Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quiverfull by Kathryn Joyce

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

Kathryn Joyce's fascinating introduction to the world of the patriarchy movement and Quiverfull families examines the twenty-first-century women and men who proclaim self-sacrifice and submission as model virtues of womanhood—and as modes of warfare on behalf of Christ. Here, women live within stringently enforced doctrines of wifely submission and male headship, and live by the Quiverfull philosophy of letting God give them as many children as possible so as to win the religion and culture wars through demographic means. (blurb from Goodreads)

Rating: PG-13, 4 stars
Trigger warnings: misogyny, domestic abuse, religious abuse

After being fascinated by the culture of the Westboro Baptist Church in Banished, I thought I’d give Quiverfull a try to look into the Christian patriarchy movement. This is a movement that gets surprisingly little attention, despite its increasing numbers and downright subversive potential. Quiverfull did an excellent job of satisfying my curiosity about this movement.

One thing that I loved about the book was the sheer number of interviews that Joyce managed to get. By using direct quotes from those within or formerly within the Christian patriarchy movement, Joyce not only gave herself more credibility, but I felt that the book was more balanced. Clearly, the author did not agree with the movement, but I also didn’t feel like she was just ranting against it the whole time. By providing quotes from people on both sides of the movement, I felt like the author left some room for the reader to come to their own conclusions.

I was also intrigued to see detailed reasons for why the Christian patriarchy movement believes what it believes. Through the interviews and Joyce’s own research, I was exposed to the biblical passages that these families most often follow to the letter, along with interpretations of what those passages mean in today’s society. It was nice to get all that background information laid out in such a detailed manner.

I do think the title of the book was a bit misleading, since not all Christian patriarchy families also follow the quiverfull philosophy, and there are only a few chapters that discuss the quiverfull lifestyle. I would have been interested to hear more about that, but the lack of information and interviews there may have been outside the author’s control.

I think this book could be triggering for anyone who has had particularly nasty experiences with organized religion, particularly with Christianity. There are several women interviewed in the book who discuss being advised to “fix” a marriage by being a proper wife even when their husbands were abusive. The book is also chock-full of misogyny from those in the movement--the evils of feminism are brought up several times in both interviews and quotes from pamphlets and books from within the movement. Joyce herself is clearly feminist, and these sexist notions come from the movement and not the author.

I recommend Quiverfull to anyone who is concerned about extremist Christianity or who is merely curious about American Christian culture and the different forms it can take. Quiverfull is a fascinating glimpse into a culture that is all the more interesting because I disagree with its tenants so much. It is a well-researched and gripping read.

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