The Duggars have been representing Christianity (at least their version of it) to millions of viewers for 7 years. Their show 19 Kids And Counting has made them a household name and has brought the Independent Baptist lifestyle to the forefront of American culture.
What does that mean?
Well, all their kids are home-schooled and are only exposed to select media. They wear modest clothing, don’t swim in public (because “it’s just too hard for the guys to try to keep their eyes averted”) and don’t believe in any kind of contraception… precisely why it’s 19 kids and counting.
The only thing my family has in common with the Duggars is that we believe in Jesus as Savior and we do our own haircuts (both families do it to save money, but I have the advantage of being able to learn how to do it by watching YouTube).
On May 22, 2015, TLC suspended airing the show after the Duggars’ eldest son, Joshua, confirmed reports that when he was a teenager, he molested five girls. He was legally a minor at the time of the misconduct, which happened before the start of the show. Records obtained from the Springdale, Arkansas police department show that Josh Duggar confessed to his father, Jim Bob Duggar, that he had molested five girls when he was 15. Jim Bob then waited more than a year to contact police, according to InTouch.
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh Duggar, 27, said in the statement posted on the family’s Facebook page.
As Samuel Bavido wrote, “Long before questions about the status of a reality TV show, or the reputation of a family, or the job of a B-list celebrity enter our minds, we should be asking about the victims. Have they been given access to quality counselling? Is there any way to protect them from media attention? How have they been able to cope with the trauma of this abuse? Rather than posting a “I stand with the Duggars!” picture, or a status berating TLC for promoting this family, wouldn’t it be a much better idea to boldly proclaim, “I stand with the weak, with the innocent, with the abused”?
He continues with, “Whatever happens to a TV show isn’t that big of a deal. Whether Josh Duggar should have resigned or not doesn’t actually matter all that much. How this affects the public perception of Jim Bob is very trivial. There are much, much weightier issues here. How can we, as a society, support and affirm the value of victims of sexual abuse, both these particular women and millions of less famous women? Isn’t that really a more important topic for conversation?”
Yes it is.
Still, I have no doubts that God cares for the Duggars. I am convinced that Jesus died for the sins of Joshua (the ones committed as a teenager, and the ones committed today). And he seems to be honest and repentant. I will believe the best in my brother.
Yet as Christians (representing the Good News of Salvation) we should be the first one to stand for the broken and the hurting. We have been empowered from above to care and heal the victims. And it is our privilege as individuals and communities to walk in the humility that says, “This is what I have done. I take full responsibility. How can I make it right?”
This is not just a Duggar family issue. This is a Christian family issue. Pride is robbing us from the most beautiful expression of our faith.
The church has to stop caring so much about hurting its own perception and start caring about the hearts of those hurting.
Our spiritual communities have to be places where we shine a raking light into the blackest spaces and drive all the demons out into the open. Much too much of our legacy for far too many years, has been of a Church sacrificing victims’ needs on the altar of Public Relations management. – John Pavlovitz
What if we stopped being so protective and started being more vulnerable? What if we embraced being honest and stopped being fake? What if our “holy” image was at the bottom of the agenda and we started to call things as they are, when it happens, and not when it’s convenient for it to come out?
The perfect tension for us now is to show extravagant grace to the sinful man, and at the same time, empower him to be fully responsible to restore that which was broken.
Excuses have no place in the Kingdom of God. It’s the truth that sets us free.
Trust me. I don’t speak as a victim (although I have experienced abuse in my own life), I speak as one who has fallen into the trap of power, fear and chauvinism. I have not been a sexual abuser, but I have been a verbal and physical one. My sins did not land me in prison or in front of the national media but they almost cost me my marriage. My darling wife was trapped in fear and I was trapped in shame and pride. I would say things like, “My behavior is not that bad, other people are way worse, and 99% of the time I’m a good guy…” but still, my wife felt unsafe, confused and conflicted.
One day she said “enough” and we began to get help. Our pastors, our close friends and our counsellors began to walk the long road of restoration with us. It’s been a painful journey. It’s still a work in progress. But we’re so glad we started.
Because maybe, I would have end up being the next Josh Duggar.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:25
Most Christians look at the Duggar family as a different expression of our faith. But I think they are just an extreme manifestation of what most Christians struggle with. They seem to live out loud what we preach in quiet. Things like, “The world is pure evil”, “Women are inferior”, “Gays will contaminate us”, “It’s safer in the bubble,” etc.
And in that worldview, protecting the leader and the image, becomes more important than being truthful.
Let’s not use our strength to act cowardly anymore. Let’s not justify our abuse with Scripture and spirituality. That’s how the slave owners justified slavery in America. That’s how religious protestors justify their hatreds towards others. That’s how religious leaders justified their murder of Christ.
It needs to stop.
Whenever we do anything (let it be physical, emotional, spiritual or verbal) from a place of power, and that action devalues the other person to a place of powerlessness, it’s abuse. Plain and simple. The church has been able to expose the sins of the world, but we should first start by not hiding the rampant sexual and domestic abuse that rules behind our close doors.
[bctt tweet=”Dear Church, everyone is broken, stop pretending like you’re not.”]
The word Repentance (both in the Hebrew and the Greek) literally means to turn, to change direction, to redirect. Crying and kneeling and saying sorry, can be signs of repentance, but they are not repentance itself. Repentance is a 180 towards honesty and transparency and truth. And it’s not until we eliminate all traces of blame shifting that we’ll encounter freedom from the guilt and the shame of our transgressions.
Repentance is intentionally bringing to the light the things that were done in secret.
We need to head in a different direction. Catholics, Protestants, Independent Baptist (and everyone else who believes in the Grace of Christ) the time has come to stop blaming what women are wearing, to stop blaming what Hollywood is showing, to stop blaming what politicians are endorsing, and start dealing with our sin. We either clean house, or we stay quiet and live in filth.
God is not afraid of our failure, we are. That same God loves us too much to keep us in darkness, even when the light hurts. And He is always willing to heal Josh, and his victims, and the whole body of Christ.
It starts with abusers owning their abuse. It moves to the victims walking in radical forgiveness. It ends with the Church not hiding its weakness.
Yes, it is counterproductive to fight for purity, rightness and the scriptural definition of marriage, while continually being exposed as abusers and predators. It’s even more counterproductive when we excuse our sin because it was done a long time ago, or because the victim had a “measure of responsibility”, or because the Bible tells us to forgive (which most people use it as a way to tell the abused ones to shut up).
If reputation continues to be more important than righteousness, sin will continue to be the master and truth will remain a prisoner of shame.
It’s time for us to be the first ones to admit, own, and take responsibility for our actions in order to deal with the consequences.
Adam and Eve taught us to hide. Jesus invites us into the light. Healing is the recipe. Restoration is the goal. Grace is God’s formula.
It’s not just the time for Joshua Duggar to repent, but you and I with him.
“Change is not found in defending our righteousness, but in admitting our weakness and crying for help.” – Paul Tripp author of A Quest For More: Living For Something Bigger Than You.