On the Other Side of the Wall
When I'm not here I'm often reading on the Christianist side of the bloggosphere. I've been snooping over there for a long time because I love to talk and argue theology and because I'm interested in the peculiar role of America's brand of Christianities in America's brand of democracy. While over there I've encountered some stunningly scary blogs--Above Rubies and Cedar Generation (No link out of respect for her peculiar brand of crazy) , but also some profoundly powerful and illuminating ones. Among those I'd put Slacktivist Experimental Theology, Adventures in Mercy and No Longer Q(u)ivering.
No Longer Qivering (There is no You in Quivering) is the brainchild of a woman named Vyckie who is, as it were, a recovering survivor of the natalist/quiverfull movement described by Kathyrn Joyce and lauded by David Brooks when he thought, if that's the right word, that white natalism meant more Republican voters. The Quiverfull movement is one of many typical American responses to the tidal flow of societal and economic dysfunction. Basically the Quiverfull movement is a supra-denominational movement that pushes patriarchal family structure, reproductive vigor, ecological dominion, home schooling, withdrawal from the world, chastity, modesty, anti science attitudes, and paranoia on its adherents. It promises its adherents, alternately, future post death benefits (heaven) or pre death benefits (happiness, blessings, good family life).
Generally speaking the individual women and men in the movement are reacting against the perceived dangers of the modern world and the centrifugal forces that have operated (as they see it) on their own families and the Christian communities they live in. The modern world, feminism, science, public school, medicine, democracy, the economy, drugs, sex, pornography, adolescence, poor etiquette training--these are all things that are seen as splitting families apart and forcing Christian communities apart. These men and women know whereof they speak. They are not the descendants of our Puritan forebears--though they style themselves that way--nor are they Amish or Mennonite pursuing an authentic cultural tradition. Rather, if you scratch the surface of the family testimonies of the men and women who expose themselves on blogs you invariably find people who experienced such massive economic and social trauma that being "saved by Jesus" is, for them, literal not figurative. Those beautiful christian marriages? Often post divorce, or post a fornicating past, for one or both of the newlyweds. And the first child of these huge families? Quite often the result of an unintended teen pregnancy by the now eternally chaste mother. Examine their own family stories and you will find that the grandparent generation and the siblings of the husband and wife are routinely described as non Christian, Pagan, Homosexual, Porn addicted, Drug addicted, etc...etc...etc... The enemy of "this world" from which these families are withdrawing is often their own immiediate family. The new, godly, family of happy mother, father, and steps and stairs children is a replacement family for the one that doesn't really exist and never did.
When you read blog testimonies and histories carefully you come to see that the entire panoply of Christianist and Patriarchal behaviors are, in a sense, constructed against modernity. Patriarchal family styles, antique modes of dress and hair, imitation of (imagined) pre-capitalist or at least pre-industrial ways of cooking, cleaning, and child rearing aren't authentic expressions of local cultural traditions--they are magical incantations, learned and adopted behaviors, a kind of relgio/cultural "ghost dance" or "cargo cult" that is thought to produce a magical result: biblical, happy, holy, families.
The Quiverfull movement is the farthest most fringe of a generic movement within modern American Christianity--it promotes "headship" from the husband and "followership" or "submission" from the wife in all things in this world, and sometimes in the next. This is also called "complementarianism" and there are whole blogs and blog wars devoted to the war between the "comps" and the "egals"--where "egals" are Christians who believe that the roles of men and women within the family and before god are or should be "egalitarian." I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of this eternal and internecine struggle. I do want to say that the more you study the lives of the men and women who find themselves struggling to live fully "complementarian" and patriarchal lifetstyles the more you see something truly American--the flight from reality and the urge to create new social forms however obviously dysfunctional and irrational they are. These people, like other Utopians and, indeed, our own Pilgrim forebears, throw themselves onto a rocky and inhospitable shore (America, Marriage, many Children), often without the proper tools or specific talents to make it work.
I owe these insights to the courageous and illuminating work of two women who are recovering from years in the Quiverfull movement--Vyckie at No Longer Qivering and Molly at Adventures in Mercy. Both of these women are extremely talented writers, thinkers and organizers. I have no hesitation in saying that if they hadn't been sidetracked by Quiverfull and retrograde, anti-feminist Christian dogma they would both be running large corporations, doing science, curing the sick or teaching at Universities. They are both world beaters: women of drive, imagination, energy and brilliance. But along the way to discovering those qualities in themselves both of them detoured through a religious and cultural movement that insisted that they submit to the authority and leadership of men who were both, sadly, incapable of fulfilling the role. Both Vyckie and Molly have used the internet and the blog format to leap out of the constriction of their carbon world communities. Vyckie has gone farther and is trying to organize an online community to support other women, like herself, who are emerging from Quiverfull or other like movements often with immense burdens, and who need both emotional and social support. Hop over and see what these amazing women are doing.