It sometimes feels like it doesn’t matter what a Christian idol does, because supporters will indignantly defend that idol to the last breath.
From the very beginning of this blog, I have never really had a big problem with drive-by Christians showing up to spew abuse and break commenting rules unless I criticize some big name in the American Christian evangelical movement. The more popular and American in focus (as opposed to scholarly or foreign) the idol, the more likely I’ll see Christians show up to spare everyone a few outraged words about my desecration (and to show off how little they care about following their god’s direct commands, of course, but I digress). Nobody cares if I’m snarky about William Lane Craig, but if I bad-mouth Joyce Meyer,then it’s on. I can talk about Tony Anthony all I want–he isn’t scholarly at all, no, but he isn’t American either–but if the Duggars are up for discussion then I know I need to pay more attention than usual to the comments for a few days.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a drive-by Christian show up in any other circumstance. They are to the religion what weekend warriors are to Iron Man trainers; they’re not representative of all Christians, but they are numerous–and terribly vocal.
It routinely astonishes me to see just how indignant such Christians get when their idols get criticized (and yes, I’m using “idol” quite deliberately–because it’s hard to think of any other word that better describes someone or something a Christian puts above their god’s direct orders). If these holy paladins for “God” cannot dispute that something happened exactly as I say it happened, then they attack my very right to speak about the topic through the use of a variety of Christian-approved silencing tactics.
But sometimes, despite the huge safety net evangelicals have built up over decades to prevent exactly this occurrence, an idol falls.
It reminds me a bit of how Mark Driscoll fell–how he ran roughshod over his flocks and anybody else he could get his hands on for years before finally falling because of plagiarism and gaming bestseller lists of all things. Out of everything else he could have done, it just seemed so ridiculous. But that’s how it is for these idols, isn’t it? They go along for so long doing so many terrible things and their followers just put up with it. And then there’s just the bridge too far, the final straw. And fundagelicals tend to forgive some pretty outrageous crimes and sins while freaking out about comparatively smaller problems.
Well, We’ve Finally Found Josh Duggar’s Final Straw.
The reason this stuff’s been on my mind lately is because a few days ago, someone emailed me a rumor floating around regarding Josh Duggar and a PR guy who’d dropped him some months back. We talked about that some time ago–his family had hired a public relations expert of some reputation to help the family escape its PR nightmare, but the gentleman had decided not to work with the family at all because of some unnamed problem. My speculation back in June was that maybe the PR expert, Hunter Frederick, had decided that Josh Duggar and his parents weren’t willing to be transparent about what had happened, to show genuine repentance, or to make big changes in how they behaved.
Well, the new rumor is that Mr. Frederick discovered the Ashley Madison (AM) account Josh Duggar was secretly running. Remember, Josh Duggar only quit his AM account the month the scandal first broke. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall for that conversation! You can see some info about it here if you like–including the further rumor that when the Duggars went a-shoppin’ for their next PR guy, they didn’t bother telling that next one about the AM membership–which apparently did not go over well. I’m not sure who the second PR person/group is; it might be Chad Gallagher of Legacy Consulting, who is a fellow with verrah deep connections to longtime Duggar buddy Mike Huckabee, whose next business venture really should be Dominionism-scented smelling salts for fundagelical
hothouse flowers men. Whoever it is probably hates his life right now.
And that rumor got me thinking about just where Christians draw the line when it comes to their sinning tribemates. Clearly the Duggars not only sweet-talked not one but two different high-end Christian PR experts into helping them through their various self-caused crises (which does beg the question of why Christians need help like that in the first place if they’re so damned moral, but I digress again), but they also talked a great number of Christians into forgiving them and pretending that Josh Duggar’s abuse never even happened. All up and down the spectrum, from a small-time pastor’s wife declaring (erroneously) that lil Josh was just playing doctor to Mike Huckabee himself, a Presidential candidate for chrissakes, vehemently defending the sex abuser, from rank and file Christians to Creationist websites, they lined up for the chance to declare that Josh Duggar and his parents were off-limits to anyone’s criticism because of Jesus reasons.
Besides the huge amounts of cognitive dissonance in that last link, incidentally, you’ll notice some big names in the Christ-o-sphere showing up with sound bites about how the Duggars’ critics are really just meeeeeeeeean and hate Christians and blah blah persecution and good night almighty they probably found a way to work Benghazi into it somewhere. One link even goes to the repulsive Matt Walsh, who wrote for the Blaze that the real hypocrites are, against all logic or sanity, progressives who do not actually preach religion at anyone, condone the abusing of children under any circumstances, or try to control anyone. The hypocrites are certainly not the Duggars preaching what they categorically cannot live themselves, abusing children and coming up with creative ways to rationalize such abuse, and trying to control other people’s lives. No way.
So for the last few months I have been simply shocked at the level of support enjoyed by Josh Duggar and his parents. It seemed like nothing could make their defenders second-guess themselves. Even Jenna Duggar’s father-in-law, Michael Seewald, wrote a passionate defense of the sick pervert who’d molested and abused his son’s wife when she was just a little girl (I talked about it here).
And then the second big scandal broke about Josh Duggar being a paid member of Ashley Madison.
Regarding Mark Driscoll, one would think that the constant stream of scandals about his misogynistic behavior, his crudeness, his church’s general abusiveness, and his blatant power-mad tendencies would eventually spell his downfall. But no. Christians could handle all that stuff. They might not have been happy about it, but nobody was making a ton of noise about it. No, Mark Driscoll’s real downfall happened because he plagiarized and then cheated his way to the top of the bestseller lists. Out of everything else he did, that’s what really did it for his career. That’s what his followers couldn’t handle.
And in the same way, Josh Duggar could serially assault five little girls over years, molesting them and abusing them in the most disgusting and unthinkable ways short of physical penile penetration, and his tribe would leap to his defense. His parents could do every single thing conceivable to protect their spawn from facing legal repercussions from his deeds and be as hypocritical as they wanted in the meanwhile, and their tribe would find some way to rationalize it all away.
Are you seeing the prioritization going on here? Are you seeing what it means?
Child molestation? Abuse? Assault? Hypocrisy? Evading rightful justice? Oh, those are fine. A Presidential candidate will smile and hug someone who does that (though he might also quietly remove such a person’s endorsements from his website). The father-in-law of one of the abuse victims will write long blog posts (erroneously) extolling how reformed and repentant his new daughter-in-law’s abuser is.
In the face of what Josh Duggar did to those little girls years ago, the idea that he was on an adultery website seeking of-age, consensual partners to violate his marriage vows with seems ridiculously minor. I mean, on the hierarchy of sins, surely callously hurting children counts for more than cheating on one’s wife.
But apparently that was what finally made evangelicals realize that Josh Duggar is a terrible person.
After hearing of Josh’s scandal when he was a teenager, I publicly stated that Josh appeared to be a changed man, was walking above reproach, and living out the faith that he professed. I stood in solidarity, encouraging him to use the scandal to build humility and grace. Sadly, he had deceived us all. . . To the person reading this, I want to caution you. Josh was a pretender.
We’ll talk about that post itself one of these days because it is a treasure trove of fundagelical wackiness the whole way through (more so even than the first one he wrote on the topic), but for now I’ll just say that he’s not the only Duggar family member who’s spoken out against Josh Duggar in a way that makes me think this is what they’ve always wanted to say in the first place but couldn’t because he was still a member of the tribe, albeit a really weird and creepy one. Someone doesn’t decide that a family member is “a pig” or “wicked” on the spur of the moment; I’m guessing we’re hearing the real opinions of the Duggar clan for the first time rather than their fake-smiling, sweetsy-syrupy all-together-now facade. One blogger writes that he doesn’t think the Duggars will appreciate Michael Seewald’s post much, but I’d disagree. Part of me thinks they’re quite relieved to finally get to be honest about their dislike of the shitbird.
As for Matt Walsh, he wrote a followup Blaze post in which he repeatedly and fervently declared in big huge banner letters that “Adultery is not a mistake” and condemned Josh Duggar wholeheartedly. Color me shocked. Of course, he still manages to mess even that turnaround up by lambasting those who are using the Josh Duggar scandal generally to indict (correctly, I think) the Happy Christian Marriage Illusion pushed by right-wing Christianity, but this is Matt Walsh we’re talking about so we can’t expect much. In fifty years he’ll understand that he’s wrong about LGBT rights, though he’ll probably blame the totally-discredited “Benghazi cover-up” for his error.
Meanwhile, millions of sex abuse victims see bullshit like what he’s written and understand at a primal level that sex abuse of children is not enough to get a big-name Christian in trouble, but consensual sex with an adult outside the bounds of marriage is more than enough. That’s got to be one hell of a good feeling to have. Real “love of Christ” type stuff there.
The really wacky part? Josh Duggar might be vaguely aware of the intense criticism surrounding his choice of rehab center–apparently nobody’s seen hide nor hair of the lad at the pseudo-treatment center’s church. He did fly in to the area and it’s pretty certain he did enroll in the treatment plan, but the people attending the center need to go to church every Sunday and he wasn’t there this past weekend. Do you see what this means? It means he can’t even do fake, ineffectual, guaranteed-to-fail rehab right. (Maybe they’re letting him stay behind to do more forced labor-for-Jesus because he’s famous. Though that does kinda make the fake rehab center the fundagelical version of I’m a Celebrity–Get Me Out of Here!)
So it looks like fundagelicals have finally picked up on what the rest of us figured out some time ago. I guess it’s too much to hope that maybe next time they’ll listen to us sooner.
And I don’t know what else could illustrate better the bizarre, surreal priorities of the Christian right than what they consider forgivable versus what they simply cannot overlook, or where their last straws finally break.