The Duggar Scandal, Part Trois: Two Sex Scandals and Counting

Another day, another Duggar scandal:

As you probably recall, Josh Duggar also admitted to molesting his sisters and a family friend about four months, making this his second sex scandal in less than six month, which could be a record; even Jimmy Swaggart waited a couple of years before re-visiting prostitutes’ row.

If the molestation scandal didn’t put the nail in the Duggar family’s “ministry,” this revelation certainly will.

For much of 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggar family’s long-running TV show, Josh was the only of Jim Bob and Michelle many young adult children to be married. Josh’s courtship and marriage of his current (and hopefully soon to be ex-) wife Anna was the first storyline for the show. During their courtship, Josh and Anna were not only not allowed to kiss or hug, but they were never allowed to be alone with each other, and all of their phone calls had to be heard by the entire family. The rationale behind these absurd rules was ensuring that both Josh and Anna maintained not just sexual purity, but “emotional purity” as well. However, one could ask whether Josh and Anna were really able to get to know each other, since they were never given an opportunity to discuss their needs and wants in private. To me, it seems like the short-term desire for socially and religiously sanctioned sex among young people raised in Gothardism, the Christian cult the Duggars follow, trumps serious contemplation about whether the other person in question is really someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.

For about twenty-five years, courtship has been held up as a Christian antidote to conventional dating and the hook-up culture. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it is more successful in creating happy marriages than other methods. Read these accounts of failed courtships and quasi-arranged marriaged:

What stuns me is that the Duggars most ardent fans are more offended over Josh having cheated on his wife than the molestation of his own sisters. Is the institution of heterosexual marriage that sacrosanct that sullying the marital bed is more offensive than incest? I guess so. Perhaps this newest scandal indicated that Josh had not “repented” of his past “sexual sins” and his former defenders felt duped for having giving him the benefit of the doubt. To me, this indicates the problem with viewing these situations through the lens of “sin,” because molesting a five year old is put on the same level of wrongness as having an illicit affair between two consensual adults, when the two are actually quite different.

The question I have is why have so many conservative Christians defended the Duggars to the death? While conservative Christians claim to be “counter-cultural” and loving it, the truth is that they want mainstream acceptance just like everyone else. That the Duggars, a very conservative homeschooling family, could net a reality show on a secular network must have felt like a “win” for religious conservatives. The tribal nature of white evangelicalism that Fred Clarkson at Slactivist often discusses also explains why conservative Christians would feel an instinctive need to protect the Duggars, perceived to be “one of them,” from the supposed evil, secular, LGBT-friendly, Christian hating media. However, in doing so, they ended up defending the indefensible.

If nothing else, this newest Duggar scandal illustrates how worthless Gothardism and ATI are as guides for living. Gothardism teaches that rules-laden courtships, “emotional purity,” modest dressing, and isolationist homeschooling will lead to happy, emotionally fulfilling marriages, and “godly,” obedient children. Josh Duggar’s actions shows that these promises are a lie (and remember, Gothard says that his rules for living are like laws of nature, meaning that if something bad happens to you, you’re not following the rules enough). Despite all of his parent’s efforts to inoculate him from the “sinful” ways of secular culture, they couldn’t  do anything about the evil that was in his own heart, whether in molesting his young sisters or spending $1,000 on a cheating site when he has a wife and four kids at home who could have used used the money.

It also illustrates that the only people degrading heterosexual marriage are other heterosexual people. The “gay agenda” didn’t make Josh Duggar create two (!) profiles on Ashley Madison, spend upwards of $1,000 to get a “guaranteed affair,” or find hook-ups on OkCupid. If Anna Duggar chooses to divorce Josh and take the kids (which I find unlikely, given ATI is against divorce, but maybe she’ll come to her senses and realize her husband is a dud), it won’t be anyone’s fault but his own. As usual, the people complaining the most about other people’s morality, tend to be the ones who need to take a mirror to their own behavior.