Monday, August 13, 2012

First the Duggars, Now the Bates

I ran across an interesting bit of news in the course of my morning browse of the internet and I thought I'd throw it out there.

Apparently, the Bates family of Tennessee will be launching a new reality TV show that premiers today on TLC.

The Bates are a fundamentalist Christian family with 19 children who stepped into the spotlight because of their lifelong friendship with the ever-popular Duggar clan. The Duggars themselves began their path to popularity with a documentary entitled  "14 Children and Pregnant Again!" , which eventually evolved into the long-running reality show that we know today as "19 Kids and Counting".

As their websites suggest, both the Bates and Duggar families subscribe to a Christian doctrine that forbids any kind of birth control, including the rhythm method. They also incorporate other practices from the extreme end of Christian fundamentalism including homeschooling, "courtship" rather than dating, submission of the women to their fathers and husbands and trips to Ken Ham's creation museum. Collectively, these beliefs and practices are called "Quiverfull" by outsiders. This name comes from the Psalm 127:3-5 verses:

"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"

It goes without saying that I am very critical of most of the beliefs espoused by Quiverfull Christians, including the Duggars and the Bates. I think that ultimately, there is one fact we need to remember while watching "19 Kids and Counting" and the Bates' new show: it doesn't matter how "Christian" these families are, the shows are still reality television. In YouTube comment sections of videos of these shows, I often see comments like this (ignore the awful grammar, it's YouTube):

It's very easy to believe watching the show that this family is nearly perfect, always happy and that they remain steadfast and strong, even in struggle. Unfortunately, the truth about many Quiverfull families is not so ideal.

I would like to point my atheist friends to No Longer Quivering, a website dedicated to supporting and telling the stories of real women who lived and escaped the Quiverfull lifestyle. There is also an excellent interview with the site's creator, Vyckie Garrison, on the Godless Bitches podcast. Predictably, the Quiverfull movement is not the slice of paradise portrayed by the Duggars.

That being said, I'll probably check out the "United Bates of America" TV show if only for the facepalms that it will inevitably result in. It just depresses me that this is a form of Christianity that is gaining popularity and interest. For this reason, we should keep it on our radar.