I know this blog steers clear of rant, but when I saw headlines applauding Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s announcement that they are pregnant with #20, I did want to pound some keys here and rant. I have calmed down, and land with these thoughts…
On one hand, I realize their religious faith drives why they keep having babies. They adhere to Quiverfull principles of family planning, which essentially is no “planning” per se–no birth control, not even NFP, or natural family planning, because as Nancy Campbell, a Quiverfull leader says, “even natural family planning may be a selfish attempt to thwart the sovereignty of God.” When they use birth control and “refuse to have children,” “no woman can legitimately claim to love the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, if she withholds her womb from His service.”
Now to me, this kind of thinking sounds just plain crazy. However, I respect everyone’s right to religious freedom so on one level I respect their beliefs even though are far from my own.
Where I begin to have the problem is when those beliefs impact others and our world. Let’s start with the carbon footprint of every one of their children. According to Datablog at Guardian.uk, each person in the U.S. has an 18 tonne carbon emissions rate. A tonne is a metric ton, and equivalent to about 2200 pounds. So in standard tons we use in the U.S. that is almost 40,000 pounds of carbon emissions per person. So with 20 kids, that’s almost 800,000 pounds of carbon footprint.
When it comes to the impact of their reproductive actions, how can a religion promote such a level of irresponsible parenthood? The Catholics seem to get it—take how Pope Paul VI defines responsible parenthood in his 1968 encyclical Humane Vitae:
“In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.” Ok maybe that just means it is alright to use NFP, although we all know many Catholics use other (more effective) means of birth control.
Beyond saying it is “God’s will,” the Duggars are an appalling example of making babies a business and media enterprise. How can they afford all those kids? They say on The Today Show segment it’s that they stay out of debt. But where does their income come from, the source of their livelihood? Reproduction.
The media empire they have created is fueled by how many children they can possibly have. They have to have a baby factory to stay famous, to keep their reality show, to afford to pay for all of those children–Ironically to continue to afford their kids they have to have more of them!
It may be their religion with serious blind spots in today’s world, but it also seems being a baby factory celebrity enterprise is their other needed “creed.”
On Salon.com Mary Elizabeth Williams argues in her article “Stop Judging the Duggars,” that “A family of 20 is just another side of reproductive choice.” I say it is so much more than that. It is a sad and disturbing religious and capitalist “baby as commodity” commentary that indeed deserves to be judged.
What are your reactions to the Duggars at 20?
Meh. I’m CF, but as long as the kids are healthy and well cared for, and she isn’t in a high risk– pregnancy—well its up to them. No more selfish than a lot of bad folks who “only” pop out 2 and abuse them. That said…. Wouldn’t breast feeding help lower her fertility? Why aren’t those kids spread out more?
If you’re emotionally and financially able, I support your right to have as many children as you want. If you choose to have children, I believe you need to do what is in the best interest of them. If you don’t have the financial and emotional support to have them (and that’s any number — 1,2,20), that’s when I hold a little judgment.
Also, I find it very unfair that the older children are pretty much forced to take a role in the child rearing. The parents had a choice on whether or not they wanted to raise children, but their children did not.
In one of your OTG response videos, you mentioned that the pro-natal message is clearly seen in the media’s obsession with multiple birth/large family stories. If showing different families different from the ‘norm’ is their objective, I’ve yet to see TLC do an LGBT family, a childfree family, foster family, the list continues…
I’m more concerned with how the Quiverfull movement reduces a woman to a subservient baby-making machine.
“the woman stays at home having babies, homeschooling, homesteading, dressing “modestly,” and most importantly, serving and submitting to her “lord,” i.e., her patriarchal husband.” (link: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/06/27/born-breed-interview-quiverfull-walkaway-vyckie-garrison)
If a girl grows up in a home where men and women are seen as equal and she decides she wants to have a ton of babies and treat her husband as Lord, great. If a religion is brainwashing her into believing that’s her duty, not great.
I am still trying to figure out if they know what is causing it. You’ld think after, oh I don’t know, 10 or so, they’d figure it out and put a stop to it.
I am glad I don’t live in their school district because my school taxes will rise to pay for the added expense of educating their herd. Families of that size should surely pay more in local school taxes for their added burden on the local schools, while childfree people should pay less (not zero, just less) in local school taxes for being no burden on the local schools.
I have more issues with the religious beliefs behind the large number then the number itself. As tempting as it is to judge the Duggars’ number of children (in particular the way the oldest girls seem to do everything except give birth and breast feed), I choose not to do so, since I don’t want anyone judging my number (0). It’s my hope that at least one of the girls will escape. Go to college. Something.
I agree with Sylvia about the concern that this kind of “Quiverfull” philosophy keeps women totally subservient and in many cases, uneducated. If a woman is indoctrinated from early childhood that her ONLY function in life is to keep bearing and raising children, and never hears anything different from other sources, how can that be considered a “free choice?” To me, that is not a free choice at all. The whole “patriarchal husband” thing creeps me out too.
I also hope, like Tracy, that one of the older girls will decide in favor of a different life and go away to college, for starters. I doubt that all those older girls are really happy being a substitute parent for their younger siblings. I think many of them have been robbed of a childhood that they’ll never get back.
Just a logical, theological question from an agnostic: How can anyone actually thwart the will of God if He exists and is omnipotent?
I say use all the birth control you can get your hands on. If God really wants you to get pregnant, then He will make the unlikely happen. He’ll make the birth control fail or something. Isn’t the capability of controlling your reproduction also a gift from the Lord? I mean, if God didn’t want people to have birth control, then it wouldn’t exist, right?
“Where I begin to have the problem is when those beliefs impact others and our world.”
This is my main concern, too. The world population just hit 7 billion. We’re running out of oil, our resources are being drained and polluted…
Also, consider all the women, the world over, all throughout history, who have been coerced and downright forced into childbearing and the guys we childfree talk about as being “oopsed” into parenthood. Now, here we have the mere suggestion, that maybe, we shouldn’t be breeding to capacity… and this is when the furor comes?
Just another typical day in pronatalist society.
First of all, no need to apologize for ranting. This is your site, your blog. Rant on!
Secondly, you point out just one of the MANY ways religion is socially destructive. These are the folks who gifted us with the inquisition, the burial (alive) of Hypatia, the Salem witch trials, the conquistadors, etc. etc. etc.
Joey, you sure are right; so many ways religion is socially destructive, probably from its inception…come to think of it-who knows when religion truly began? With ancient civilizations who believed in many Gods as a way to understand how was it a women was popping out a baby and the miracles of nature? Got to bone up on my religious history….
Well actually her last pregnancy was high risk and the baby was premature and nearly died. She has had a couple of C sections. She doesnt adhere completely to the Quiverfull movement of having babies at home, otherwise I daresay she would be dead by now. And lets face facts she is not exactly young and increasingly putting her health at risk.