I feel sick for Anna Duggar and her children.
The disgust, fear, sorrow, confusion and rage she must feel, even if she doesn’t express it. No woman goes into a marriage thinking that her husband will one day be exposed as a complete fraud. No woman expects to find out that her husband cold-heartedly set up accounts on a website catering to those looking for affairs. No woman is “okay” when she finds out that her husband molested his siblings (no matter what she might say).
I hope she has at least one person in her life, in her physical presence, who tells her that it’s perfectly acceptable to cry, scream, throw things and kick this man to the curb. Yes, God can and does work miracles. When repentance is real and raw He can do the impossible in anyone’s life. God also deals in realities. He never says that there aren’t consequences to our actions. He never says that women have to lay down and take such treatment. (Before you even go there with the whole “submission” and “forgiveness” thing, be aware that I will whip Ephesians 5:25 back in your face).
Yes, Anna should forgive. Not for him. Not for anyone else. For herself. To be free of the weight. It won’t happen today. It shouldn’t happen today. There’s a process. Grieving and questioning. Maybe their marriage can be healed and saved. Maybe. Even so, it’s well within the bounds of logic, love and holiness for her to demand a very lengthy separation. For the safety of her children. For her own safety.
Despite this hope of mine for someone to be a champion for and defender of Anna, I have no doubt that there are many voices in her ear, telling her a different story. One of stuffing the problems and keeping sweet. One of “supporting” her husband. One of taking at least a portion of the blame. If she’d only done this, if she’d only been that, he wouldn’t have strayed. Wouldn’t have made another “mistake.”
For that is the only reasonable conclusion to reach within a system that twists and turns Scripture to prop up fragile male egos. That views women as “less than.”
That’s not God.
The public outcry over this – I find it justifiable.
When people pursue the limelight – and what is a reality show if not a very blatant example of such a pursuit? – they invite comment. They invite criticism. They invite an audience. It’s ridiculous for public figures to complain about a lack of privacy. No, I don’t think that anyone should be harassed, but entertainers of all sorts should expect that one day their skeletons will emerge. Emails will be hacked and shared. Embarrassing photos will surface. Far better to be honest and up-front than allow the inevitable blow-up.
So when this family chose to put themselves out there, it was unreasonable for anyone involved to expect that the shiny image would remain intact (if there was a shiny image to begin with; this is debatable).
That said, of course Josh Duggar’s actions are not the actions of his entire family. His siblings didn’t do anything wrong. His wife certainly didn’t do anything wrong. Even though I am of the opinion that the way in which Mr. and Mrs. Duggar choose to operate their family contributed to their son’s problems – more on that in a moment – they didn’t create the Ashley Madison accounts. They didn’t hunt down strippers and porn stars (allegedly).
The fault, and therefore the blame, rests entirely upon the shoulders of Josh Duggar.
It blows my mind that there are those who can’t see this. For every person angered over what he has done to his family, there is one who defends him. For every one who would gladly offer money or shelter to Anna and her children, there is one who supports and echoes the blame-shifting. The hand-wringing in fundamentalist circles is reaching epic levels. See! We told you! Internet bad! TV bad! Music bad! Women working outside home bad! Man has no control over self!
They fling themselves deeper down the rabbit-hole of legalism.
Here’s the deal: IT DOESN’T WORK.
You can try to follow as many rules as you like. You can have your day scheduled down to the last millisecond. You can listen to ranting “sermons” (translation: screaming fits laced with conspiracy theories and eisegesis) about the state of the world. You can be King James only. You can be a homeschooling, head-covering, skirt-sporting mom of eleventy bajillion kids. You can be a dude who runs his own business because for some reason working for other people is bad.
You can toe every ATI/IBLP/Bill Gothard, Vision Forum/Doug Phillips, Best and Only Church Ever and Everyone Else is Going to Hell/Steven Anderson line out there. It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.
Because rule-keeping is not where abundant life is found.
Rule-keeping is not where Christ is found.
Sticking your head in the sand does nothing. Hiding yourself from the evil world does nothing. Because the Internet isn’t bad. TV isn’t bad. Books aren’t bad. Music isn’t bad. Art isn’t bad. If parents do not teach their children how to sensibly approach the world and everything in it – beyond “run away!” – then the kids wind up with no clue how to handle anything. If all they hear is “repress, shun, avoid,” eventually the volcano will erupt.
Because it’s not about the rules.
It’s about us.
If you go the route of self-righteousness, you’ll find you’ve got only yourself to rely on. And that’s truly frightening. How very easy it is, for a time at least, to maintain the perfect surface. How simple to go through the motions. Again, for a time. Eventually the facade comes crashing down.
Legalism doesn’t work. It will never work. Attempting to follow a long list of rules and regulations will not keep us from sin. Inevitably such a life ends in deep frustration and despair. We need a transforming encounter with Christ, one that reverberates throughout our remaining days. An encounter that inspires obedience flowing from joy in knowing the rich love of God.
Perhaps surprisingly, this obedience has very little to do with the style of clothes we wear or the movies we watch. Yes, our choices in these and other areas will be impacted and reshaped the longer we travel the road. It is right that the Holy Spirit should become our primary influence. But I have been wrestling out this thing called faith for a long time now, and I have yet to read anything in the Bible or receive any impression upon my heart that pants are bad or music is bad or books are bad or the Internet is bad or being a woman with a job is bad.
God is far more interested in my motivations for choosing the pants and the music and the books and the Internet and the job than the objects themselves.
Were the Duggars ever a perfect family? No. Never. Have they done themselves a disservice by falling into the trap made by rigid rules (and staying there)? Yes. Have they done harm to Christianity? In a way, yes. There are undoubtedly people who have watched their show and read their books and come away with the impression that this is how all Christians are. That this is the Gospel message.