Atlantic Wire:’19 Kids and Counting’ Gets Stranger, Sadder

Atlantic Wire:’19 Kids and Counting’ Gets Stranger, Sadder February 15, 2012

General public not impressed by Duggar family “witness”
by Vyckie Garrison

During my Quiverfull days, I honestly believed that Michelle Duggar’s TLC show – which began as “14 Children and Pregnant Again!” and is currently titled, “19 Kids & Counting” – was an awesome witness to “the world.” I was in awe of the Duggar family, and it thrilled me that such a wholesome, godly family was given a national stage on which to exemplify for America what a truly biblical family looks like.

I’m sure every detail of the Duggars’ television show, numerous talk show interviews and guest appearances at political rallies is calculated to paint their “traditional family” and their “pro-life values” in the best possible light. However, as a former Quiverfull believer-turned-outsider-looking-in, it now seems plain that non-fundamentalist Americans are not particularly impressed by this mega-family, nor is the general public overwhelmed with the conviction that all families ought to live similarly.

Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar want to tell the world that children are an unmitigated blessing from God and those who embrace the “biblical model” for marriage and children will be the most happy, most satisfied, and most “successful” families both now, and for eternity.

But that is not the message which is coming through.

Under the category of “Entertainment,” the Atlantic Wire published a review and commentary of the program’s most recent episode.

“The fifth season of TLC’s beguiling, baffling, and oftentimes be-rage-ifying (just go with it) Quiverfull family series 19 Kids and Counting premiered last night, and while it was mostly a typical Duggars episode, with eerily wholesome family activities and a dash of stomach-turning religiosity, there was a new grimness to the series that didn’t sit right.”

Along with complaints about the producers’ handling of Michelle’s recent miscarriage, the Atlantic’s writer, Richard Lawson, noted: “And then of course there was the infusion of religion that probably earns the series a fair number of looky-loos (ahem). Michelle Duggar, the broodmare who gave birth to this baseball team, was invited to speak to a ladies group at a nearby church, and though what we saw of the speech was mostly a series of platitudes about family and children and all that, there was a single shot that said much more — the camera panned over a handout that Michelle brought to the event, and the content was pretty unsettling. TLC maybe included this shot for people like us, who of course paused it and advanced the frames to read as much of it as we could, and, whooo boy, was it unpleasant. It was all about how to make your husband happy in a marriage, which is of paramount importance to patriarch-dominated Quiverfull families. There were things about how wives shouldn’t refuse their husbands’ sexual advances, about how self-reliance is what kills marriages, about not stepping out of bounds in terms of what your responsibilities are as a wife (do too much and you emasculate him, you see). It was all reeeeally gross stuff that you never really hear the Duggars talking about on the show, but is absolutely the unspoken (on camera, at least) foundation of their family. (As evidenced by the fact that older boys are encouraged to pursue education and careers while their sisters remain indentured babysitters.) So that’s why the rage-junkies watch this horrorshow, to get that electric adrenalin rush of anger at what a strange and backwards belief system these seemingly cheery and wholesome creatures actually operate under.”

I can easily imagine Michelle dismissing the criticism with the popular evangelical retort, perfectly expressed here:

“Remember we are not responsible for results; we are only responsible for our obedience. So be encouraged and continue in your obedience, keep it up; keep your feet beautiful!”

Of course, Michelle & Co. will continue in obedience to what she believes to be the true calling of God on her life. The Duggars aren’t going away. It doesn’t matter that the multitudes scoff. Public ridicule only strengthens their resolve.

“”No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Jim Bob & Michelle will never say, “Enough babies!” And if it is physically possible, Michelle will get pregnant again. How can she do otherwise?

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

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

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