Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The honor of oppression
Perhaps it is my degree in religious studies.

Perhaps it is my innate curiosity about the inner workings of other people's minds.

I am bewitched by stories of a good hard core extremist cult. I am fascinated by the FLDS, smitten with Satmar, dazzled by Opus Dei, and generally enraptured by various evangelist Christian sects. In which lies my new favorite sociological possession, the Quiverfull movement.

The Quiverfull movement refers to the part of Psalm 127 (NKJV):

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

And so they let that Lord plan their families for them, hence the extreme sized, yet quaint and celebrated Duggar family of "18 kids and counting" on the TLC network.

One of the tenets of the quiverfull movement is that women's bodies are as living sacrifices to the Lord. Their bodies are, most conspicuously, not their own.

If the Lord has seen to give one family more than another, it is only proof of how the woman has sacrificed herself to her savior. As a member of this movement, she not only sacrifices her body to a decades long series of pregnancies breastfeedings but her time and intellect to homeschooling the children with the movement's "curriculum" and her self determination to the practice of being a helpmeet in female submissiveness. Submitting first to her god and then to her husband.

As Kathryn Joyce writes in The Nation, "Women's attempts to control their own bodies--the Lord's temple--are a seizure of divine power." Joyce has a new book out about the movement, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement which I am going to order eventually to add to my ever growing library of books on cults where women give themselves over to having multitudes of children, are essentially isolated from the greater society, tend to dress in anachronistic fashions and often completely eschew much of modern technology such as the internet, cell phones and television.

Part of my fascination with the women living in these sects is that when one hears an account from them, they often feel special and chosen. The entire culture of the sect is supposedly based on placing women on a pedestal for the submission to oppression. Their dress, especially, sets them apart from the rest of society. The burden they take on, whether of homeschooling their 10 children, of keeping the mitzvah of family purity, of being in a polygynous marriage and sharing their husband with upwards of 3 other women, is, they feel and are told, is a great honor.

I often have what some therapists call the "Heaven's Reward distortion". Sometimes I believe, when I am at my most distorted, that if I suffer now, good will come to me later (not in the afterlife, since I don't believe in one, but eventually, in this life). I live with a distorted value of asceticism, judgments of what is good and bad, not for others, but for myself.

I realize in reading the accounts of these women submitting to the "joy of suffering" that I relate more to these women who live in external manifestations of these issues, than I like. There is part of me that is envious of their situations, if only that I live with the internalization of the denial and cannot leave the cult that I have created in my own brain.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Whoa! Those are some heavy-duty religions!!

This past weekend, we went on the L.A. Conservancy's tour of 5 L.A. religious buildings and groups started in L.A. during the teens and 20's ("City of Seekers"). All of these so-called cults are still going today.

I think you hit it the nail on the head. People just wanna be chosen and special. Whoever gives them that attention, they follow faithfully.

Blogger Go Peigi Go said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Go Peigi Go said...

Sorry, I deleted my original post in order to better word it... let's try again... ;)

Wow! So well put and so important to say. You know my background and I think that I have often been tempted by similar feelings of suffering bringing some kind of reward. It's hard to break this thought pattern, especially because I catch myself creating suffering for myself with an idea toward edification. Or, I'll put up with something because I think there is some kind of reward for not making my life better.

Also, in a world where everyone must create personal value, it is appealing to allow others to tell us where our value lies and then pursue it, whether this means having as many children as possible or altering ourselves in an effort to conform to unrealistic ideas of beauty. Many women have joined (or are born into) an extremist cult of "beauty" without even realizing it.

You are such a thoughtful, intelligent, wonderful woman and it is a blessing to be able to read your thoughts.

Blogger David said...

A very thought provoking post and interesting comments. I tend to get it in reverse, when bad things happen I don't tend to expect good things to follow, so there is no need to seek out the bad, yet when good things happen I find myself waiting for the make up call. But then again for an atheist I have a strangely adversarial relationship with the universe.

Blogger Faith said...

Thanks all. I've given this all some thought and I think I want to keep writing about this. In fact, I might do more when I start my master's program in 2010!!!

Blogger twinsetellen said...

I am struck by a parallel to the idolization of the warrior who is then sent to his death in battle. Maybe I'm stretching, but there is something of that "if we say it is an honor often enough, you'll do the dirty work and actually like it" to this, I think.

Another model would be the Bush administration's habit of naming things the opposite of what they were really all about - like the Clean Air Act. Saying it enough seemed to change the public's perception of reality.

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