“Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement” by Kathryn Joyce (Book Review)

June 16, 2010

Kathryn Joyce’s “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,” is informative yet horrifying and absurd in content–you wish as you read this you were reading a document from150 years ago, or maybe science fiction, but no, these are real people and real events in the 2000s. Joyce is a freelance journalist who has written for Mother Jones, Newsweek, and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. In this work she travels the country looking deeply into the pro-Patriarchal movement which espouses full Headship/Lordship of the Husband in the household. In the general school of thought within this movement, the husband is the presence of God to his wife and her proper relationship with God requires her full and dutiful submission to her husband. Daughters in the family are to remain submissive to the father as well until a marriage is suitably arranged and they thus become property of another man with the duties of full submission to their husband and the requirement to have as many children as God intends–birth control of any sort is typically an “abomination” in this movement–the Patriarchal movement hopes to control and “take back” this country through multi-generational plans that involve massive amounts of children within each “Godly” family.

As a reading experience, there are times when I could only give this a 3 out of 5. Not because the author isn’t good at the journalism work and style that she does here, but because these chapters tend to bog the reader down and inundate them with what appears to be repetitive situations all over the country (and sometimes the world)–but then she hits you over the head with a new level of crazy and you’re glad you kept reading. As a work that conveys information that readers of all beliefs and locales need to be aware of, this work deserves a 5 out of 5. It seems that in the long term, the core groups she looks at will (hopefully) not be a threat to mainstream society, as much as they hope to be. Their plan to rear 5 generations of patriarchy-advocating and policy-changing children, though terrifying according to their math, will likely not be large enough to work out nearly on the level they plan, and hopefully in time and with education and exposure due to geographic and cultural location the descendants of these movements will “jump the ship” in large quantities. It’s terrifying that these movements have succeeded in the way that they have where they have, that they’ve spawned emotional, moral, psychological, and often physical violence to women and created groups of women who become self-loathing to the extreme degree, of themselves and of their entire gender, and who then go on to propagate such madness on the internet, through homeschooling curriculum and in books. What is truly scary is the peripheral influence this movement has had–in leaking into the Southern Baptist Convention and Seminaries, spreading the core ideas to thousands of mainstream churches; in spreading to “moral” movements in small towns, inspiring “Purity Balls” which feed off of the same father-daughter near-incestuous and property-owning ideals; in tapping into politics and becoming seen as a movement for GOP candidates to appeal to and develop from. All in all, a read worthy of your time if you have never looked much at this growing pro-Patriarchy Movement. It also gives food for thought about how we are to deal with and work in areas of religious tolerance and accommodation, when movements such as this are as dangerous in their own way as some violent religious extremism.

I’ll leave you with a clip from a heinous documentary, “The Monstrous Regiment of Women,” which Joyce references in the book and which is made by one of the core Quiverfull groups.

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