Saturday, April 03, 2010

Quiverfull by Kathryn Joyce

In Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement Kathryn Joyce covers three distinct but related pieces within the growing patriarchy movement in fundamental Christianity.

Once piece concerns the complete surrender of a wife to the "headship" of her husband. Called Titus 2 after the scriptural justification of this surrender.

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Titus 2:4-5

Titus 2 wives do not work outside the home. Instead they engage in homemaking activities, which the Titus 2, or complementarian, philosophy sees as the more naturally female endeavors. These women are to be unquestionably obedient to their husbands. Titus 2 wives must also be sexually available to their husbands at all times.

This sexual availability supports the second piece of the patriarchy movement. Quiverfull families eschew any kind of contraception, surrendering to God the question of conception.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5

Quiverfull families have and raise as many Christian children as God sees fit for them to have. Many see their large families as growing armies in a cosmic war between Christians and non-Christians.

The final piece of the Christian patriarchy movement, discussed only briefly by Joyce, is the surrender of daughters to the "headship" of their father as well. This surrender is seen as a kind of preparation for the daughters immanent surrender to her future husband.

Kathryn Joyce does a wonderful job of covering the Titus 2 and Quiverfull movements, but the third part about daughters seemed to be a late and hasty addition to the book. Joyce's opinion of the Christian patriarchy movement is clear from the beginning, but she shows a great deal of respect for the men and women adhere to what the author thinks are mistaken ideals. If you have any interest in the Christian patriarchy movement, or just in fundamentalist Christianity, you would do well to read this book.

As both an atheist and stay-at-home-dad, I find these patriarchal ideals to be fascinating but anathema. The idea that women are unable or unfit to work outside the home; that only men without any masculinity can be nurturing and do housework, is ludicrous. I admire the convictions of the Titus 2 and Quiverfull families that can follow these ideals without harm. But it seems to me that these ideals can be dangerous. One only has to read about the spousal abuse and abject poverty suffered some by some of the families in Joyce's book to see the danger.


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