If there is a wholesome counterpoint to the gossip-rich travails of single-mom Nadya Suleman and her 14 children, it might be Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who had their 18th child just weeks before the arrival of Suleman's octuplets in January. The Duggar birth was televised on the Arkansas couple's popular TLC reality show, "17 Kids and Counting" (now "18 Kids and Counting"). Unlike Suleman, who was vilified as the freakish, government-assistance-dependent "Octomom," the Duggars' abundant progeny often attract admiration. Their children play violin, their palatial home is immaculate and the family matriarch is a soft-spoken multitasker who gently keeps order in her immense household.
Watching Michelle Duggar manage her Herculean tasks is addictive. We like to marvel at the logistics of life in oversized reality-TV families like the Duggars or the participants of the series "Kids By the Dozen" (also on TLC), which features families with at least 12 children each. How do they do all that laundry every week? Afford all those gallons of milk or cope with a joint birthday party for 13?
But there's one big omission from the on-screen portrayal of many of these families: their motivation. Though the Duggars do describe themselves as conservative Christians, in reality, they follow a belief system that goes far beyond "Cheaper by the Dozen" high jinks. It is a pro-life-purist lifestyle known as Quiverfull, where women forgo all birth-control options, viewing contraception as a form of abortion and considering even natural family planning an attempt to control a realm—fertility—that should be entrusted to divine providence.
Quiverfull doesn't follow from any particular church's teachings but rather is a conviction shared by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians across denominational lines, often spread through the burgeoning conservative homeschooling community, which the U.S. Department of Education estimates has more than 1 million school-age children, and which homeschooling groups say easily has twice that number.
Quiverfull's pronatalist emphasis is linked to a companion doctrine of strident antifeminism among conservative Christians who see the women's liberation movement as the origin of a host of social ills, from abortion to divorce, women working and teen sex. "Feminism is a totally self-consistent system aimed at rejecting God's role for women," Pride wrote in 1985; since then, the movement she helped create has erected an opposite and equally self-consistent system of "biblical womanhood."
A glimpse of this reality is sometimes visible beneath TV's glossy treatment of Quiverfull families, but more often it's difficult to see the hard edges of ideology underlying yet another large family adventure.
Look, folks, I admit that I sometimes have an on-going difficulty with the concept of "tolerance" as we genetically talk about it in UU circles (I've more than once addressed this in Sunday services, given the opportunity), but this "takes the cake".
What?! Is this a native American tribal group espousing some esoteric path to full womanhood or family fulfillment? Nooo o o o, it's a bunch of literal keep-her-bare-foot-and-in-the-kitchen-cooking literal Bible thumpers espousing their narrow band of egregious anti-democratic bullshit.
Cross-posted from patter pensée.