With the success of the American cable television series, “19 And Counting,” which depicts the lives of the large Duggar family, there has been an interest in what has been called “the QuiverFull movement.” A growing number of conservative Christians are advocating that having large families is a blessing from the Lord. In past centuries large families were common, but in the last several decades we have instead seen the advent first of the “nuclear family” of two children, and now the “singleton” family with only one child. Recent studies have found that one-child families, also known as “onlies” or “siblingless,” are on the rise.
My parents both came from families of seven children, and both had a wonderful close relationship with their siblings throughout their lives. As a child I had never heard of the QuiverFull movement, but had always wanted to have a large family too. When I met and married my wife, she was less enthusiastic about the idea of a large family than I was, but after the birth of our first daughter we were planning our second child when the unthinkable happened. My wife was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, and it was rapidly spreading throughout her body. It did not help her frame of mind that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, widow of President John Kennedy, died the month before my wife was diagnosed with the same disease. The situation was dire, even with chemotherapy treatments, and my wife credits the prayers of the saints in our church congregation for her survival. Still, it was a rough four or five years before the cancer was finally deemed in remission, and her physical health and stamina has never fully recovered. So has ended my quest for a large family!
It may therefore seem a bit hypocritical for me, with only one child, to be an advocate of large Christian families, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is best for the individuals as well as the nation. An internet search on “only child” uncovers numerous websites in which feelings of emptiness and loss are expressed by the siblingless, grieving for the brothers and sisters they never had. There are regular only child conferences and workshops as well.
What does Scripture say? The full quiver advocates often quote wise King Solomon’s advice in the brief but eloquent Psalm 127: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 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: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”
A few weeks ago, the subject came up during one of our church Bible studies, and someone asked how many arrows exactly are in a full quiver? There were several answers in the room, one person sure that five was a quiver full, someone else thought fifteen, and I recalled somewhere reading that it was a dozen. Perhaps all of our answers were correct, as we found in an internet search on the topic.
According to an article posted on answers.com, a full quiver is, “as many as it can hold! There are a wide variety of quiver and arrow types. Most modern hunting quivers hold somewhere around five. Most medieval quivers were sized to hold between ten and fifteen, with an even dozen being the number most commonly alluded to in literature. Personally I have never seen one designed to be carried by a foot archer that would hold more than twenty. It would, of course, be possible to do so, but arrows tend to bulk up quickly, so the practicality is questionable.”
The Duggar family announced recently that they have recently lost in pregnancy their twentieth child, and advancing age may now be a factor in ending their quest for more children. They, as well as the full quiver movement as a whole, have come under increasing attack from atheists and the liberal media. They have been called a “cult” and other derogatory names, although it seems the real reason is that atheists simply fear any increase in the number of Bible-believing Christians. The fact that hateful names are being directed at parents for their personal desire to have children shows the sorry Spiritual state of our country.
Many full quiver parents do indeed want to build an army for God, and author Nancy Campbell says that the womb is a “weapon against Satan.” No wonder the atheists are on the attack! Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar in particular have been attacked with falsehoods, and have stated, “Even though Wikipedia and some Internet blogs report that we are part of a QuiverFull movement, we are not. We are simply Bible-believing Christians who desire to follow God’s Word and apply it to our lives. God says children are a gift and a blessing, and we believe it.”
The British Guardian newspaper, in a lifestyle story published in March, 2009, stated, “In 1972, 18 per cent of [British] children were living in a one-child household. This had risen to 22 percent in 1981, remaining at a steady level until 1991 and rising again to 24 per cent in 2001. By 2007, the last year for which figures are available, 26 per cent of the UK’s children were living without siblings.” The same article also states, “The US Census Bureau reports that women approaching the end of their childbearing years in 2004 had an average of 1.9 children, compared with 3.1 for their 1976 counterparts. In New York, more than 30% of children are only children.”
It is likely that the number of singleton children will continue to rise. Is this a good thing? Psychotherapist Bernice Sorenson says, “I’ve been surprised at the number of people I hear from who have spent their whole life wishing they had a sibling,” she says. “Usually they’re people who have been brought up in isolated places. They feel a huge lack in their lives. Generally it comes to a head later in their life, especially when their parents get older.”
According to the Guardian, “Without doubt the biggest challenge for onlies is the realisation that when your parents need care, the burden will fall squarely on your shoulders, and when they die you will be left alone. At that point, a sibling can be a huge comfort.”
At the turn of the last century, psychologist Granville Stanley Hall likened being an only child to having a “disease.” And in the 1920s, Austrian psychoanalyst Alfred Adler stated that an only child is in danger of suffering egocentricity.
Mary Pride’s 1985 book, “The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality,” is credited with popularizing the QuiverFull movement. In the book, Pride called family planning “the mother of abortion.” This is no doubt yet another reason for the unseemly attack on those who wish to have larger families.
The Bible instructs us in the very first chapter of the book of Genesis, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen. 1:27-28)
Solomon was surely divinely inspired to see family life as a blessing and our children a wonderful heritage. Let us encourage our own young people to take Solomon’s wise advice!