Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, by Kathryn Joyce

Beacon Press, ISBN 9780807010709, March 2009

Kathryn Joyce takes us on an alarming, enlightening, startling journey through an American subculture most of us are unaware of. Most of us are aware of the influence of the "Christian right" in Republican politics. What's less obvious is that a significant part of that "Christian right" are not our run of the mill evangelical Christians, people who may be more supportive of morality- based laws, and less supportive of sex education, contraception, and teaching the facts of evolution, but who aren't all that different from the mainstream, especially the mainline Protestant mainstream. That's not the "Christian right" that Ms. Joyce is writing about.

This is a different phenomenon, of which the visible tip of the iceberg is Christian home-schooling and the Duggar family, of the reality show "19 Kids and Counting."

The Duggars are part of the Quiverfull movement, a movement which advocates letting God determine the number of children a couple will have, strictly traditional gender roles in which even the most traditional work outside the home for women is society-destroying "feminism," modest dress, home-schooling, and chaperoned courtship rather than dating for finding spouses.

Ms. Joyce travels through this subculture, revealing both the sincere belief behind it, and the corruptions and hypocrisies that afflict them. This is a world in which girls are taught to be subservient even to their younger brothers--the servants of the representatives of God on Earth. Women should help support the family, but they should not work outside the home, so they should develop home businesses--and run them while waiting hand and foot on husbands, fathers, brothers.

We follow the stories of several families in different parts of this subculture, families that are still a part of it, and families who have, in various ways and to various degrees, broken with it. Ms. Joyce also traces the surprising international reach of the movement, with alliances not just with conservative Christians in other countries but even, unexpectedly, alliances with some of the "fundamentalist" sects of not only Judaism, but Islam.

This is a fascinating and in some ways scary book, and both well written and well-organized. It's an excellent introduction to a little-recognized but influential American subculture.

Recommended.

I bought this book.