complicated, there is much that outsiders to the movement might (understandably) misunderstand, and especially, I feel fiercely protective of women who are still in the movement. It is painful to me any time my story is used against fundamentalist women, is somehow thrown in their faces. What happened to me happened to me at the hands of men, not women– even though individual women did, undeniably, cause me great harm. At any rate, I need not to have been afraid. Kathryn’s writings evidence a deep and thoughtful understanding of the situation of women in the Quiverfull movement.

I will be writing more about this book as I read it. For now, I wanted to let everyone know it is in print and available to purchase in all the regular outlets.

Great job, Kathryn!




11 thoughts on “New Book: Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement

  1. Thanks heaps for posting this! I will be ordering it as soon as possible. I can’t wait to read it.

    Posted by Arietty | March 5, 2009, 12:04 am
  2. You’re welcome, Arietty. You’ll be interested in the chapter in there on Nancy Campbell, I’m sure!

    It’s funny– I knew she was old school Quiverfull before there was any such recognized movement, but I always labored under the illusion that she was Quiverfull with heart (like many of my readers were and are). That was until she published a spate of articles after my excommunication that basically said women who were being battered should submit to their husbands and pray and then these horrific testimonials from women who were doing that.

    So much for being Quiverfull with heart. 😦

    Posted by womensspace | March 5, 2009, 12:46 am
  3. I also thought Nancy Campbell had a big heart, loving and supportive of women.. but those articles threw me as well. One in particular in which a woman’s testimony included getting an STD from her abusive husband and how God is uplifting her as she continues to honor the husband (still just as abusive) was so horrifying I marked the magazine return to sender and never got another one. Though I was well out of fundamentalism I still read them because of A. Nancy’s big heart, B. curiosity as to what they were all doing next (the adoptions etc..) and C. just for the large family stuff which really doesn’t show up anywhere else and was kind of heart warming for me.

    However I think the changes started a long time before those articles you speak of–they were just evident by omission. Years ago (like 20+ years ago) the stories would be from the kinds of families you would NEVER see now. Women who were divorced because of abuse and remarried and would do the whole “how God has blessed me in this new marriage” thing. Those women’s voices have not been heard for a long time. Years ago Val Stares told me at an Above Rubies meeting that Nancy Campbell had stopped promoting Mary Pride’s HELP magazine when they came out with that “if you remarry you will go to hell” stuff from that Florida ministry.. so maybe she doesn’t believe that but the broad tapestry of women’s lives has been considerably plucked and sterilized since. I remember past stories of women with a few kids by different fathers but no marriage at any point, a common enough life in Aus and NZ but you won’t read about these women’s lives now. I also noticed thinking back that people used to write more factually about bad stuff that had occurred in their lives (“I was drinking and picking up men in night clubs”) but now it’s all glossed over in pretty sentences (“I was not walking right with the Lord”). Really, very alienating. Very not-real.

    I still look at the pictures some times at a friend’s house but it is too often triggering, sometimes simply because on one level it still appeals.

    Posted by Arietty | March 5, 2009, 3:29 am
  4. Sorry to post more but.. when I was younger I kind of basked in Nancy’s warmth. My mother is mentally ill and not any kind of parent and in my youth I thought how wonderful it would be to have a mother like Nancy (who does seem to have a wonderful relationship with her daughters). When it occurred to me one day that Nancy Campbell would *have nothing to do with me* because of actions I had taken and my life choices I was quite sad. And then I was frustrated with myself for being sad about it. Blech. Still I think that longing for safe, warm family is a big appeal in the Quiverfull movement. I know it was for me.

    Posted by Arietty | March 5, 2009, 3:37 am
  5. Arietty, yeah– the ministry in Florida. I’m kind of dimly recalling regularly getting stuff from the women there to publish in the magazine (and I probably published some of it). I’m wondering if that was the same group that moved to Montana and then down to Texas and the entire group became fundamentalist Anglican because the leader of the group thought, based on his research, that that was the current expression of the New Testament Church. Okay, now I’m remembering. That guy wrote a book, “Let Her Be Veiled.” But maybe this is a whole different group from the one you’re talking about whose teachings Mary Pride was all gung ho over.

    That was a huge huge HUGE crisis for me personally, the divorce-and-remarriage stuff. (And you are so RIGHT 30 years ago, even 20, there was so much talk about how people had been hippies and druggies and basically profligate and how they’d been saved and redeemed and so on. The honesty was powerful and touching and so there was a lot of life in the early movement, and you’re right, now it’s completely sterile and dead and there is next to no disclosure or honesty about anything other than, I’m sure, behind closed doors, which is scary.)

    But I remember in the early 80s or so when I’d quit my j ob and started homeschooling, there I was in my suburban house with my then five, six kids, wearing my head veiling and my long jumpers and so on, and I’d ordered a bunch of curriculum and other stuff from Rod & Staff. They always included tracts in their shipments, and there was one in there that day about divorce and remarriage. It ended with, “We can offer no hope of heaven to those who have been divorced and remarried.” I remember standing there feeling suckerpunched and just sick, like the wind had been knocked out of me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I tried to convince myself it was nothing to worry about, I remember thinking these are conservative Mennonites, after all, and probably almost no one else but them holds that particular view.

    Of course down the road we’d all find out that this was the Reformed perspective and that they were even worse than the Amish/Conservative Mennonites! Their view was, the only valid marriages were first time marriages between never-married people or widows/widowers, and that if you were remarried and there was an ex out there who had only been married to you and was not now married, you were supposed to go back to that person or at the very least separate from your current husband. Never mind your six, seven-11 kids or whatever!

    It was nuts, too because it was only first time marriages that were recognized, so if you were married to someone who had been married before, that marriage wasn’t viewed as valid UNLESS that person’s prior marriage was to someone who had been married before! So in the case of my marriage while I was in the Quiverfull movement, I’d been married before to my first ex (who was in prison for trying to kill me), but he had been married before and divorced prior to marrying me. So my marriage to him would not have been viewed as valid. My number two ex had been married before as well, also to a woman who had been married before. So his prior marriage was not viewed as valid. UNLESS, his first wife’s first ex had possibly been married before, in which case, THAT marriage would not have been viewed as valid and her marriage to my number two ex WOULD have been viewed as valid and therefore, number two ex would not have been free to marry me, he would be expected to be reconciled to wife number one. But it wasn’t like we were going to call his first wife’s first ex and ask whether he had been married, and if so, was his first wife ever married before, and was that her first husband’s first marriage…

    That was the kind of crap that was going down in the late 80s, huh! So BIZARRE. There were these testimonies always of people who were so “blessed” because despite their 12 kids, they’d separated out of “obedience to God” because one or both of them had been married before. The rest of us were terrified even thinking about it, dear God, NOW you tell us after we’ve had all these kids together!


    The Reformed/Reconstructionist camp wouldn’t negotiate on this either. They can be some of the meanest sons of beehives around and completely convinced they’re right as rain. So they’d swoop into homeschooling groups and home churches and create all of these messed up dramas around whose marriages were and were not valid, and they didn’t care that by far the vast majority of evangelicals/fundamentalists did not share their views or interpretation of scripture! They just thought all those people were wrong and disobedient or heretics or whatever and should get in step.

    While I’m being kind of flip about this, as you know, there was nothing flip about it at all. This was DEVASTATING to people, and particularly women who were doing everything they knew to do to be “obedient” and “godly” and they’re keepers at home with umpteen kids and breastfeeding and pregnant, and then to be told, nope, you’re living in “unrepentant adultery” because your husband was married 20 years ago to whomever and you need to split from him right NOW. JEEZ that was horrible.

    And yeah, the Campbells did not believe that, I’m recalling that they were charismatics and charismatics never hold those views, they are all about forgiveness and starting over fresh and so on.

    I know what you mean about those feelings of sadness and despair knowing your wayword youth makes you unfit for (somebody’s idea of) the Kingdom or unfit as a friend because you might be a bad influence or an “unrepentant adulterer” or whatever.

    I think a lot of us who came of age in the 60s moved into the 70s with a lot of guilt over all the stuff we all did (a lot of stuff, some of us). Fundamentalism’s promise of safety and family togetherness and community really did have an appeal. Where else does a woman with kids find supportive community? There really aren’t many places.

    Posted by womensspace | March 5, 2009, 5:04 am
  6. The book Mary Pride promoted heavily was “Till Death Do Us Part”, from CPR Ministries. I am sure even more books like this have been published by now. You’re right, it was very horrifying to be hit in the face with that stuff, I remember it was this sickening weight I didn’t want to think about. I was intensely unhappy and I knew I would leave my husband some day and I knew I would be condemned for it.. but the burning in hell part was terrifying. I had a good friend was married to a patriarchal tyrant (Reform) who after reading the book cut off all contact with any friends they had had who were remarried. He’d already cut off all contact with any charismatics, so-called liberals, families where the woman worked.. and on and on.

    After I divorced, his wife whom I had been very good friends with called me twice, the first time from a pay phone and the second time from home–she hung up abruptly when she heard the tyrant returning. That’s 12 years ago but I still think about her at times though we would have little in common now. My daughter met her at some gathering and felt condemned by them for how she was dressed (too much flesh, lol). Still, it’s a sadness to have lost a friend not through changing but through tyranny.

    I now view the idea that marriage is a spiritual/emotional contract to be incredibly stupid. A legal contract to insure a fair division of assets should the union dissolve, fine, good idea. With Christians marriage is treated like a divine entity in itself. The entity Marriage is far more important than the individuals in it. The entity demands all this obeisance and hard work so it meets the demands of being called “Christian Marriage”. The deeper you get into the idea the heavier the demands become. And of course if you are in an abusive marriage you are mainlining this stuff because you desperately need to find a formula that will work, that will make things okay. And the promise is there, that if you just find the right formula to follow you will be transformed into those beaming happy people in the Christian magazines. Hence all the women reading endless books about how to serve this overlord Marriage in a way which pleases God. It’s just flabbergasting to me now.

    Posted by Arietty | March 5, 2009, 6:31 am
  7. Arietty– yeah, extremists in the Reformed camp are kind of the terrorists when it comes to conservative Christianity. For them, Law = Love and Love = Law and God being “love” means God is law. They’re forever the attorneys (John Calvin whose baby the Reformed Camp is was an attorney), parsing out the scriptures in order to determine what this Law-God requires of everybody and how people are going to be punished for not obeying. And who knew? Most people (who know anything about these things and who are just normal people), when they think “Reformed” think “Presybterian.” Presbyterians are not historically very scary. But Presbyterians *can* be scary and beyond that, they’re only one limb of the Reformed tree. Arminians (kind of the polar opposite in certain ways of the Reformed) can be terrorizing as well, if they are jerks, but at least they generally believe that if you screw up, you lose your salvation, and to get it back, you just have to repent, whereas terrorist-style Reformed types believe salvation is totally God’s deal and you’re only saved if God decided ahead of time that you would be. Of course, nobody knows who the chosen are so everybody gets busy trying to prove to everybody else that their works are the evidence that they really are chosen.

    It’s very sick stuff.

    I now view the idea that marriage is a spiritual/emotional contract to be incredibly stupid.

    I don’t know that it’s stupid, but I do know that in the context of male supremacy and especially fundamentalist Christianity, it is *very very dangerous* to women. There are a whole lot of Christian men out there, not all, by far, fundamentalists, plenty of liberal types, too — we have the same problems with liberal Christian men as we have with liberal feminist men; they’re as assholishly woman-hating as the conservatives, they just do it differently — who are, as I’ve written elsewhere, homosocial, emotionally homosexual, and whose attachments emotionally and intellectually are never with women, they are with men. Or, more likely, that’s where they want their attachments to be, but men have a really difficult time attaching to anyone, male or female, even when they want to. These men fetishize romance/marriage with women — which their scriptures teach them to do, i.e., the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb,” and Paul’s, “This is a great mystery, but I speak of the Lord and the Church,” talking about this great wedding between the church and Jesus in the end times. But really, they want connection with The Man (God/Jesus, never a Goddess, never God/Jesus as female) and the Men in the church who represent God. Women are just subpar to them, not fully human. We are for sex, we are for showing off, we are for showing up at the right times and places, we exist to listen to their whining and to take care of all of their owies and for sex, and especially, we are what allows Christian men to prove to other Christian men that they are proper manly men because after all, see, they have wives and have made babies, therefore, they are eligible for these sought-after relationships with all the other manly men and with God Himself. Wives get put on pedestals at times, of course, which is just another of many ways to objectify a woman and treat her like a lamp or a car or watch or something, what we never get is the respect that we are due as fully human and as every bit as intelligent and competent as men. MOST of the time, we are far more intelligent and competent than men are, and that includes in the church. Hell no. Especially in the church. I am convinced that the many men who medicate with religion — because that IS what men do, broken and bent as they are when it comes to women, relationships and sex, religion is a drug to them and it keeps them from facing their own hopelessness and despair — are hopeless so far as HONEST intelligent discussion and so far as any sort of healthy relationship. They are just way too messed up. They are always and forever about this weird unrequited love in the direction of male deities and other men, and nothing ever satisfies that, and especially not marriage to a woman, but they keep trying to shoehorn sex with and marriage to women into that weird unrequited-love-towards-God paradigm too, which NEVER works because it’s absurd. But what that means in the end for women is, *when they are done with us* (whether they stay married to us or not), as with our foremother, Tamar, the hatred they will have for us will be greater every time than the love and the lust they first had for us, and they had plenty of that last, no matter what they say.

    Well, that was a piece of my mind, huh. I have plenty more where that comes from.

    A legal contract to insure a fair division of assets should the union dissolve, fine, good idea.

    I don’t even think this is a good idea. I don’t think women should EVER marry, period, full stop, neither should they ever share their homes or their beds with men. If a woman thinks she wants to do that, she should keep her own house, have her own bed, her own bank accounts etc., and she and whatever guy she thinks she wants to be with can get together whenever.

    Of course, I came to this view the hardest route imaginable. But, I don’t think marriage is ever good for women, neither is sharing a home with a man.

    Posted by womensspace | March 5, 2009, 5:17 pm
  8. I ordered the book as soon as you posted this, and it came yesterday in the mail. Stayed up WAY too late reading, and so far I’m very impressed with the amount of research the author did, and how clearly she explains the basics of fundamentalism and it’s trickle-down effect on more mainstream or so called “moderate” evangelicalism. It was like deja vu seeing some of those names again! My parents never jumped on the Vision Forum wagon so much – we were hard-core Gothadites. But Nancy Campbell, John Piper, Mary Pride…yeah, been there, done that. πŸ™‚

    While reading the book, it hit me all over again how sick, pathological, and so very, very damaging the christian patriarchy movement is to women – physically, mentally, and most of all spiritually. After leaving the cult 6 years ago, I spent the first 4 trying my darndest to fit in with mainstream evangelical churches, trying to figure out what healthy christianity might look like. I wasted a lot more time and energy before I figured out that there is no such thing, (duh!) and so right now, I’m deep in my cynical agnostic mode, while flirting with goddess spirituality πŸ™‚ I think the whole Jennifer Epstein saga is a good example of the deep, deep spiritual damage that happens with the quiverfull brainwashing, and more than anything else, that makes me the most angry.

    Ironically, I was going though my mom’s bookshelves with her the other day, doing some cleaning, and she still had about 3 shelves full of books from back in the day – Rick and Jan Hess’s book, “Daughter’s of Sarah” and “Me, Obey Him?” which were both quite popular with the Gothard crowd, “Beautiful Girlhood” and oodles of Rod and Staff and good old Elsie Dinsmore. When I suggested that she throw them all out, for about 3 seconds she looked shocked that I’d suggest such a thing, before happily tossing them in the trash. For just those 3 seconds we both felt the pull and appeal of that old life again – Just like you were saying, Arietty, about that longing for the safe warm family. Ditto.

    I’m rambling now! I’m looking forward to reading more of your impressions as you’re able to post them. Thanks

    Posted by Ruthann | March 6, 2009, 1:02 am
  9. Hi, Ruthann, I’ve missed you. πŸ™‚ Good to read you.

    Yeah, I still have lots of the old books, too. By now, except for what I keep around mostly as research material and archives, really — like lots and lots of old issues of Chalcedon and Patriarch and all of my own archival stuff, a few odds and ends of Gothard stuff — all the old books are out in the barn. I have had a really hard time letting go of my Rod & Staff textbooks especially. I know they are in many ways horrible, but there are things that meant so much to me in those books years ago, the pacifism/nonresistance teachings, the complete rejection of patriotism and nationalism and war, even the teachings about planting by the signs of the stars and the moon. Those particular teachings were close to the core of who I’ve always been, through all the changes I’ve been through in my life, so they sort of represented the hope I had in the old world that I could somehow still be myself, keep what was core to who I am, and still be acceptably Christian.

    I spent the first 4 trying my darndest to fit in with mainstream evangelical churches

    Yeah. There’s no place that women like us really fit in, is there. Not that we can’t make a space for ourselves in many different communities and venues– we were all very carefully groomed to play well with others and we know what the rules are and how to abide by them. What’s hard is, so few people have lived the way we did, ever, let alone lived that way, then exited. How do you explain to just normal people — or even ABnormal people like radical feminists and wiccans and pagans of various kinds, or progressives, or freeze dried hippies, for that matter, let alone just regular conservative or moderate or otherwise ordinary people — the kind of life we lived? How do you explain it. So you don’t try. Or, I don’t. I don’t bother to try in my regular everyday life. I don’t tell anyone how many kids I have or even bring up the subject of kids, because I don’t want to have to then get into the whole, ohmygod, you’ve got to be kidding, “You DO?!”, “Are they adopted,” “Are they all yours,” “Are they stepkids,” “Why did you have so many,” and try to then explain. It’s not something I can explain in 25 words or less. When I do have to sort of explain my history for some reason, it is SO unsatisfactory and hollow and ridiculously incomplete, of necessity — because people just don’t relate — and it feels dishonest almost to even try to explain, so I just don’t go there if I can help it.

    I went to an Ash Wednesday service with one of my friends from work. It was in this huge, very, very gorgeous old cathedral, all the various bells and smells and stain glass windows to die for and it was packed out. I was thinking as I was sitting there that I would write a blog post about my inner dialogue sitting there, going through all the motions of everything. I felt vaguely envious of the faithful, all the people who go to meetings like that and feel encouraged or touched by them, who feel part of that community. I felt soft hearted and tender towards the lostness of human beings, the way people long so hard for something beyond this earth, this life, something bigger than they are, more than they are, so they build these huge buildings with all of this stained glass and the beautiful pipe organs and they make up all of these rituals that make them feel as though they are connecting with God, maybe. And, I felt enraged, as always, over the horrific abuses of institutional Christianity and fundamentalism. I felt completely cynical and rejecting towards all the gray-haired men in their long white robes and embroidery and priest hats and so on. Who have they hurt? I kept thinking. What woman? What little girl? What little boy? And yet there they are, praying with their sober priest voices, singing the priest songs only priests know how to sing and everyone is all deferential and reverent like these guys really do have the inside track to the Divine. I felt really, really sad, horribly sad, on a million different levels. And at the same time, I felt happy to be there with my friend in a situation that is a little different. Usually we work out together in the gym at lunch time or we go to lunch together somewhere.

    I don’t know. I think part of the deal for women like us is, we will always bring the sadness and the rage and the ache and the mercy with us, wherever we go, and mostly, we won’t really be able to talk about it.

    Posted by womensspace | March 6, 2009, 5:00 am
  10. I think part of the deal for women like us is, we will always bring the sadness and the rage and the ache and the mercy with us, wherever we go, and mostly, we won’t really be able to talk about it.

    Thank you for this, Heart. Thanks for all you’ve posted here. All so true. Sometimes I read things here and elsewhere, and my heart is so full I want to comment, but I can’t. It’s too much, too many thoughts upwelling. I have to just turn away because I can’t handle it.

    The Easter season is always a bad time for me because it used to be such a big deal in the group we were in. Now there are all these empty places where all that stuff used to be. Parts of it, as you said, start to call to me and make me feel tender and wistful, and then I’m pushed away again by the sharp thorns of the abuse and pain, and the lies. I hate that spring brings me pain, and that I’m hurting and angry in “holiday” seasons that are supposed to be full of goodwill.

    Reading “Quiverfull” moved me to go look up Robert Jay Lifton’s eight techniques of “thought reform.” I realized that every single one of them is practiced by the Catholic Church, and I assume by every patriarchal church. Of course they are–they work! Somehow it never struck me that hard before. I’d quit my abusive little group, many years ago now. But I realized I’d never had any help to deal with the symptoms of having been mentally and emotionally abused by them. We just stumbled our way along, still bruised and bound and blinded by the “light.” As with so many things, we were supposed to “get over it” as if by magic.

    Even more to the point, we were still Catholic. Not realizing that this was just more of the same–circles within circles of the same hell. Now I’ve stopped being Catholic, only to be dismayed by the fact that I’m STILL living in a cult–the cult of patriarchy. It’s sort of the ur-cult of all cults. And unfortunately, there’s no way to quit. You can’t move away. You can’t walk out of the Church of the Patriarchy, because it’s everywhere. I’m beginning to understand how witches felt in the days when Christendom reigned throughout Europe. I can be free in my mind, but that’s about the only place. And even my own mind is messed up and colonized by the crap that threatens to invade from all directions. To appropriate a Bible verse to my own purposes, “Let us go to our sisters outside the camp, bearing the insults they endured. For we have here no lasting city, but we are looking for a home that is still to come.” I’m going to go out now and get blessed by the sun and the wind and the birds singing. Long may they live.

    Posted by anuna | March 18, 2009, 6:02 pm
  11. Dear Heart,

    I tried to comment a little while ago, and it looked as if it was going to be published under another name I sometimes use. I don’t know why that happened–but if you see a comment from “sigaliris,” it’s really me. I don’t know if you can change the name on it back to anuna, but if you could, I would appreciate it. If not, I guess it’s okay, but I just wanted you to know who was talking! And, of course, delete this one because it’s unnecessary. Thank you.

    Posted by anuna | March 18, 2009, 6:30 pm

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