Believers inundated by harmful worldly influences often band together to encourage and exhort one another to live Christlike lives. The closely related Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements attempt to do just that. The desire to protect their families from the influences of a godless world drives some to search the Bible for alternatives. In general, these movements emphasize the leadership of the husband/father, the blessing of children to a family, and the education of children in a Christian worldview.
Proponents of the Quiverfull philosophy emphasize that children are a blessing from the Lord, and He alone should open and close the womb of a woman. They focus on Psalm 127:3–5: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” While some teach that children are blessings and gifts from God, others intend to use their children to redeem the culture. In addition, many continue to attempt to have children despite economic conditions or the physical well-being of the mother.
The Patriarchy movement encompasses the beliefs of both Quiverfull and homeschoolers and emphasizes the headship of the father, or patriarch, in a family. As in any unregulated movement, there are different interpretations of their beliefs. In general, they include the following:
• God has granted men authority over their families; preferably, men should be in charge in the workplace, as well.
• Women’s sphere of influence is the home.
• Women should only work outside the home in context of her domestic responsibilities.
• Single women may have more flexibility in their work, but, in general, are not encouraged to work as equals among men in fields that invoke authority such as industry, commerce, civil government, and the military.
• God opens and closes the womb; therefore, birth control is taking control from God.
• Having and educating many children is the responsibility of all Christians in order to return the country to a nation that follows God.
• God has entrusted the direct oversight of the education of children to their parents alone, not the state; fathers are to supervise every aspect of curriculum and training.
• Girls are encouraged to center their education around their future role as wives and mothers.
• Segregating children into age-specified activities is inappropriate; children are foolish and should not be left to the influence of others who are also foolish.
• The local church is a “family of families”; all worship and educational activities are to be multi-generational.
• Unmarried, grown children are under rule of fathers; although a son may be released to find a vocation and “take a wife,” he should seek his father’s counsel.
• Since daughters are “given in marriage” by their fathers, an obedient daughter will allow her father to guide the process of finding a husband, although both she or her father may veto the other’s choice.
As in anything man attempts, there is room for abuse in the Patriarchy movement. In their zeal to live lives that please God, some rely on man-made rules and standards. This lifestyle can be particularly oppressive for daughters. Being protected and educated under the leadership of a loving, Christian father is wonderful. Receiving training to be able to meet the demands of caring for a family and household will go far in preparing them for the families they may have some day. But many of the requirements espoused by families in the Patriarchy movement are based on biblical-times culture and not on biblical standards. Nowhere in the New Testament is it mentioned that single adult women are required to live at home and either care for younger siblings or work for their father to further his sphere of influence. Often, both girls and boys are discouraged from seeking a higher education. Many adherents believe that secular colleges are too damaging, and a higher education isn’t necessary for a young woman who is being trained to be a mother.
Another troubling issue with some in the Patriarchy movement is their goal to have and train children for the express purpose of “returning America to a Christian nation.” They fail to accept that the kingdom of God is about God’s relationship with individuals and His church, not earthly political entities.
Perhaps the greatest danger of the Patriarchy Movement is the potential to raise the husband/father to a spiritual authority approaching idolatry. While the man is the spiritual head of the family, he is not the intermediary between family members and God. All of us, from the most powerful king to the youngest child, are called to develop a personal relationship with God. Our High Priest is Christ (Hebrews 4:14). Others can provide wisdom and training and relate experience, but no one should feel that there is another person between him and God.
The Quiverfull, homeschooling, and Patriarchy movements are attempts to follow God in a wicked and perverse generation. It is vital that we be in the world and not of it. We are called to see children as a blessing from God and train them to honor God, not to worship them, oppress them, or place upon them the responsibility to redeem the culture.