It’s been a pretty weird week for the Duggars and their ongoing sex abuse scandal. Here are a few short tidbits that I thought y’all would find of interest.
1. Do Not Piss Off Lesbians.
The whole story began because a reporter for In Touch was interviewing a pair of lesbians who famously photographed themselves kissing in front of the Duggar family home to protest the family’s viciously anti-gay agenda.
One of the two women had family in the Duggars’ area. She told the reporter for In Touch that Josh Duggar’s predatory behavior–and the police report that resulted from officials’ investigation into that behavior–were known secrets in that town.
Rumors have been going around online for years about Josh Duggar’s overall creepiness, sure, but that was something factual that someone could actually use as a starting point for a real investigation. And then suddenly they began finding people all over the area who were willing to talk to their reporters.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The editor of In Touch did a nice interview here in which he discusses the reporting that led to the story being broken. Oh, and he’s gay too, as well as being the same journalist who broke the story of John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter.
Seriously, there’s a certain poetic irony in it all, especially considering how demonized the LGBTQ community is by fundagelical Christians. Michelle Duggar herself famously did that robocall insinuating that trans people were a serious danger to children while she was harboring and covering up for a child attacker in her own household–and it took concerned LGBTQ people to speak up about those children and bring attention to this abuse because fundagelicals themselves were totally trying to ignore the whole thing (which is fundie-speak for “dealing with it”).
Brava and Bravo to everyone involved in getting this story out. Thank you all.
2. Nothing says “We’re totally innocent” like getting embroiled in yet more trouble with the law and making false claims about those who revealed the previous scandals.
When the State of Arkansas recently sent some child-welfare agents over to the Duggar
house of horrors home to check up on a new report of trouble there, the upright, morally-untouchable, totally-for-sure-Jesus-like Duggar parents refused to let them see the kid they were worried about. The agents called 911 to ask for help.
We don’t know exactly what the agents were worried about, but it doesn’t speak very well of these whackjobs that they resisted the investigation like they did.
Of course, these are the same whackjobs who tried to deflect criticisms of themselves by claiming that the initial abuse investigation records got revealed because Arkansas officers took bribes, even slandering the police chief of their town to distract people from looking too closely at their own sins. Jesus said a few things about false witness, didn’t he? Maybe once?
That little detail isn’t stopping the Duggar sisters, themselves among Josh’s victims, from gleefully running with this same bizarro-land illogic; during their own interview with Megyn Kelly, they tried to claim that some law or other had been broken, hinted about lawsuits, and tried to make In Touch and other tabloids look bad because they are (apparently) maaaaHAYjor purveyors of hardcore pornography, which of course invalidates everything revealed about Josh’s attacks. Apples don’t fall far from the trees; one’s heart breaks to imagine how their little spirits were broken by their parents’ careful brainwashing to the point where they could say this stuff and not understand why it’s such a negation of their own suffering. I’m not mad at them for being thusly brainwashed; I’m furious however at their parents and faith community for shoving such patently self-serving and vicious teachings down these girls’ throats.
3. Wait, In Touch did what?
“That dumb rag,” Murchison would say, “it doesn’t goddamn know what it’s goddamn got.”
Actually the National World Weekly did know just what it had got: it had a War Correspondent. It just didn’t know why, or what to do with one now it had her.
In much the same way, I’m sure I’m not the only person going “Wait, what? In Touch got this?” Normally they handle society’s pressing need for capslock-filled 24/7 information about pop stars and Kardashians. Just a few months ago they got called “trashy” for their coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition. It’s been downright weird to see the steady stream of decent journalism come out of there lately.
I’m reminded of Buzzfeed’s move toward more serious journalism on its own site. If it’s handled well this could be a really good trend. These entertainment sites have definitely got the resources to fling at these more serious stories, and they’ve definitely got the eyeballs getting trained on their sites. Someone who might not normally go to Washington Post for news might catch those important stories on their tabloid-site visit. I’m okay with this new thing.
4. Fundagelicals are fair-weather friends.
After a week or so of defending Josh Duggar and his parents to the skies–and throwing the attacker’s victims under the bus, obviously–Mike Huckabee has had an about-face.
The website his presidential campaign runs had featured a very prominent endorsement from the Duggars for his candidacy. Well, on June 4, that endorsement simply vanished. It’d make Mike Huckabee’s life a lot easier if we’d all agree to believe him when he insists that the endorsement was just really old so they rotated it out, because a guy whose campaign is in that much of a shitter that one of the nation’s more popular conservative websites openly mocks his nonsensical ideas can afford to rotate out endorsements from his bestest buddies and friends. Yep, /thathappened, for sure.
Fundagelicals don’t generally have a lot of skill with follow-through–Operation Spring was only one of a long line of examples of how outrage for fundagelicals rarely translates into long-term action or excessive inconvenience. But I’ve known for years as well that they’re also not good at being steadfast friends. All those “ah luv yew alls” and “let me hug your necks” become old-school shunning if someone gets out of hand or deconverts. So of course Mike Huckabee, self-appointed paladin of the Religious Right, was going to abandon the Duggars when supporting them became too tough.
I’m not angry with Mike Huckabee–frankly, this was the only really sane course of action anyone could take, and one that the Duggars’ advertising sponsors are taking in droves–but it’s funny that his Facebook post was filled with Jesus-forgives imagery and demands for niceness from everybody, and now it appears that even someone as drunk on Jesus-Cool-Aid as Mike Huckabee is knows how bad an idea it is to keep defending child predators and their accomplices. It’s a pity his religion doesn’t teach people right from wrong, so they know who they should defend and who they shouldn’t. When even heathens know that, Christians are in big trouble, amirite?
But don’t worry: original Mean Girls Sarah and Bristol Palin see nothing whatsoever wrong with assaulting little girls over a period of years and then having one’s parents cover it all up. As far as these two Very Very Very Concerned and Moral Christian Ladies are concerned, we all need to just shut up already. (With friends like those, does Josh Duggar even need enemies? He needs to tell them that they are not helping.)
5. Murrrikins might finally be over their unseemly interest in the Duggars’ brand of misogyny and hypocrisy.
One of the first developments of the scandal that I noticed while gathering information about it was the two married Duggar daughters immediately began floating an idea by their network for a spinoff show about themselves and their own growing little families. That idea is apparently not going to happen.
I don’t know anybody who saw the Duggars’ reality show and thought “Wow, I should totally check out their version of Christianity!” or thought the family really sounded that healthy and happy. It was a freakshow from the first moment of its inception, and the parents of this family never seemed to understand that they were selling their children’s privacy for money and fame–and a shot at exposing tons of Americans to their weird-ass, extremist flavor of fundagelicalism and maybe make it seem less weird and extreme. But I don’t think that’s what happened to anybody seeing the show or learning about their restrictive penis-worshiping lifestyle. At first it was kinda neat to see how they handled normal, everyday tasks like grocery shopping and making dinner, but the more we learned about their household, the less we wanted anything to do with it and the more uncomfortable I perceived people got about the show as a whole.
And now that we’ve learned that this kind of Christianity has produced people who don’t seem to understand that sexually violating little girls is always, totally, unequivocally wrong no matter what, but who also think that they should have the right to tell other people how to run their lives.
Once the eldest children began growing up, everyone else learned exactly what the results were of a Duggar-style homeschooling (mis)education. Lil Joshie grew up to work for a hate group spewing untrue and horrific anti-gay propaganda–and he turned out not only to be a total creep but also a criminal. His wife, educated in a very similar environment, revealed her total lack of understanding of black history, while Jessa Duggar can’t seem to stop herself from saying ridiculously ignorant things about a variety of topics that most schoolchildren have figured out by sixth grade. The TV show’s vision of identically-dressed little white moppets playing instruments and singing Jesus songs can’t compete with the reality of what that environment produces by way of adult human beings. The parents’ posturing about how moral and Jesus-ified they are plays against a background where we see their old photos and immediately think “Huh, so that was a year after they found out their son was sexually attacking and violating little girls.”
Not only that, but we know now that the facade of happiness these extremist-Christian patriarchal families maintain is generally quite false, hiding a seriously broken and dysfunctional society and family dynamic. A steady trickle of analyses and news bites have added up to a religion broken by hypocrisy and power-mad hatemongers selling parents visions of happy, stable homes that were never possible. People who have escaped patriarchy, like Libby Anne here at Patheos, have very openly and painstakingly detailed the way that patriarchal families create and maintain that veneer of happiness that fooled so many Americans for so long.
At this point, the only people who remain fooled by that veneer are those who desperately wish it could be true. I don’t know if people would have gotten to this point if it hadn’t been for such a serious and egregious failure of the Duggars’ religious system–a system that failed its most vulnerable members at every single step of the way and continues to fail them even today.
6. The more Christians keep trying to defend Josh Duggar, the more they highlight exactly why their religion is failing. And Christians themselves are making some of these calls for sanity.
As astonishing as it might sound to those outside the church doors, there are still Christians who are loudly defending Josh Duggar. Even more astonishingly, the same Christians who defend Josh Duggar with an “aw shucks the boy repented, what else do you want?” are usually the exact same ones lambasting Caitlyn Jenner for transitioning. None of us are super shocked by that news, but what’s interesting to me is that sometimes Christians themselves are finding their voices in condemning that hypocrisy. Oh, there aren’t a whole lot of them, no, but they’re starting to talk. I’ll let a Christian speak here because this is the truth:
And we wonder why Christianity is leaking so horribly from every crevice, why so many churches are becoming barren ghost towns and dusty museums, why organized religion is on virtual life support in America?. . . [Non-Christians] see it from a mile away, our vacillation. They see the inconsistencies of our outrage, our selective sin policing, our schizophrenic moral stands.
Christians are happy to viciously attack people who didn’t ask for their opinions or input, while vehemently defending those who viciously attack others. And then they wonder why people are getting more and more repelled by their version of the religion and why decent folks keep leaving their ranks.
Look, Christians are never going to be able to prove their supernatural claims are true. That is never going to happen. It’d be like humans finding out water isn’t wet at this point, or that Europe is in Dallas, Texas. The claims are contradictory to how we already know the universe works. More and more often, people are finding out that their leaders’ and parents’ claims are simply untrue. Those parents and leaders are not going to be able to turn that tide.
If Christians can’t find credible support for their claims, then at the very least they will need to be such wonderful people and such wonderful communities that people who figure out that the claims aren’t true will at least be content to still remain in the communities because the people are so great and the group is doing such great stuff otherwise to improve the world. I’ve met plenty of people who weren’t actually Christians or Mormons or pagans who were perfectly aware that their religions didn’t make truthful supernatural claims but who loved the people around themselves so much, and the communities those people created and maintained, that they were content to stay members of those groups. Liberal Christians tend to think at least parts of the Bible aren’t literally true and they somehow manage to keep a few folks around, so I know it’s possible; it’s a mistake on many non-believers’ parts to think that Christians do or even should take the Bible literally.
The problem is that way too many Christians make untrue claims and don’t make good communities. Without being able to force people to remain in their pews, they’re going to continue to hemorrhage members.
So yes: let Christians talk long and loudly about how much they support the Duggars. That is like the trash taking itself out. They will out themselves as being horrible people who support other horrible people, and the rest of us will see that. The social penalties of leaving are becoming smaller and smaller as time goes on; the risks are becoming easier and easier to bear with every new disengagement or deconversion (“disengagement” means to pull away from overt shows of religious devotion; it doesn’t necessarily mean to deconvert). Once their own members realize that the religion’s claims aren’t true, there’ll be nothing whatsoever to keep them in place if the communities made by this religion are also awful.
This whole abuse scandal is getting more depressing the longer it continues, but it looks like In Touch has more revelations to make still–and those revelations–and Christians’ reactions to those revelations–will continue to show the world exactly what this religion is all about, and whether it deserves to have a seat at the world’s table in the years to come.