Is there anyone who has not heard the sad and scandalous news about Josh Duggar of 19 Children and Counting fame? This 27 year old spokesman for the Family Research Council has now resigned from his post. The reality TV show which so enriched his parents and siblings has now been cancelled. Far more, that family have just had their carefully constructed and controlled lives deconstruct and spin out of control.
What happened? It was revealed that as a teen, young Josh sexually molested four of his sisters and at least one other very young girl outside the family. The parents covered this up for a year, and then sent Josh to a state trooper in Arkansas who gave him a strict talking-to. That particular trooper was later sentenced to over 50 years in prison for possessing child pornography. Josh also worked construction for a few months. The girls were put in a “counseling” program that puts the blame squarely on the victims when sexual abuse has taken place and forces them to “forgive” the offender, suggesting dire consequences if they don’t.
About four years ago, I wrote a blog where I first took the Duggars to task for their hypocrisy. Jim Bob, the dad of those many offspring, refused to have a TV in his house for fear his children would be exposed to bad influences. Yet the income for their lavish lifestyle with world travel, expensive house and vehicles, etc., is derived from TV.
I wrote: “So, in order for them to live this way, they have to hope that other people do what is forbidden to those in their household namely, watch TV. Since they find TV a source of temptation and worldliness, this would mean that they hope others expose themselves to that evil source for them to make money.”
About a year ago, I wrote about the sex scandal concerning a man named Bill Gothard who founded the Institute for Basic Life Principles. The Duggar family were/are Gothard devotees and many of their ideas about not using birth control, the subjection of the girls, homeschooling, etc. derive directly from the thinking of this man. Last year, after his life-long pattern of grooming and crossing sexual boundaries of multiple innocent young women finally made the light of day, Gothard resigned. He remains a wealthy man without further repercussions from his destructive actions.The Duggars wanted to rear sexually and morally pure adults. It’s an admirable goal. They have boasted publicly that their sons and daughters are untouched and unawakened sexually until their wedding nights. The only pre-marital touching during the arranged courtships permitted is a side-to-side hug. Not even a kiss. The girls are also told they may never resist their husbands sexually after marriage. I can only presume the boys are told never to honor a “no” from their wives.
This methodology, one of tight control over anything the children saw or read or were exposed to, does not, unfortunately, deal with the reality of the sexual drive.
Fourteen-year-old Josh, the oldest in a family of about 12 kids by then, does what most teen-aged boys do: tries to figure out a way to deal with the hormones raging through his testosterone-addled body and brain.
They were living in a small house at the time. His sex-obsessed parents produced one baby after another. Josh used his sisters and other young women as unwilling objects of exploration and satisfaction because in that tight family system there are no other outlets for the inevitable. If he had been given any sex education at all, presumably he’d been told that masturbation is an unforgivable sin. Other than that, more than likely all he heard about sex was “Don’t.”
Now this comes to light. There is probably much more. A household with a bundle of developing teens and young adults would be so filled with hormones that it would be impossible to breathe without being slapped by them. The girls had no way to escape or to deny male authority. Parents busy with a constant parade of newborns could not possibly supervise all the nighttime prowls. So the girls, and their friends (all with the same background) become utterly vulnerable to their brothers.
Tragedy was inevitable.
I’ve said this before and will say it again: we in the religious world have got to find a better and more honest way to deal with sexual issues of our teens and young adults.
The church traditionally simply says, “no sex until marriage.” However, marriage itself is more and more delayed. Couple that with earlier puberties, extended adolescence and lengthening educational demands. Many do not marry until their late 20’s and early 30’s. Parents who think in our current culture their children are remaining chaste and untouched sexually until marriage are living in a fragile bubble, one that will inevitably pop. When it does, it is often with tragic results.
What happened to the Duggars on the public stage, and it is simply heartbreaking for all, happens to countless other religious families in more private situations. The church must take some blame here.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: We’ve got to talk about sex. And we need to do it in the church.