Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Longer Quivering

Last week, I wrote about the Christian Patriarchy ("Quiverfull") Movement that opposes any method of birth control and advocates for the submission of women to men. I specifically wondered what it was that would make such a movement appealing to women. A major benefit to women, perhaps, is that they have no obligation to find, get, and keep a job in the public sphere. Even though a woman's work is never truly finished in the home, after all pregnancy and child care don't "know" when a working day ends, not working at an outside job can certainly relieve some stress in one's life. Yet, I also suspect that, for many women, it's not so much that they find it "beneficial" to submit so totally to male domination, but rather it's more about fearing the consequences of not doing so.

I first saw this mentioned at the aptly named Forever in Hell blog, but two women, both former members of this movement, have chosen to share their perspectives on their blog No Longer Quivering. These women were also featured in a Salon.com article. What many of us can only theorize about, they have actually lived.

One of the women, Laura, writes about how Christianity can manipulate the human fear of death in order to keep women in line:

"All I had to do was toe the line, so to speak, and I would get to heaven when I died. I accepted Christ purely out of fear. Not because He loved me, not because He died for my sins, not because I was so grateful to Him for all he'd done for me.....but because the words I said would guarantee me a place in heaven."

I remember having similar feelings as a child. I felt genuine fear when I was learning about "hell" and this all-powerful being called "god." One time, when I was about 8, my Sunday school teacher asked us all to raise our hands if we would like to go into the hallway with her and become "saved" by accepting Jesus into our hearts. I was shy, so I didn't raise my hand. I remember her looking at me with disappointment and her chastising those of us who refused her offer. We were going to hell, she informed us.

Until I eventually rejected Christianity, for many years thereafter I feared the future domicile of my eternal soul. I think that many religious leaders, particularly of the fundamentalist variety, use this very strong fear of death and "hell" as a form of spiritual blackmail. Essentially, accepting a particular deity often requires accepting a very narrow patriarchal male-centric religion that nicks away at the full humanity of women. It's all very convenient to men who want to maintain male privilege. For, they are able to convince all believers that those who do not believe likewise are heathens, witches, pagans, and/or anti-Christian bigots who are going to spend eternity in "hell" and who wants to be any of those things and end up like that?

But again, that's just my perspective. The other ex-Quiverfull woman, Vyckie, reflects on her experience within the Christian Patriarchy Movement:

"The Bible is an ancient text written in a time and culture radically different from our own. It was written by men who were privileged enough to know how to read and write ~ and it establishes a self-serving, male-dominated religion which uses the promise of Heaven and the threat of Hell to keep the disenfranchised content in their servitude....

It seems crazy that thousands of years later, we should be trying to emulate the family structure and gender roles of an ancient society which viewed women and children as property....

Patriarchy is a pretty sweet deal ~ for the man who gets a Proverbs 31 wife and a quiverfull of children like olive branches around his table....The truth is, not all men are cut out for leadership in the home or church. And for those with controlling, punitive, and demanding tendencies, the practice of patriarchy in the home will only exacerbate their insatiable egos and lend an air of spiritual credence to their tyranny and abuse in the name of 'protection' and spiritual covering."

As an item of note, at one point during this reflection, Vyckie exclaimed "OMG ~ I sound just like Karl Marx." The dominant class (ie- "The Patriarchy") has so ingrained in us that it is un-patriotic, un-Christian, and un-American to question existing power structures. In fact, when we do so, Patriarchists tell us that it is "Marxist," and therefore, "wrong" or "bad" to do so. In that way, you will notice, that Patriarchists rarely address the critiques of dominant power structures, but rather, they merely dismiss them and move on to the more important business of Maintaining Social Power.

Thus, it is always a little sad to me when I see women, members of the working class, and other historically oppressed groups apologetically distance themselves from "Marxist" critiques.

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