With Promises of Protection, Security and Ultimate Victory, Peddlers of “Family Values” Manufactured a Culture War, and Capitalized on Our Fears
by Vyckie Garrison @ No Longer Quivering
I’ve had a sick feeling in my stomach lately. It’s the feeling that comes along with a growing realization that the Quiverfull worldview and lifestyle which I felt that I had carefully considered and thoughtfully adopted is, in actuality, a product called “Biblical Family Values” which is being aggressively marketed as an investment to safeguard our loved ones from becoming collateral damage in today’s “War Against the Family.”
That’s right ~ “Traditional Family Values” is a product and we bought it big-time.
I should have figured this out much sooner.
Seems that I should have been immune to the marketing strategies of those who ruthlessly engender fear and dissatisfaction so they can offer their products as the remedy for the very malady which they themselves created. After all, one of the first “family values” books I read is All The Way Home: Power for Your Family to be Its Best – in which author, Mary Pride explains that happy, well-adjusted families are not very profitable. In order to sell self-help books, couple’s retreats, therapy sessions, etc. -husbands and wives (mainly wives) need to be convinced that something’s wrong – something’s missing – they need help!
Exactly. That’s why we didn’t watch television, read popular magazines or otherwise expose ourselves to the endless barrage of advertisements calculated to instill feelings of discontent in our hearts – sure saved ourselves a lot of money that way.
And I was vaguely aware of the same principle in operation during my years as publisher and editor of a “pro-life, pro-family” Christian family newspaper. I kept current on all the latest skirmishes in America’s on-going “Culture War.”
“I’m sure these organizations have the best of intentions when they push legislation to remove the marriage penalty from the tax code, force cable companies to offer ‘a la carte’ subscriptions on premium channels, introduce competition into the education system by promoting school choice and vouchers, demand that merchants who profit from the commercialization of Christ’s birth acknowledge ‘Christmas’ in their promotional advertisements, etc.,” I wrote in a March 2006 editorial.
“But I can’t help but notice how out of touch some of these ‘pro-family’ organizations appear to be with real-life families in America. A lot of money and manpower has been spent in the ‘battle for America’s families’ – yet little has changed and in fact, in the years since the launch of the ‘Moral Majority’ our families have gone from confusion to chaos to crisis.”
Back then, it was dawning on me that the whole idea of a “culture war” has been artificially manufactured to create fear and insecurity so that we will take out our checkbooks and purchase “protection” for our families. Kind of similar to war in general -it’s a big money-making business and a lot of people have a vested interest in keeping it going.
As Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, points out, “All radical movements need a crisis or a prolonged period of instability to achieve power,” – and, I would add – make lots of money.
It was somewhat bewildering for me to realize that so much of our lives and our choices are really all about some other guy making obscene amounts of cash – and most of us only have a vague idea that we are being used in this way.
I well remember recognizing this principle in operation during my years as a staunch, “pro-life” advocate. (Please note: I’m relating this info. from my former “pro-life” perspective to give you a glimpse inside the mindset of the Religious Right. Truthfully, as a fundamentalist Believer, a woman’s choice was not even on my radar.)
Check it out ~ I just happen to have a PBA graphic on hand in “My Pictures” – a left-over from my Religious Right newspaper publishing days ~ ugh.
The first time I saw Operation Rescue’s pictures of aborted babies – all bloody and dismembered with recognizable tiny little baby fingers amongst the horror – I had a strong physical reaction which cemented my determination to “fight for the unborn.” BUT … after a while, I could look at those same pictures and not be much affected. So then, the pro-lifers come out with the Partial-Birth Abortion graphics – showing a fully-developed baby – delivered except for its head – with a pair of scissors stabbed into the base of its skull – a vacuum hose is inserted into the resulting hole and the baby’s brains are sucked out – the baby goes limp – OMG!! I totally freaked! I was SHOCKED out of my apathy and renewed my efforts on the behalf of the unborn. AND I SENT MONEY – plenty of it – to those pro-life organizations which were on the “front lines” of the battle to rescue the babies. BUT … it wasn’t long before the idea of partial-birth abortion didn’t stir me quite so violently … And a while later, I began to hear about the pain which unborn babies feel during an abortion – and there was a campaign to force abortion clinics to inform their clients of the pain their about-to-be-killed babies would suffer – and to offer the mother pain-medication for the baby prior to the procedure … As I read the pro-life medical professionals’ expert testimony regarding the evidence that aborted babies feel pain … Well, to tell the truth, by this point, I was beginning to catch on to the escalation-of-horror tactics used by these “Right-To-life” organizations and it just made me mad to realize the manipulation.
I remember discussing this with my (ex)husband – I told him that we were unlikely to get rich in our newspaper business simply because I was unwilling to print the most sensational news items which might scare our readers into sending more money. I would do everything I could do in good conscience to promote the pro-life cause – but I would not resort to terrorism – and that is exactly how I had come to view the more extreme fund raising tactics of these organizations.
Where there is an actual need – I’m all for enterprising people making and selling their products and solutions. Just don’t invent a need – and certainly DO NOT perpetuate a WAR – the Culture War – just to make a buck.
Oddly enough, while I understood this in regard to the “Christian Right” in general, I completely overlooked the profit-driven nature of the phenomenal growth I witnessed in the Biblical Family Values movement. I would often remark that “this family vision is spreading like wildfire” – all the while, oblivious to the fact that, of course it’s growing – there’s big money to be had in selling family stability and security to desperate moms and dads who’ve come to Christianity as refugees from dysfunctional homes; parents who are confused and scared for the future and they’re looking for answers as they scramble to raise their children in a healthier environment than that which they had experienced as kids.
According to this Salon article by Lynn Harris, Michael and Debi Pearl – whose “child-training” advice incited Quiverfull parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Statz to beat their 9-year-old daughter, Lydia, to death using quarter-inch plumbing supply line – are “part of the booming religious publishing and products market, which hit $7.3 billion in 2005 — a 28 percent increase since 2002. … Among Christian books, the ‘Christian Living’ subcategory, which includes parenting, is one of the most popular sub-segments; products for children are expanding as well. The Packaged Facts report, titled ‘The Religious Product Market in the U.S.,’ cites ‘the culture wars’ as being one reason for this overall growth.”
Quiverfull is clearly a specialization of the “” that has proven so lucrative for the Christian publishing industry in general. Truthfully, it’s turning my stomach as I’m contemplating the fact that my family – and tens of thousands of Quiverfull families like ours – have been scammed and exploited for profit.
Scammed and exploited. For profit.
I’m sure the Pearls, Vision Forum and other merchants of Quiverfull are sincere in their belief that there really is a Big Bad Enemy “out there” who wants to devour the children of Believers – but I’m also discovering that there are plenty of “family values” peddlers with not-so-pure motives. “Dogemperor” has done a ton of insightful research on this subject: (read here – and that’s just for starters).
So yeah – it is all about MONEY. And that wouldn’t be so much of a problem except that the practice of Biblical Family Values is actually a sort of circular predicament in which the proffered “cure” actually feeds and accelerates the disease.
By the time it was all over for us, I had amassed an unbelievably enormous library from the Pearls, Vision Forum, American Vision, Wallbuilders, Answers in Genesis, Grace & Truth Books, Inheritance Publications, and similar peddlers of the Biblical Family vision – bookshelf after bookshelf stuffed to overflowing with “how to have a happy family”-type books, audio tapes, CDs and DVDs. I used to make jokes about the fact that the biggest category in our budget after food was BOOKS. But I’m not laughing about it now.
“I’ve been thinking recently about a scene from the animated Disney classic, Bambi in which the forest animals are hiding ever-so-quietly as a group of hunters pass by. No-one moves a muscle and they’re hardly breathing and tension builds as the background music escalates and the danger draws closer until one terrified duck can’t stand it another moment. “I can’t take it! I can’t take it!” she screams and frantically flies from her hiding place seeking an escape and a place of safety only to be shot dead in the next instant.“The reason this poor, dead bird comes to mind just now is that the intensity and anticipation of that scene seems a vivid picture of life at our house lately. It’s been tense and overwhelming because of the current trials we face and the perceived nearness of the enemy.”
And here’s the part that really makes me sick: “The Enemy” – the “World,” which for so many years I had feared and shunned, has turned out to be a paper tiger – and in most cases, not just harmless, but even benevolent and beneficial – same thing goes for just about everything which my fundamentalist/Quiverfull beliefs led me to guard my family against: television (Spongebob!), secular music, public school, peer pressure, boy/girl dating relationships, fashionable clothing, feminist values, convenience foods, teen rebellion, social workers and professional counselors, youth groups … and even the really big spooks: homosexuals and atheists.
A friend recently put it this way: It’s like buying insurance to protect you from the boogeyman under the bed.
So I spent over a quarter century fighting with all my might in this war that was mostly all in my head. We were on the front lines with our family newspaper – and in homeschooling we were preparing our children to enter the battle too. The war may have been imaginary, but the wounds inflicted are all too real. Seeing the severity of my children’s suffering was the impetus which moved me to lay down my weapons of warfare and walk away from the fight.
It’s not my war anymore. The patriarchal “Big Guy” of the bible is no longer my God – I’m done offering up my children as ammunition for His crusades.
Vyckie Garrison started No Longer Qivering to tell the story of her “escape” from the Quiverfull movement. Over time, NLQ has developed into a valuable resource of information regarding the deceptions and dangers of the Quiverfull philosophy and lifestyle. Several more former QF adherents are now contributing their stories to NLQ and our collective voice makes these Quiverfull warnings impossible to dismiss or ignore.
NLQ is a gathering place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse.