Why the Duggar Scandal Matters

Before I even begin, I want to preface this with saying that I in NO WAY condone any form of sexual molestation. My heart breaks for the girls who have been abused and I do not agree with what has happened here. While I cannot exactly relate to their situation, I can certainly empathize with what they must be going through as several of my loved ones have experienced similar situations. End disclaimer.

Yesterday was a rough day in our house. I’ve not made it any secret to my friends and family that I adore 19 Kids and Counting, the TLC reality show that follows the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family. Their show has been uplifting, positive, and Christ-centered, and I have watched it since their first TV special eons ago. So, when the news broke this week that Josh, their oldest, has been involved in a case regarding the molestation of what appears to be several young girls, including family members, I was shocked and appalled. I read the 33 page police report that was released online, and my stomach turned over at the allegations, which I was still holding out hope were unfounded or exaggerated. When the Duggars issued their statement to the media last night, the situation was confirmed and the media backlash, long brewing against the family, began in earnest.

It’s really caused me to evaluate my response to things like this. Here we have a very public figure, from a very public family, who has made a very private and devastating mistake. One of the major issues in the situation is that the family downplayed it, and that there wasn’t formal rehabilitation at the time the police were notified. That is a big issue. I’ve seen a TON of condemnation on social media from people saying that once someone offends they are doomed to offend again and again. I disagree and don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that–therapy, rehabilitation and Jesus Christ all make it extremely possible for someone who has offended to change their lives. No, they cannot undo their past or change the ramifications of what they’ve done, but they can seek forgiveness from the Lord and from those they’ve hurt [which, for the record, Josh Duggar did according to both the police report and his public statement]. The media firestorm has centered on the Duggars public persona. They come across as squeaky clean, modest to the extreme, and they put a huge emphasis on sexual purity. They are conservative in literally every way that one can be, and Josh has made a name for himself lobbying in Washington, DC for the FRC, committing much of his career to supporting traditional “Christian family values.” The LGBT community opposes the Duggars, and especially Josh, for their hard stance against marriage equality. Obviously this has put the Duggars under even more scrutiny.

J and I were talking about it last night, and here are my thoughts as a result of that conversation (for what they’re worth):

  • I still, 100% believe that the Duggar family is a Christian family. They have exemplified that in hundreds of ways over the years that they have been in the spotlight. I see literally ZERO evidence, even in the wake of this tragedy, to suggest that they are not “really” Christians.
  • Christians sin. Sometimes they commit heinous, awful, unfathomable sins. This is a horrible situation, and he did intense psychological harm to his victims (because that’s what they are, let’s not forget them in the midst of all this, PLEASE!!). If Christians didn’t sin, there would be no need for the cross, no need for Jesus’ death and the atonement for sins that it offers. Salvation would be irrelevant. Jesus died to cover ALL the sins. Even the horrific ones. And if we can’t accept that His once for all sacrifice was sufficient to cover Josh Duggar’s 14-year-old mistakes, then how can we believe our own sins, no matter how minor or how major, are covered??
  • No one is talking about the girls. I hope and pray that they have received help and that they are healing. I can’t even imagine what they are going through.
  • Christians, be prepared to see the Duggars strung through the mud in really sad ways. This is how quickly a reputation and testimony can be destroyed. It’s so important for us to be mindful of how the things we do affect how the world sees us, and therefore Christ through us. There will be plenty of the “so this is how Christians act?” nonsense floating around the internet for weeks. See bullet point 2. But..
  • We can’t expect a fallen world to do anything less. The name of Jesus Christ is hated in this world. His followers are hated, sometimes for nothing, sometimes because of the mere fact that they are human, too. In fact, I know I’m opening myself up for criticism of my faith and my life just by sharing my personal thoughts on this blog. It’s dumb, but it’s the way it is, and Jesus promised us before He left this earth that it would be that way.
  • (This is completely my opinion and I could be totally wrong about this.) Could it be that their rigid, super-modest upbringing had something to do with this? I’m not excusing Josh in any way, but let’s remember that he was YOUNG. Hormones were raging, pent up sexual tension was there, and they lived in a bubble of ultraconservativeness unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I can’t help but wonder if they were allowed to discuss their natural, human feelings and the sexual awakening that all teenagers have at that age. If that discussion was discouraged and their own sexuality was made to feel dirty, then in a family that large someone was bound to have an issue at some point. This may not be the last Duggar scandal that emerges.
  • Christians, don’t be the ones to throw stones. They DO need our prayers. They have a lot to recover from as a family, and maybe still have things to set right. The FIRST thing we should do when something awful happens is to pray, not withhold our support!
  • Those of us in ministry should let this instigate conversations and prayerful consideration of what we would do if this were to happen in our congregations. Do we have resources ready to call on? Do we have adequate training in crisis care to help the victims and families in the midst of the situation? Have we dealt with any painful past experiences that would influence how we minister to those around us?

I don’t intend to cause a debate by posting this. I just wanted to share my opinion on it, and to voice some of the things that I don’t see being acknowledged by any group. If you have comments please feel free to share–but please know I’m not going to publicly debate anything. That’s not me.

With all kinds of love,