The Quiverfull movement came to prominence with the televised introduction of the Duggars and the reality show about their huge family. Quiverfull Christians emerged in the 1980s as an evangelical response to the rise of feminism and the use of birth control. The name comes from a Biblical psalm:
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
For Quiverfull subscribers, every child they have is another arrow in their quiver. By having lots of kids, they believe they are fulfilling God’s command.
But what you won’t see on television are all the Quiverfull horror stories that exist. The Duggars had their own scandal when it turned out their eldest son had molested his sisters, but other abuse within Quiverfull abounds. The strange beliefs of the conservative movement is just another installment of stringent parameters to which religious movements subscribe: Catholics, the FLDS, and Hasidic Jews all have their own.
But large families are perhaps the least harmful aspect of the Quiverfull movement: it's the adjacent ideology and darkly subversive repression fueling the movement that is so alarming. Here are some of the most disturbing rules and rituals promoted by Quiverfull believers.
The main thing that sets the Quiverfull movement apart from other fundamentalist Christian movements is the idea that you should have as many kids as possible. Birth control of any kind is completely out of the question. And don’t even mention abortion, or "women's rights." Even “natural” family planning like the rhythm method is seen as something prostitutes do.
Each child is seen a gift from God and they believe He won’t give you any more than you can handle. But apparently, God seems to think women can handle a whole lot of kids. The Duggars with their 19 kids might be an extreme example, but 10 or more can easily be the reality for many families.
This means most Quiverfull wives spend all of their time pregnant, breastfeeding, and raising a whole lot of children. And they never get a break: since most of the families homeschool, they can’t even send their brood off to be a teacher’s problem for part of the day.
Why do they have so many kids? Because a woman is virtually never allowed to turn down their husband if he wants sex, and there's no protection involved.
One Quiverfull blogger put this oh so romantically when he made the analogy that after you buy the cow (your wife) you expect to get the milk (sex) for free. You shouldn’t have to do anything to earn it. According to him, a wife can never really reject her husband’s advances, at best she can ask for a rain check that she needs to deliver on as soon as possible. A wife who refuses her husband’s sexual desires is apparently not only defying him (a big no-no) but also God (which is like the worst no-no.)
He even says a man shouldn’t feel bad about basically forcing sex on his wife if she is not in the mood, which dangerously advocates marital rape.
Having many children is not just important because God said to, but because they believe there is an ongoing spiritual war. The idea is to get more devout Christians in every rung of society by having more children than non-believers do. They think it is especially important to get believers into positions of power in government. They estimate if eight million couples (far more then the 10,000 or so who actually practice) started having at least six kids they would win the war against non-believers within a hundred years.
But it isn’t just a metaphorical war they advocate. Quiverfull fundamentalists believe they are living in the end times and by birthing good Christians believe they are setting the scene for Jesus’ return, and the final war against evil that will bring on the Second Coming.
There is a new fad for home births, but even the most New Age-type moms-to-be will have a midwife on hand to help through labor. Not the Quiverfull practitioners. They believe that you can get through this difficult experience all on your own. That’s why many of them choose not only to give birth at home, but to have no medical professionals around to help. For some, this isn’t a problem and they get through it fine, with both mother and baby perfectly healthy. But as any doctor could tell you, birth is tricky and sometimes things go wrong. When they go wrong at an unassisted home birth, people die.
In 2009, one Quiverfull blogger suffered an amniotic fluid embolus and her baby died, and she ended up in critical condition. She had decided to go through with an unassisted birth even though her pregnancy showed signs of complication, with tragic consequences. And an ex-member has also written about how she ended up in the emergency room with a partial uterine rupture after one of her home births.