“How on earth am I going to write a fair review of this book?” is what I kept thinking as I read Kathryn Joyce’s look inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  Rarely does a book evoke a visceral reaction in me as I’m reading it. But I found myself incredulous, angry and frustrated as I read.

First, some background. How did I even come across this book? After seeing a few episodes of TLC’s show about the Duggar family, with their 19 kids so far, and reading this piece at Salon, I decided to learn more. I wanted to see if the movement is being portrayed accurately and fairly.

For those that don’t know, the Quiverfull movement is based on Psalm 127, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They shall not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”

Followers of the Quiverfull movement are also patently anti-feminist, believing in wifely submission to the husband; practicing no birth control, taking any and all children as a blessing and a gift from God; reliance on the church and family community; homeschooling; and no real need, for men and women, in post secondary education. They believe that the bible is the literal and infallible word of God, and this interpretation of the bible forms the platform on which the movement is built. It has been hard to separate my feelings about the patriarchal philosophy from critical thinking about the book.

I found the book fascinating.  Families embracing the Quiverfull movement exist at least in the tens of thousands, if not more.  Joyce profiles the leaders and teachings of the patriarch philosophy. She presents excerpts of meetings and presentations and blog posts from the movement.  I went to several of the sites and blogs mentioned in the book to see them in the context that they present to the public, to see if Joyce had chosen soundbites or taken any of the teachings out of context. Joyce portrayed the edicts of the Vision Forum and the Proverbs 31 ministry quite accurately and fairly.  She recounts the stories of some Quiverfull women, some who have left that world and others who are perfectly happy in it.

Joyce’s language is not evocative or inciting, but I still found myself reacting viscerally to the book because what I believe is almost completely opposite to the tenets of the patriarchal platform.  It was hard to read that nearly everything about the way I live my life is seen as sinful and damnable and anti-feminine and wrong by people in this movement. And that’s why it was hard for me to write this post. I wanted to be fair to the book and not make this a criticism of the movement.

Based on the additional research I’ve done, I think Joyce presents fairly the beliefs, motivations, and goals of the Patriarchy movement.  I think she presents fairly the stories of the women who feel victimized by the movement, as well as the women who are fulfilled by it. After reading the book, I feel like I have a better understanding of why some people find such comfort in this way of life.