Duggars and Courtship

Duggars and Courtship April 26, 2014

by Lana Hope cross posted from her blog Wide Open Ground

A lot of people have pointed out how many Christian groups and churches are anti-gay. Even though these Christians love to say that they love the sinner and hate the sin, it does not remove the pain that a gay person has to face. If a gay teen comes out gay, the church will still pray for him and believe he needs to change. Sure the church claims to love the teen, but he’s still told he is sinning, and there is still that voice that something is wrong with him, and that he needs to change.

This is the same reason I am against courtship so much. There is nothing wrong with a couple choosing to save their first kiss until they get married. It’s silly, but it’s not immoral. But that’s not what courtship is about. Courtship is a high standard designed to keep the couple accountable, and after the lainess are drawn in the sand, people who overstep those boundaries are failures.

Take the latest Duggar girls’ courtships as an example. The girls say they need accountability, so that’s why they have siblings or parents go with them on dates. They claim they are inspiring their younger siblings and girls on TV. But you know what they are actually doing? (Besides making their parents look like control freaks.) They are drawing hard lines in the sand, and therefore, anyone who breaks them is doing wrong.

The implication is not only that they would be doing wrong to break them, but also that anyone else breaking those rules is doing wrong too.

Sure there is room for nuances. I suspect the Duggars would say that some people pray about this, and decide it’s okay to hold hands, and in their family, they’ve prayed and decided not to hold hands. Those are nuances, and they are trival to the point.

The point is that courtship is a way of life that says that it’s a sin to “give” anything physical “away,” and that parents need to oversee this. It also says that dating without purpose (aka. a guy asks a girl on a date without intending to be serious about marriage on the first date) is wrong.

This is an extremely dangerous teaching. It’s the “us vs. them” attitude. It’s prideful. It’s judgment. It’s broken.

I know because I lived this. I lived this.

As soon as someone finds out that you’ve kissed someone before, you’re immeditely an object of investigation. You are not as high a quality. You broke the homeschool rules.

This is why I spent most of today wacked out after watching the Duggar show last night. Mr. Duggar was drilling the guy Jessa is courting. That’s wrong. That’s prideful. That’s judgmental.

He controlled them such that says they need to report to him if they decided to ever hold hands. Then Mr. Duggar tips it off by flirting with his wife in front of his daughter and the guy she is courting.

I am frustrated because what the Duggars are doing is abusive, and it’s being shown on TV as if it is comedy. Then people on TV totally miss the point. I keep reading comments about how they have too many kids. That’s not the big problem. If they sent their kids to school and hired a helper and sent the older children to college, no one would think anything of it.

But controlling the daughter’s every move is spiritually abusive.

For years I’ve wondered how the Duggars manage to keep all their daughters at home. My sister and I decided against that one a long time ago. The internet and world were too big. Yes, it took me a long time to leave all of fundamentalism behind, but I always questioned things. The Duggar girls do not. But then, their phone calls and social life are monitored.

I am glad that Suzanne at No Longer Quivering has made note that the news media has finally connected Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, who sexually assaulted a young woman for a period of a few years, to the Duggar family. It’s not that the Duggars have sexually assaulted anyone. But, but. they are following the very teaching of courtship and stay at home daughters that allows women to be vulnerable to an abuser. The control they put their daughters under is quite frankly terrifying.

It’s wrong.

Read everything by Lana Hope!

Lana Hope was homeschooled 1st-12th grade in a small town and rural culture. Involved in ATI, her life growing up was gendered, sheltered, and with a lot of shame and rules in disguise of Biblical principles and character qualities. After college Lana moved to SE Asia and began working with the abused, and upon discovering that the large world is not at all like she had been taught, she finally questioned it all, from Calvinism to the homeschool movement to the foundation of her Christian faith. Today Lana is a Christian Universalist, holds a B.A. in English, and is currently working on a M.A. in philosophy.  She blogs about the struggles she has faced leaving fundamentalism and homeschooling behind and how travel and missions has wrecked her life for good and bad at her blog www.wideopenground.com.

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  • JustJane

    I wonder how the coupes become engaged when they can never have a personal conversation without someone listening in on them. What if they want to discuss that they don’t want to have as many children as their parents? Would they be free to say that? Or how about contraceptives for the wedding night? I’m sure that’s taboo. They probably aren’t given a choice on the matter. I don’t understand their silly rules where it’s OK to give side hugs but holding hands is wrong. After all , don’t we join hands when we pray as a group? Watching the daughter say that she doesn’t see what’s the big deal about holding hands and is in no hurry to do so, makes me wonder if any kind of normal emotions have been drilled out of these girls. Heaven help the young man on his wedding night!

  • Levedi

    Those issues you raise have already been decided for them and that’s a big part of the problem. Number of children? as many as God will let you conceive. Birth control? see previous question. Balance of responsibilities and roles in their marriage? Already set in stone by gender roles. I’d bet that both of these young people are going into their marriage with a large number of assumptions about how it will go because they’ve been taught one and only one model of marriage and it doesn’t include negotiation. Cognitive dissonance and dissapointment will probably be the biggest sources of conflict in their marriage once reality sets in.

  • SAO

    Courtship also seems to cement an attraction between passing acquaintances or near strangers into an expectation of marriage. What’s wrong with going on a few dates to see if this person is someone you think you can commit the rest of your life to?

  • Nea

    This isn’t just spiritually abusive. The Duggar children especially the daughters, have been emotionally abused, never allowed a moment’s privacy, never permitted to show any but the approved emotions, stunted in all ambition that isn’t Gothard and Pearl approved. And most likely, they’ve been physically abused as well with whippings and “blanket training” — and haven’t at least some of them been shipped off to those Christian boot camps that have a death toll from the abuse they dish out?

    Add in their deliberate miseducation and being turned into a sideshow attraction, and there isn’t a way that they HAVEN’T been abused!

  • Em

    It’s so irresponsible for the experienced adults to push the young people into marriage so soon. They know how much work marriage takes, the young people have no idea. Especially the girls who essentially have nothing else in life to look forward to, and view it as their only path to independence.

  • MercuryGirl

    To me, “courting” is become best friends with dad and he will reward your friendship by giving you one of his daughters to have sex with.

  • tulips

    I perceive this as a huge problem also. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover this had a lot to do with the “straining at the leash” view of attraction for married couples as well in which they should strive to never breath the same air as the opposite sex. If you were never given the opportunity to discover your sexuality then shuffled into oppressive marriage with the first person you thought you might be slightly attracted to, this will leave you pretty unprepared wrt knowing how to manage finding yourself having ~for reals~ attraction to ~someone else~ or more realistically someone else serially/plural.

  • Saraquill

    (sarcasm) But it’s all right, because of Bible. More importantly, it’s because of Penis.(end sarcasm)

  • Lana

    yea I agree. I think spiritual abuse is at the root of their emotional abuse. It’s interesting because the parents talk about how they do not lose their temper, but you can be extremely emotionally abusive without losing your temper. You can give that look of Jonny if you dont’ do this, I’m going to kill you. And it’s still harmful.

  • Independent Thinker

    I am married and have been married for over ten years. I find a big problem with this approach to marriage is the idea that each spouse must fit in perfectly boxed gender roles. My husband hates taking the trash out. I hate washing dishes. For almost our entire relationship I do the trash and he does the dishes. With the exception if the other person is sick or out of town. I can’t imagine having a marriage where I am constantly told because something works for us its wrong. Especially on trivial matters like trash and dishes.

  • tulips

    Not to worry, in this type of relationship you get to do both the trash and the dishes, then you get to make up some neat tricks to help yourself get through the things you don’t enjoy (including sex! shhhhhhh) with a smile on your face like a good girl.

  • Independent Thinker

    All while experiencing multiple pregnanancies spanning several decades.

  • Independent Thinker

    That’s what happened with Matthew and Maranatha Chapman.

  • MercuryGirl

    Just googled them. ;(
    Marrying teen girls to older men. Didn’t realize we were still in medieval times and making alliances through marriage.

  • gimpi1

    I think it also has to do with the foolish notion that “compatibility” and “happiness” are “things of the world” that shouldn’t be a matter for concern. The belief seems to be that if you marry someone who follows the right dogma, people are pretty-much interchangeable. The old “love is a verb” idea, where you simply decide to love the person daddy picks out for you. There is also the notion that you shouldn’t expect to necessarily be happy. You should strive to follow their rules for living, and that will please God and make you holy. Your happiness is not required, only your obedience.