Mitt Romney’s Weird Flirtation with the Christian Patriarchy Fringe

mitt-romney-quiverfullMan, what is it with the former contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and the insane fringes of the Christian right?

Well, okay, maybe that’s not actually all that surprising of an overlap.

But these guys aren’t running for office anymore. It’s weird to find them way out on the loony fringe when there’s no votes on the line. Makes you wonder just how nuts they really were all along.

First we had Ron Paul tapping Gary North, a hardcore Christian Dominionist who’s advocated stoning children for disrespecting their parents, to head his new “Ron Paul Curriculum” homeschooling business.

Then this weekend Mitt Romney gave a commencement address at Southern Virginia University, during which he urged graduates to “Have a quiver full of kids, if you can.”

Quiverfull, really?

The remark doesn’t seem to have generated that much attention, and I think a lot of people just skimmed over it as another Mitt Romney awkwardism — a random stab at a hearty, folksy way of saying “lots.”

But it’s not, at least not in the context of having children. “Quiverfull,” from Psalm 127 (“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man/so are children of the youth/Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them”), is the chosen name of a movement in conservative Christianity that opposes all forms of family planning or birth control.

And I think it’s worth emphasizing that “any” there. What normal people would think of as birth control — condoms, the pill, etc. — is obviously out. So is the rhythm method. So is abstinence — married couples are expected to be “open to conception” by having regular sex. Not performing is a failing on the wife’s part.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out how that sort of social movement could end up being bad for everyone in it, and there are plenty of horror stories out there if you want to read them. You’re talking about a group that believes women should marry young, have as many children as they’re physically capable of, and homeschool their children to do the same. Daughters obey their fathers until they’re married, and their husbands after that. The results are fairly predictable.

So, full circle — if Mittens wants to stand up and tell people that they’ll be happier if they get married and have kids young, that’s gross and sort of an abuse of his enormous privilege and power, but it’s not really a scandal.

When he decides to name-check a specific and abuse-ridden subset of conservative Christianity — and that’s pretty much the only meaning of the phase “quiver full” — that’s more deeply problematic.

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