I cringed when I heard the opening lines of this story on NPR, In Quiverfull Movement, Birth Control Is Shunned. I don't consider myself one of the quiverfull but with four kids I've gone over the arbitrary limit of two that some consider acceptable. I always have to resist the urge to roll my eyes whenever someone incredulously comments on how many children I have. One of these days I am going to respond to, "Why do you have so many kids?" with, "Well killing them or abandoning them for someone else to raise weren't really options for me so I had to suck it up and raise them myself." (I really wish that people would stop and think before interrogating me about to my choice to have the children I have about how they sound to someone who may not be able to have any.)
Those confused as to why I have "so many" kids certainly don't understand the nuances of allowing for divine intervention in family planning. If God really really wants you to have children nothing will stop that sperm from meeting that egg even if said meeting occurs half way around the world in someone else's body long before you realize you even want to be a parent (adoption for those who didn't follow the metaphor).
Now on to this quiverfull business. I know many families that, like my own, consist of more than the acceptable (to many of those commenting at the NPR site) 2 or less. Some might consider themselves some sort of quiverfull taking joy in having more than society's accepted number of children. And while they try to teach their values to their children they seem to understand quite well the trials, tribulations, and joys of parenting.
I'm not going to say much about the predictably distressed, bordering on hysterical (in the chicken little sky is falling sense of the term), comments bemoaning the evil, ignorant, racist, etc. etc. fundamentalist extremists who are over populating and destroying the planet and the country by having so many children and mooching off of the government to take care of their surely dysfunctional twisted families. I wish that was an exaggeration of the tone of the comments but it is not. The adherence to vaguely Malthusian theories of population growth (bringing to mind unpleasant images of Brave New World) and suggestions that the government should do something to penalize people for having "too many" children like China (with their forced abortions, selective abortions of baby girls, and villages full of boy children but no girls) really give one pause. But I am more interested in the reported claims of the quiverfull movement mentioned in the story.
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing reported in this story is the following,
"The womb is such a powerful weapon; it's a weapon against the enemy," Campbell says.
Campbell has 35 grandchildren. She and her husband stopped at six kids, and it is her great regret.
"I think, help! Imagine if we had had more of these children!" Campbell says, adding, "My greatest impact is through my children. The more children I have, the more ability I have to impact the world for God."
A Christian God, that is. Campbell says if believers don't starting reproducing in large numbers, biblical Christianity will lose its voice.
"We look across the Islamic world and we see that they are outnumbering us in their family size, and they are in many places and many countries taking over those nations, without a jihad, just by multiplication," Campbell says.
First the womb is most certainly not a weapon. To my knowledge it is never described as such in the Bible. The womb is a place for nurturing life. We do a grave disservice to women and the God who created us when we try to make it be any thing else.
Raising godly children can indeed have an impact on the world for God but I am reminded of a story told by one of the elders of my church about his childhood Sunday school teacher. She taught several generations of children about God touching an unknown number of people through her students' lives down through the years. Her quiver is full as far as I'm concerned but to my knowledge she had no biological children.
Children are a gift from God to be nurtured and cherished as an exercise in demonstrating God's unconditional love to another. Parenting (and otherwise caring for children) is as close as a mere human being can come to catching a glimpse of what it must be like for God in his relationship with humanity. Frankly parenting can be a bit of a crap shoot as you never know what kind of kids you're going to get, what kinds of issues they'll face in life, how receptive they'll be to whatever values you try to impart, or whether any of it will stick with them through out their lives. But I think it is limiting God to think that your greatest impact for God comes through having lots of biological kids (adoption is not mentioned anywhere in the story).
The notion that biblical Christianity will lose its voice if Christians don't start having lots of kids is preposterous and certainly speaks to a limited understanding of the sovereignty of God. Since its inception people have tried to stamp out Christianity. Along the way Christians themselves have dealt some serious blows to their own witness in the world. But still the word of God and faith in him persists.
Sad to say but often Christianity endures in spite of Christians rather than because of us. I can't help but think of the numerous times the Israelites were defeated in the Old Testament accounts of their history because they took their eyes off of God and went chasing after other things. Who's to say that the perceived losing of the Christian voice is not by God's design? I am also reminded of this passage from 2 Chronicles 7,
13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
I know it is popular in some circles to blame any misfortune that befalls the nation, or any given group therein, on unsaved folk sinning but the sins of those who claim to be the people of God are also a source for God's judgment. Note that the prescription for forgiveness and healing of the land involves things like praying and turning from wicked ways but not having lots of babies so that in a few generations there will be enough like minded people to take over cities and governments for God as mentioned in the story.
God doesn't need our piddling efforts to draw people to him. How ever you define "the enemy" God doesn't need us to defeat said enemy. Remember that we are talking about the same God who had Gideon go up against a superior force with a handful of men and had them inflict serious damage on their foes before they ever struck a blow (see Judges 6-8 for Gideon's story).
As a side note Christians would do well to consider Gideon's story when trying to discern God's will for him concerning moving against the Midianites. I have heard sermons where Gideon was criticized for his lack of faith in repeatedly asking for a sign from God before he went up against the Midianites. But there is something to be said for diligently considering if the venture you are about to embark upon really is God's will for you. Too many Christians use doing God's will as a cover for simply following their own path.
Finally there is this from the beginning of the story,
"When we first got married, we actually didn't want children," Kelly's husband, Jeff Swanson, says.
But then the Swansons began to notice that the Bible was very high on big families. And Kelly says that she and Jeff decided that God knew how many children they could handle.
I've also heard this kind of reasoning used to support polygamy. The thing that I always notice about those large families in the Old Testament is how totally dysfunctional so many of them were. Murder, rape, incest,jealousy, and all kinds of nefarious machinations as various members of those large families jockeyed for status and power. This is not to say that all large families are totally dysfunctional or that small families are better. The Bible gives examples of whatnot to do as often as it gives examples of what to do. We should carefully read the Bible and think critically to discern the difference.
I think the quiverfull movement is more a product of unique cultural forces within a certain subset of American society. Nothing more nothing less.