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I Love Homeschooling, Quiverfull Families!

by Hillary McFarland

Happy Monday! I'd like to take a few moments to address a few issues that continue to appear despite my ever-growing list of FAQs and disclaimers (::understanding smile::).

This post today is simply for the record . . .

I love big families!
(And small ones, too!)
     I have never suggested that “being quiverfull” is wrong, even when I might personally disagree with some of the positions promoted by quiverfull advocates. I have spoken quite frankly about the serious struggles that many quiverfull daughters face. I believe that healthy parents will consider the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be loaned to them, by God, in the form of sons and daughters. Acknowledging, addressing, and freely discussing the reality of many quiverfull daughters is not mutually exclusive with this, nor should it be perceived as a judgment upon those with a full-quiver conviction. (Quiverfull daughters are people, too!)
     I am a HUGE fan of homeschooling and support 100% a parent's option to school their children at home...or elsewhere, as the Lord leads. I do not believe that home education is the only option for a godly parent, but that individual families are free to seek the Lord for what is appropriate for their children.
     In addition, nowhere do I condemn godly authority. I wholly, passionately, and profusely condemn the evil that is authoritarianism: the abuse or misuse of authority, or “authority gone bad” as succinctly stated by guest poster Jim Karpowitz. I believe that authoritarianism is completely contrary to the life, teachings, and ministry of Jesus Christ, therefore unbiblical and sinful. However, addressing the fruits of abuse does not mean there is no love, grace, forgiveness or restoration for those who have (nearly always with good intentions) cultivated them. God so loved the world, and the world includes Pharisees and sinners and parents and daughters. It is to the daughters of patriarchy that the Lord has called me.   

An Abusive System
     Those who think I am “attacking” homeschoolers, Quiverfull families, or even “patriarchy”, have completely missed the point of everything I write. It's true that women from lifestyles which promote these conservative principles belong in the niche where God has called me, but my goal is not to get people to stop “being conservative”  (i.e., to wear pants, stop homeschooling, use family planning, go to college,  move away from home, etc.) even if my convictions differ. I'm not trying to foist my own ideas of living onto others, but to address a system of belief that places stumbling blocks before children. To look at fruits produced in the lives of aching women. To question the practice of a paradigm that hurts people...and minister to those wounded because of it. Pretending or wishing that women (and men) struggling with the fruits of “godly” lifestyles don't exist, are rare (or worse, merely dismissing them as rebellious) dismisses and denies Jesus! Although quivering daughters are hardly the least among us, ‘...Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40) 

     The Book of Jude reveals an intriguing verse: Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” While I certainly do not equate myself with the archangel, nor those who perpetuate destructive practices as the devil, I believe this principle applies to me and my work. Who am I to revile or accuse, even within dispute? While this website, my book, the articles I post, and my calling deal with sensitive and controversial topics, it is not of my heart to create more division. I care about truth, not sensationalism. I cannot shy away from these serious issues, but pray always that I address them with grace. Although I cry out against abuse, it isn't my desire to attack or condemn persons with whom I might disagree.
     In the Bible, Jesus was not afraid to identify Pharisees, rulers, and authoritarian leaders using strong language. In fact, He even addressed Peter, His disciple, as “Satan”. I believe that all people are created in God's image and are loved by Him, including those who abuse the truth. He offers grace, forgiveness, and mercy to all. Sometimes it is necessary to identify or discuss public figures, teachers, and ministries to illustrate specific lifestyles or beliefs, but I believe this can be done in love. Speaking against sin glorifies God and proclaims Him to those wounded in His name.
     This chapter in Romans conveys my thoughts better than I. Please understand the reasons I've paraphrased the end:
...Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks... But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother daughter is grieved because of your food, dismissal of her feelings you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food convictions the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, homeschooling, quiverfull, courtship, dating, or public-schooling, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. wearing dresses only or condemning those who wear head-coverings. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats places his lifestyle over the future of his children, or their physical, emotional, and spiritual life, with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine lecture for hours, reject, abuse authority, excommunicate, humiliate, shame, nor do anything by which your brother daughter stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
Do you have faith? Have it to yourself (not necessarily to your adult children or other Christians) before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (from Romans 14, NKJV)
I Mean This Gently...
To be honest, I don't care if someone chooses to “be patriarchal”. I do care when someone's practice of patriarchy misrepresents the heart of God to a desperate young woman. 

I'm thrilled when families seek to follow God and live a biblical life; I grieve when women slice their arms with razors because they never measure up to the “godly” ideal required of them. 

I rejoice when parents seek to discern God's will for their families. I grow angry when a woman is told that God only speaks to her through her father or husband.

I love that earnest families teach Scripture to their children. My soul aches when a woman suffers through depression and shame because verses were twisted and used against her.

I don't care whether a family has two children or if there are nearly twenty, like Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar. But I do care, very much, when daughters yearn to be noticed and loved for who they are, not for what they do.

I don't take issue with a full-quiver lifestyle, but I do believe it is a serious mistake to view one's family, for all practical purposes, as collection of children, rather than investing time into understanding intimate needs, differences, and personhood of each special person within it. This includes all the different personalities, dietary needs, weaknesses and strengths, interests, fears, desires, even methods of discipline for each child. This doesn't mean that all quiverfull families do this, but it is common among many of them.

I don't discourage living out convictions but I weep when women dream about killing themselves because God and their parents never seem pleased with them. 

The Bottom Line
     Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. I talk about this often. Yet Scripture admonishes us to not use liberty as a cloak for vice, but through love to serve one another. It's easy to think of vice in terms of worldliness, of rebellion, of irreverence and dishonor. What if, sometimes, vice looks holy?
     The Bible encourages us to use our liberty for good, to love and serve others with it. “Love your neighbor,” says Jesus. Who is your neighbor? Perhaps your closest neighbors are those within your own household. Perhaps it is your oldest child who is exhausted due to all the responsibilities and expectations placed on her because she must be the example of perfect, godly daughterhood to all her younger sisters. Perhaps it is your middle daughter who feels as though she has no place and cannot measure up to standard. Or maybe the youngest, who has plenty of examples held up to her, and yet seems to fail at each one.  
     Use your liberty in Christ to make wise choices regarding each individual precious child, seeking their well-being, not as a cloak to dismiss their thoughts and feelings or to control their every move; not as a blanket to home-school them or public-school them when other options would be better. Not as a cloak to conceal bad fruit from destructive doctrine or heartache. Not as a covering to misuse your authority. Use the freedom Christ gives you to serve your neighbors! To encourage them, to give them life and to be at peace!
     You see, making these issues “either / or”, “us versus them” and “black and white” continues to widen the gaps and create division within the body of Christ. Let's not make it a choice of “us” or “them”...choose to follow Jesus! Let's not force ourselves into “either / or”...choose love! Let's not live in black and white. Liberty isn't in black and white. Nor even is it in gray...I believe that freedom in Christ is found in red, in the blood He shed for us.
     Can we walk in red? For our families? Our husbands and children? For our neighbors?
     Can we live in red?


  1. Excellent post. The truth, spoken in love. Anyone who reads your book in its entirety will know this post echoes the message of the book and of your heart.

  2. I love that you took the time to once again explain who you are and why you do what you do. May God use these words to touch some who do not think any of your message applies to them!

  3. sums up your heart. Unfortunately, hurt people hurt people. Jesus can soothe that pain if we let Him, and He is using your words like an ointment.

    Others are often blind to the pain they inflict. Only God can open the eyes of the blind.

  4. Living in the Red/Poems4Him

  5. Hillary,

    Once again you speak with a delicate authority, full of grace and truth... remembering the Divine Order.

    You have such a healthy balance in your writing. You do not compromise your convictions, or hide behind the plastic defense of vague language. You speak directly into the situation, in the Spirit of Jesus, and ultimately inviting your readers into a new vision of healthy Christian spirituality.

    For your voice in such a time as this, I give thanks. Keep going, for all of us who are too uncertain/timid/confused, please keep going...

  6. Hillary, this is part of what I mean by living in grace. If Jesus leads us, then we will allow Him to lead differently in the lives of others. There are certain things that He has led me out of, but I understand that some are still in the midst of those things. Perhaps He will lead them out. Perhaps He has a purpose for them being in there. Even if it seems to be clear error to me, I have to allow Him to work in them.

    However, He has led me (and you) to counter the lie wherever I see it or hear it being used to harm another. When patriarchy/legalism/performance spirituality “misrepresents the heart of God” to someone who is vulnerable I have a responsibility to speak up. I may not be able to change a situation, but I cannot just relax and let the lie go unchallenged. I suppose not everyone is called to do this in every situation, but He leads some of us to do it often.



  7. This is a great topic for a post!

    I like what you said about having a "collection" of children. I have been realizing lately that many Quiverful-type families really view children as an accessory, much like the irresponsible teenage mom who keeps her baby just so she can carry around her "cute baby". Children are not viewed so much as human beings being brought into the world, with a huge responsibility to raise them right, but as another cute baby to add to the collection!

    We recently became pregnant with a "surprise" baby (#3 in less than 4 yrs.) and the response from Quiverful families has confirmed my theory that babies/children are mere accessories to them. It's sad to see. Whereas, even though this wasn't a planned pregnancy, I want to treat this baby like we tried for 5 years and it was our first :-), Quiverful people basically say "Oh, cute! Another baby to add to your line-up of kids!" :-( No, this is not just a baby--it's a human, and I'm overwhelmed with the responsibility I have to raise it!

    Sorry for rambling, but this topic hits close to home.

  8. As always, this post of yours is both direct and gentle. IMO, the people who criticize you for being too critical of hyper-patriarchy are generally unable to think of anything except in black and white terms. Therefore they project the same rigidity onto you: they simply can't fathom that someone could critique a movement without condemning it altogether. Sigh.

    Here's hoping you have a great day!

    P.S. Congratulations and ten props to Anonymous at 10:58!

  9. Thank you for the post. Coming from a mainstream denomination that is authoritarian in all areas of life I know first hand the emotional and spiritual abuse women suffer under. I had such a twisted view of who God is it took years of Bible study and much prayer to come to a true Biblical understanding of who God truly is.
    I have been made to feel guilty for even wanting to study the Word of God for I am just a "silly woman who knows nothing".
    I knew in my heart that God wanted a relationship with me but no one around us would allow such a thing for God spoke through the pastor not me. It was as if he were some kind of middle man between God and man. I never read of such a middle man in the Word of God so I sought to know the truth of God's Word.
    Despite being told by church authority I couldn't listen to the likes of John Macarthur, I did just that. The Lord gave me a hunger and thirst for His righteousness that won't be quenched! Every spare moment I had was spent on my knees or in deep study in the Word of God. My husband was just as miserable in this denomination as I and had the same hunger for the Word of God as did. We both set aside everything we had ever learned in these churches and tested the faith. For the first time in our lives we became Berean believers!
    Oh what a sweet season in our lives! He threw off the authoritarian chains and began to love me as Christ loves the church. I began to understand what God's grace truly is, and desired to be the wife, mother, daughter, sister & friend He was transforming me to be.
    Praise God we are both different people now. Our children were young and did not suffer from the heavy yoke of bondange to traditions of men. I praise God we did not raise them in a home that had such a twisted view of God as my husband did.
    Thank you for being so bold to speak the Truth of God's Word. It is the Truth that sets people free!

  10. Excellent. I "living in red" should be a poem but I see Miriam beat me to it! Very nice.

    As long as we're putting things on the record, I don't condemn godly authority anywhere either, in spite of what a few quote-mongers elsewhere seem to think. I just insist on defining "godly" as "like Jesus, who set aside His authority and served".

  11. So good, Hillary. So good...

    Romans 14 has freed me up so much in my own personal walk, I loved how you took "loving liberty" with it to gently point to specific areas.

    Just the other day, a fellow mom told me how she was completely and publicly harassed BY HER FAMILY because 1) she and her husband want lots of babies and 2) she wants homebirths. Although I do not have any of these same convictions, Romans 14 says she's free to!

    Many blessings to you,

  12. Great job! I totally agree--but especially with the kid collecting, and daughters valued only for the work they do.

  13. Hillary, you touched on something so very important...the difference between authority and authoritarianism. I am weary of hearing how taking a stand against the latter means that we are in rebellion to authority. You nailed it.

  14. Loved this:

    " Whereas, even though this wasn't a planned pregnancy, I want to treat this baby like we tried for 5 years and it was our first :-), Quiverful people basically say "Oh, cute! Another baby to add to your line-up of kids!" :-( No, this is not just a baby--it's a human, and I'm overwhelmed with the responsibility I have to raise it!"

    I think that responsibility- that huge responsibility- is taken on pretty blithely by many who want large families.

    Luke 14, although it is about counting the cost of becoming a disciple, making sure you are willing and able to follow all the way through, seems to praise counting the cost and condemn blithely taking on huge commitments. I know of no greater commitment than that of a parent to do their utmost on behalf of the human beings they bring into this world- housing, food, clothing, education, and all the nurture each will need on an ongoing basis.

    It seems to that a grave responsibility like bringing a human person into existence should be handled with a lot of forethought and planning.

  15. "I don't take issue with a full-quiver lifestyle, but I do believe it is a serious mistake to view one's family, for all practical purposes, as collection of children, rather than investing time into understanding intimate needs, differences, and personhood of each special person within it."

    I would re-quote this whole entry if that weren't a ridiculous proposition. :) Once again, you've so clearly and gently outlined your heart that I can't understand how someone could misconstrue your intentions as hate. I know how much courage it takes to respond graciously to attacks, and I just wanted to add my thanks for demonstrating how to speak the truth in love... even when indignation would be easier.

    (As an aside, I keep thinking about Eric's post about how biblical authority is actually servanthood. It helps me differentiate between power-heavy authoritarians and parents who seek to follow Jesus's example by washing their children's feet. That's the kind of godly authority I can whole-heartedly support alongside you.)

  16. Hilary as always you write with taste and eloquence, much more patience than what I have, that I will say, maybe it's Grace...

    I guess what frustrates me, and often infuriates me is how alternative lifestyles are being Hijacked by ultra-patriarchal male centric nationalists [because that's what they are, like Islam it IS political],

    and the roots of the empowerment Of these alternatives, such as yes, homeschooling, Home birthing Especially which WAS a radical feminist movement, environmentalism and so forth, these alternatives Were rooted in female empowerment, communal anti-capitalist 'left' ideals,

    and to See them taken and distorted does irk me to no end. Because in my generation WE fought hard for the rights to Have those freedoms, for Women to be able to TAKE BACK what was stolen from women's space by male centric power dynamics/infrastructure,

    home-school is a bit different but even there, the hijacking of to protect abuse hurts Not only those who choose to home school for liberal reasons, but it hurts those who opt for other alternatives such as Montessori and Charter schools, etc.

    these issues are So much larger than just how they effect the church culture, and I believe there is more to this encroaching on alternative empowerment lifestyle choices By patriarchal cults that is a lot more than it seems...and that Those agendas, go way beyond,

    just the ultra patriarchal segments. And this needs to be shouted out from the rooftops...


  17. Let me clarify, my Point is, what we are seeing in the increase of fundamentalism is not the Root, but the tentacle of something that is far more sinister and that branches from a vine that Yes is from the Mainstream [moderate to conservative] to higher ups, government and economy,

    and I guess what frustrates me is just how few either don't see it or don't Want to,

    in other words, dig deeper. The same stratification's worked in the Left too in feminism, the hijacking by more extreme agendas,

    but truth is, they both are from the same source, spiritually and in the physical realm. My concern is too many are focusing Only on the tentacles,

    and not near enough, on the Octopus behind those tentacles. And in doing so, cutting off one tentacle, may seem at first like a victory,

    but with that one cut, there are fifty more...growing in the background and when They sneak up, it will be too late to do anything as for preparing people spiritually...the hijacking of numerous lifestyle alternative choices, is an Agenda,

    of something much larger and what we are seeing isn't even the tip of the iceberg yet.


  18. Hillary

    Thank you VERY much for your post! I was very heartened and healed to read it. I come into some contact with parts of the Patriarchal movement and admit to being disturbed. On the other hand I spent time recently reading an ex-quiverfull woman's blog and came away with a very different message to your post, and my spirit was very disturbed too.
    Once again thank you very much.

  19. this is new to me. i'm so glad i stopped by... i didn't know this side of things and have much to brood over. most of all the beauty of this statement...

    "Let's not live in black and white. Liberty isn't in black and white. Nor even is it in gray...I believe that freedom in Christ is found in red, in the blood He shed for us.
    Can we walk in red? For our families? Our husbands and children? For our neighbors?
    Can we live in red?"

    Yes. I think we can. Red=grace.


    amy in peru

  20. Well said, Hillary! Having read your book and a number of your posts, I just don't see how people can think you believe anything other than what you state so eloquently here.

    I like that...living in the red!

  21. Just found your book and site and glad I did...

  22. I am glad you clarified this-but I do take issue with you using the term
    conservative to mean: "to wear pants, stop homeschooling, use family planning, go to college, move away from home, etc.) ...wow, that is confusing- those areas do not have anything to do with that word really- those are issues with this patriarch movement that should be addressed-and I am glad you are getting people to think about them-

  23. Cornelia, I'm sorry for the confusion. I put it in quotes because that was something I've been accused of.

  24. "But I do care, very much, when daughters yearn to be noticed and loved for who they are, not for what they do."

    As an only child, homeschooled, in a very reclusive Christian legalist home, I only received affection through demonstration of competency, whether through scholastic achievements or comprehension of complex religious concepts.

    It's called 'conditional love', and I've yet to see a Christian household practicing parental authoritarianism that isn't rife with this perverted form of love.


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