“Quiverfull” is a word I recently learned via the vast educational network of Netflix.
“Quiverfull” is a Christian theological position concerning mass reproduction, meaning how many children a man can create. Please hear me. I mean no offense to any big, baby-making families. If you are a consenting woman and man who want that kind of big love life, by all means, have at it. However, the greater concern is when consent is not given by the woman.
I am aware of the rare occasions when women have abused and misled a man into having a baby. The key word here is “rare.” Just like the even rarer occasion when a woman uses abortion as the only means of conceptive. Rare.
Considering the Supreme Court’s and the country’s conversations on reproduction rights, I decided to watch the unfathomable documentary called Our Father. The entire film, including the opening title sequence, is sensationally grotesque. The film begins with the backside of an old white man sitting on hard wooden desk. He leans forward in his office chair and raises up a specimen cup and then places it beside medical files. At first glance, the scene is confusing and then suddenly completely disgusting. The documentary is about a fertility doctor from Indiana who uses his own sperm to impregnate women without their knowledge.
“This doctor impregnated more than 94 non-consenting women.”
When I say “women,” I mean more than three, which is the average number of women who receive any man’s donor sperm at any fertility clinic. But this was more than a few or even a dozen times. This doctor impregnated more than 94 non-consenting women. These were hurting, grieving women who for years tried every method possible to conceive a child. These were women who came to a doctor they trusted to help them have a child with the sperm of their husbands or donors of their choosing.
The story slowly unravels the number of children produced by this man’s malpractice and to be frank, habitual rape of hundreds of women.
The first question asked by his half children was, “Why?” Why would he do this repeatedly? What was his motivation? One key answer arose during the private detective work of one of the daughters. She discovers the practice of quiverfull.
Quiverfull is directly correlated to two key elements that connect with the recent Supreme Court decision. Anti-reproductive rights is ideologically and theologically rooted in racism. In this case with the fertility doctor, a white man chose to impregnate only white women of his choosing and justified his behavior with Christian convictions.
“Anti-reproductive rights is ideologically and theologically rooted in racism.”
His narcissistic actions begin with a racist belief about biological supremacy. Ironically, several of his offspring were born with autoimmune diseases that revealed genetic disorders coming from his own biological makeup — something any normal fertility clinic never would have allowed. Also, as the half siblings of this man started coming together, they recognized how similar they all looked: blonde hair, bright blue eyes. One sibling horrified by this reality gave a side comment on how they all looked like Hitler’s ideal society.
White supremacy requires the “white race” reproduce generation after generation. Through recent years, America has heard fearful comments from politicians and everyday people concerning the decline of white people and the increase of minorities. Now, after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the unspoken truth finally slipped through the cracks of conversative Christian politics: “Pro-life is a win for white life.”
And they are right. Anti-reproductive rights protects white men and their sexual behavior, dare I say, sinful behavior. Anti-reproductive rights blames women and minorities, forcing them to pay the price for puritanical Christian convictions. Pro-life policies stand against religious liberty because they push one religious conviction on everyone.
“Pro-life policies stand against religious liberty because they push one religious conviction on everyone.”
When confronted by his children, the man used Scripture to justify his behavior, quoting Jeremiah 1:5, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.”
This passage frequently arises in anti-abortion Christian conversations. This one passage gives a flaccid theological argument against abortion. The argument that life begins at conception makes me wonder when we will start conception parties instead of birthday parties. I know my parents would come. In the Jewish tradition, life begins when the baby first takes a breath, and the life of the woman was and is held higher than the life of the unborn baby.
The fact that this doctor used the words of God to justify his actions reveals a self-proclaimed godlike posture. White men have historically used their power to take hard positions to inseminate their will over women and the world which they want to create in their image. The real rub is that these men rarely get convicted for their immoral and illegal actions. In the case of this fertility doctor, his actions never led to any major fine or jail time. The courts could not find any legal grounds to put him in prison. They slapped him on the wrist, removed his medical license and forced him to pay a small penance of $500.
Watching that verdict come down on his case was almost as bad as the recent Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization. It’s a reminder that American society is letting conversative Christianity use personal moral conviction to determine American policy and law. No religion should have so much power that it sets the rules and regulations of human rights for all people.
And yet, evangelical Christianity in America has been given a quiverfull of power, a Christian nationalism that produces dehumanizing ideology that already has overturned human rights. Conservative Christianity is a major threat to democracy, creating rules and regulations that serve only to protect white men, white life.
However, I believe there are good ol’ white men out there who are tired of quivering behind these racist beliefs systems. I believe there are good white women who see how they, too, benefit from a system that keeps a few safe and secure at the top while oppressing so many at the bottom. The way of Christ is rooted in the belief that all people are created with God-given freedoms. These soul freedoms must be protected if we are going to practice core Christ-life teachings like loving our neighbor. Maybe then Christians can pray “Our Father” with a conviction that ushers in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Erica Whitaker serves as associate director of Baptist Seminary of Kentucky’s Institute for Black Church Studies. She lives with her husband, Josh, in Louisville, where she previously served as pastor of Buechel Park Baptist Church. Erica is a Baptist News Global and board member. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas and a master of divinity degree from Baylor University’s George W. Truett Seminary. She is currently writing a dissertation for a doctor of philosophy degree at International Baptist Theological Study Centre in Amsterdam.
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