I just completed an article on the Religious Right and how it has managed to amass such power and influence in the United States over so short period of time, drawing on my own knowledge of and experiences in that world as a woman and magazine publisher in the 1980s and early 1990s. I am very proud of my article — I have not so far seen the dots connected as I was able to connect them, and connecting them is essential to fighting the Religious Right — and I am excited that it is Off Our Backs which will be the magazine to publish it. I hope many women subscribe to OOB or at least order the upcoming issue. If you subscribe right away, you’ll get the issue in which this article will be published.
Writing the article has been, in some ways, a rugged experience for me, drawing me back to hard days and times it pains me to recall, to memories and sadnesses I’ve pretty much put to rest in the 13 years since my excommunication (which I discuss in my article). At the same time, researching the article was enlightening, and in some interesting ways, vindicating, to me.
I don’t know how I missed it, but I learned, for example, that one of the leaders on the Religious Right who was central to my own national excommunication — Michael Farris of Patrick Henry College and the Home School Legal Defense Association in Virginia — had recently stepped down as president of his Patrick Henry College, opened in 2000. Why? Because nearly a third of the professors of the college resigned last spring in one fell swoop citing issues of academic freedom after one of them got fired by Farris on the spot one day. When the outrage level reached the tipping point, Farris bailed as president. News of the professors’ revolt and resignations was widely reported; after all, that is news. How often does one-third of a college faculty resign? But it wasn’t news to me. I know this guy. I know what he does, and I know what the men in that world do. What has been so astonishing to me is that Farris has gotten away with this kind of stunt for decades– all the way up to his recent very cozy relationship with President Bush. He was one of five male leaders on the Religious Right invited to the infamous signing of the partial birth abortion ban, for just one example. His rise to the top of the male heterosupremacist power hierarchy went virtually unimpeded until last spring.
I also, in my researching, learned that R.C. Sproul, Jr, son of a highly-regarded theologian, had been defrocked by his denomination amidst charges of spiritual abuse, identity theft, and promoting use of alcohol, including at church meetings, in a way that was, um, immoderate. It wasn’t just communion. This was of interest to me in part because one of his closest chums in the patriarchy movement, Doug Phillips, once an attorney with Farris’s organization, once publicly and openly castigated me as “a jezebel” at a conference in which he was theoretically pontificating on about homeschooling. I was interested in learning how Phillips would respond to his buddy’s defrocking. He didn’t, that I could see (and he’s still selling his buddy’s books).
After my excommunication, when I resumed publication, I got an e-mail from a woman in these circles who had been a subscriber. “If this were truly a godly nation,” she wrote, “you wouldn’t only have been excommunicated. You would have been executed.” The woman’s name is Valerie Jill Barrett. I went looking to find out how she had responded to Sproul’s ousting, given that she shares his theology; I found her urging one and all not to listen to “gossip” but to go directly to the source– something she certainly never did when she heard the gossip about me; then it was straight to execution talk. Well, maybe she’s changed her mind about these things. Not so long ago, her abusive ex-husband, a Christian reconstructionist attorney named Timothy Barrett, had his license to practice law suspended in Virginia. The portion of the page I linked to chronicling Timothy Barrett’s abuse of his ex-wife and of the legal system deserves its own series of blog posts. Pretty impressive in a macabre and morbid fathers’ rights/men’s rights sort of way. I find it interesting that despite Timothy Barrett’s antics, Valerie Barrett keeps defending the patriarchs, keeps living the life.
And that brings me to the real reason for this post.
Today I came across two articles about the “Full Quiver Movement,” so-called, one in Newsweek and one, originally in The Nation, in AlterNet. As those of you who have read my writings for a while know, I am the mother of 11 children. The “full quiver” idea is from the Bible:
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.
The movement actually began in the ’80s with the publication of the book The Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, by Rick and Jan Hess. I participated in that movement. I “let the Lord plan my family.” I did it all up and wrote about it in my magazine, from 1989-1994– moved to the land, bore my children at home, planted gardens, homeschooled, home-churched, home-everythinged. Until I broke. Until I stopped. I talk about what happened then in my article.
What’s of interest to me is that the “Full Quiver” boards now boast 2,600 registrants. It seems to me lately that not a month goes by but that there is yet another article about a “Full Quiver” family published in a magazine or newspaper. The Discovery Channel recently aired a series on the Jim Bob Duggar Family— a “full quiver” family with 14 children.
In both of the articles I linked to, the authors cite to Mary Pride, author of The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, published in 1985. Pride, herself a full quiver mom of 9, was one of the defendants in my lawsuit against the Religious Right. In the course of helping to excommunicate me, among other things, her organization personally solicited my advertisers and columnists, told them I wasn’t publishing anymore, and invited them to advertise with and write for Pride’s publications. She settled with me early on.
I’m writing this, naming these, names, and will continue to, because the television shows, articles and stories which are circulating do not tell the truth about the “Full Quiver” movement so called. They don’t, for example, describe the way “full quiver” dads Farris and Phillips participated in the national shunning and destruction of my business and what that meant to me, myself a “full quiver” mom of then nine children. They don’t describe the abuses of full quiver dads Timothy Barrett or R. C. Sproul, Jr. or any of the men I’ve named. And above all, they don’t talk about the way the lives of so many, many women in that movement have been all but destroyed– women with 5, 7, 9, 11 or more children, women who lived sometimes for decades with abusive men who were then excommunicated, lost everything they had, when they divorced their abusers. Women like my columnist and friend, Carol, a midwife and herbalist, mother of 11, who receives no child support from her ex-patriarch husband, who is now saving for a mail-order bride. She has struggled to support 10 of her 11 children by herself via a greenhouse business. They don’t talk about full-quiver women like the woman in the South who was excommunicated, whose children turned on her, who lost everything she had. They don’t mention women like my friends, H, and L, who served their abusive husbands for decades, only to have them vanish from their “quivers”” lives completely when they finally filed for divorce. H’s husband is also saving for a mail-order bride — a lot of these erstwhile “patriarchs” seem to go that direction when their wives divorce them. Neither H’s or L’s husbands have contact with their “arrows”. My ex-husband also had no contact with his “arrows”– for 11 years. That was fine with me. When he did re-establish contact, they suffered nothing but pain and grief.
The full quiver people never talk about the victims of the movement, other than to distance themselves, to explain how it is that the victims are aberrations. They don’t talk about women like Andrea Yates and her children. Yates stoned her kids in her back yard, then drowned them, believing she was a terrible mother and that her children would be better off with God than with her. They don’t talk about women like Kimberly Forder, who with her patriarch husband adopted seven children of color after bearing three biological children. Following the admonitions of some “quiver full” leaders to be sure to properly chastise and discipline her kids, she and her husband abused one of their adopted children so badly that he died. It was only this year, four years after the child’s death, when an adult biological daughter charged her adult brother with rape that the story was told. The family was in Liberia at the time, in the mission field. The full quiver folks don’t talk about full quiver moms who follow the advice of people like Mike and Debi Pearl and what happens to their children. They don’t talk about the deep depression into which the wife of the head of Full Quiver Mission has fallen, or why. They don’t publicize the stories of the women I know– women who have lived in, birthed in, delapidated trailers or shacks without power or running water because their husbands wanted to live “debt-free,” women who have survived on $100 per month for food for seven or eight kids and $25 per month for clothes for those kids, for years, because that’s all their patriarch husbands would allow them. They don’t publicize the many women who have suffered rapes, beatings, and been told by their “elders” they should pray about it, be a better wife.
Those of us who left that world — we know what happened to us there. We know what happened to our children there. Our grown children know what happened there. We see these articles and know all that they don’t tell, about us, and our children. I am horrified by the news in these links I posted that the Southern Baptist Convention in cahoots with the Roman Catholic church (and only those in my old world know how ironic is that cahoots-dom) is moving in the direction of teaching the joys of the full quiver, all the time, for all women.
The shiny, apparently happy faces of the patriarchs and their full quiver wives and children in articles, on television (and even in the supposed “exposes”, there is, too often, a sort of subtextual admiration, a thinly-veiled reverence for this lifestyle) are an offense to all of us, women and children, who have been harmed by the patriarchs responsible for these teachings. I am going to be telling the truth about that, for as long as I have a voice.
I dare any of them to silence me.