The Untold Truth Of Quiverfull Christianity

Many became aware of the Quiverfull movement due to the Duggar family, which was featured on the reality show "19 Kids and Counting," per the Huffington Post. While the Duggars do not self-identify as Quiverfull, their values and lifestyle align with the beliefs of the movement. The Quiverfull movement is a type of extremist evangelical Christianity that forbids families from attempting to limit the number of children they have. Their beliefs also include something called "Christian Patriarchy," which is the belief that wives should always be subservient to their husbands. The dark side of the Quiverfull movement has received more attention since the abuse within the Duggar family has come to light.

As described in a Vice interview with former Quiverfull turned activist Vickie Garrison, while there are influential authors and speakers in the Quiverfull movement, there is no central leader. The family, led by the father, is its own power structure that controls everything about the members' lives. The children are often educated in the home and married early, wives are expected to have and raise children full-time, while husbands are expected to be the sole providers for their families. It can be extremely difficult for people within the Quiverfull sect to leave this grueling and insulated lifestyle – but many are breaking free.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Quiverfull is a new movement with old ideas

The term "Quiverfull" as a description of fundamentalist evangelical Christians with a particular set of beliefs only began in the 1980s. There is no organized Quiverfull church. While it is a form of Christianity, it is also not a specific denomination. Families that follow the sect may attend church alongside other evangelicals, traditional Protestants, or not at all.

Some refer to themselves as being a part of the Quiverfull movement – but not everyone who believes in the same fundamental rules identifies as Quiverfull. As described by Gawker, many learned of the extremist Christian movement for the first time because of a family of reality stars known as the Duggars. While the Duggars do not call themselves Quiverfull, their beliefs align with those of the followers of the sect.

Since there is no official membership and not everyone with these extremist beliefs refers to themselves as Quiverfull, it is extremely difficult to accurately guess the number of families following the Quiverfull doctrine.

They're trying to build God's army

"The womb is such a powerful weapon; it's a weapon against the enemy," Quiverfull leader Nancy Campbell is quoted as saying by NPR. Campbell, who preaches that Quiverfull women must devote themselves fully to motherhood via her organization Above Rubies, has been called a cult leader by former followers of the Quiverfull movement.

Quiverfull takes its name from Psalm 127, which states: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Campbell and other members of the movement encourage families to have as many "arrows," or children, as is physically possible. The more children each Quiverfull family has, the faster the organization grows. They hope that over time they will be a powerful force within the culture by sheer numbers alone. Not only do they hope to be able to use this power to enforce their beliefs on others in their home countries, but they also hope to outcompete other faiths. Campbell, who former members often describe as racist, has specifically stated that she believes Christian families need to have as many children as they can to avoid ever being outnumbered by Muslims (per NPR).

They are against contraception

One of the defining characteristics of the Quiverfull sect is its stance on all forms of contraception and family planning. As stated in a report from the BBC, followers of the Quiverfull movement believe that the number of children that they have is a decision that should be left entirely up to God – but they're hoping for at least six.

Although it is probably the most fundamental rule in the Quiverfull movement, the idea is not unique to them. As described in "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement," Evangelicals of all types frequently cite the 1950s decision of mainstream Protestant churches to approve contraception for married couples as a slippery slope that led to the sexual revolution and mainstream acceptance of abortion. Many figures in the Quiverfull movement take this argument further and in an even more regressive direction. Mary Pride, a Quiverfull author and activist who argues that Christian women should embrace "submissive wifehood," has argued that a woman avoiding becoming pregnant is the first step in a plan that encourages people to have sex for pleasure rather than reproduction, allows divorce, and makes it "harder to condemn homosexuality."

Quiverfull Christianity believes childbirth is a woman's purpose

Those in the Quiverfull movement believe that women were created by God exclusively to serve and to create children. As evidence that women's purpose is childbirth, Quiverfull leader Nancy Cambell is quoted by the BBC as citing their anatomy: "He created her with a womb. And in fact, that's the most distinguishing characteristic of a woman. In the American Webster's 1928 dictionary, it says that woman is a combination of two words: womb and man. She is a womb-man."

So strong is the Quiverfull belief that a woman's purpose is to have a child that they are willing to put their lives on the line to do it. In interviews, believers have stated that it is "noble" to die in childbirth, and they are willing to die giving birth if that is God's plan for them. Quiverfull families are encouraged to leave the total number of children they have up to God but are simultaneously told to make that number as high as possible. In the United States, Quiverfull families often have as many as 12 children.

They have strict gender roles

Another term for the Quiverfull movement is the "Christian patriarchy movement." As described in "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement," this promotes a "submissive lifestyle" for women, urging them to obey their husbands completely, in every situation. Unmarried girls are expected to obey their fathers until he finds a husband for them (typically when they are extremely young).

Every member of a Quiverfull family is expected to follow a very strict set of rules, which are highly gendered. Wives and daughters are generally not supposed to cut their hair, wear pants, or have jobs. As described in an interview with former member and current anti-Quiverfull activist Vyckie Garrison, men and boys in the movement are also pushed into a predetermined role. While women are expected to do everything for their husbands and family, men are infantilized and never learn many fundamental life skills that they would need to survive without women and girls catering to their every need.

It's been described as a women's movement

While Quiverfull women are expected to give up their life outside the home and obey their husbands in all things, many of their most influential leaders are women like Nancy Campbell. Former member Vyckie Garrison explained in an interview with Vice that contrary to what people might expect, it's usually women who bring their families into the Quiverfull movement in the first place. So how do women get pulled into a sect that explicitly refers to itself as patriarchal?

Garrison has explained that her interest in the Quiverfull sect came from a difficult childhood and a desire to find a way of life that would be happy and stable. Garrison has suggested that many women may join in hopes of saving a failing marriage and encouraging their husbands to be more invested in the family and their children.

In an interview with Vice, one former member explained that she and her husband became more religious when their child became life-threateningly ill. They were emotionally vulnerable and looking for any control over their lives. The church that the family joined grew more extremist over time – a strategy that those who have escaped cults describe as very common. As described by The Daily Beast, most cults seem extremely normal, welcoming, and safe when a person is first considering joining and only show their true colors when a person has become emotionally entangled with the other members, making it extremely difficult to leave.

It can be a physical and financial struggle

It is a common belief in the Quiverfull movement that God would never provide a family with more children than they can handle, but for many women, the physical strain of giving birth to so many children can be grueling, and sometimes life-threatening. One former member of the Quiverfull movement told Vice that the number of pregnancies her body had gone through led to a partial uterine rupture that almost cost her life. Dying in childbirth is sometimes seen as "a noble act" within the sect.

The financial strain of the Quiverfull movement can also be too much for families. As described by the BBC, the financial burden of having as many as 12 children can be devastating. Because of the Quiverfull emphasis on traditional gender roles, most Quiverfull mothers don't have jobs. Instead, fathers are expected to earn enough to support their entire family alone.

Quiverfull children are often homeschooled

Even if a Quiverfull mother was allowed to have a job, it's highly unlikely that she would have the time. In addition to raising the children while her husband is working, a Quiverfull mother is also expected to homeschool the kids. For the majority of Quiverfull families, that means being the sole educator for anywhere from six to 12 children.

As described in "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement," the Quiverfull movement is intrinsically linked with homeschooling. While homeschooling can be an excellent alternative to traditional schooling for some, finding a secular curriculum can be a challenge. Not only are many publishers of homeschooling materials proponents of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, but Quiverfull ideas have also been a major part of homeschooling since its inception. For instance, influential Quiverfull author Mary Pride was also an early homeschooling movement advocate, publishing "Practical Homeschooling" magazine alongside her books promoting "submissive wifehood."

As described by ex-Quiverfull follower Vyckie Garrison in an interview with Salon, Quiverfull families fear that their children will be educated in public schools in ways that contradict their extremist Christian views. The education that they receive at home, however, is often highly lacking. According to some former members, historical and scientific facts are often distorted or completely eliminated from children's lessons due to their parents' political and religious convictions. Illiteracy is not uncommon. Girls are often not encouraged to get as much as a GED because their parents believe it's unimportant to their futures as wives and mothers.

It's politically motivated

Some credit the 1990 publication of Rick and Jan Hess's "A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ" as the beginning of the Quiverfull movement. While the book contains a scriptural rationale for why Christian families should not use any form of birth control, it also contains a political motivation.

As explained in an article by Kathryn Joyce, an author who has written extensively about the Quiverfull movement and Christian extremism in the United States, the Hesses explicitly were trying to change America's political landscape by encouraging people who shared their worldview to have more children. They hoped to encourage at least 8 million American Christian families to have six or more children, believing that this tradition would create a powerful demographic of Quiverfull Christians who would be able to have a massive impact politically as voters. They believed that with enough believers born into the movement, they would be able to drastically shift the culture of the United States to reflect their own values.

It defines itself as following traditional values and has ties to white supremacy

Within the Quiverfull sect, there is a lot of emphasis on what they describe as a breakdown of the traditional family structure. For Quiverfull families, men are supposed to be in charge of the family while his wife submits to his authority and has children. They believe that this is the only style of family endorsed by the Bible. In fact, As described in "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement," some like Nancy Campbell interpret the story of Adam and Eve as a woman being tempted by feminism, in the form of a snake.

As stated by Salon, the Quiverfull sect is one of several extremist American Christian movements which, since the late 2000s, have promoted the idea that because white Christians were having fewer children, society was at risk of collapse. This concept has a white supremacist undertone, because of the fear that in areas where there were apparently fewer new white children, they would be replaced with children from other races and religions (which is depicted by the movement as a bad thing, and a threat to Christianity.) As described by the ADL, this narrative that there will soon be fewer white Christians is the basis for the white supremacist slogan "You will not replace us," which was heard during the deadly Charlottesville attack.

Quiverfull Christianity has created a culture that leads to abuse

Divorce is forbidden within the Quiverfull movement (per Salon.) For some Quiverfull couples, they had little say in who their spouse would be, and their marriage began before they were 18.

In 2016, a Quiverfull website announced an event titled "Get Them Married," in which families would go to a retreat together so that fathers could select suitable partners for their children. The site's FAQ insists that there is a distinction between an arranged marriage of this type and a forced marriage, but also states that the children can only obediently consent, "realizing that their father has bound them and then submits to the covenant as binding." The site also stated that the betrothed couple should be older than 12, but younger than 20. Since then, the organization has removed the text from its website, replacing it with a notice that "vicious internet rumors" made it seem as though they had endorsed abuse.

One of the values of the Quiverfull movement is modesty – and as noted by Salon, rather than keeping its followers chaste, it can create a culture of abuse. Women and girls are taught not to "tempt" men. Too often, perceived "immodesty" of Quiverfull women and girls causes them to be blamed for sexual violence perpetrated against them. Famous cases of abuse from the Quiverfull movement from the Duggar family to those featured on Netflix's "Our Father" have been well-documented in the media.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

People are escaping Quiverfull

In an interview with Marie Claire, Eleanor Skelton described her Quiverfull childhood as extremely restrictive. Everything from the food she ate to the colors she wore was dictated by her father's personal preferences. She wasn't allowed to listen to music, attend school, or have friends. She was what is known as a "stay-at-home daughter."

Everything about the Quiverfull movement keeps families trapped in an extremely insulated lifestyle with strict expectations for each family member. Children are educated at home and married off early, wives are expected to do nothing but give birth and raise children, and husbands are expected to be the exclusive providers for the family. These relationships can very quickly turn abusive. Even if someone in Quiverfull has the opportunity to question the way they are living their lives, leaving the movement could risk losing the family that has been their entire world. Despite how difficult leaving can be, many women are leaving the Quiverfull sect.

For many, the key to escape is other former Quiverfull believers. Ex-Quiverfull turned anti-Quiverfull activist Vyckie Garrison founded the group "No Longer Quivering," which, along with others like "Homeschoolers Anonymous," and "Love Joy Feminism," is helping former fundamentalists support each other and those inside the sect learn that they could find happiness outside of the Quiverfull movement. Skelton, a former stay-at-home daughter, founded what she describes as an "underground movement" known as the "Unboxing Project," which helps others like her to escape through a network of safe houses.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.