‘Every Wife has a Church in her Home’: The Family and the Church in the American ‘Quiverfull’ Movement

in Ecclesial Practices
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‘Quiverfull’ is shorthand for a religious phenomenon that emerged within the networks of the Christian homeschooling movement in America over the past forty years. Quiverfull names a subculture of evangelical Christians whose lived religion includes three central practices: prolific childbirth, homeschooling, and patriarchy. Based upon two years of ethnographic research among Quiverfull families, the following essay explores the interplay between the family and the church within the subculture. Building on an early argument of Colleen McDannell, it is argued that within the context of the Quiverfull subculture and their particular construction of the family, the constitutive practice of homeschooling results in a transformed ecclesiology. The family functions as a ‘mini-church,’ headed by the father and mother who carry out the work of worship, spiritual formation, and evangelism on their own terms through the practice of homeschooling.

Ecclesial Practices

Journal of Ecclesiology and Ethnography

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References

2

Colleen McDannell, ‘Creating the Christian Home: Home Schooling in Contemporary America,’ in American Sacred Space, eds. David Chidester and Edward T. Linenthal (Bloomington, in: Indiana University Press, 1995), pp. 187–219.

5

Kathryn Joyce, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009).

9

Jana Bennett, Water is Thicker Than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

10

Baucham, Family Shepherds, p. 23.

12

Nicholas Healy, Church, World, and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 25–51.

15

Pride, The Way Home, p. 202 (emphasis in original). Pride thinks this is particularly suited for older women and describes home-centered outreach in the following way: ‘[P]erhaps the most exciting ministry the older woman can have is her ministry of evangelism and hospitality. Her youngest children are now old enough to help, or perhaps are grown and on their own. Now her years of learning how to create a gracious home for her own family can be put to use for a wider flock. She knows the Bible and how to answer serious questions. She knows how to create a warm and loving atmosphere and is sensitive to people’s needs in the way only a mother learns to be. She has, in short, been trained to be an evangelist’ (201).

16

James McDonald, ‘Like Olive Plants—Watching God Grow a Legacy,’ Family Reformation, June 6, 2010, accessed January 26, 2015, http://familyreformation.org/like-olive-plants-watching-god-grow-a-legacy/.

17

Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 189.

19

Baucham, Family Shepherds, 11.

20

Pride, The Way Home, p. 181.

21

Pride, The Way Home, p. xiii. The fact that Pride calls both state and church ‘faceless institutions’ is significant. The family seems to be the only viable social institution and she shifts responsibility for all of the basic, life-sustaining elements of Western society to the shoulders of the nuclear family.

22

R.J. Rushdoony, ‘The Trustee Family,’ Journal of Christian Reconstruction: Symposium on the Family, vol. iv, no. 2 (Winter 1977–78), p. 12 (emphasis mine).

25

Baucham, Family Shepherds, p. 147.

26

Ibid., p. 154.

27

Ibid., p. 149.

29

Ibid., p. 218.

30

Ibid., p. 235.

32

Pride, The Way Home, pp. 4–13.

33

See, for example, Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First (New York: HarperOne, 2007).

34

McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, pp. 471–473.

35

Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009), pp. 15, 295, n. 11.

37

McDannell, ‘Creating the Christian Home,’ pp. 189, 207.

38

Baucham, Family Driven Faith, p. 148. Christian homeschooling researcher, Monica Smatlak Liao, calls this phenomenon ‘unification,’ which she describes in the following way: ‘When conservative Protestant home schoolers integrate curricula with Christianity, family with education, and schooling with child development, they are deploying in their domestic worlds the more general practice of unification by which conservative Protestants know themselves to be set apart, or made holy: the unification of their selves, habits, and world view under the umbrella of Christianity.’ See Monica Smatlak Liao, ‘Keeping Home: Homeschooling and the Practice of Conservative Protestant Identity,’ Ph.D. Dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 2006, p. 64.

39

Baucham, Family Driven Faith, p. 148.

40

McDannell, ‘Creating the Christian Home,’ p. 208.

41

Ibid., p. 209.

44

Baucham, Family Shepherds, 11.

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