Why I Agreed to Do a National Interview About (Not) Being Quiverfull

Why I Agreed to Do a National Interview About (Not) Being Quiverfull

They wanted to tell my perspective, in light of the Duggar’s recent presence in the news, of what it means to be “Quiverfull.” It was a radio show that airs on NPR.

My first thought was to decline. Publicity typically doesn’t go well for people and the farther we can stay away from it, probably, the better. Besides, I’m already the brunt of public, mean-spirited, dishonest and distorted information, and it’s not fun. But precisely because of that, I decided that maybe it was a chance to tell the truth and dispel of few misconceptions.

I told her I would do it, but that we don’t adhere to the label “Quiverfull”, though it is the label others have given us.

First, I get the need for labels. Sometimes it aids discussion and helps us say what we mean with fewer words. But most of the time, labels turn into unfair categorizing, painting whole groups of people with broad brushes on the actions of some. (I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing.)

In case you’re unaware, “Quiverfull” doesn’t carry a very positive connotation, and often gets lumped in with discussions about cults and parental and/or spiritual abuse.

Which is why the label doesn’t fit us.

The truth is, there are large, homeschooling families (the most obvious criteria for “Quiverfull”) that make a mess of things. Some are bad parents, even abusive. Some don’t understand marriage or compassion, or how to balance relationships in a family. And it’s ugly.

But, there are just as many of those examples among “normal” families. 

The truth is, in every type of family there are great examples and terrible ones.

We must discern the difference or we risk being labeled and stereotyped ourselves. Not only should we discern the difference, we should be demanding integrity and truth in every conversation, not willing to abide slander or misinformation. Because when we accept it, the truth about everything slowly dies. Nothing has made misinformation more prevalent than the Internet, but when we blindly accept what we read without being discerners of truth, we participate in the greatest destroyer of relationships there ever was. (Which is where the problem originates: the ability to tear people down behind a screen because we don’t have relationships with them and in fact, don’t perceive them as real people.)

I gave an example to the host in my interview: I am constantly seeing a new story in the news about a public school teacher who has been arrested for sexual crimes against students. It seems like an epidemic. Since there are so many, is it fair or right for us to make the whole lot of public school teachers suspect? Of course not. There are still many, many honorable people in that profession and we should recognize that and defend them if someone tries to mar their reputation by imputing another’s negative behavior onto them.

The second reason “Quiverfull Movement” doesn’t fit us is because we don’t follow a group or person. We don’t ascribe to any list of rules or ideology outside of God’s Word. We follow Jesus Christ.

So at the end of the interview she asked me, “Since you don’t see yourself as ‘Quiverfull’, what do you want to be called?”

Me: “A normal person.”

Seriously though, why must we be labeled? So I mentioned to her that the widespread acceptance of birth control has only been for the last 70 years or so. A “movement” implies a deviation away from what is considered normal. Before birth control was made popular, it was normal to have a larger family. In fact, throughout history, it’s been normal for thousands of years, compared to the few decades where strict prevention of children has been practiced. If there’s a movement at all, it’s “The Birth Control Movement.”

Let them answer questions for a while.

(Thank you, Interfaith, for letting me tell my story. It was an honor.)

I’ll try to let you know when it airs. To God be the glory.

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32 Responses to “Why I Agreed to Do a National Interview About (Not) Being Quiverfull”

  1. Brandi says:

    “The Birth Control Movement”…I like it! And about letting them answer questions for awhile….Jesus employed that tactic a lot so why not? 🙂

  2. Amy L. says:

    Thank you Kelly! I can’t stand that label thrown carelessly around by the media to describe anyone with more than 4 or so children. We have 9, and we don’t follow a “movement” or person either, just the Bible. Is there really even a real “quiverfull movement”? Just wondering!

    • lauraashley says:

      I’ll throw my two cents in…

      Would it be best to explain that you have similar opinions on birth control as observant Catholics? I think the public is fimilar with the Catholic position on the subject but aren’t use to non Catholic Christians thinking that way.

      I’m not sure there is a label or there is a really long one. You are Christians who wanted a large family based on the conclusions you came to after studying the Bible.

      Most secular people have only heard of Protestants believing that way through the Duggars.I I believe they do or at least did subscribe to the quiver full theology. It may not be well known that there are people who don’t identify as queer for full that have those convictions.

  3. Erika Shupe says:

    Very well said. Thank you. =) I look forward to sharing this with our LFOP Facebook group. It’s an important distinction to be made. Another thing we hear associated with “Quiver full” is not simply surrendering Lordship to Christ in the area of family planing, but actually pursuing and pushing having as many children as possible. Well that’s not surrender, that’s still control (just in the opposite direction of birth control). Anyway, I’m glad you stepped out. *hugs*

    • Erika,

      Yes that is another common accusation. She actually asked me if that describes me and I was careful to distinguish the difference in “trying” to have children and accepting children. Even at the end, when asked if I “planned” to have more….it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around. I’ve never planned any. I also mentioned that I don’t think it’s a sin to use certain forms of birth control or space children (although I think the mentality behind that can be a slippery slope). That’s my personal conviction but I know others share it as well. I emphasized having the right starting place, that when we think about life the way God thinks about life, it informs and changes the way we live.

  4. Sally says:

    Very well put. I’ve tried to explain so many times how a person can have a certain conviction without being part of a “movement”, whether it’s patriarchal family government, modest dress, or yielded wombs. The thought that there are those who abuse power in every walk of life is sad, but true. May God give us grace to honor Him in all we do.

  5. Happy mom says:

    Thank you so much for standing up for large families! We are just like every normal 1 or 2 kid family. We have struggles just like every other family. But I never hear people say when their 1 or 2 kid family makes a mistake “can’t you handle that 1 kid?” But in large families if one kid makes a mistake or something negative happens in the family it’s always blamed because their were to many kids. I am so fed up with that uneducated response. Again thanks for standing up for us!

  6. Michele says:

    Thank you for your description. Once upon a time I would have said the label “quiverful” could have applied to me, until people outside the movement began defining it in certain ways that left it unrecognizable. The only thing, as I understood it, that we all held in common was that we were evangelical Christians and we believed in the historic Christian view on birth control. I can’t wait to see the article when it comes out. I hope it represents what you said well.

  7. 6 arrows says:

    Thanks for this glimpse into your interview, Kelly.

    I had seen an article on the main NPR site (DOT org, not the Interfaith site you linked above) about the “Quiverfull movement” that was prefaced with this: “Both [families interviewed] now are part of the 10,000-strong movement, based on a Biblical verse [Psalm 127], that urges families to have as many babies as possible…”

    Well, there’s nothing in that Psalm, or anywhere else in the Bible, that tells us to have as many babies as possible. How does one even try to accomplish that? Quit nursing each baby at a very young age to induce ovulation so you can hurry up and get pregnant again?

    I don’t know anyone who is open to receiving children from the Lord without using birth control who is trying to “expedite” the process, so to speak. I think this idea of “trying to have as many babies as possible” is more of a misunderstanding on the part of those who would call themselves as being “outside of the movement.”

    If there are people who are indeed trying to have huge numbers of babies, then they are missing the point of receiving children from the Lord in His timing. God wrote into women’s bodies a natural form of spacing babies that occurs during the time that nursing delays ovulation. Those who try to cut off nursing to abruptly halt a natural biological process (the absence of ovulation and menstruation for a time after childbirth) are themselves attempting to play God and control their own bodies, as has been mentioned above, rather than yielding to God’s timing.

    Delighting in having our quiver full, per Psalm 127, doesn’t mean we’re “trying” to do something about that.

    Speaking of not being able to “wrap their heads around” a concept foreign to many, I’m reminded of all the 6-week postpartum checkups I went to over the years (and other doctor appointments, as well) where I was asked what form of birth control I was using. If I answered “none” it would be recorded as “natural family planning.”

    Well, not really. I wasn’t taking my temperature daily, or charting any fertility-related bodily signals, or anything of that sort. But how do you explain that, letting God plan your family?

    It’s a very misunderstood concept, receiving the blessing of children whenever the Lord wills.

    I’m glad you gave that interview, and look forward to hearing it.

    • Erin says:

      I was once asked what I was using for birth control at my child’s one year check up. Needless to say I was a bit taken aback. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to answer that as he was only one, we didn’t think he needed any.

      • 6 arrows says:

        LOL! I like that. 🙂 And most of the time I don’t think of clever comebacks to things that surprise me, either, until after the fact. 😉

    • Yeah, it’s strange that people make that leap. I have an obsession for accuracy when it comes to describing people or circumstances and it’s the subtle inaccuracies that can sometimes do the most damage. So being part of this grossly misunderstood “movement” is difficult. Even though I do realize that families hold different convictions and practices. Some DO feel it’s a sin to practice any form of birth control. So I get how some of the conclusions can be made. Still…

      • 6 arrows says:

        You’re right that some people do see any birth control practice as sin. I don’t see it that way. I believe there are instances where delaying or preventing children may be necessary, and we practiced that while in some extraordinary, very trying circumstances. The whole counsel of scripture needs to be considered at all times, and doing so helped bring my husband and me peace that we were not violating a command of God during that time.

      • Erin says:

        I love your obsession for accuracy. For awhile I was convinced that birth control was a sin, then I was hit with the less than ideal health situation. I have to take meds that cause severe birth defects. Needless to say, we are using birth control for the time being. Maybe next year I can get off the meds, but for now they are truly necessary.

        God keeps us humble.

        I do appreciate this post and look forward to hearing the interview. Thanks for being courageous enough to participate.

    • Melinda says:

      While breastfeeding may work as a natural child-spacer for some (one of my sisters and mother for example), I was solely breastfeeding my eight month old and still got pregnant with blessing #3. 🙂

      I only say this to be careful not to assume someone isn’t breastfeeding or is prematurely weaning in order to have more children just because they have children less than two years apart.

      One of my sisters got pregnant at 3 months post partum and Yes she was nursing her little one full time. Everyone’s body works differently and everyone’s natural ability or inability to have children is also different.

      My third sister has been “trying” for two years to conceive and has yet to carry a baby to term.

      • 6 arrows says:

        Melinda,

        You’re absolutely correct that everyone’s body works differently, and there can be wide variation among nursing women how soon after childbirth their cycles resume. That’s why I used the generic “for a time” in my sentence “the absence of ovulation and menstruation for a time after childbirth”. 🙂

        My sister started periods again only three months after the birth of her child, during exclusive breastfeeding, whereas my average length of lactational amenorrhea has been 15 months. Quite a difference, and that between biological sisters!

        I can assure you I don’t assume that women who have babies closer together than I’ve had mine are prematurely weaning in an effort to have more babies. 🙂

    • Christine says:

      My body does not suppress ovulation at all when I breastfeed. I get a period at 5-6 weeks after birth every time. Because I believe babies aren’t supposed to come that close together, my husband and I do use some non hormonal methods of birth control and I would never use the quiverful term to describe us, even though we have six kids.

  8. Megan says:

    Hi Kelly,
    I am pregnant with my 9th child and another common thing we hear, besides that which has already been mentioned, is that we are trying to be like the Duggars. We love the Duggars, but we don’t want to be like them. We want to be like Christ. I also get told I must be exhausted and over burdened. Really? That’s news to me. While having a large family is challenging and I do get tired, I certainly do not feel so exhausted that I feel paralysed. I used to let opinions get to me, now I just roll my eyes and let it go. God knows why I do what I do. And that’s all that counts.

  9. Kim M says:

    I can’t wait to hear it!

  10. Charity says:

    I’m so glad you did this interview Kelly. Sometimes I just want to scream ” Hey! We weren’t called to be like other Christians, we were called to be like CHRIST!” so thanks for reiterating that so I don’t have to yell. Tee hee! 😉

  11. Please read my book Yellow Fields of Grace for encouragement.
    Reviews on Amazon.

  12. Clara says:

    Kelly, so glad you did the interview and I am looking forward to reading it! Can you post a link when it is available?

  13. Claudia says:

    Brave.Brave.Brave. I love you, Kelly, for being that gal!! LOVE the example of all the PS teachers in the news and how important it is not to judge ALL based on SOME. Thank you for going out on a limb for so many. For Jesus. Hugs!

  14. Gillian says:

    Would you be able to link the interview? I’d love to hear it. I tried searching but could not find it.
    P.S. LOVE your blog. 🙂

  15. Shannon says:

    Years ago Quiverfull was just about leaving child bearing up to God, ie. not using birth control. A book called The Full Quiver, by Rick and Jan Hess, is emblematic of the return of the idea to non-Catholic Christians. In the ~2 decades since, the name Quiverfull has taken on other connotations based on what some vocal followers also espoused. This includes things like requiring homeschooling and traditional gender roles, as well as some tenets that are less common, like strict courtship, daughters staying home till marriage and not going to college and the like.

    Clearly every “Quiverfull” family has their own flavor and will agree with more or less of these other ideas, but our media prefers to label and walk away. Since they are not generally supportive on Christians, I’m not surprised they have included all of these positions under the Quiverfull umbrella. Perhaps they have been assisted by some who are overzealous for their more extreme position and add these other things to the original idea in their writings on the subject. I very much appreciate your attempt to keep the conversation purely on the original point, that of not using birth control and letting God make family planning decisions. Quiverfull families come in all flavors and sizes (I know a couple who have 1 child, and one that has 18). The media needs to stop trying to force us all into the same box.

  16. Amanda says:

    Good for you, and thank you, for having the Holy Ghost courage to take this on!! I am one of nine kids, and my husband and I are on our 4th and not using birth control (though our EBF 5mo seems to be exercising some, lol!). I’m just genuinely puzzled about all of this: I don’t know of/have ever met any large family that was “trying” to have more…they just go obediently about their lives and God blesses them with a full quiver. I want to ask those people, how any pairs of shoes do you have? Do you plan to acquire more? Doesn’t that make you a hoarder with a shoe problem?!

  17. Kelly L says:

    Good for you! I’m looking forward to hearing it!

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