Thursday, May 28, 2015
The Duggar Family Scandal
You are quite welcome to bypass this post if you like. I don't often comment on "current events" but will on some occasions. In this case, I feel like I need to flesh out my thoughts a bit, in part because I'm a long time fan of the Duggar family and have reviewed two of their books on this site. (See here, and here.)
As everyone in the whole world surely knows, it was lately revealed that Josh Duggar sexually molested several young girls, most of whom were his sisters, when he was fourteen years old. The facts are simple and straight forward and repeated ad nausuem everywhere you look. The family isn't saying much more than that, and it is unclear what, if any, additional facts will come to light. Since I started writing this post, one additional fact was unearthed and has had its day in the sun.
These sorts of scandals make me groan.Why? Not because I had the Duggars up on a pedestal. I didn't. I've always said I like the family and in certain respects I do still. I think they are fun and kind people and have had some really great tips on family life to share with others. (This might not be one of them though!!) Ultimately though, my faith is not based on their faith. No, it is based on scripture and on God Himself. He has not failed anyone, or stumbled. Nor was He surprised by any of this so why should I be? How about grieved? Yes. I am most certainly grieved which is different than saying I'm "at a loss." I am not a loss.
Really I think this topic has now been covered by enough people that there isn't much more than can be said. I can only state the conclusions that I've come to through much thought, deliberation, reading, examining and prayer, both for the family specific and the church in general.
My thoughts are more orderly when presented with numbers so I'm going to do that.
1. My faith is not shaken. Nothing surprises the Lord. He is a rock, sure and steady. My faith and trust is in Him alone. Public figures may fail (and will) and those close to me may wound me deeply (have and will) but those are the times when we rely on the strength and promises that the Lord has made not to forsake us. Yes, things can, do and will look ugly in our lives but God is bigger and greater than any problem we might face.
2. Forgiveness is a real thing, offered to each one of us because of the cross of Christ. Through Jesus' death and sacrifice, and because of His righteousness, we are forgiven and saved. (Romans 5:10) Yes, Josh Duggar gives every appearance to me of having repented and changed. I've no doubt he struggles with feeling forgiven, especially when this whole world seems to want to tear him limb from limb. His sins are forgiven. You might not like that fact. If you don't, I consider that your problem. And I do think that's a problem position to have.
3. God demands and requires justice when His people sin. Yes, He is also a God of love. The cross teaches both of these things: justice and mercy. The cross satisfies God's need for justice and offers us mercy which none of us deserve. It is a once and for all sacrifice but that does not mean that when we sin, we will not suffer consequences. God will not be mocked. Sin must be called out and dealt with appropriately. (Galatians 6:7-8) I liked this article by Russell Moore who explains that in this situation with Josh Duggar the state needed to be submitted to so that it could exercise its authority in seeing Josh receive the discipline and correction which he was clearly in need of receiving. To deny the victims justice is unacceptable. To deny the perpetrator justice is also unacceptable.
4. I am not a fan of Advanced Training Institute (ATI). There is a lot of hoopla in the media (and in Christian circles . . . rightly so) about the curriculum that the Duggars have used in teaching and training their children. The Duggars are members of Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Many, many, many others have written about the dangers of this organization and I feel no need to add to the stack of already-written-words. My position when it comes to ATI is that it is promotes bad-to-weak theology and frequently misrepresents scriptures entirely. My position in the past towards ATI is that there are well-meaning Christians inside of it who use their materials well and are by all accounts happy people who truly love the Lord. To some extent that is still my position except I would no longer hesitate to encourage other people to avoid curriculum, "tools", or programs which add to or subtract from scripture. I believe that ATI requires more from its members than scriptures do and that sets Christians who use it on shaky ground. I would urge strong caution against engaging with this organization.
5. I am not worried for the church. There is some amount of angst in Christian circles because of the perceived damage that the Duggars are bringing to the church. It is admittedly tempting to think this way. It's always frustrating when one well-meaning Christian "steps in it" and creates a big mess that all the rest of us are really forced to rise up and address. This situation is a good reminder to every Christian to always be ready to give an answer for your faith. (1 Peter 3:15) I have to say that although I am tempted towards being really annoyed at the Duggars, I just can't get too upset about what they may or may not be presenting to the world as relates to the church. For this I turn again to Galatians 6:7. God is not mocked in this. Josh Duggar is shamed. Jim Bob Duggar is shamed. God is not shamed. Not even close. He is perfectly capable of vindicating His name and He will receive ultimate honor and glory. Every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue confess that He is Lord. (Romans 14:11) I think it is something of a waste of time to fret over this particular aspect.
Has Josh Duggar made our Christian witness more difficult? Yes. But why should we be upset about that? Should that not be exactly as we should expect? I don't live this Christian life thinking that it's going to be easy or that the world will like me for it. (1 Peter 4:12-13) Let not your faith be shaken.
6. The Duggars are still a part of the Body of Christ, the church. I think a really poor response to the Duggar news is to say, "Oh, I totally knew they were going to end badly." This is not (just) a show. These are people. These are Christians. They are still Christians. And they aren't "ended." They are part of the Body of Christ. I really liked this article which talks about how we are called to weep with those who weep.
I think Christians forget that even though they don't live in the same geographical neighborhood as Josh Duggar, he is still a brother in Christ. He has a price to pay for his sins on this earth. He is paying it. But/and/then? He is redeemed. As a Christian, he is still part of your world. And if you believe what the scriptures say, then you will meet him one day.
7. His sisters (and one unnamed individual) are victims who have been denied justice from the state. This does not mean that they are incapable of true forgiveness. I was once the victim of an armed robbery at knife point. No, sexual assault was not a part of the equation, a fact I am extremely grateful for. I forgave my attacker. Unequivocally. No strings attached. Why? Because of the conviction that bitterness and fear were not going to cause him harm, but were going to hurt me immeasurably. (ATI didn't teach me that, by the way.) I forgave him and I also supported the idea that he needed to serve his time in prison for the attack, testifying against him at his trial. I understood that the state had a roll to play that was vital to the process. I also understood that I needed to forgive.
Go ahead and be mad at Josh. Be upset if you don't think that his sisters had a chance to deal with it appropriately. I don't think they did either. But by all appearances, they have managed to forgive. Do not hold that against them. A sin was committed against them. It is not your right to be angry if they are not angry. If they wish to express anger, they have many platforms that they can choose to address that from. That is their choice and not ours to be riled up about.
Yes, they are victims. No, I really do not believe the state was given the chance to act in the bringing about justice as even scriptures require. I think Jim Bob and Michelle have made some bad decisions when it came to addressing this situation head on. But I've watched the show enough to understand that the girls who were violated give every appearance of having truly forgiven and if that is so then that it something to rejoice in, not harbor third party bitterness about.
8. The Duggars are acting hypocritical. This is definitely the hardest conclusion I've drawn for myself. The main reason for the show is to share their faith and give an example of what they would deem to be an "ideal family situation." Well, Josh has sort of shattered that vision. When Jim Bob's statements about incest came to light, that did a number on my opinion. If you look at the timeline of events, I believe you see Jim Bob trying to hide facts about his family during a political campaign. I cannot admire that. Coupled with the commands in scripture to submit a person who commits these evils to the state for justice, I'm of the opinion that their television should most hastily and abruptly be pulled from the air.
The official Duggar Family Blog asks for their readers to support the show. They request that you contact TLC and ask that the show be continued. I followed the links and requested that the show be discontinued. I think it is important for many reasons, none the least of which is that what their family has said publicly about what God would have a family be and what was going on in the privacy of their home is completely different. Yes, it happened many years ago when Josh was a teenager. However, they didn't expose him to the state as scriptures would require and they were not upfront with others as to what had happened. When you decide that you want to run a political campaign, or star in a reality show and wish for people to believe you are who you say you are, then I think you need to be upfront and honest about your past. Without a confession of sin straight up, your testimony is made weak-to-unbelievable. (For the record though, I do believe their testimony of faith in Christ. I can just more clearly see and understand why others do not.)
I also think that they need time to process, grieve and perhaps forgive all over again. Yes, I have heard the news that there might be a spin-off show featuring the two married sisters and all I have to say to that is, "Give it up!" I know that these two girls are likely two of the victims and do not deserve censure, but the problem is that we all know what happened to them. If they do not wish to address the matter publicly, I consider that entirely their prerogative. But having their own show would just constantly remind the public that there is an elephant in the room. And I really don't have much tolerance for those types of elephants. My vote is that the Duggars need to "go private" and really delve into God's word, cling to the church, surround themselves with faithful counselors, and seek peace for their own family. We don't need to be witnesses to this process.
In summary, I consider the Duggar family to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. I forgive them, in as much as a member of their viewing public has the need to forgive. I am grieved for them. I wouldn't wish this situation upon a single person. They are being 'hard pressed on every side' and are greatly perplexed. But I do not believe that the Lord intends to destroy them. He has promised them what He has promised all of His people - that He will uphold us in His mighty hand. They cannot fall out of His grasp.
I do expect that their family will look much different one year from now than they do today. Trials are not fun to go through, but they are used by the Lord to change us into the people He would have us be. I both accept this and grieve.