There was a beautiful photo on Facebook of a Dalmatian and her puppies in a basket; so many it was impossible to count them all. Obviously pedigreed they were no doubt bred for sale. Well, maybe good homes will be found for fifteen or more pedigree Dalmatians but what is going to happen when human beings breed at the rate of knots with no practical thought as to whether or not they can actually afford their offspring or for their future and all in the name of religion?
A Christian evangelical movement where followers avoid contraception and have as many children as they can is spreading to the
UK; from America of course. They are called “The
"Get married. Have a quiver full of kids if you can.” So said unsuccessful presidential candidate and father-of-five Mitt Romney in a recent speech to Southern University graduates. It was a conscious echo of Psalm 127.
The psalm - where children are compared to arrows for war - is the inspiration for the Quiverfull movement.
"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 shall not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."
Christians in the movement believe in giving up all forms of contraception and accepting as many children as God gives, both as a sign of obedience to God and in a bid to ensure the future of the faith. They obviously ignore the mention of war and “the enemies at the gate.”
Quiverfull families numbering tens of thousands frequently reach up to a dozen
children but now the movement is gaining popularity in other countries.
where the average family size is a moderate 1.7 children, this makes couples
who follow this evangelical nonsense stand out.
Vicki and Phil have just had their sixth child. "I feel this is the normal [situation] God created and God initially wanted, and that actually society has gone a little skew-whiff," says Vicki, of south
London. (It’s amazing
isn’t it how people know exactly what God wants?) "Over time, we realised
that actually if He [God] wants to conceive a baby during that time, and he
made her naturally desire her husband more, maybe that's what he'd prefer us to
do," Vicki says. (God never whispers in my shell-like ear as to his wants so
how come Vicki is so privileged?)
“God wouldn't overwhelm us with more than we could handle. One baby at a time arrived, and we were handling it, so we felt our marriage was being blessed by this choice and we continued."
The movement is growing in the
UK through informal social networks
and the Christian homeschooling community. Doug Philips, a leading American
Quiverfull figure, is behind the organisation Vision Forum, a major provider of
home education materials.
Nancy Campbell, a Tennessee-based preacher is influential in the movement. Her ministry, “Above Rubies,” advocates motherhood as a woman's highest calling. Its magazine is distributed to more than 100 countries worldwide, with a circulation topping 160,000.
For this year's European tour
Campbell visited six countries in a month,
preaching at women-only and also family retreats attended by like-minded
couples and their burgeoning broods.
But there's more to the Quiverfull mindset than a love of big families. It's based on a backlash against the growing acceptance of birth control and feminism within Christianity.
Quiverfull ideology also advocates a return to "traditional" roles in the home, where women are wife and mother first of all. They are their husband's "helpmeet", (would slave be a more appropriate word? What century is this woman living in?) Designed to support him as head of the household and primary breadwinner.
One who tested her faith in Quiverfull to the limit is Vyckie Garrison, a mother of seven. Once a cornerstone of the Quiverfull movement in the
she left in 2008. Her website “No Longer Quivering” is described as a
"place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse".
Garrison suffers from a rare bone condition that made pregnancy dangerous. Her husband had a vasectomy after baby number three. But after reading Campbell and other Quiverfull authors, her ideas and the vasectomy were reversed.
Garrison continued to get pregnant against all medical advice, almost dying with the birth of her last - and seventh - child. But for a true believer, dying in childbirth is supposedly a noble act, she says.
"I really believed that I wouldn't die unless God willed that I die, and if he did then I would accept that, because obviously he's the smart one, and has the big picture and knows the whole plan." (That’s one way of putting it and I guess the smart one has nothing better to do with his time.)
There are plenty of critics of the Quiverfull beliefs. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In these situations you're giving the man ultimate power - you're saying the only one that can check his power is God," one ex-believer says.
Feminists are perhaps the fiercest critics of the budding Quiverfull movement.
They accuse it of trying to undo the equality and freedom won for women over decades of struggle, and claim that the idea of automatic male leadership is anachronistic.
But advocates say their approach to family life is both authentically Christian, (Did Jesus say anything at all about having large families?) and the best training for children to take on what he sees as the moral decay afflicting American society. In other words brainwashed in the faith yet still there is absolutely no guarantee that a child is going to grow up a dedicated Christian or even a responsible member of society.
Within the Quiverfull movement, having larger families is part of a broader plan.
"Mothers determine the destiny of the nation,"
Campbell says. "We're
in a battle for the and the kingdom of
darkness. And our children are all part of that battle." kingdom
"Gradually, down the line, the culture is going to change, without anyone doing anything except having children, or not having children," she says.
Back in south
affecting the destiny of the nation was something Vicki could identify with.
"I do think I'm raising my children to be future voters, and possibly to
be future politicians, MPs." (Pathetic.)