Saturday, August 11, 2007

I says, she ain't want no more RABIES...

A couple of weeks ago, there was big news down at Jim Bob's house. His wife had a baby. Her seventeenth. Jim Bob and Michelle, they're from Arkansas. The new baby's name is Jennifer. She joins Joshua, Janna and John David (they're twins), Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah and Jeremiah (also twins), Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, and Johannah Faith. Do not adjust your monitor: all the names do start with "J". I have a friend from high school whose family all has JJ for their initials. There's only four of them, so it's easier to take.

I read this story (HERE) because of the sensational title. I wanted to figure out why a married couple would want that many children. Are they Amish Farmers, who need all these children to work the land, knit the clothes, card the wool, churn the butter, and sell jams to the tourist traps? Is it some Wall Street banker's wife who has a ton of money to spend on nannies and "recuperation trips" to the Bahamas for mom?

Well, I wasn't good at guessing the real motivations. The family is continually having kids because they don't believe in birth control. Not just that, but they believe in "birth uncontrol", or something very like it. They're taking the Bible literally (is this a theme?) and going forth to multiply. They are self-proclaimed conservative fundamentalist Christians, and they believe in something called the "Quiverfull" movement.

If you think Quiverfull sounds like some sort of insufficiently sanitized smutty joke, then you're obviously not holy enough. It's a movement mostly centered in the U.S. that encourages couples to eagerly receive children as blessings from God. It's an off-shoot of an ideology called Providentialism, which believes that God's will is perfect and manifests itself in each and every tiny thing that happens (or doesn't happen). If I were to apply an irreverent sobriquet to this belief, it would be the "Oh well, what the hell" idea.

Basically, God has a Plan. It's all written in a big book somewhere. Everything that happens, occurs because it was intended by God. There is no free will. Even if you think you have it, God's way ahead of you with his Plan. I'm reminded of a routine by George Carlin, where he discusses the Divine Plan.

But what about the Divine Plan? Remember that? The Divine Plan. A long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave it a lot of thought, decided it was a good Plan, put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, the Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now you come along, and pray for something. Well, suppose the thing you want isn't in God's Divine Plan? What do you want him to do: change his plan? Just for you? Doesn't that seem a little arrogant? It's the Divine Plan! What's the use of being God if every run-down schmuck with a two dollar prayer book can come along and fuck up your plan?


Of course, in Providentialism (and Quiverfull), God's plan is omnipresent and not comprehensible. Bad things happen to good people, but it is fruitless to question why, because the answer is beyond the scope of what regular people can understand. So the reason they keep having children isn't because they're irresponsible, it's that they're incredibly pious. After all, if God wanted them to stop having children, he'd do something about it. Something like causing a divorce, or killing one of them, or bringing sterility, or cancer of the ovaries. Because we're just children. Children who can't understand why things happen! And because we can't understand God, and God's will is evident in everything, then we can't understand why anything happens.

So we ARE just like children lost in the forest. We just keep doing things, because we can't really understand why we should stop. After all, God will tell us if something is out of balance. So the Arkansas couple keeps having kids, because HEY, otherwise God would stop it, right? The Quiverfull doctrine talks about specific Biblical passages that show that God acts to "open and close the womb".

Notice that they aren't adopting a bunch of kids. That's how you know they're REALLY literal. It just doesn't count to adopt babies from China who would grow up to be Communists, and raise them in a Christian house. No sir! God's not looking for that kind of evangelism. He wants women out there with serious calcium deficiencies brought on by excessive reproduction!

Actually, in this case, it's a different kind of penance. When they were first married, they used birth control and had a miscarriage. They prayed to God to allow them children, as many as he saw fit. Enter God, who smites them with a plague of diapers.

In reality, once you have seven kids or so, you just let the older kids raise the younger ones, freeing Mom up for laundry, which is three full-time jobs, I'm sure. Their 7,000 square foot house has 4 washers and dryers. All the kids are home schooled, so you wont have to worry about 17 prom dresses and tuxes.

I don't really care for the Quiverfull idea , but it's not because of the strange eugenics vibe, or because of the increased voting power in the coming years. It's more the idea that human beings are really only simple computers (previous comment). We sit idle until the command instruction is inserted and then continue to do that thing until the program stops. If we're only doing what we're told to do, is that really all that praiseworthy?

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