Sunday, July 25, 2010

Quivering Daughters - A Review

Sometime ago, probably more than ten years ago, I began to question a movement that was just coming to the forefront. That movement is now most commonly known as “Patriarchy” or “Quiverfull.” At the time, I didn’t have any label for it. I just knew something about it wasn’t right. I began to see its effects in my own family, with my own sisters, and I saw the effects in other families as well. At some point I realized that this “new” belief system so many families were adopting was leading us down a path of conflict, destruction and pain. I began researching – looking on the internet, scouring book stores and libraries for something that would speak to my growing concern. And I found nothing. At that time I couldn’t find anyone within the homeschool movement who was bold enough to speak up and question a growing trend. I was discouraged. I prayed fervently for someone to provide a voice to the growing concern within me.

Years passed. My journey through those years took me down a path of questioning things I’d been taught, setting out on a different journey than my parents or even I ever expected. The most recent years have been filled with painful conflict, soul searching, and deep sorrow. I came to different conclusions than I was taught, a different set of beliefs and convictions. The journey I’m on now, now that the dust has settled and I can see a bit more clearly, is a journey to healing, wholeness, and joy. It has not been easy these last few years, and I’ve often wished there was someone who understood my journey, someone who had walked the same road, someone who could guide me, who could tell me I’d be ok in those horrible moments when I understood why people turn to drugs, alcohol, or some other pain-dulling substance. I didn’t turn to those things, thankfully, but for the first time in my life, I understood why it’s so tempting - there are just times when you’ll do anything to not hurt anymore. God did provide dear friends and family during those years who listened, prayed, and held me up when I couldn’t find the strength to go on.

About a month ago, I ordered my copy of “Quivering Daughters,” by Hillary McFarland. When it arrived, I found myself just staring at it, and then getting teary-eyed. This was the book I prayed for more than ten years ago. This would give voice to the girls and young women who find themselves in patriarchal families, who wonder if there’s anything beyond it. This is a book long overdue and I am forever grateful to Hillary for her labor of love.

I’ve been reading it over the last month. I’m not really sure what I expected, but somehow, I didn’t expect to be so profoundly affected. I thought I’d heard it all, thought I understood. But I didn’t. Healing is like the layers of an onion. You peel one back, but then there is another and another. As I read, I was touched by Hillary’s ability to move between the facts of the moment, and the hearts affected by it. But, what I didn’t expect, thought I probably should have, was to find that I’m still not done healing. That there’s more. I found myself grieving at points, rejoicing at how far I’ve come, but very aware that the work is ongoing in me and in so many others. It challenged me on the first reading, and I’m planning to go back for a second, more in-depth, reading soon.

Hillary addresses the error of the movement with truth and grace. She’s bold to address the reality that patriarchy can and often does become abusive to the hearts, minds, and souls of the women who are its victims. She’s gentle in her approach, but fearless. There is no condemnation here, for the woman caught in patriarchy, nor her parents. There is love, there is compassion, and there is a way of truth.

A quick definition of Quiverfull and Patriarchy as described by Hillary:

Quiverfull: “Quiverfull is a lifestyle in which parents keep an “open womb” and view children as a blessing, welcoming as many as God wants to send. Many consider this ‘letting God plan the family’ or ‘giving God control of our fertility’ instead of usurping His place through human intervention. This way of life is based on Psalm 127, where David writes, ‘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; they shall not be ashamed but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.’ “

Patriarchy: “Making swift headway over the last several years is another trend among homeschooling advocates; considered ‘God’s way’ or ‘God’s plan’ for true believers, the Christian patriarchy movement calls for a return to biblical culture and teaches that since education of children by the parents is mandated by God, faithful Christians will consider nothing else. Among other conservative values, it promotes the Quiverfull family, which is considered part of the dominion mandate in Genesis 1:28 and allows God to determine family size without human intervention. Many who affirm patriarchal doctrine also emphasize familial hierarchy, gender roles, biblical living and biblical womanhood.”

Here are a few passages which spoke specifically to my heart:

“Somehow I learned at an early age that love wouldn’t come easily. That love is a relationship award, not a relationship default, and I had to earn it, to work hard for it. While Quiverfull teaching exalts children as supreme blessings, it doesn’t reveal its grim underside – the silent reality that takes place in hundreds of homes every day and of which I learned: I am only a blessing when I am useful, helpful, obedient, cheerful, kind, unselfish, submissive, compliant and responsible. And only these kinds of blessings deserve love – at least, love as we understand it, the kind that busy parents have time for and use to curb behavior.”

“Unlike the pseudo-love we knew – old way love, which is legalistic, conditional, austere, withheld, obsessed with perfectionism and control – Jesus’ love is messy love. His hands are bloody and He is not afraid of darkness. He dispels it with His glorious light. He does not heap oppression on our souls or give us more to do. He leaves the flock to seek us and rejoices when He finds us. He is our Healer. And His love is unconditional, surprising, jealous, feeling, and willing to get dirty. New way love.

It is here, into your pain, that our Savior invites you. Here, into the darkness, where His light can shine. Here, in the brokenness, where His hands can heal. Here, into the unknown, so that He can become known. Known by you.”

For every woman who has suffered because of the Patriarchy and Quiverfull movement, you need this book. It’s beautifully written, and full of hope and redemption. And for the Quiverfull parents brave enough, courageous enough to consider a new way, you need this book too. For yourselves, and your daughters.


Rachelle said...

I'm with you....You are brave to write what so many feel.

Miranda Rat said...

This post needs clarification. Where is your logic?

1. When does a Biblical teaching- straight from Scripture (as you quoted very clearly above)- become a "movement". Since the Bible teaches that we shouldn't lie, are we part of the "no liar movement"?

2. God's laws NEVER HARM women or children. God's laws PROTECT and CHERISH women and children.

3. If you believe somehow or by some person you were hurt, does that invalidate God's laws? If you have a life issue that needs to be resolved, perhaps the place to deal with that is with that person rather than all over the internet.

4. If my prayer is to someday marry a man who believes in leadership and the blessing of children, does that mean I am somehow inviting abuse into my future home?

This post is illogical and leads to no conclusion other than that you believe God's teachings harmed you. I hope you do not believe that. God's teachings are the only true way to live life, because they fulfill us as people and give us a purpose beyond ourselves.

Janessa said...


I think your post needs clarification as well.

What are you defining as "God's Law"? And where do you get them from?

I agree with you 100% that God's laws never harm women. The harm comes in when humans take what they feel is God's law and make a list of rules that everyone else is required to live by. Contrary to what many of us were always told, God DOESN'T call every woman to be married and raise a family. It IS a wonderful calling, but so is remaining single either for a season or even a lifetime (or, dare I say it, working while you have kids).

I have more thoughts on this but need to get back to work.

Miranda Rat said...

Janessa, God's Laws come from His Word. In her post, Jeanette quoted straight from the Bible and then went on to say that somehow that harmed her, or the other "quivering daughters". If that was not what she meant, maybe clarification is needed because that is the only thing I could gather from the post.

Who said women have to get married? I didn't. If you somehow pulled that from what I said, you are mistaken. I said that is what I pray for. If God doesn't give me that, I can live a completely fulfilled life. In fact, that is what I'm doing right now, as an unmarried young woman- working and serving the church and my family. But that doesn't mean those who choose to marry leaders (as men are supposed to be) and have many children (be fruitful and multiply) are HARMING their daughters.

If you have a problem with the way you were raised, fine. Live differently in your own life. But don't spend your life persecuting the people who live by what they believe. God's Word also has something to say about respecting your parents, whether or not you agree with them. Instead, if you think you've discovered a better way- live it. Don't dwell on the past you dislike so much. How many of us grow up and live exactly the way our parents raised us? Spending your years peeling the onion back isn't helping anyone.

Janessa said...

Okay...just a couple quick points and then I'm signing off for a while.

"But don't spend your life persecuting the people who live by what they believe." I'm assuming that you don't blog about (or put up on Facebook) anything that you believe? According to what you just said, speaking out about something that you strongly believe is persecuting those who don't share that particular belief.

"Spending your years peeling back the onion isn't helping anyone."

I beg to is helping me. If you don't peel back the layers, you can never get to what's inside. Am I going to live the rest of my life "peeling back the layers of the onion"? Nope. But, it has been a necessary part of my journey these past several years.

the Joneses said...

When you take on an issue you're passionate about, you always run the risk spilling over into character assassination -- attacking those who promote the issue you're fighting.

Jeanette, you haven't done that. I've hung around forums that certainly have, and it's a messy sight. So keep posting. So many of us are still peeling back the onion skin, and we need a discussion that's infused with passion and integrity.

It hurts to read a denunciation of something you treasure, Miranda, especially if you haven't encountered the hardships that others have. But Jeanette isn't spreading dissent and discontent: she's addressing problems that have touched many of us. If you first admit that possibly you haven't found the Whole Truth, then you can read opposing viewpoints without feeling as if your whole self is being attacked.

-- SJ

Anonymous said...

I think I smell a Rat.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Miranda 100%.... no need to throw it all over the internet and possibly lead others astray who are actually *content* in the way they were raised and are living. I'm content in the way I was raised and yet the more I read about Quivering Daughters, the more I have a sense of something wrong, a dreaded feeling, an evil spirit.