My Fascination With the Duggars and Quiverfull

January 22, 2011

On episode 42 of our Parenting Within Reason podcast, we interview Vyckie Garrison, who is the editor and a contributing writer of  the blog No Longer Quivering.  Vyckie left the Quiverfull movement and writes about her experiences within it.  Quiverfull followers believe in letting God plan their families, and they often have ten or more children.  (Vyckie had seven.)  They also homeschool and instill the idea of submission among wives and daughters, who are brought up as domestic servants and “helpmeets” for their husbands.  Vyckie really gave us a wonderful interview.  She was very open about her life and her journey away from the Quiverfull movement.  Her blog is a fascinating read, especially because the women who write for it break up their posts into continuing episodes that draw the reader in.  The stories have completely hooked me.

The Duggars belong to this form of fundamentalist Christianity, and I have not been able to get enough of their show since I learned this.  I love watching 19 Kids and Counting, as much as it sort of freaks me out and scares me.  I find the kids and the parents totally charming, even when they’re talking about how the earth is 6000 years old.  While doing a little procrastinating from another writing project, I came across the video above.

The Quiverfull movement has become a topic of peculiar fascination for me.   I first heard about the Christian Patriarchy on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog.  He posted several excerpts from Katherine Joyce’s book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  Geek that I am, I asked for the book as a present, ironically enough, for Mother’s Day.

One of the aspects of Quiverfull that I find the most alarming is that some parents within it adhere to a strict philosophy of child rearing espoused by a couple named Michael and Debbie Pearl, who have published the book, To Train Up a Child.  Excerpts can be found here, and this is the passage that is most emblematic of the training method advised by this book:

There is much satisfaction in training up a child. It is easy and challenging. When my children were able to crawl (in the case of one, roll) around the room, I set up training sessions.

Try it yourself. Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a “No-no” corner or on an apple juice table (That’s where the coffee table once sat). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, “No, don’t touch it.” They will already be familiar with the “No,” so they will pause, look at you in wonder and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.” Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.

That’s right.  Use a switch on the child when he or she reaches for a toy.  Specifically, the Pearls recommend a quarter inch plumbing supply line.

The idea here is that by teaching your child to obey you rather than follow his own natural inclinations, you will instill enough obedience for the child to forego his sinful nature.  Obedience is the most important trait according to this thought process.  If you can’t obey your parents, you won’t obey God, and you’ll end up in Hell.

Vyckie says she did not practice this particular form of discipline with her kids, but she did emphasize obedience as the highest virtue, and she tells us in the interview how it drained the spirit right out of her children.  Once liberated from this dogma, the kids began to flourish and grow as individuals.

Vyckie’s blog has a heartrending series of apologies from parents who feel now that the stress upon obedience wrought psychological damage upon their children.  In an especially moving post, one writer speaks of the intense love she felt for her baby and the gratitude she felt upon finding guidance to protect her child:

If I could sum up the message that this book spoke to a young mother who deeply loved her baby, it was this:

“Momma, your baby is a sinner. He/she will try to manipulate you. Things like a child not liking a diaper change and squirming to be free are an example of a sinful will attempting to dominate you. You may think this is a little thing, but it’s huge. Why? Because if you let the child dominate you, the child will win. If the child wins, the child will learn that rebellion pays. The child will then grow up to probably reject God and go to Hell, because a rebellious heart will not want to follow God. So, Momma, never ever let your child win. Your child’s exertion of will [which includes anything you deem unacceptable---grumpiness, for example] is an act of war, and parenting is about the parent winning any and all battles of wills.”

I loved my baby. How grateful, absolutely grateful I felt, that someone was there to show me the way.

The mother then expresses her regret:


I am so very very sorry. Everything I did, I did out of love. But that doesn’t excuse any of it, nor does it take it away. And I am sorry.

I suppose I find this so emotional, because I can relate so well to the ferocity of love that a new mother feels, along with the weight of responsibility for not only keeping this new being alive but somehow instilling virtue and life skills.  So many of us feel clueless and turn to books.  Who knows?  Maybe swaddling will turn out to be totally wrong and I’ll have to regret that one.  It’s easy to get misguided as a parent, and we all do the best we can.  Sleep training?  I’m still torn.  I’m sure I got that one wrong, if only because I never quite decided to do it one way or the other.  We’re all looking for answers, and the secular parents among us might find the wrong answers, too.

I hope you’ll give episode 42 a listen.  It’s a great interview.

My Trip to the Creation Museum

August 9, 2009

I finally made it to the Creation Museum.  No, I didn’t make the trip with PZ Myers, and the other 300 or so day-tripping atheists, along with the Secular Student Alliance .  Parental responsibilities got in the way.  However, a few days ago, after a trip to the dentist with my daughter, we found time to stop by.  Oh, don’t worry though.  She’s 8 years old and has a finely tuned skeptical filter that nothing gets by without question.

So, I posted a few of the photos I took, and soon after, I was asked a question from a good friend of mine, whom I believe is a Christian by birth, what did I think of it?  This is my response:

What I thought of the Creation Museum?  Well, there were dinosaurs.  Lots of dinosaurs.  Dinosaur paraphernalia was sprinkled all throughout the place.  I like dinosaurs, as do my children, and probably your children too.  Dinosaurs are cool.  So, they definitely have the cool factor going for them.  Though, overall, I thought it was disturbing, especially when I saw children there, young impressionable children.  Children, whose minds are being manipulated to think, that to be in good favor with their religious social group, or even with their parents, they have to put aside everything they’re taught in school and buy into this garbage.

The “alternative” and opposing information that is provided there is just simply bogus and destructive.  They are anti-science, anti-progress, anti-education and anti-reason, and admittedly so.  The children who are indoctrinated into this sect are being robbed of vital critical thinking skills.  Skills that are vital to the progression of society as a whole.  As cliché as it sounds, an investment in the minds of children is an investment in our future.  Yes, there is a future to care about.  The End Times are not coming.

It’s one frame of mind to believe in some sort of omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent ultimate consciousness that set forth into motion time and matter, but does not otherwise interfere.  It’s another frame of mind to believe in a “one true god” and to say you’re a Christian and yet another to be a Christian fundamentalist and believe the Bible might contain accounts of actual historical events, and act as an infallible source of morals.  That’s a person’s right and prerogative.  It’s something different altogether to just make things up to manipulate the public and more specifically, the group that calls themselves Christian, into thinking they have to throw out what bit of reason or logic they allow themselves to believe the nonsense they have to offer, to maintain their good status in their religious group.  As an example, this sect puts the phrase “God’s word” as an opposition to reason, as it shows in one particular exhibit of posters displaying actual scientific discoveries and offers, what is known as Ockham’s razor, a simplified answer to every question that may arise, it is “God’s word.”  This implies a person has to choose one over the other.  A book of bronze-age mythology over current scientific advancement and inquiry.  Religious authority over freethought.  Religious dogma over observable, empirical and measurable evidence that is subject to correcting and integrating previous knowledge, also known as science.

Rest assured, you can call yourself a Christian and accept the scientific method, too.

The word, museum, used in the name of the place, is very deceiving.  In my opinion, the place, which is reminiscent of an overly produced, but well done, carnival side show might be more aptly named, “The House of Creationism.”  Even then you might wonder what the deal is with all the randomly placed dinosaurs.

You might also raise an eyebrow to the heavily armed guards posing as the Creation Museum Police, whom upon inquiry, will let you know in a well scripted brief, although they have so far been without incident, they are ready to detain, arrest and subdue with force, anyone causing trouble.

Fortunately, with my military ID I got got in free and a half price admission for my daughter.


I Will Not Give the Creation Museum My Money!

July 28, 2009

PZ Myers and a small army of his followers will be descending upon my hometown of Cincinnati for an excursion to the notoriously ignorant Creation Museum. The point of the SSA sponsored visit is that it will be a “fact finding mission” for the purpose of spreading criticism (and likely first hand ridicule) across the blogosphere. Fair enough, but…

The Creation Museum willfully retards the intelligence of it’s visitors by spreading misinformation as fact. I would be happy to see them go bankrupt, pack up their anachronistic dinosaurs, and leave town forever. So, I have mixed feelings about this visit, where each member of the atheist mob will be paying $10 to the people that they oppose the most. That’s more than $2000 going to a museum that denigrates science, misinforms hundreds of students, and stains the reputation of the entire area. On the other hand, it would be fairly cool to be there to see the mockery that unfolds.

I completely understand that they’re getting a discounted rate, and that they will be ridiculing what they see (in a censored fashion), but that’s ten dollars per person that could have been donated to the Secular Student Alliance, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or the Center For Inquiry. The creationists shouldn’t be given a dime by atheists, and yet, hundreds of them will be paying a tithe to make a pilgrimage to this bastion of offensive fundamentalist propaganda. To put it in perspective, PZ shut down the deal between the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum, yet he is now participating in, even encouraging, a deal with the Creation Museum. And yet, nobody has bothered to question this?

Not to be an omen of misfortune, I’m also extremely concerned that the atheists attending will be subjecting themselves to possible violence. I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but this museum is on the Kentucky side of the river where there all kinds of Fox News zombies who cock their pistols every time they hear the words “abortion“, “atheist“, and “Obama“. I’ve been concerned about PZ ever since he desecrated a communion cracker, but this entourage to the Creation Museum puts hundreds of atheists at risk of violence from any number of crazy right wing extremist living in the area. I’m not saying that violence is likely or inevitable, and I’m definitely not saying that anyone should adjust their behavior out of fear, but it’s a risk that we take being the most despised group in America. It’s not a joke around here.

It’s ironic because the folks at the Creation Museum are probably worried about the same thing. They think that a bunch of godless heathens will come in and destroy the museum, rape the innocent, and steal their souls. I’m exaggerating of course, but it’s evident from their recent demands that the employees of the Creation Museum are on the verge of pissing their pants with fear that the godless horde will rise up and drag them to hell. We can only hope that the atheists behave so pleasantly that some of the creationists reconsider their prior assumptions. The frequenters of Pharyngula are mean SOBs when they’re semi-anonymous, as many of us are, but I’m quite sure that the atheists of the SSA are just normal ethical citizens who care about the world, their family, and their friends.

Clearly, I’m in the minority on refusing to attend the Creation Museum, as it seems there are very few dissenting votes against the idea of forking over cash money to them. I’m interested what you think. Am I missing the point? Am I being too paranoid? Or do you possibly agree? Let me know.


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