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by Vyckie

The comments on Hopewell’s latest Duggar piece are particularly interesting to me ~ especially when compared to the reactions over at Free Jinger ~ Quiverfull of Snark, where the consensus seems to be that Hopewell graded the Duggars way too generously.

What’s important to notice about this article ~ and Nikita’s comment really made this point ~ is that in delineating that very long, tedious 49-point list and giving the Duggar family a grade on how they measure up ~ it really highlights the tremendous amount of legalism, the impossibly high (and often warped) standards ~ and just how unrealistic this Quiverfull ideal is: Not even the Quiverfull Royalty ~ not even practically-perfect-in-every-way (and that’s not snark) Michelle Duggar can live up to the expectations which are held up as the biblical criteria for a truly Godly family.

Christian families can knock themselves out ~ they can try with all their might ~ but they’re chasing after an elusive and unrealistic dream and they’re on the road to burn-out, overload, disenchantment and in some cases, heartache and a crisis of health or loss of faith.

When we see the long, exhausting, impossible list ~ it becomes clear and undeniable that NO-ONE, no family ~ is going to measure up.  The Duggar family does a valiant job ~ but it requires a lot of juggling, self-sacrifice, and non-stop work, work, work on the part of every available helper ~ it’s an elaborate and delicately balanced house of cards which is entirely dependent upon everyone contributing 110% of their time, energy, talent, etc.  Not one of them can afford to take a rest long enough to catch their breath and really think about what they’re doing.

I say this all the time ~ but this cannot be repeated too often: The Quiverfull life is unsustainable ~ the older daughters bear the burden ~ they make it possible ~ they lose their childhoods, their individual identies, their selves, and sometimes, their sanity. 

I realize this 49 Character Qualities report card is not typical of NLQ ~ it is not making nice (though I agree that Hopewell has been fair and even generous with the Duggars) ~ but I do believe it belongs here like a mirror ~ to reflect back to QF families the image they are trying to project ~ that of a perfect, godly family ~ and hopefully, they can take an honest look.  If what they see appears unflattering ~ rather than fault the mirror, it’d be more productive to ask, “Why are we accepting this man’s idea of what a Godly family should look like?”

In the same way that mature, self-confident women can look at the perfect, unblemished faces gracing the covers of “women’s magazines” in the check-out line ~ and rather than rushing over to the beauty counter to purchase every available product, or feeling inadequate and ugly ~ grown-up women evaluate and judge themselves based on what qualities of beauty are important to them as unique individuals ~ this NLQ’s approach to the Duggar family.

Just as no reasonable person looks at the covergirl models and truly believes that level of perfection is actually achievable or even desirable ~ so too, when we observe high-profile Quiverfull families such as the Duggars ~ it makes sense to watch with a healthy skepticism ~ we can appreciate their good qualities ~ without feeling dissatisfied with our own families and putting pressure on ourselves, our husbands, and our children to be the epitome of Godly family perfection.

Oh ~ and a P.S. ~ Happy Birthday, Michelle!♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

We at NLQ really do admire you ~ we’re just trying to keep perspective and not get all starry-eyed and entranced when we see your beautiful, ginormous, seemingly perfect family on TLC, the Today Show, and on the cover of People magazine when we do our grocery shopping.

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

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  • Kristen

    What I see is that some of the “low grades” the Duggars received in the article, reflect areas where it is impossible for this lifestyle to bear good fruit (in the form of character qualities or anything else). The Duggars have strengths and weaknesses, like all families. But every lifestyle choice also has its strengths and weaknesses, and some of these weaknesses are inherent to living the way they do. The weakness that I find most unsustainable according to my own understanding of Christianity, is that “love your neighbor as yourself” becomes impossible. There is no time to love your neighbor; there is also no place to love yourself. Self-sacrifice becomes all-consuming to the point of self-abnegation, and real needs fail to be met.

  • Al

    I think most of all, even if they “scored” perfectly on the list that Nikita made (which I did think was too lenient, but also recognize that my worldview is likely quite different)….is that it is reasonable to ask, are they happy?

    Living up to 49 arbitrary qualities seems really silly when you look at the big picture.

  • Donna

    The Duggar children are indeed beautiful. With that said, no one in mainstream life is interested in being handed a family photo of the Duggars by Jim Bob and Michelle. Do they honestly think complete strangers would be so infatuated with their family picture that they would hurry on home, throw out their own family picture out of a frame and replace with with the Duggar photo? Is there something very weird about this whole thing? I mean, most people cringe when people pull out their wallet and out comes 100 photos which have to be looked at and then you’re supposed to “ooh” and “aaww” every photo, trying to feign interest. Why do they think they are so special? And they represent a “Godly, Christian family”?

    Now, do we see why people are getting turned off of Christianity? Between the Duggars and their Nike/defrauding/buddy/slave sytem cr*p, Bill Gothard and his 49 character qualities (why not make it an even 50), Vision Forum, the Botkin, Pat Robertson and the Haitian people selling their souls to the devil in order to escape from slavery and acquire independence, Ted Haggard and his “I bet I know where you were last night” (his line from Jesus Camp documentary, is it any wonder that people are thinking WTF and getting out. If the Duggars would just live their live in quite and peace and let others do the same, none of this would be an issue, but hello, no, EVERYONE has to be convinced about how morally superior they are to everyone else. What do you Duggar supporters think will happen? People just to roll over and say, go on and take a dump on me; I’m lovin’ it!

  • Brittany

    I agree with everything you’ve said here, Vyckie, except that the Duggars are worth admiring. They (the adults) have done nothing that is admirable, at least not that I can see.

  • ANM

    I agree, Brittany. Michelle Duggar is a warning sign and object of pity, perhaps, but someone admirable? Not even one tiny bit.

  • 4 Leaf Clover

    Vyckie, thanks for the clarification. There is a huge difference, though, between criticizing people and their lifestyle choices and pointing out that legalistic adherence to external perfectionism is damaging. The problem is, I think, that the individual choices don’t really matter so much as the legalism. It seems to me that it should be perfectly possible to lead a “Quiverfull lifestyle” ie. big homeschool family and whatnot, with grace and that it’s possible to be a legalistic liberal Episcopalian with two children and an egalitarian marriage.

    The Duggars may not be perfect, but if they are living lives of grace (and I don’t see how anyone can read their hearts over the air) then I guess they’re doing okay no matter how weird, imperfect, misguided or even sinful some of the things they do may be.

  • Staceyjw

    It really annoys me how Gothard tries to claim those characteristics as his own special invention, when they are just a collection from common morality (in most cases). He acts like you cant have those things without the VF and fundie xtianity; he sells the “cure” and this has made him a wealthy man. Take away the VF commentary and the bible quotes, and you have what most of mainstream and secular America wants for their kids. Generosity? Thrift? respect? These concepts do not belong to the VF or any religion, no matter what Gothard says.

    Theres nothing wrong with aiming for perfection,its good to have a goal. The problem is when you don’t realize that its OK not to attain it, because no one is perfect. some people
    use these perfect images to beat themselves up, which is unfortunate because it doesn’t help, but does hurt. When you add god into the mix, and you think that you have to do all these things to please youur god/savior, it becomes even more destructive for the type that desires approval from the religious community (and god).

    I can’t say much about the Duggars, as Ive only seen the show. If it IS a good representation of their family, I think they do a commendable job and stick to their faith. This doesn’t mean that I agree with them, or think their ideal is positive, just that by their own yardstick, they are doing great. By societies yardstick they are successful, but there is a price for that success. and they are backwards about womens rights, but we all knew that.

  • nikita

    Just for the record, it was not me who wrote the article with the list, it was Hopewell. I simply commented upon the fact that anyone would make up such a list for anyone to seriously attempt to follow, that it was set up for failure and misery if one were to attempt to live perfectly by it’s commandments. It was my comment that Vyckie was referring to in the article.

    Forty-nine seems odd, why not fifty? I think it’s because seven is a ‘magical number’ in scripture, representative of spiritual things. Seven is used frequently in parables and prophecies. What I find interesting is that a man asked Jesus if a man sin against you, how many times must you forgive him? Seven? And Jesus said seventy times seven. Now, that is scripture speak for very many many many times. It is also 490. Seven times seven is forty-nine. So when I see Gothard’s forty-nine commandments I am reminded that we were actually commanded to forgive one another, not tally up each other’s faults or obsess over our own excessively in a navel-gazing manner. I find the numbering of Gothard’s commandments to be sadly ironic in that way.

  • Al

    Sorry…I totally meant hopewell in my response. Error on my part.

  • Gracie

    I agree. Getting pregnant and having so many kids isn’t admirable. Jim-Bob and Jchelle trained their older kids to raise the younger ones. There is a lot of pressure on the older ones to do what they’re told about the younger ones. DOn’t do it and you’re breaking the rules and will go to hell. This isn’t admirable. This is emotional manipulation.

  • Gracie

    Gothard is a cult leader. Period. He devised a system that no one can achieve, and if you don’t, you’re a failure. Pay for his help. PAY HIM, DAMMIT. It’s a money-making scheme relying on peer pressure to keep going. A childless ad unmarried person isn’t someone to take advice from on raising a family, yet he’s convinced who know how many thousands of families into believing he knows best how to do what he’s never even tried to do.

  • 4 Leaf Clover,

    The problem is that the Duggars do not live lives of real grace according to grace as the Apostle Paul defined it. They live out Gothard’s warped version of merited favor that is earned through looking right on the outside to prove to the world that you’re a particular way on the inside, demonstrating your holiness to the world. They live the image consciousness and perfectionism that David Henke listed as two of the five criteria of spiritual abuse. I don’t presume to read their hearts over the air (though I’ve never watched the program). I’m observing both the fruit of their lives lived and the fruit of the doctrine that they teach.

    Personally, I feel sorrow and compassion for them because I was once caught in the same kind of trappings that they are in terms of spiritual abuse. The lifestyle is oppressive, always trying to measure up and understanding God through making yourself holy enough through what you do. I sincerely hope that they can eventually get some fresh perspective and can manage to get off the gerbil wheel at some point, though I think that things are a bit too lucrative to make perspective worth their while.

  • mamawama

    I agree completely with 4 leaf Clover. Aiming for perfect life in a legalistic way would be damaging for anyone, but I don’t believe that the Duggars are trying to be perfect. I think the Duggars have goals. It is something to aim for, and to teach the children. Of course they fall short because everyone sins. I think it is wrong to criticize them for falling short, and then make a report card about them. I believe the Duggars have grace for their own children when they make wrong choices, but no one else seems to extend that grace to the Duggars.

  • mamawama

    I agree that Gothard has just taken everyday morals and expounded on them. He has put them into a teachable format. There are many other places to get these same morals, but Gothards are nice and laid out. I think the important thing is to not forget to teach them to our children and exhibit them ourselves. This website seems lacking in many of them, like compassion.

    I also agree that many people use perfect images to beat themselves up, but this is not isolated only to QF people. Even Wiccans want to be the best in their beliefs. I don’t see any proof that the Duggars beat themselves up over not being perfect. I’ve seen the Duggar kids eat off the floor ( remember that episode?) but I don’t see Michelle freaking out over it, blaming herself, punishing her children and expecting “perfectionism”. She often says things about kids just being kids.

  • Time to face the music armed with this great ifnromatoin.

  • ruth

    the duggars think that they are better than the world but they not i am very good mum than michelle never be i am better than duggars i live in uk which better counrty than us my son is has got very high grades in school and the duggars children are thick

  • ruth