I've started to hear from readers of the Associated Baptist Press News (ABP) recently because they are concerned about my position on an idea often propagated by the Quiverfull / Patriarchy Movement that is particularly prevalent among Christian homeschoolers. A recent ABP article quotes a statement that I made in 2008. If the reader fails to follow the embedded links in the text to consider the references and the context of the statement, a surface reading of the quote makes it seem as though I am a person who follows patriarchal ideology. Some misinterpreted the article to claim that I encourage Christians to breed many baby voters that will one day be able to establish a theocracy.
This couldn't be further from my own beliefs.
I am an outspoken critic of many of the practices and the beliefs followed within the movement, and I detailed many of them in a workshop held at a Baptist seminary in 2008. Though I actually share many of the same interests with followers of this religious movement (e.g., homesteading, complementary/alternative health), I believe that many elements of it contribute to the abuse of women and children through misguided religious ideas and lifestyle preferences. The workshop traced the history of the movement, summarized the basic beliefs of this patriarchal system, and reviewed a variety of objections to these ideas (including my own).
This past week, Bob Allen of ABP quoted my summary statement of just one of the teachings of Quiverfull leaders like Mary Pride and Gary North. In the 2008 workshop, I noted that many in the movement believe that if couples have as many children as they possibly can, their prolific families will eventually create enough Religious Right voters to take over the civil goverment. I find this concept offensive and a type of social engineering or what many Christians would call “social Darwinism.” I even went on to call it “spiritual eugenics.”
From the March 5th article, Attitudes among Southern Baptist leaders shifting on birth control, at the Associated Baptist Press:
“It is the duty of Christians to bear large families full of godly seed to populate the earth and bring forth what God intended us to have, particularly in America,” Cynthia Kunsman, a writer and blogger who specializes in spiritual-abuse issues, said at a 2008 conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “That’s how we’re going to get our Christian America.”
My statement was not only factious, in the context of the workshop, it was clearly conveyed to demonstrate Quiverfull ideology. It was most definitely not a statement of my own belief.
The Eugenics of Quiverfull
Many of the leaders in the movement follow Calvinism, and some follow an offshoot called Theonomy which claims to seek a grassroots reformation of society so that it will eventually embrace a Christian theocracy that will be ruled by Old Testament civil standards. In both of these traditions, people are separated into two categories: God's elect (those who will embrace Jesus Christ and will see heaven), and those who reject faith in Jesus who are “vessels” created merely to be destroyed. Many in these circles claim that the non-elect are God's enemies and are hated by Him. Calvinists see their families as blessed by God, but some extend this idea into an elitism of prejudice concerning their own families. Whereas evangelicals have traditionally shared information about their faith as well as practical resources with non-Christians as a means of evangelism, those in the Quiverfull Movement tend to reserve them for their family alone. I cannot dismiss the idea that the disdain that many feel towards non-Christians fosters this lack of evangelistic effort. Other leaders in the movement teach that pro-life services should be reserved for Christians, claiming that God is glorified when the non-elect destroy their children because of His alleged hatred of them.
For these reasons, after the above noted summary, I went on in the 2008 workshop to liken these beliefs to eugenics.
The Quiverfull / Patriarchy Movement also bills the traditional nuclear family as the primary force by which secular society can be saved, and having larger families is seen as the primary way all Christians can and must change society for the better. As an adjunct to their pro-life stance in combination with the social engineering motive and family sentiment, contraception is eschewed and vilified as a sinful if not inherently evil practice. The movement has also been known to generate propaganda to discourage followers from using any contraception.
About Contraception and the Southern Baptist Convention
Allen, the writer of the ABP article, meant to show the motive for eschewing contraception within the Quiverfull and the Patriarchy Movements when he quoted me under the “Full Quiver Theology” subheading. He neglected, however, to mention that I was a critic of the ideology. The quote appears along with several others, but those others who are quoted are zealous evangelists for the belief system. I know definitively that several of those quoted under this same section find my own views repugnant. To say that several of them hold me in very low esteem is an understatement.
That said, this important article is worth taking the time to read. It traces the shift in thought about contraception from a more tolerant view within the mainstream Southern Baptist movement into an ideology that is very consistent with the Quiverfull Movement. They are not all that dissimilar.
So everyone can relax!
(Well, those who agree with my personal position can.)
Cynthia Kunsman's Controvertial "Development and Practice of Patriarchy" Workshop, 2008 from FreeCWC on Vimeo.