'Arrows for the War'
Pride argues that feminism is a religion in its own right, one that is inherently incompatible with Christianity. "Christians have accepted feminists' 'moderate' demands for family planning and careers while rejecting the 'radical' side of feminism--meaning lesbianism and abortion," writes Pride. "What most do not see is that one demand leads to the other. Feminism is a totally self-consistent system aimed at rejecting God's role for women. Those who adopt any part of its lifestyle can't help picking up its philosophy." "Family planning," Pride argues, "is the mother of abortion. A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal convenience before abortion could be popular."
Instead of picketing clinics, Pride writes, Christians should fight abortion by demonstrating that children are an "unqualified blessing" by having as many as God gives them. Only a determination among Christian women to take up their submissive, motherly roles with a "military air" and become "maternal missionaries" will lead the Christian army to victory. Thus is Quiverfull part of Mary Pride's whole-cloth solution to women's liberation: embracing an opposing way of life as total and "self-consistent" as feminism, and turning back the tide on a society gone wrong by populating the world with right-thinking Christians.
The gentle manner of Deidre Welch, another Coxsackie mom, with four boys, seems at odds with Quiverfull's militaristic language, which describes children as weapons of spiritual war, as arrows shot out by their parents. But she describes the movement toward larger families in the same way: "God is bringing revelation on the world. He wants to raise up His army. He wants His children to be."
Angel Mays, a 31-year-old mother to three in West Virginia, spoke with me just before she was to have her tubal ligation reversed in order to make her body "God's home" again. Mays suspects a divine purpose to her change of heart and believes the Quiverfull and home-schooling movements are signs of a revival. "It seems the Lord is preparing for something, and I'm wondering if He's doing something big. There's so much selfishness, with people thinking they need to make their lives easier. But we're to seek the Kingdom of God first. The further the nation gets away from God, the starker the Christian contrast grows. The darker the world gets, the more we stand out."
In his 2004 column for the Times, David Brooks concluded that mothers like Welch and Mays are too busy parenting to wage culture war. A home-schooling mother of nine on the 2,700-family-strong online forum Quiverfull Digest (www.quiverfull.com) responded in irritation to Brooks's misunderstanding of the movement's aims. Raising a large family, she replied, was itself her "battle station," as deliberately political an act as canvassing for conservative candidates, not to mention part of a long-term plan to win the culture war "demographically."
Population is a preoccupation for many Quiverfull believers, who trade statistics on the falling white birthrate in European countries like Germany and France. Every ethnic conflict becomes evidence for their worldview: Muslim riots in France, Latino immigration in California, Sharia law in Canada. The motivations aren't always racist, but the subtext of "race suicide" is often there.
Pastor Heneghan of Gospel Community Church sees the issue of population growth in more biblical terms, specifically those taken from Genesis and Revelation. "Some people think that what I'm doing--having eleven children--is wrong. I don't really get into that much. The Bible says 'be fruitful and multiply.' That's my belief system. They don't believe in God, so they think we have to conserve what we have. But in my belief system, He's going to give us a new earth." Overpopulation isn't a problem in a universe where God promises a clean global slate.