Culture At Large

A "Quiverfull" of Christian babies


The Revealer highlights a growing grassroots movement of mothers, the "Quiverfull," who are having large families in order to build an army for God.

Janet Wolfson is a 44-year-old mother of eight in Canton, Georgia. Tracie Moore, a 39-year-old midwife who lives in southern Kentucky, is mother to fourteen. Wendy Dufkin in Coxsackie has her thirteen. And while Jamie Stoltzfus, a 27-year-old Illinois mom, has only four children so far, she plans on bearing enough to populate "two teams." All four mothers are devoted to a way of life New York Times columnist David Brooks has praised as a new spiritual movement taking hold among exurban and Sunbelt families. Brooks called these parents "natalists" and described their progeny as a new wave of "Red-Diaper Babies"--as in "red state."

But Wolfson, Moore and thousands of mothers like them call themselves and their belief system "Quiverfull." They borrow their name from Psalm 127: "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. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they're building for God.

Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship - "Father knows best" - and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies--the Lord's temple--are a seizure of divine power.

The movement is unabashedly political (one woman spoke of raising a large family as a "political act" and a step in winning the culture war "demographically") and a reaction against what these mothers see as the failings of secular feminism. Quiverfull families seem to be in lower income brackets or struggle financially, yet they wholly trust that God will provide for the material needs of their many children. And the recurrent military metaphors of raising children to be an army for God are strangely juxtaposed with the motherly submissiveness its adherents embrace - Quiverfull seemingly gives these women a sense of purpose and a role of strength and leadership in a patriarchal subculture. Quiverfull also raises provocative questions about how we think of children and why God gives them to us.

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, Home & Family, Family