In an article titled “Stop Judging the Duggars” at Salon.com, writer, Mary Elizabeth Williams argues:
“So what if they’re expecting again? A family of 20 is just another side of reproductive choice.”
I give credit to Williams for the best wisecrack ever regarding Michelle’s decision to add to her already outrageously large brood of children. Before appearing on the “Today” show Tuesday, [Michelle] said, “I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.” Williams quips:
God, unfortunately, could not be reached for comment.”
Ha! Good one.
Not especially funny though, to women like me who have, in the past, made life-altering reproductive choices based on what we sincerely believed to be God’s perfect will for women.
The idea that God created women for the specific purpose of being fruitful and multiplying is heavily promoted as part of the “Pro-Life” teachings among Evangelical Christian believers.
As a teenager, I was introduced to the Pro-Life movement via Randall Terry’s “Operation Rescue.” Led by charismatic Mr. Terry, our church staged a “rescue” at the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City. I was horrified by the ministry’s literature which showed graphic pictures of butchered babies. How could anyone make a “choice” to murder their own tiny, precious pre-born baby?
I was moved to become a Pro-Life activist – passing out literature during parades, donating items and voluteering time at Crisis Pregnancy Centers, picketing a meeting of the Omaha chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice when the group sponsored a talk by Leroy Carhart in our small Nebraska town, passing out National Right to Life’s voter guides outside our local school where our neighbors came to vote …
The more deeply emerged I became in the Pro-Life movement, the stronger was my conviction that Life begins – not just at conception – but as both sperm and egg are living organisms – fertilization is merely the continuation of Life created by God back in the Garden of Eden.
After a while of this sort of “reasoning” – it became obvious to me, as it is to Michelle Duggar, that it is God Who gives Life – He opens and closes the womb and it is His perogative alone to determine whether or not a new, living, eternal being will come into existence.
I will admit that as a young, idealistic, mostly uneducated and inexperienced “bible believer,” – I was a shoo-in for the next level of “Pro-Life” advocacy: the Quiverfull movement.
Based on Psalm 127, which says, Lo, Children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward … blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of them” –
“Quiverfull” is standard Pro-Life rhetoric on steroids.
Quiverfull is mainly a women’s movement – as Titus 2:3 teaches: ” That [the aged women] may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” – it is older women teaching younger women that God’s best plan for their lives includes bearing a “quiver full” of children – training their sons to be “mighty warriors” in the battle for God’s Kingdom and their daughters to be “suitable help meets” for their future husbands.
The Quiverfull ideal, once spread mainly via Christian homeschool venues, has gone mainstream among Pro-Life Evangelicals – largely due to the popularity of Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar’s TV reality show, “19 & Counting.” On camera, the Duggar family exudes a “Walton’s Mountain” feeling of a tight-knit, down-to-earth, big happy family.
Quiverfull leaders such as Nancy Campbell, who publishes an international magazine, Above Rubies, to encourage Christian women in their roles as submissive wives and prolific mothers, teaches that godly women are to be fruitful and multiply …
…in obedience to the first commandment (Gen. 1: 27,28)
…abundantly (Gen: 9: 1,7)
…exceedingly, mightily, and multitudinously! ((Gen. 16:10, Dt. 6:3, Gen. 32:12)
…like a flock (Psalm 107:38, 41)
…In difficult times too ((Ex. 1:11, 12; Jeremiah 29:5,6)
…because barrenness is a curse (Lev. 26:22, Dt. 28:18, Hosea 4:10)
…because children are a blessing and God’s gift to His faithful people (verses too numerous to list)
…because it is a woman’s “natural function” (based mainly on Rom. 1:26,27 – but also supported by various biblical principles of obedience, self-denial, submisison, etc.)
Nancy Campbell concludes her admonition to prolific motherhood with biblical assurances that God promises to provide for the faithful and their children – then throws in several Old Testament verses which prove that “sperm is sacred to God.” Citing a spurious history of birth control, Campbell explains the “abortifacient” nature of chemical birth control – concluding that even natural family planning may be a selfish attempt to thwart the sovereignty of God: “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.”
“What is most important?” the Quiverfull leader asks Christian women. When we refuse to have children, we deprive God, Eternity, our husbands, ourselves, grandparents, our children, the Church, and the World – no woman can legitimately claim to love the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, if she withholds her womb from His service. (God’s Visions for Families: What the Bible Says About Having Children by Nancy Campbell, Above Rubies, 1995 – the updated version of this book is “Be Fruitful & Multiply“)
For the Quiverfull believer, it’s a matter of trust.
Yes – of course, Michelle Duggar has a right to utilize her own womb however she likes. But, I don’t agree with Williams’ premise that Michelle Duggar’s choice to have 20 babies is “just another side of reproductive choice.” Anyone who is familiar with the Quiverfull philosophy which compels Michelle to keep pumping out babies knows that hers is a bounded choice. To a firmly convinced “Pro-Life” woman such as Michelle, the “choice” is to be open to the possibility of yet another pregnancy, or else tell God, “No thanks – You’ve blessed me enough already” and in so doing, set herself up in the place of God to make decisions about whether or not to bring another eternal soul into existence.
I can’t speak for Michelle, but when I believed what she believes – there was no choice of all. Of course, I would welcome all the babies the Lord placed in my womb. Of course, I would risk my life. No way would I refuse the will of God for my life. Why would I choose barrenness – the curse of God? Why would I deny LIFE itself to another person – merely because of the “inconvenience” to me? How could I consider my own health – when we’re talking about a BABY – a tiny human with potential for eternal life in Heaven?
A woman’s “choice” was anathema to me because I believed that I was not my own; I had been bought with a price (the blood of Christ ~ 1 Cor. 6:20) and therefore, I sought to “honor God with my body” which essentially meant dutifully birthing seven “foot soldiers for Jesus,” nearly losing my life on more than one occasion.
In the same way that the fundamentalist Christian God allows people to exercise their free will by choosing between worshipping and serving Him or else burning in Hell forever – the Quiverfull woman must make the decision to trust God and perhaps die physically, or trust in the Pill and her own common sense – and die spiritually for all eternity. That’s not a choice – it’s an ultimatum.
Quiverfull leaders such as Nancy Campbell are masters at SPIN. Playing on a woman’s sincere desire to serve the Lord wholeheartedly … they use the scriptures to convince a woman that she WANTS nothing more than to stay home, have lots of babies and serve her husband – even if these choices might cost her everything. In today’s world of seemingly unlimited choices for women, making the best choice can be an overwhelming responsibility and it’s very tempting for Evangelical women like Michelle Duggar to choose to have no choice.