Quiverfull Then and Now

We have found the Quiverfull Movement (QF) to be a most fascinating topic, and we want to look at it from several angles this week.  Today, we’ll focus on the distinct differences between the quiverfull movement of a bygone era and the QF movement of today.  Then we'll examine what may be the "real" motivations for having such large families in the 21st century.  

Because there were no methods of birth control in centuries past, families were “naturally” large.  As was discussed on Friday, the mortality rate had been high until the incredible medical advancements of the last century.  Back then large families were necessary for the survival of mankind. 

There was another important reason for having a quiverfull in centuries past.  Agriculture was the backbone of the American economy, especially in the South, and it required a large labor force.  Granted, the bigger farming operations relied on slaves, but the vast majority of farming families couldn’t afford to own slaves, so the entire family had to pitch in to get the work done.

Do you know much about how these farming families lived? 

There was all livestock to tend to — cows, pigs, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, etc.  Each day their food and water had to be replenished.  Cows had to be milked, butter had to be churned, and eggs had to be gathered.  The routine would be drudgery for most Americans today who often dread going to the grocery store.

Cotton was king back in those days.  Ever heard of “choppin’ cotton”?  For those who may not know the meaning of that phrase, here’s a history lesson.  It involved taking a hoe and chopping out all of the weeds in each and every row of cotton.  Farming was all about equal opportunity back then.  Husbands, wives, and children participated equally in the work.  The more children a couple had the better because it meant less work for the parents!  They knew all about the multiplier effect back then!  The wife/mother got a break from working alongside her husband when she got to go to the house and fix lunch for everyone. 

When the bolls opened and the fields turned white, EVERYONE got to pick the cotton by hand.  They would drag a burlap bag behind them all day long as they picked.  Each cotton plant was stripped, with the cotton being deposited into the bag.  It was a monotonous, but necessary task.  The very best cotton workers could pick about 300 pounds per day.  They they'd get back out there and do it again and again and again until all of the cotton was harvested. 

FYI – when the cotton bolls open up, the bolls harden and have pointed tips.  Imagine what that would have done to the hands of the cotton pickers.  Fingers become bloody and calloused.  Those picking cotton day after day would have to wrap their hands with cloth strips in order to protect them.  Now farmers use mechanized cotton pickers which can do the work of many human laborers.  A two row cotton picker harvests what it used to take 75 people to pick.  The technology keeps getting more advanced (and more expensive), and now there are four row and six row cotton pickers (which are HUGE!)  My family will be harvesting 200 acres of cotton in October, and I'm glad times have changed!

Then there were all the vegetables that had to be grown in order to feed a large family.  Most farming families were self-sustaining and only needed to go to town a couple of times a year to buy staples like salt and sugar.  Other than that, they raised everything they needed to survive.  They would slaughter cows and pigs, wring the necks of chickens, and hunt rabbit and turkey to survive.  They had their own milk, eggs, and butter, along with vegetables and fruit from their orchards.  It was a very different life than we live today, and every day was a challenge!

Now let's fast forward to contemporary times.  For those who are too young to remember, the 1960s were a time of great change in our country.  The sexual revolution and radical feminism forever altered our cultural landscape.  While we would never consider ourselves to be feminists, we do agree with some of the issues for which women fought during the 20th century.  For example, we believe women should be allowed to vote and to receive equal pay for equal work.  Did you know that some patriarchs living today don't believe women should be allowed to vote or work outside the home?  We will get into this topic more in tomorrow's post.

For decades married couples have had much more control over reproduction.  So what's the source of the contemporary Quiverfull Movement?  We don't pretend to have ALL the answers, but we have uncovered some disturbing information that needs to be shared.  As promised last week, we will now focus on Bill Gothard.  What does he have to do with Patriarchy and the Quiverfull Movement?  EVERYTHING! 

If you're not familiar with Gothard, we encourage you to read the following article that provides an overview (if you Google his name, page after page will come up!  He's extremely controversial!).


Here are the criticisms of Bill Gothard's teachings, which are included in the Wikipedia article:


"A group critical of many Christian ministries and personalities, Personal Freedom Outreach (PFO), has published criticism about Gothard in three areas: Gothard's views are legalistic teachings and interpretations of Scripture, IBLP and its adherents exhibit a "cult-like" mentality, and Gothard's application of authoritarianism within his own organization.

Gothard was also accused by some of being hypocritical for not practicing conflict resolution, and for his teachings that married believers should eschew birth control and have as many children as possible, given that Gothard himself is unmarried and childless.

The Midwest Christian  Outreach, Inc.(MCOI) has also claimed that Gothard's teachings are too legalistic. President of Midwest Christian Outreach, Don Veinot, in his critical book on Gothard, quotes Dr. Ronald Allen, Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, a conservative evangelical theological seminary. Dr. Allen attended a Gothard seminar in 1973 and wrote of his experience, 'In this seminar, I was regularly assaulted by the misuse of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, on a level that I have never experienced in a public ministry before that time (or since).'"

Interestingly, the Wikipedia article on Bill Gothard recommends the following links:

Institute in Basic Life Principles

Jim Bob Duggar

As the Wikipedia article explains, Bill Gothard designed a training program called The "Institute in Basic Life Principles" (IBLP), which he taught to large audiences during the 1970s and 1980s.  He continues to promote these conferences and materials, although his popularity has waned in recent decades.  If you visited the "official website" of the Duggar family we provided last week and clicked on "Links" and then "Essential Faith-Building Tools", you would have seen IBLP listed first.  Here's the direct link:





The second resource listed is Vision Forum Ministries, which we will discuss in depth tomorrow.

For more information on IBLP, here's a link to the Wikipedia article, along with an excerpt.



"The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) is a non-denominiational, Christian organization in Oak Brook, Illinois that serves as an umbrella organization for several ministries. IBLP was established by Bill Gothard for the purpose of resolving youth and family conflicts. IBLP's stated purpose is to provide instruction on how to find success in life by following biblical principles. It is a non-profit tax-exempt religious or charitable organization as defined by the IRS, and the Institute claimed assets of $63-million on its year 2000 federal tax forms." 

Suffice it to say that Bill Gothard, a bachelor with no issue (children), was promoting Quiverfull ideas shortly after the FDA approved birth control pills in 1965.  We believe many who promote the Quiverfull agenda today have been heavily influenced by Gothard.  Tomorrow we will speculate as to why we believe the Quiverfull Movement is being promoted so heavily by these pockets of Christians.

Rest assured that Bill Gothard is not without his critics.  "Exegeting Bill Gothard" was an article in Christianity Today (CT) in the March 2003 issue.  Here's the link in case you'd like to know more.


Bill Gothard's ministry experienced some turbulent times in the early 1980s, and here's a link to a CT web article entitled "Gothard Staffers Ask Hard Questions" that explains some of what happened.


Gothardites (followers of Bill Gothard) have sustained their loyalty for decades; however, some faithful followers have awakened to the abuses that are taking place in Bill Gothard's ministry, which promotes Quiverfull. 

Years ago one of Gothard's strongest critics, Don Venoit, wrote a book exposing Bill Gothard's organization as a cult.   Venoit is an apologist at the Midwest Christian Outreach, and his book  A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard & the Christian Life, is available in paperback at the following link:


Here's one of many customer reviews at Amazon.com that are critical of Gothard's ministry and cult-like practices, including the promotion of the Quiverfull Movement.

"With deep regret we feel the need to encourage the reading of this book. We are "insiders" who understand and have experienced life under Bill first hand (for 10 years) and have been under his teachings for 15 more. I have worked for him at his headquarters in Oakbrook, IL. With great sincerity and respect we accepted his material as "gospel truth" and applied it to our lives. It would not be fair to omit that we experienced many benefits for making the scriptures the center of our lives, as his followers are encouraged to do. However, the more I became involved with him first hand, the more I began to realize that the ministry, as it appears on the outside, is not at all what it is on the inside. Great inconsistencies surfaced almost immediately after "signing on". With highest regard for Mr. Gothard we over and over again (almost foolishly, looking back at it) gave him the benefit of the doubt; and this to our hurt (almost losing all our savings, our home, our relationships with our children and our health) as so many others have.

Bill Gothard's organization has many devoted and sincere followers who accept him at face value. He is one of the best salesmen I have ever met…his apparent success, testimonies and achievements are carefully promoted (usually by himself). But what is sadly lacking is the absence of genuine love, Christ's kind of love that "seeks not its own", but the welfare of those it serves. He carefully maintains the image of a super-Christian and keeps himself on this pedestal by pushing away any who get too close and would dare to question him or provide any kind of healthy accountability. He is an authoritarian tyrant whose treatment of others is nothing less than oppressive, heartless and cruel. What's so confusing and keeps people coming back is that he can be quite charming and kind at times. When Jesus walked on earth, the greatest problem He had, was with the religious leadership of His day; for although they had an outward display of religious zeal, Jesus pointed out that a heart for God (which should be demonstrated by love for others) was sadly lacking in their lives. This error was so serious that Christ considered them His enemies – they later confirmed their "enemy" status by openly turning on Him and putting him to death.

Great pains were taken in the writing of this book to be fair and accurate. Much room and allowance was given for normal human frailties. But as we have witnessed, the half has not been told. Having now been away from this organization for some time, I am amazed as to how blinded I have been. If it had not been for the pleas, prayers and fastings of my closest friend I don't think I would have realized my mistake before it was tragic. Sadly, most that leave are not as fortunate as I have been, but leave used, destitute, and disillusioned. This book very clearly explains the irony as to how this could continue to happen over and over again.

The final chapter of Bill Gothard's life has not been written and if things continue as they are, it will be one of great heartache, sadness and loss for many, especially for those who propagate his authoritarian hypocrisy in families and churches across the land. The pages of this book would save many from great error if they would but prayerfully consider the restorative spirit in which it was written."

Do you remember the terrible tragedy that occurred in Colorado in December 2007?  Perhaps you didn't hear details about what may have precipitated the shootings.  Here's the headline from The Denver Post, along with the link and a shocking excerpt. 

"Shooter's lessons strict, rule-driven:  Few educators recommend the curriculum, which forbids dating and rock music" (By Nancy Lofholm)


"The ultra-religious home-school curriculum that Matthew Murray ranted about in Web postings before he opened fire at two Christian centers forbids dating, rock music and "wrong clothes." It advises young men and women to live at home until their parents release them and counsels parents to choose marriage partners for their offspring.

That kind of strict, rule-driven home-schooling is not the norm and, if used without considering students' individual needs, is not recommended by many educators, according to Kevin Swanson, executive director of the 15,000-family-strong Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

"I know just a few folks who use this curriculum," Swanson said. "It is more rule heavy."

Murray, in messages he posted under the user name nghtmrchld26, said he and another poster "were raised on home school and we both went through some insane stuff growing up in The Nightmare that outsiders just do not understand."

The curriculum Murray decried in his postings was developed by evangelist Bill Gothard as part of The Institute in Basic Life Principles."

The Denver Post article ends as follows:

"Gothard's teachings have been criticized by other conservative Christians who allege he has deviated from true Bible teaching and that his stand against rock music — even Christian rock — suspicion of modern medicine, belief in spiritual roots of disease, and opposition to women working outside the home and "evil" toys are wrong. Gothard warned followers in a 1986 letter that Cabbage Patch dolls can cause 'strange, destructive behavior.'  Swanson does not blame Gothard's teachings for Murray's actions and pointed out that Murray seemed in his writings to be following the example of Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who were educated in public schools. But he said there are home-schooling lessons that can be taken from the Murray shootings. 'If we see some anger issues that can't be dealt with though parental intervention,' he said, 'we must learn to seek help.'" 

We believe Bill Gothard is one of the originators of the Quiverfull Movement based on our research.  Tomorrow we will explore why he and his colleagues promote QF in an almost cult-like manner.  Stay tuned…

Comments are closed.