Carefully Scripted Lives – The Real Reality of the Duggar Family "Blessings"

by Libby Anne

I can’t say how often I’ve heard ordinary Americans defend Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their popular TLC television show, 19 Kids and Counting. “I wouldn’t choose to have nineteen kids,” they say, “but if they can manage it, who am I to question their choice?” “The kids look happy and healthy,” they say, “look how polite and well mannered they are.” I hear these comments and I just have to sigh.

First of all, I want to pout out that I would have concerns about the Duggars even if they were your ordinary family plus seventeen extra children. For one thing, there is no way any two parents can give nineteen children the individual attention and time they need. It’s just not feasibly possible. The Duggars like to say that “love multiplies,” but the thing is, time doesn’t. And then, of course, there is the population issue.

But it’s not these things I’m going to discuss here. The fact is, the Duggars aren’t just your ordinary family plus seventeen extra children. There is a great deal of editing that goes into making TV, and one thing that gets edited out are the Duggars’ religious beliefs and their beliefs about child rearing. There is much, much more going on here than you see on TV.

I know this because I grew up in a family very much like the Duggars. We had a third fewer kids and we didn’t have a TV show, but otherwise it was about the same. Our beliefs were nearly identical to theirs, as was our way of living. When I look at the older Duggar girls, I see myself. I was them. With that in mind, I’m going to take a moment to outline nine specific concerns I have about the Duggars.

1. Isolation and Indoctrination

The Duggar childern are homeschooled in part in order to shelter them from bad influences, i.e. from other kids and teachers who hold different beliefs or live different sorts of lives. The Duggar kids don’t have friends who aren’t pre-approved by their parents. In fact, the Duggar kids aren’t even involved in church activities – their family participates in a “home church” where they and several other like-minded families get together on Sunday mornings and worship together.

Furthermore, even the older Duggar children are not allowed to go anywhere without having an “accountability partner,” i.e. another sibling, to keep tabs on them. When one of the older boys volunteered at the local fire department, one of his sisters always went with him to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t get in trouble.

Another reason the Duggar children are homeschooled is in order to teach them “God’s truth.” This means that they use religious textbooks, creationist science curriculum, etc. I understand that we have this thing called “freedom of religion” in our country, but I also believe that children have a right to an education, and teaching children one side of everything becomes indoctrination rather than education.

Not surprisingly, the Duggars’ computers have internet access limited to about seventy “approved” websites. To get unlimited internet access, the children – even the older ones – have to get a password from their mother and then have another sibling sitting by them watching the screen as they surf the web to make sure they stay out of trouble. The main reason for this is likely to keep the children from viewing internet pornography, but it also helps ensure that they don’t get subversive information or other viewpoints.

2. Children raising children

If you think Michelle is the one raising all of those kids, think again. Those older daughters, some of them already adults, are the ones who are actually doing the majority of the cooking, cleaning, and childcare. They are, in effect, raising their younger siblings.

Now I’m not saying Michelle sits back and watches soap operas while the kids work, but rather that with that many children there is simply too much for her to do on her own. She doesn’t have the time or energy to raise her children without her older daughters’ help. And fortunately, because the Duggars homeschool, those older daughters are available to help 24/7.

The Duggars have this thing called the “buddy system.” When each new child is born, that child is assigned to one of the older children. In this way, the older children are responsible for dressing, feeding, and even educating the younger children. Michelle hadthis to say about the buddy system:

This house would not work if we didn’t have the buddy system. The older children mentor the younger ones. They help them with their little phonics lessons and games during the day, help them practice their music lessons. They will play with them or help them pick out the color of their outfit that they want to wear that day, and just all of those types of things.

I’m all for siblings helping each other and playing together, but this goes way further than this. This is siblings raising each other. And as we’ll see, this means a lot of sacrifice for the older siblings doing the raising. [Read more...]

Maternal Martyr, Michelle Duggar, Willing to Risk Life for Baby #20

by Vyckie Garrison

Mega-family parents, Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 & Counting” fame announced on TODAY they are expecting baby #20 – due in April 2012.

Despite a difficult pregnancy and premature delivery of now-23-month-old, Josie, Michelle told TLC viewers she is willing to “lay down her life” for another baby.

“We do not take for granted the wonderful blessings of life that God has bestowed upon us!” writes Michelle on The Duggar Family website. “Many years ago, Jim Bob & I gave this area of our lives to God, allowing Him to grant life as He saw fit.”

The flip side of the Quiverfull ideal of “trusting the Lord with our family planning” which Jim Bob & Michelle embrace and promote through their TV Reality show, website, and numerous books, is that Michelle also accepts the possibility of her own or her baby’s deaths, should such tragedy occur, as God’s will.

In her book, The Way Home, Beyond Feminism and Back To Reality, Quiverfull proponent, Mary Pride explains that mothers who risk their lives for the sake of building the Kingdom of God are to be honored the same as missionaries:

“Routinely we send missionaries off to work in unsavory climates, knowing full well that they will probably come down with amoebic dysentery, be overheated (or frozen), receive inadequate medical care in second-rate hospitals, and on the average live ten years less than other people. But we don’t tell people not to be missionaries. Instead, we commend missionaries for their courage. 

“Missionaries go to foreign countries to beget new Christians; mothers get pregnant to be beget new Christians. Even if maternal missionary work has some hazards (and what missionary work doesn’t?), the noble way is to face them with courage. Likewise, we really ought to honor women with medical problems … diabetes, asthma, quadriplegia, arthritis, heart problems … who are willing to serve God with their bodies as mothers.  These are the unsung heroines of the modern church.  (p. 57 emphasis in original)”

To further understand Michelle’s willingness to risk her life, consider that Quiverfull leaders routinely downplay the health risks when questioned regarding the prudence of prolific motherhood.  Again, Mary Pride, citing page after page of examples of supposedly bogus health risks and throwing in as an added bonus, the “medical dangers of not having children,” encourages women to trust the Lord in the face of suffering:

“Devotees of evil will sacrifice all they have — money, health, reputation — to maintain their lifestyle.  If the actual threat of venereal disease or AIDS does not deter the wicked from their pursuits, why should the mostly phantom threat of “medical problems” deter us from ours?  God will stand by His daughters who are willing to serve Him.”

I explain this idealism which led me to repeatedly endure high-risk pregnancies and life-threatening deliveries in greater detail at No Longer Quivering: here and here.

Quiverfull moms are nothing if not consistent in their submission to the will of God – for better or worse.

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Corpses Don’t Rebel: A former follower of Michael Pearl’s "To Train Up A Child" reacts to the death of Hana Williams

Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of infant and child abuse.

httpv://youtu.be/BP3gvhaA4uo

This piece was submitted by No Longer Quivering member, “ExPearlSwine” – who understandably wishes to share her story anonymously.

The death toll from parents following Michael and Debi Pearl’s teachings continues to mount. Another child is has been “biblically chastened” to death via corporal punishment, and Michael Pearl is defending his teachings in the mainstream media while promoting his new book. Gary Tuchman and Anderson Cooper both reported on the death of 13-year-old Hana Williams, whose adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams subjected her to beatings and neglect while following the teachings of the Pearls.

Michael Pearl defends himself and his teachings during his CNN interviews using two arguments:

First, the presence of his book, To Train Up a Child, and the presence of his other teaching materials on “biblical chastisement,” in the homes of homicidal parents, is purely circumstantial. It makes no more sense, Pearl argues, to blame To Train Up a Child for discipline-turned-abusive-turned-murderous than to blame Alcoholics Anonymous brochures in the home for deaths due to drunk driving, or weight-loss materials in the home for obesity. As Anderson Cooper pointed out, this defense is illogical. AA literature says not to drink, especially while driving. Pearl literature emphasizes inflicting physical pain on children in order to break their wills and achieve total obedience to parents. In the Cooper interview, Pearl talks about physically chastising to “get the child’s attention.” What if your child still isn’t paying attention?

Pearl’s second argument comes up every time his teachings are linked to children beaten to death: kids end up abused and killed because parents, despite owning copies of his teachings and trying to follow them, aren’t really following his teachings. They are missing the joy part, the reconciliation part, the praying part, the loving part, or whatever. They discipline in anger instead of in love.

Or—and I suspect this is what Pearl really thinks but can’t say without contradicting his own child-training directions—they should have known when to stop, when they were being cruel and abusive instead of loving, even if the child was still in rebellion and hadn’t budged an inch. At some point, a loving parent with some sense and a conscience will stop inflicting more pain. This is what Pearl believes, or at least one would hope this is what he believes. This isn’t what he teaches.

I followed the Pearls’ teachings for years, and the children I subjected to “biblical chastisement” are very much the worse off for it. I’m wondering which part of Michael Pearl’s teachings he’d say I was missing:

  1. Get Pearl’s teachings and read every single word and pray. Check.
  2. Start striking infants with objects on the hand or in the buttocks area as soon as they are able to reach for something you don’t want them to touch and ignore your “No.” Check.
  3. Hit them harder if they continue. Check.
  4. When they cry, lovingly console them and “reconcile” them to yourself and God. Check.
  5. Always use physical chastisement on them when they don’t respond to spoken correction. Check. If I didn’t strike them, my husband did.
  6. Believe that they will end up juvenile delinquents and go to hell if you slack off. Check.
  7. Pray and study the Bible some more. Check.
  8. Be joyful about chastising your baby all day. Praise God while you slap a three-month-old’s hand with a ruler and think about how godly he’ll turn out. Half a check. It was hard.
  9. The children will quit rebelling and be wonderful children who sweetly, quietly obey and love you to pieces. . . No check.

This is what I was missing: the part where the Pearls’ teaching worked. Only one child out of the oldest four quietly obeyed in response to chastisement, but she also had signs of severe emotional disturbance. She withdrew into herself and didn’t speak until she was two. The other three oldest children out of my Quiver Full of kids would rebel. And rebel. They would go to the wall rebelling. They would rebel until the cows came home and the bulls came home and calves were born. The more you hurt them, the more they rebelled.

Michael Pearl has only three methods to deal with continued rebellion in children, since his teachings are straight from the Bible, and therefore infallible:

  1. Blame yourself. You must not be getting my teaching right.
  2. Hit harder. Pain is of the essence.
  3. Blame the kid. What else is left? Other people’s kids give in and act godly.

Oh, and don’t forget to be loving and joyful and kind and patient just like Jesus (only I can’t see Jesus removing the diaper of a baby to inflict any degree of pain on her whatsoever using any object or even his hand, by any stretch of my imagination). But don’t give in. Don’t stop chastising, and make sure it hurts. Don’t let the kid (and the devil in the kid) win.

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When Promises Become Dreams: Doing Marriage God’s Way

by AfricaTurtle

The title of Sierra’s Post “When Dreams Become Promises” stirred thoughts in me of another Dream, of other Promises that have brought their own dose of pain and disappointment and reality into my life: Dreams of an enduring, godly marriage and the Promises I made to God and myself in order to lay hold of that dream.

I made my first promise at the age of 14. “I promise to never date a non-christian”. It was the call to action given by a speaker at the summer church camp I attended that year. I knew it was right, I knew it was what God expected of me. How can “light fellowship with darkness”? Why would I build a life with someone I couldn’t hope to spend eternity in heaven with? What a heartache that would be! What a burden to bear, to be “unequally yoked”! I knew that God wanted what was best for me. I knew I could trust him. I knew I would never “compromise” my walk with God by dating a non-Christian.

The second promise came only a few, short years later, at the age of 16. “True Love Waits” was the name of the campaign. It was pretty popular that year in various area youth groups and on a national level. I still have the card that I taped to the inside cover of my Bible that year: ““Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” Signed and dated. For my 16th birthday I even asked my dad to buy me a “purity ring”, a ring I would someday give to my husband to show him how I had saved myself for him, and him alone.

Then as I went through high school and built friendships with other “like-minded” and “strong” Christians, we started talking about “casual dating”, why it wasn’t good, the emotional repercussions and so on. We really believed it was important to only consider dating someone who we believed we could actually marry. By this time I knew I had a call to foreign missions so this drastically reduced any dating “options” for me. Not too many guys I knew were interested in heading off to live in the jungles of Africa!

I believe it was also around this time that Josh Haris’ book “I Kissed Dating Good-bye” started to appear in Christian circles. I had pretty much already concluded that casual dating was not for the “mature” Christian. My father had no interest in “choosing” my spouse for me. (Not that he was unconcerned, he just always said “you’re the one that has to live with him, not me! ) So while I never committed to courtship, in the purest sense, I was, nonetheless, convinced God would lead me to the “right man” at the “right time”. This was something I was leaving in his hands. I didn’t “trust” myself with a decision this weighty, I definitely knew I needed God’s guidance, direction, and seal of approval.
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I Am So Much More Than a Maiden of Virtue! Part 4 ~ Little Things

by WanderingOne

I am a nail-biter. I don’t bite them because I’m nervous or scared or anything like that. I just…chew. My nails are ugly and jagged; short and stumpy. I hate the way they look.

Growing up my parents tried to discipline me out of the habit. It showed a lack of self-control, an inadequate ability for self-restraint. I tried to stop. I hated disappointing them. I was afraid of punishment. And yet, I never could shake the habit. I bit and chewed—perhaps it was a form of unconscious resistance: this small imperfection, this awful habit, was a small way of ensuring that my parents’ authority was not absolute. Maybe it was just a bad habit I could never kick.

In any case, my parents’ authority no longer absolute, I decided that this year was it. 2011 was going to be the year that I would quit biting my nails. Towards this end, a friend suggested that I try painting my nails. Perhaps, if they were pretty, I would be less inclined to put my hands in my mouth. It seemed like a good suggestion. I had never painted my nails before—despite having been “out” for around two years, maybe closer to two and a half, depending on how I dated it. I danced, drank alcohol, wore pants and shorts and all matter of immodest clothing, but never in my life had I painted my nails.

I opened an internet browser, and googled “how to paint your nails,” at myself for doing so. Equipped with information from the ever-reliable internet, I went to target and bought a pale shade of pink; something that would not be too noticeable, but hopefully “there” enough to keep me from biting. I returned home, put on some music by an artist whose name I would never even have known a few years ago and began the task of painting my nails.

After I finished, I looked down at my hands to scrutinize the result. Something I never expected would happen, happened. I, the girl who could dance and drink and cut her hair, stared down at my hands to find myself feeling guilty. “Who paints their nails? What sort of person have I become? Jezebel. Slut. Vain, foolish, woman. What am I doing? Jezebel. How could I do this? Why would I ever do this? I’m becoming an awful person.” My brain could not stop. I could not turn off the guilt. I tried to reason with myself “Lots of normal people who are not sluts or whores or Jezebels paint their nails. I did nothing wrong. Anyway, you’ve done way worse than painting your nails. This is a silly, stupid thing to feel guilty over.”

It didn’t work. After talking with an ex-fundamentalist friend, I decided to sleep on it and hope I felt better in the morning.
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