Modern Mother Worldly was very, very lazy.
All her children drove her crazy.
The Bible told her to spank and train them.
But society said she must never constrain them.
The fruit of rebellion she did now see.
On the day of judgment she will have no plea.
Modern Mother Worldly cast in hell!
Now what becomes of the children of such a ‘Jezebel’!
— From the tract entitled, “Perilous Times,” sent to Quiverfull mother Andrea Yates shortly before she killed her five children
I’ve been getting a lot of hits from a new article on Wikipedia on the Quiverfull movement, probably partially in response to a Nightline program on the movement which was shown January 3. I think the Wikipedia article is pretty good. One thing I like about it is that it includes as a “notable Quiverfull Family,” Rusty and Andrea Yates. Quiverfull movement people usually distance themselves from Andrea Yates, who killed her five children after attempting to stone them, dismissing her as a disobedient and ungodly mother, as not a “true Christian,” as mentally ill or otherwise just not a bona fide Quiverfull mom. But my experience is there are more than a few women in the movement who are like Andrea Yates. Unlike her, they haven’t been pushed to their breaking point yet.
Last July Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of her five children. She was then sent to a mental hospital. After the trial, trial exhibits were uploaded to the internet, and so at last I was able to take a look at the actual teachings of the Yateses’ long-time spiritual leaders, Michael Woroniecki and his wife, Rachel. I knew Woroniecki was an “itinerant” preacher who traveled the world with his family, “preaching the gospel,” but I hadn’t been able to learn much about his actual teachings.
Woroniecki proudly describes himself as a “fire and brimstone” preacher. He believes his family is all that remains of “true Christianity,” comparing himself with Noah, whose family was spared the flood described in the Bible’s book of Genesis. He shares the distinctives of the Quiverfull movement: the reverence for the “fruit of the womb,” i.e., children, for voluntary poverty or “simple living”, homeschooling and Bible literalism. He believes, though, that it is evil and sinful for men to hold regular jobs and for women to be at home with the children while fathers work. He teaches that families are to “trust the Lord” and that fathers should with their wives and children all of the time.
He pastors via letters and other written materials, and this is how he “pastored” the Yates family. The Yates were intimately associated with the Woronieckis. They had given up most of their material possessions and had purchased a bus from the Woronieckis in order to live in it with their three children, as the Wornieckis had previously lived in the bus with their six children. The Yateses didn’t go to any sort of church meeting, believing with Woroniecki that the modern day church has the “Jezebel” spirit and is apostate. Most of the teaching was man to man, Worniecki to Rusty Yates, although once in a while both Michael and Rachel Worniecki sent materials to Andrea Yates, all of it condemning.
In a tract entitled “The Witch and the Whimp” (sic), Woroniecki sets forth his beliefs about women:
The word of God is very sobering when it warns “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is iniquity and adultery. Although rebellion is common to all, the word of God continually emphasizes the particularly destructive power latent in “the contentious woman.” Witchcraft, as seen in the nature of Eve, is the underlying ATTITUDE of contention or insistence to HAVE YOUR WAY. Witchcraft is cooperating with Satanic motivation to manipulate, control and rule…This is the way of the adulterous woman. She eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.” (Pr. 30:20). God says, “I find more bitter than death the woman WHOSE HEART IS SNARES AND NETS AND HER HANDS ARE CHAINS. Whoever is pleasing to God shall escape from her… You may be married or single, brazen or reserved, striking or simple, a pagan or a Christian but as a daughter of Eve you are born with the nature of a witch. No matter how blatant or subtle, “God is not mocked.”
This tract is primarily written to expose this “spirit of Jezebel” that Jesus says will rule His people in the last days… The woman Jezebel is the paradigm of the ultimate witchcraft which has a religious or “Christian” pretense. .. She is a woman who could even intimidate a mighty man of God… Today the false church is ruled by the “spirit of Jezebel.” Whether it rules through an entire maternal organization… or ndividuals… the goal of seering a conscience is the same. … It can rule through women who have positions of leadership or are simple and ordinary. It rules because of the terrible bankruptcy for courageous men of decisive faith. It rules because the so called pastors and preachers of today are passive whimps (sic) ruled by the underlying domination of their contentious wives. A passive man may entertain a “macho” or charismatic image but his whimpish spirit is clearly seen by his refusal to rebuke the spirit of Jezebel, whether it be trying to rule as a “preacher,” “teacher,” or housewife. (Emphases Worniecki’s, most scripture references removed.)
In the years before Andrea Yates killed her children, she had also been charged with caring for her elderly and ailing father who died in the year before the killings. In this context, then, of back- and spirit-breaking daily caregiving while homeschooling her five young children, with virtually no community of women to support her, she had repeatedly received letters from the Woronieckis, her spiritual leaders, berating her for her spiritual disobedience and failings. She had twice attempted to kill herself.
Shortly before she killed her children, she had received a tract entitled “Perilous Times.” It included the graphic at the top of this post with the associated poem beneath it, “Modern Mother Worldly.” The tract reads in part:
A woman is created to be a “helper”. This does not mean a wife. It means a servant, single or married. if a girl does not know how to be a servant then she is learning how to be a ruler. It’s called witchcraft. My daughters share and teach the gospel. They do not preach. They are completely content to be servants. NO witchy contention to compete with their brothers… The eternity of my children is my accountability while they are children and I would be sending them to hell if I raised them to think according to the standards of this world. …If you REALLY want “the best for your children” then first YOU must get right with God. …Yes it is far easier to just let the systems of the world do your job – EVERYBODY DOES IT – but you are the one who will reap the consequences. …I can not stress how serious this whole thing is. By the time a child is fourteen or fifteen, it’s too late. By this time, the thinking of the world that YOU have taught them, takes over. You feed them with the world’s ways and you reap exactly what you sowed. …God is going to hold you accountable. …The most severe statement Jesus makes in the whole Bible is in regards to how a child is treated (Read Matt. 18:6)! If Jesus makes such an extreme issue out of this how weighty it will surely be on the Day of Judgement! (Emphases the author’s.)
Shortly after receiving this tract, Andrea Yates killed her children. She told a jail psychiatrist, “It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren’t righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them they could never be saved. They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell.” One of her requests was that her head be shaved because she believed that on the flesh of her scalp, she must have born the “mark of the beast,” condemning her to eternity in hell for her failures as a wife, a mother, and a person.
The language of these materials which the Yateses believed were “scriptural” were more than just words, they were and are powerfully destructive and, I believe, they rise to the level of hate speech which ought to be legally prohibited, as other kinds of hate speech are legally prohibited. To declare, as Woronieki does, that women are born “with the nature of a witch,” “witches” being understood to be evil and wicked in all the ways he describes, is hate speech, just as other kinds of hate speech are hate speech and ought to be treated as hate speech under the law, as discriminatory and sexist in the same way slurs against other marginalized groups, ethnicities and religious communities are treated. For the purposes of this post, these words must be understood to have had the power to drive Andrea Yates over the edge, particularly given her isolation, the burdens of her life, and her struggles with mental illness.
How is it that men like Michael Woroniecki simply walk away from the devastation they have wrought in the lives of women and children? This is a man who at one point in his “ministry” was arrested after he followed a woman, a stranger, for two blocks, berating her to tears; his actions were not restricted to hate speech in tracts and pamphlets and letters. Who knows how many women have suffered at his hands in similar fashion?
How is it that Rusty Yates walks away from the devastation he wrought in the lives of his wife and his children? He divorced Andrea, remarried a few days before Andrea’s trial last July, then sped off with his new wife in a red Corvette. Rusty Yates was the one person who knew what Andrea was reading, what she was thinking and hearing about God, women, about herself, as woman doomed to hell. He was the one person who knew the burdens under which she was laboring day after back-breaking day, who knew what she was going through. He knew exactly what was in the materials being sent to his family, and yet he did nothing as he watched Andrea descend into what must have been unbearable torment, believing that not only was she doomed to hell, she was dooming her children to hell as well, yet she was bound, as a woman, by the religious beliefs imposed on her, to continue to bear children, whom she believed she would continue to doom to hell.
How is it that any of the patriarchs simply walk away from the grave and deadly damage that they have caused and continue to cause in the lives of women they call “Jezebel,” women like me, women like Mary Jackson, women like Andrea Yates, and our children? How many more Andrea Yateses will we have, how many more children will be harmed, before we begin to hold men like these accountable, at a bare minimum, for discriminating against women because they are women, for terrorizing women because they are women? Take a look at those tracts, those words written about women; why are they not legally prohibited as hateful and discriminatory, in the same way similar materials about any other group would be prohibited if they were widely and publicly circulated, and in particular, if they were causing real harm in the lives of real women and children?