Observations about the Duggars, Judgment, and Human Nature

WhenAWomanCoverFew people have received more media coverage in the past weeks than Josh Duggar and the Duggar family.

The family became well-known for their television show (Fill in Ascending Large Numbers here) Kids and Counting. Josh is the oldest of the Duggar children and in recent years has become an outspoken political voice among conservatives. (Paint target on his back here from both political liberals and Christians whose feathers are ruffled by girls in dresses and home schooling, among other Duggerish practices.)

I’ve watched the show on and off, which I find preferable to reality choices such as Honey Boo-Boo, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives of Places I’m Glad I Don’t Live. I can say that I don’t agree with everything the Duggars are purported to believe about childrearing and theology, but I do find them charming and loveable in many ways.

Josh Duggar was barely 14 when he engaged in irresponsible sexual behavior.

The same age as four people who engaged in similar sexual activities with people in my family. Other children responsible for the same kinds of actions were a few years younger or older than Josh. No one in my family chose to stone these kids, throw them in jail, or demand adult legal action.

I find several things interest about the public’s response to Josh Duggar and his family.

1. We judge those we dislike or don’t agree with more quickly than those we love or see as like ourselves.

Take a real look at your self-talk. Be honest. Many Christians who see themselves as “liberal” are simply “reverse Pharisees,” judging those more conservative in their choices in negatve ways. We see ourselves as liberated and above them, often speaking and acting condescendingly toward Christian brothers and sisters. We judge more harshly. I know few people who would want their fifteen year old child treated as Josh Duggar has been treated.

Who of us has actually has heard the facts firsthand, unfiltered by the media? How would you like your story told by someone who didn’t know you and whose job–at least in some news outlets–was to slant the facts and tell the story in the most sensational way possible in order to engage their readership? Someone who already has drawn a conclusion about your lifestyle and values?

Who of us has or is willing to apply the same standards of judgment to their loved ones and require the same kind of treatment many are demanding of Josh?


2. A “killer” lurks inside all our hearts.

The truth of the matter is that we ENJOY seeing the demise of those we dislike or disagree with. Competitive sports and politics are evidence. And if that’s not enough, think back on junior high and high school.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you’re an adult you’ve risen above the killer motives that lurks inside all of us that likes to watch the downfall of those we hate. The creators of reality television understand this principle better than most Christians do. My heart…and yours, is deceitful and desperately wicked…so wicked, in fact, that we don’t even recognize it most of the time. (Jeremiah 17:9)


3. As long as Satan can keep our panties in a knot about someone else, we take our eyes off our messed-up selves.

You see, Josh sinned because he’s a sinner, and I’m pretty sure he knows it because he’s admitted it. The people who are busy throwing stones at him are probably not taking the time to see how much they’re like Josh and every other sinner on earth. I, for one, and so messed up that Jesus had to die for me. The good news is that He’s changing me. But we can only be changed when we take the time to focus on our self-talk and movtives as we interact with others in this world.

I’m reminded that Jesus was a friend of sinners. If we’re to be like Him, what should our response be in balancing accountability and love from those who act irresponsibly and hurtfully?

4. We should place focus on the long-term wellbeing of abuse survivors.

Josh’s parents did the responsible thing. His actions were reported to authorities. Law enforcement investigated. The Duggars were public in their dealings. Josh went for counseling. Reports indicate that the Duggar family has been open and forthcoming.

However, survivors of these types of events internalize their experiences differently.

Forgiveness does not replace needed trauma therapy. If the sexual experience took place in an environment of intimidation, fear, threat, etc., the survivors may need ongoing therapy. Other women may need less professional care dealing with the violation that occurred.

But according to Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency, the children who were the objects of Josh’s actions do not match the definition of sexual molestation.

“We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm.”

Jessa and Jill Duggar have made it clear in media interviews that this incident was forgiven and in their past. If the media and pulic truly cared about so-called “victims,” they should respect their wishes and focus, instead, on the egregious violation of the law in leaking Josh’s juvenile records and publicizing details. 

According to Dawn Scott Jones, award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused, it’s important for true abuse survivors to do a thorough and honest inventory of the losses they sustained because of their experience before trying to move on.

In the media frenzy to destroy Josh Duggar, little has been said about the needed focus on the long-term wellbeing of the survivors.

The media and the public has missed the point. Their goal has been to crucify Josh and his family. No one would want their child’s DHS records unsealed, their past made public, and exploratory behavior common to fourteen year-old boys applied to their family and friends.

And NO, it doesn’t matter if Josh Duggar is a public figure. We all deserve the right to make mistakes as kids and move on. This is what juvenile court is supposed to help accomplish. And this is the core of Christian community. (I can dream, can’t I?).

Let’s at least pretend to be consistent. And let’s pretend to be consistent.

Abuse is not over when it’s over. Forgiveness, while an important step, is just ONE step toward healing. Don’t drag out a child’s past and ask for adult judgment. The true injustice is the victimization of the children and the entire family by the individual that released Josh’s records, the media that published it, and Christians who love to sling mud instead of focusing on their own dirty hands.


Your thoughts?


6 thoughts on “Observations about the Duggars, Judgment, and Human Nature

  1. I have been feeling similarly. I think Josh Duggar is being “taken down” because it is convenient. I think it’s a bit unrealistic to imagine that the general public cares so much about his victims, and other victims of sexual abuse that they want him strung up. I suspect that if the victims were major concern here, we possibly would allow them to lead in whatever way would be healing for them. For instance, if they say they have forgiven him, then, well, perhaps they DID. Not all people are the same! Some victims find it healing to pursue judicial vindication. Totally appropriate. Some prefer to quietly deal with things, possibly involving the law, but quietly. Completely fine. Some people prefer to forgive their abuser. Totally fine. It should be up to the survivors to choose their own healing journey. It’s not the uncaring public who should dictate. Or, quite frankly, any one but the victim him/herself. Sometimes, in our fervency to wage war on sexual violations, we end up with the survivors being victimized again, rather than empowered. Being bowled over, power taken from them.

    • People are missing the point and deferring to their histories and extraneous elements. 1. Upon learning of his actions, Josh Duggar’s parents reported his actions to authorities, who dealt with him as a juvenile, which he was. According to law, his records SHOULD HAVE REMAINED SEALED. 2. The political and religious beliefs of his parents, as well as their employment, are irrelevant to how he should have been dealt with by the law, but angry people insist that these are relevant issues, when legally, they are not. Thank you for your insight, Erika. Arguments against Josh seem to center around nonrelevant issues–people’s personal histories with abuse of power in their churches. This is also my history, and I disagree with much that the Duggars believe and practice. However, I love them as fellow Christians because I’m CALLED TO DO SO biblically. Yes, not all survivors are the same, and the public should not dictate action.

  2. Great questions to ask ourselves, Shelly. Your words are true even to those who don’t want to hear them. I too write about this from a similar vantage point … More so to other Christians about the chiming in loud with the world’s reaction. I have received a lot of support and thank you’s for writing it – even from abuse victims. I did get Unfriended on FB by two people for speaking out – very harsh reality when people want to rant and judge in anger, but the Church should not participate in it. Thanks for being a voice of forgiveness as Christ commands.

  3. Your comments are spot on. I do find it appalling that the state agency released records from underage crimes to the public. This should have been a matter that the families were allowed to deal with on their own as juvenile records are required to be sealed in these types of cases.

    • This is one point that the public seems to skip over–underage crimes are dealt with as juvenile matters. The Duggar family reported the situation because they believed it was the right thing to do morally and for those involved. This is documented in their public statements to the media. Thank you for your insight, Sharon.

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