Of Large Families and Religion

As a culture, we have a fascination with what we see as odd. We can see this fascination with a lot of the shows on TV. One channel, TLC, likes to focus on families. The Duggar family has had a show on TLC for years, and the Bates family had a show on their for a short time. Those are the largest families featured on the network, but there have been many similar shows with 8 or more children per family.

There are many different opinions held about these families. Most people worry about whether or not the family is on welfare and whether the children are properly cared for. Some care about the issue of over-population and pollution. However, many also praise these families for their religious convictions and good parenting.

For the last few months, I have been quite fascinated with these families myself. I grew up with one brother, so the idea of having many brothers and sisters is odd to me. But I’m more interested in the religious convictions. I can’t say whether or not the Duggars are good parents, but some of their religious convictions bother me. For one, I don’t think it’s healthy to teach a girl to rely on her father when it comes to picking a future spouse. Her father will not be marrying him. He will not have to spend the rest of his life with this man. The daughters should be given the information necessary to decide without parental guidance who  they wish to spend the rest of their lives with. I also don’t like the idea of courting. In the case of the two Duggar girls, one only courted her now husband before getting engaged. They got married in under a year and are now expecting a child. The other Duggar girl courted for 5 months before getting engaged. She will be getting married in three months. While courting they weren’t allowed to be alone, they can’t kiss or hug (Christian side hugs only), and they were expected to keep their thoughts pure. I can’t help but wonder, with all that pressure to remain pure, and with no privacy, how well either girl really knows her partner.

Of course, those aren’t my only concerns, but they are some of my biggest concerns. I’m also concerned with how the children are always surrounded by like-minded people. I get that the parents want their children to stay pure and be good Christians, but is it healthy to keep them away from other world views? In the book written by the oldest 4 girls, they say that they were encouraged to avoid unGodly people and to turn conversations with strangers into missionary work. So they were basically taught to only value people who are Christians, and particularly those who are their type of Christian. How will they handle the diversity in the world?  How will they deal with the fact that the entire world isn’t Christian, and never will be, and they will have to work with non-Christians?

The last big concern that I’d like to bring up pertains to the quiverfull lifestyle and the mother. She had 19 kids. The human body is not built well for child birth. What kind of damage has she done to her body to have so many children? How much damage has this lifestyle caused? What is the purpose of having so many children when it does so much damage? And what damage has this lifestyle done to her views of her self? Does she view herself solely through her children? These are all scary thoughts.

Personally, I don’t really care how many children a person has. It’s their choice. But I do worry about the effects that religion has on families. Everything from the shame focused on sexuality to the way religion encourages parents to raise their children effects society. So long as the children aren’t abused, then the family can parent however they like. But nobody should be ashamed of their sexuality. Nobody should be shut away from diversity in the name of religion. And nobody should feel that they are solely responsible for repopulating our already full world.

10 responses to “Of Large Families and Religion

  • George Davis

    Mrs. Duggar had a miscarriage while on the Pill; she felt extremely guilty and resolved to never use birth control as she believes it caused her to lose the baby. (She blogged about this issue.) I also am concerned that she has carried this too far as she has now had preeclampsia and premature children.

    I do not blame religion however; there are many religions that support the use of birth control. I also think she is making her own decisions here.

    My own experiences with religion have lead me to see it as a positive influence on families. Religion can affirm people’s bodies and encourage a search for the truth. The Duggars represent a fairly extreme, minority religion.


  • manciniblessed

    Good perceptive insight into the families you mentioned in this blog. I agree kids should be brought up to be given a parameter by which to pick their future spouse. Depending on their Father to choose a spouse for them is a very bad idea.


  • Home And Spirit

    I share your concerns about the family’s outlook. I have tried watching the programs a couple of times but found it too disturbing. In some respects they are good parents. My biggest concern based on what you said in this post is their view they ever one who is not like-minded to them is an “other”. They only talk to strangers as a way of missionary?? Christianity is suppose to be based on Love. By conversing with strangers only as a means to an end (to lead them to Christ) is relating with an agenda rather than being a friend.


  • DSingh

    You get the occasional Black Sheep in those families, such as in the Phelps family’s Nate: http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Meet-the-anti-Fred-Phelps-117725654.html


  • esse636

    hi hessian,

    i really enjoy reading how you approach different topics- the flow through your different thoughts.

    religion is a huge topic hey. i am a queer, agnostic, feminist woman who grew up in a not-so-catholic family and went to two, very, catholic schools.

    as with everything, there were some great things about the religion in my youth-hood, and some not so much. i was lucky enough to have grown up in a family where my indecent thought was encouraged. i was really young when i thought nah, this religion thing is not for me. and it really did have positive impacts too.

    oh but yes, the shame, body-policing, guilt, misogyny, power-over etc etc is tough to accept eh.

    great hearing your voice/s. so good to see young women expressing them!
    keep on.


  • Kinshuk

    In majority of Indian households, girls aren’t left free to decide on their partners, or whether they want to marry. Being an Indian myself, this thing hurts!


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