Controversial Beliefs Of The Hyper-Conservative 'Quiverfull' Christian Movement

The Quiverfull movement came to prominence with the televised introduction of the Duggars and their 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 families, every child they have is another arrow in their quiver. By having many children, they believe they are fulfilling God’s command.

But what you won’t see on television are some of the more controversial Quiverfull beliefs and practices. Their movement is just one example of the sometimes strict parameters to which religious groups subscribe - Catholics, the FLDS, and Hasidic Jews all have their own.

  • They Believe God Should Be The Only Form Of Birth Control
    Photo: Jim Bob Duggar / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    They Believe God Should Be The Only Form Of Birth Control

    The main belief that sets the Quiverfull movement apart from other fundamentalist Christian movements is that you should have as many children as possible. Because of this belief, they don't use birth control of any kind.

    Each child is seen a gift from God, and they believe He won’t give them any more than they can handle. The Duggars and their 19 children might be an extreme example, but 10 or more can easily be the reality for many families.

    The anti-birth control stance of the Quiverfull sect arose in 1985 in direct opposition to the rise of feminism and the concept of family planning. People who subscribe to the Quiverfull movement believe that using birth control and other methods of family planning leads to abortion, which is antithetical to the movement's core belief.

  • They Believe Women Must Be Completely Sexually Available To Their Husbands

    Women in the Quiverfull movement are expected to be completely submissive to their husbands. While the Quiverfull husband is the head of the household in all aspects, this idea also extends to sex. 

    Quiverfull wives must have sex with their husbands whenever their husbands wish. This concept stems from an idea presented in the Bible: that husbands and wives have ownership over their spouse's bodies. In fulfilling this practice, wives are believed to fulfill their duties to their husbands, keeping them fully satisfied and thus preventing them from committing adultery.

  • They View Their Children As 'Arrows For The War' Against Non-Believers

    Within the Quiverfull movement, having many children is not just important because God said so, but because they believe there is an ongoing spiritual war on Earth. They want to create more devout Christians in every rung of society by having more children than non-believers do, and they especially believe it's important to place believers in positions of governmental power.

    According to their estimates, if eight million couples (far more then the 10,000 or so who actually practice Quiverfull beliefs) started having at least six kids, they would win the war against non-believers within a hundred years.

    But they don't just believe this war is spiritual - Quiverfull fundamentalists believe these are the end times. By birthing "good Christians," they believe they're setting the scene for Jesus’s return and the final war against evil.

  • Many Women Reportedly Give Birth At Home, Completely Unassisted 

    While home births aren't exclusive to women in the Quiverfull movement, and not all Quiverfull women practice them, the most devout believers shun hospitals and medical advice and choose to give birth at home without the presence of a professional. These journeys into motherhood don't always begin this way, however; instead, many Quiverfull women often start with traditional hospital births before transitioning into midwife-assisted home births and then unassisted home births. 

    Understandably, unassisted home births can be dangerous for both mother and child. In multiple reported cases, unassisted labor has resulted in serious injury or death. A fundamental pillar of the Quiverfull movement is that God will take care of his flock, as long as they put their faith in Him.

    One woman described her thought process behind choosing unassisted home labor as follows: 

    I had envisioned a glorious testimony of God’s protection and provision - His reward for my complete trust and obedience in allowing Him to use my womb for His purposes. I imagined myself explaining after my successful home birth that it was because I had been faithful in seeking His will for my life that the Lord had carried me and my baby safely through.

    She went to the emergency room following complications from her home birth.

  • They Believe Families Should Revolve Around The Husband
    Photo: 19 Kids and Counting / TLC

    They Believe Families Should Revolve Around The Husband

    The center of every Quiverfull family is the father, and as such, the mother and children must be completely subservient to their patriarch. One ex-member described the dynamic as cult-like: "...each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme Patriarch."

    The result is a family that revolves around the father. The wives must cater to all of their husband's needs and fulfill all of the traditional gender roles to which the movement subscribes, namely taking care of the children and the home. In some cases, husbands reportedly control everything, down to whether or not their wives are allowed to have bank accounts or email addresses.

    Likewise, daughters must also be completely submissive to their fathers. A father is expected to be the only man in his daughter's life until he allows her to get married, at which time her "leader" becomes her husband. When girls are still young, they may take a purity pledge (a promise to remain chaste until marriage), attend special father-daughter dinners, and sometimes even become their father's emotional support if their mother can’t fulfill that duty.

  • They Believe Women Must Dress Modestly To Prevent Men's Temptation
    Photo: Counting On / TLC

    They Believe Women Must Dress Modestly To Prevent Men's Temptation

    While women in the Quiverfull movement must have sex with their husbands whenever the husband wishes, they are also expected to be modest and sexually pure in all other areas. They believe that showing too much skin can potentially tempt the men around them to think about adultery. According to Quiverfull ideology, women are responsible for men's fidelity in both thought and action.

    Additionally, the Duggar daughters have said they prefer to dress modestly so that only their husbands will see their bodies. While their explanation may be slightly different than that of more devout Quiverfull families, the reasoning behind their modest dress is the same: Women exist to serve the men in their lives.