26 March 2009

Quiverfull qracks me up

(Don't be too impressed by my response time here; I've been collecting thoughts on this for a while and the NPR story slotted itself in quite handily.)

The MSM has been checking out the Quiverfull movement a bit, and I always get a kick out of Upper West Siders trying to get their minds around the existence of such insane people. Moreover, I find it a relief to be Lutheran. The quotations hereinafter are from yesterday's NPR story.
"We just started thinking, 'God is sovereign over life and death. God opens and closes the womb,' " Kelly says.
Note the sovereignty talk, denoting Calvinism. Strangely, Kelly gets something a lot of Lutherans don't. She says God is sovereign, yet stops using contraception, not falling prey to the argument I cringe to hear from otherwise intelligent Lutherans so often: if God wants you to have a baby, you'll get pregnant whether you're on birth control or not! Cringe! Cringe! Cringe!

Anyway, the Quiverfull movement is all about law and human effort:
Misty says she'll have as many children as possible.
The difference between Misty and a Concordian Sister is that we aren't out to have as many children as possible. We'll take what we're given and do our best to be thankful, whether we've got more than we think we can handle or we never have need of that minivan we picked out.

Some commenters in these parts have had personal interaction with bona fide Quiverfillers, and I've been amazed at the "race against time" mentality our separated sistern seem to have, even to the point of weaning early so as to get pregnant again. This is motivated by more Calvinism, the desire for the kingdom of God to come temporally on earth:
"The womb is such a powerful weapon; it's a weapon against the enemy," Campbell says . . ."My greatest impact is through my children. The more children I have, the more ability I have to impact the world for God."
If the Quiverfillers have their way, the NPR report goes on, San Francisco will become Calvin's Geneva. I wouldn't want to live in either of those places, thanks.

[Click here for really hilarious image owned by someone else of what appears to be a Quiverfull baby obliging its pregnancy pursuant mother.]

For Lutherans, being fruitful and multiplying is certainly evangelical, but that is because Christian life is by definition evangelical. We baptize our babies and raise them in the Church, and that is [part of] evangelism. Evangelism for us is not political, authoritarian, or militaristic. It happens over the course of our normal lives that the Gospel is confessed to all people with whom we interact, because the Gospel has changed us in noticeable ways. For example, we go to church, don't shack up, and have a lot of kids. Those things are evangelical. Evangelism is not pragmatic in Lutheran theology (current Synodical confusion notwithstanding). It is simple obedience to the Word of God, and it occurs naturally (albeit imperfectly) in the lives of the regenerate.

My children are not primarily my work, they are not how I impact the world for God. They are not a tool or a means to an end. They will have an impact of some sort on the world, but that is not their primary value. They are souls for whom Christ died and inherently priceless handiworks of God. Their "impact" is that they exist, that they are eternal creatures bought with the blood of Jesus.

I think their second greatest impact is on their father and me. More than anyone else, we benefit from them because they make our family a truer icon of Christ and his Church. That would be true whether we had one or 20. God uses them to change and discipline us. Through them, he calls us to greater repentance and obedience (whether we respond favorably is up for grabs). They will change no one--besides their own children, DV--more than they have changed us.

Beyond that, hey, if they do something or other in the world, whatever. I certainly hope it won't involve imposing theocratic rule on San Francisco or anywhere else. My prayer for them is just that they cling to the promises God made to them in baptism as they traverse this vale of tears. The Quiverfull vision for taking over the world is plain silly. Big family types like to talk about how they'll outnumber everybody before long. If that were true, it would have happened a long time ago. Not every child of a big family goes on to have a big family. They wither, they are eaten by birds, they are choked out by weeds. Lord, have mercy. Our hope is in Christ, not our sinful children. God's kingdom comes in Christ, not through us.

Incidentally, one plank of the Quiverfull platform I haven't seen mentioned in MSM reports is their opposition to fertility treatments, even simple and non-medical ones such as temperature charting for the purpose of tracking ovulation. Sovereign God didn't create you with a basal thermometer in your mouth, see. While many fertility treatments are immoral (IVF and surrogacy being the most obvious examples), opposing all investigation of personal reproductive function shows a complete misunderstanding of the First Article, natural law, whathaveyou. This is more fundamentalist than Calvinist, but either way, it ain't us, and it is abusive of God's Word and people.

So that's my take on Quiverfull. I'm sure others have more and deeper thoughts. I wish the Quiverfillers well, but I'm glad to be where I am.


Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Well said, Rebekah. I expected a theology of glory in the NPR story, and was not surprised. Such "hammer" theology should, indeed, make us all appreciate the Lutheran perspective of the theology of the cross, and the doctrines of vocation and the two kingdoms.

Let's be careful, though. In our renunciation of the Calvinist Quiverfull movement's "temporal benefits" mentality, we need to remember such things as what the Large Catechism on the Fourth Commandment (¶138-9) has to say about full quivers:

Thus experience also teaches, that where there are honorable, old families who fare well and have many children, they owe their origin to the fact, to be sure, that some of them were brought up well and were regardful of their parents. On the other hand, it is written of the wicked, Ps. 109:13: Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Therefore heed well how great a thing in God's sight obedience is, since He so highly esteems it, is so highly pleased with it, and rewards it so richly, and besides enforces punishment so rigorously on those who act contrariwise.

It's hard to miss the demographic lesson in that statement. There are also the temporal benefits that Psalm 127 considers regarding the full quiver (here with Kretzmann's Commentary):

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, sons are bequeathed by the Lord as a special gift and blessing, and the fruit of the womb is His reward, given to parents as an evidence of His favor, this fact being stressed time and again in Scripture as a standing reproof to the many blind and foolish people of our days who enter into marriage only for selfish reasons and consider children an unwelcome burden. V. 4. As arrows, weapons of defense, are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth, begotten while the parents are still in the vigor of their age Gen. 37, 3, and therefore themselves grown to manhood and womanhood before the senile decline of the parents. V. 5. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them, to whom the Lord has granted a house full of children; they shall not be ashamed, they will not meet with disgrace, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate, that is, in the place where business was transacted and differences were adjusted. Not only will children, if properly brought up, be a support of their parents when these have attained old age but they will also make it their business to protect the rights of their parents against all detractors - a beautiful picture serving as an admonition to both parents and children, an example which should be heeded far more.

There are true temporal benefits that could come from the Calvinist Quiverfull movement (not to mention the never ending Amish movement in that direction). I wish Lutherans would play a bigger part in these demographic changes, but I'd rather live in a Calvinist theocracy than a Muslim one. I'm not sure I wouldn't enjoy living in an Amish village either, if they would let me remain Lutheran and keep my hot-tub. ;-)

Thankfully, we Lutherans know not to place our hope in earthly princes. ;-) The Calvinist Quiverfullers (and many Lutherans as well) would benefit from a proper understanding of two-kingdom theology.

Marie said...

Two thoughts:

1. I feel obligated to mention that I think Nancy Campbell's quotation was taken out of context. The "enemy" to which she is referring, is not necessarily unbelievers, but Satan. And I think that she is correct, and would agree with your statement Rebekah, that God uses children "to call us to greater repentance and obedience." Would it be correct that in a sense our children "protect" us from Satan by the way in which we as parents are forced along on the route of sanctification? And while certainly our most important goal is for our children to know Christ and gain Heaven, it does seem to me to also be an honorable goal to raise up good citizens in this country which God has blessed us with. No, we won't take over... but it does appear to me to be a beautiful vision! Any thoughts?

2. I was shocked by the 400-some comments on the article, most of which were VERY critical. Why do people care so much?

Joy said...

"We'll take what we're given and do our best to be thankful...." Yep. So simple, yet something even the vast majority of Lutherans don't confess with their actions.

A friend called today and said she's a week late with her cycle. The husband is snip-snipped. Hee hee! Shoulda saved that $500 for diapers!

Rebekah said...

Dr H, indeed. I think we all value the same basic things, but the different emphases/priorities for our similar positions reveal our underlying theological differences.

Marie, good point. In fact, it never occurred to me, hearing with Christian ears, that the enemy was anyone other than Satan. As for why people care, two reasons occur to me:

1. The current secular god is the environment and they think having lots of kids defiles that god.

2. The explicit political agenda expressed in the interview.

Joy, sigh.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Marie's question about why people get so upset about this issue reminded me of these comments made several years ago by Rev. Rolf Preus in a public discussion of Contraception on the Lutherquest forum:

Here are some reasons why the "Be fruitful and multiply" command and the discussion of birth control in general evoke such strong emotional responses that make a sober and reasonable discussion based on the Scriptures extremely difficult. 1. There has been a rapid and quite radical change in the views held within the church on the subject of birth control during the past two or three generations. 2. The conceiving, bearing, and rearing of children involves so much in a person's life that our discussions will inevitably become very personal. 3. There is a tendency toward antinomianism within the confessional movement today, likely a reaction against the intrusion of Reformed theology among us. 4. The command, "Be fruitful and multiply" is at least as much blessing and promise as it is command so that focusing on the law might not bring out the whole intent of this command. 5. There are cases where infertility or other problems make the fulfillment of the command impossible or dangerous and these cases are made prominent in an argument that is of a more general nature. 6. There is little if any theological leadership in defense of the traditional teaching on this subject. 7. The change in teaching has occurred at the same time that effective birth control methods have been introduced, leading one to assume that had the technology been available hundreds of years ago the change in thinking would have taken place hundreds of years ago. 8. We all impute personal motives and ulterior motives to those with whom we disagree, and in a discussion of a topic that by its nature includes very personal matters it is inevitable that the argument will at times descend into acrimony. Too bad, but that's human nature. Having said all of this, may I make a couple of very personal observations? First, when God gives you gift after gift after gift He humbles you by His generosity unless you are a complete ingrate. A man blessed with a beautiful, healthy, pious, Christian wife to whom God gives a dozen children should humble himself before God in gratitude every day. Second, gift is gift. Gift isn't imposed. We don't require attendance at private confession or the Lord's Supper as a matter of law. Some folks cannot take the Sacrament of the Altar. They are still Christians who have all of the spiritual blessings God has to give. Some people cannot receive children. They are not less than those who can. Third, God does provide for His children. How? I never know. Mostly through kind and generous people. Sometimes Christians we have never met. Finally, the main point of view of traditionalists is that children are, objectively, blessings from God. This is our argument. God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply. That's the issue. That's what God says and that's what I believe and when my children face troubles in life and I worry about this or that I hold up before me God's word of blessing here, the inspired and inerrant word of God says that my children are God's blessings to me. Those who don't entirely share the traditionalist approach to this topic may assume that we are standing in judgment of them so I always encourage traditionalists to state our case in terms emphasizing God's blessing rather than God's law. My two cents worth on this topic.

Beth said...

This makes me want to change the name of my blog.
I do believe it will cause misunderstanding.
Could it be as simple as changing it from "Filling our Quiver with Blessings" to "Turning the Contents of our Quiver over to His Will."... or "You Get what you Get and Don't Throw a Fit." :)

Reb. Mary said...

>>"You Get what you Get and Don't Throw a Fit"<< receives my heartiest vote. LOL :)

Reb. Mary said...

I was so focused on not throwing a fit that I forgot to add how much I appreciate the anti-utilitarianism of this post. Good reminder.

Rebekah said...

Beth, don't let them get you down. I hate it when people attach a brand to something that's public domain. :P Shoot us an email, would? I've got a q for you and I can't find an address over at your place. concordiansisters at gmail dot com.

Pam said...

Rev. Preus lays things out so clearly, doesn't he? Love that, as I too have puzzled over why people care so much that they take the time to throw nasty barbs and other negative criticism our way.

I guess I am just too busy with my family to do much about it, like comment on these things to rebut for example.

Elizabeth said...

Another opinion http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/134000

Amie said...

YES, YES, YES! That is it -

I come from a Calvinist/baptist background and the whole quivering/patriarchy thing concerns me. It is all kinda twisted mess.

I want to, and do look at children as a blessing, and I don't want to say no to them. I really struggle with being associated with the legalism though.

LOVE the Lutheran take on it - this whole "two kingdoms" helps out a lot!