Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Young Turks' Commentary: Use the Quiver to Burst the High Demand Bubble

Here's another twist on the Apple Meme Theme resulting from Vyckie Garrison's recent Raw Story article and Cenk Uygur's commentary on it (see video below).

Most Christians have likely heard the words from Psalm 127 which were borrowed to describe the Evangelical Christian “Quiverfull Movement” (QF) and will recognize that compares families to an archer who is prepared for battle: “As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them.” 

On one end of the continuum, it represents families that welcome the responsibility of parenthood, seeing children as a benefit of family as opposed to a burden. It affirms the value of children, parenthood, and family in a way that is beneficial to all. Many healthy families and healthy churches embrace this ideal in a healthy way.

On the other end of the continuum, zealous followers see the movement as not only a show of commitment to pro-life values but also as a moral imperative. Large numbers of children become the proof of piety, demonstrating their special status before God. Each and every person takes on an active and tangible role in the effort to save mankind.  Everyone can have a part in it.

For many ideologues, this effort also produces enough voters who will aid in the Christian Right's effort to gain greater influence in civil government. Rather than focusing on reaching people to become new converts, they plan to become the most dominant force in society by outbreeding other groups – a type of social engineering. In the past, I have also called this motive “spiritual eugenics.”

No Clue About Quiverfull? – Not really!

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks offers his disgust at the several of the blatantly obvious elements of the offensiveness of the meme that appeared on the Let Them Marry website, and in the process of expressing his disdain for the ideas conveyed, he misinterprets the origin of the name of what has become a whole belief system and lifestyle. Suzanne Titkemeyer offers a nice summary of his misinterpretations in the comments following an article at No Longer Quivering:

1 - Vaughn Ohlman is not the head of any organized group. He merely writes in him blog online and self publishes books on his favorite topics of marrying off kids young and how each family needs to have a patriarch overseeing everything.

2 - Quiverfull is not an organization, its a loosely affiliated bunch of Christians from just about every denomination that are not organized into an official group. There are QF Catholics all the way to QF non-denominations to QF Independent Baptist Church.

3 - Quiverfull means eschewing all birth control and allowing God to open or close your womb to breed and raise up a mighty army of believers.

4 - Quiverfull has nothing to do with trying to help out horny teenaged boys. He made it seem that when a boy was over the top tempted and just about to burst from lust then Von would give him a daughter to marry.

5 -No Longer Quivering was started by Vyckie Garrison, not me, Suzanne Titkemeyer

6 - I did leave a QF church but was about the most unsuccessful at QF ever. I have 9 miscarriages and 2 living children.

Dehumanization Theme

I find many things quite revealing about his response to the Raw Story article. He readily recognizes the logical outcome of what happens when you reduce any human being to something less than what they are. It's obvious that the apple-girls described in them meme have no personhood, choices, or power. They are objects to be owned, dispensed with, and consumed by men – the farmer or the “boys.” And he aptly notes the lack of free choice that young men have within the belief system.

A Mirror for Lost Perspective Concerning Sexuality

As did many who commented on the original Raw Story article that Vyckie Garrison wrote, for those outside of this high demand religious bubble created by the QF Christian subculture, the inappropriate nature of how people relate to one another became a primary focus in Uygur's colorful commentary. People within high demand groups gradually lose touch with their own critical thinking as they accept the group's norm over time. They gradually shift, little by little, into acceptance of ideas that are well outside of society's norm – yet they do not realize it.

Uygur's disgust at the meme highlights can be a wake up call to some who are still QF minded. I always hope that such expressions will help followers recognize how others outside of their bubble view these examples which they have learned to take for granted over time. If you know QF followers who find the podcast offensive, this is actually a good opportunity to get them talking and thinking for themselves. Uygur can be a mirror for them and can mark how striking the contrast in their lifestyles has or can become. You can also be a mirror for them.

Make them Talking Points!

Let your QF friends talk about their feelings without judgement and encourage them to trace their own experiences and explore their own beliefs. Make “I statements” to say how you feel and what you think, but let your QF friends talk in the safe place that you create for them. Try not to label what they say as right or wrong, repeat back to them what they say to get them to clarify what they think about it all. This is perhaps the best way to get them thinking. And thinking is exactly what QF leaders don't want their followers to do. Don't take their strong defenses of their ideas personally. Just let them talk. Let them know that you're a safe person for them.

I guarantee that the next time that they're struggling with some new QF twist that doesn't make sense to them, they will call you again to essentially hear themselves talking aloud. Use this chance as an opportunity to help them see how weird QF can be. Get them to explain to you why it is or isn't weird. Perhaps ask them if they might be able to relate to how Uygur might react in the way that he did. “If you had no knowledge of the Bible, just imagine what “quiver” could or might mean. What do you think?” See if they can understand why this might be misunderstood by those who pick right up on the obsession with sex in the meme but with no explanation of what is meant by “quiver.” Turn it into a wake up call.

How “Loaded Language” Influences Thought

I think that perhaps the most notable element of this Young Turks video shines through as the power of language and how it directs how people think and understand. There are two elements to this factor. One factor concerns how powerful language can be and why it is important to clearly communicate ideas with reasonably descriptive and accurate language. I think that this power to color and shape ideas through the connotation of different words might be that which makes QF so effective for those who become trapped in it. Philosophers, psychologists, linguists, and ministers have made whole careers out of the exploration of the powerful connection between language and thought.

Consider that without the focus on gender and sex in that meme guided and influenced Uygur's inferred meaning of “quiver.” What other words might also be misunderstood? In the discussion of the Raw Story article, I've seen the term “defrauded” pop up. For those who are familiar with the subculture, we know that this is the term Gothard and Lindvall misappropriated to describe sexual enticement and arousal outside of marriage. 

In real life, most people understand the term to mean something that one does to deceive another in order to get money from them illegally or without informed consent. That might also be another way to get people talking about how out of touch they may have become in QF because of the ambiguity of the use of language that is used differently in the subculture bubble. See if you can try to break that bubble by getting people to think about the duplicitous use of words.

Consider and do a bit more reading about Loaded Language and why Robert Lifton identified it as a critical element of thought reform (spiritual abuse). What Bible verses point out the twisting of language to shame or influence other people? Take a look at some of the verses that describe spiritual abuse to see if you can find any. Challenge your QF friends to do so on their own.

Oh, So Special

What is the payoff for churches and followers of groups like QF for using specialized language? It actually makes for a great deal of work for preachers and wise guys to redefine terms because they have to teach that to everyone, they must engage people to use the terms, and then the culture must reinforce the use of the new terms to get people to change how they talk about things. Why would anyone go to all of this trouble?

Like a secret handshake that you hear about among Mormons or Freemasons, the primary payoff for people in a high demand group is the power of the seemingly special knowledge that they have. As the advertising slogan describes so well, “Membership has its benefits.”  
High demand groups are exclusive and tend to see themselves as elite. Just as the boasting of how big one's family can be as a show of piety, the loaded language terms that are exclusive within the cultic bubble of Quiverfull shows in a less obvious way that those who are “in the know” are just a cut above everyone else. In a very subtle way, and perhaps with a sense of smugness, when you know something that someone else doesn't know, it seems to create the illusion of power. Scientia potentia est (“knowledge is power”).

I love how David Henke explains this element of Spiritual Abuse:
The abusive religious system is scrupulous to maintain an image of righteousness. The organization’s history is often misrepresented in the effort to demonstrate the organization’s special relationship to God

[. . .]

This is rationalized by assuming that the religion would not be understood by “worldly” people; therefore they have no right to know. This attitude leads to members being secretive about some doctrines and the inner policies and procedures of the group. Leaders, especially, will keep secrets from their members. This secrecy is rooted in a basic distrust of others because the belief system is false and can not stand scrutiny.

Cognitive Dissonance

Here's another thing to consider about the misinterpretation of the meaning of “quiver” by those who have been previously unfamiliar with it. Have you ever read something or heard something that upset you, and it prevented you from thinking or paying attention because your pain or your emotions or recalling past experience derailed you? We normally experience this response when “things don't add up.”

I don't doubt one bit that Cenk Uygur has no problem with reading comprehension, and his misunderstanding may have resulted because his disgust with the dehumanization of girls became something that was “thought stopping.” The meme's author meant to convey the value of unbruised fruit and the heavy burden placed on fathers to protect their daughters. But that is the opposite of what that meme actually conveys to those outside of the bubble.

When people get emotionally engaged, it can make it difficult for them concentrate or reason. (Read more about cognitive dissonance HERE.) The errors that Uygur made as pointed out by Suzanne above may have resulted from his own cognitive dissonance. That's just how bizarre and offensive that these teachings can be when you read about them for the first time – without the lovely veneer that most people tend to notice when watching shows like 19 Kids and Counting.

Did Uygur infer that quiver was about the experience of sexual climax because of the context clues as well as the emotional effect that it had on him? That can be another talking point to use to get your QF friend thinking. What words do their leaders use to produce the same thought stopping effect? What words to people in their social circles use to shut down discussion by the use of language?

I hope you use this for all it's worth
to talk to your QF friends to get them thinking!