I wasn’t a regular viewer of 19 Kids and Counting, but I was certainly aware of them. You couldn’t miss the national Duggar mania that existed up until the last couple days. With books published, a national television reality series, and almost weekly headline articles in the top magazines, it was hard to believe that the Duggar name could really bring any more attention.
But then, the news broke about Josh Duggar.
Now, everyone’s full attention is on Josh Duggar and the Duggar family.
I have to say, I’ve been saddened by the response by both professing Christians, as well as those who are not. There are some major problems with a police record for a minor being released, but that’s not the center focus of my article. That topic has already been covered.
I want Christians to stop and think.
This is a huge moment where the church as a whole could learn something. So please set aside any predisposed good will or disdain for the Duggar Family, and let’s think through these unfortunate events as they are.
The church is sadly, no stranger to sexual abuse. From the disturbing sexual abuse study taken at Bob Jones University, to the repeated sexual offenses by the leadership of FBC Hammond, including, most recently, those which led to the arrest of Jack Schaap.
And now, we have this report of Josh Duggar. When the news dropped, it seems everyone non-Christian began to broad brush Christians as hypocrites and phonies. I don’t think any of us are shocked by that.
I was not so much taken aback by the unsaved populous and their reaction as I was the general Christian reaction – though frankly, I’m not sure I was, since the response has been typical in most sexual abuse scandals, this one just happens to be nationwide, not just church-wide.
Within the first day of the report dropping, the hashtag #IStandWithTheDuggars began to show up prominently on Christian Twitter and Facebook accounts. Many came in defense of Josh, stating things like, “He was a teenager, we were all far from perfect as teenagers.”
After a report of a teenager sexually assaulting around 5 girls, including family members, you want to immediately throw up that response?
Why are we as Christians so blind to the serious issues with sexual abuse in our circles, and specifically, in this very disturbing story. Let’s look at the facts here.
1. Josh Duggar molested around 5 girls. According to the report he fondled the breasts and genitals of girls while they were sleeping in his home, as well as forcibly assaulted some who were awake.
2. Some of the girls Josh assaulted were his sisters.
Now, before I list the third fact, I want to say that I believe that this is where the most disturbing aspect of the story lies. And I believe, although Josh committed horrific acts, this person and institution should be likewise held accountable.
3. Jim Duggar – Josh’s Father – first went to his church to tell the elders there. He did not go to the police.
4. The church waited six months to come to a decision about how to “handle” the situation.
5. Even after these six months, rather than deciding to go to the police, they sent Josh to a labor camp to be “discipled” and “mentored” by someone.
6. It wasn’t until after a year, conveniently when legal action could not be taken, that Jim Duggar took Josh and his victims to the police station. Not so any punishment could be carried out, but for them to receive counseling.
From these facts, do you really want to say boldly, #IStandWithTheDuggars?
I certainly don’t.
This is a sad case of sexual sin being committed repeatedly with no confession, then being swept under the rug by the leaders in the home and church, and “dealt with” outside of the proper legal channels.
The victims here are the girls and relatives who experienced this abuse and who were forced to remain silent and live with him all those years.
Josh was at fault. No doubt about it. But his father and the church who swept these acts under the rug are no less at fault.
Can we please stop for a moment, reflect on the things that went so wrong in this situation, and work toward ending the cycle of abuse that has become so prevalent in the Christian community?
I pray that Josh Duggar truly did repent and seek forgiveness from Christ. I truly do. I certainly hope that he did accept Christ after this situation as he states. But the situation was not dealt with legally, no proper protection and help was given to the girls abused, and it scares me to think of the emotional baggage they’ve had to deal with living in silence about the abuse for this long.
If you or someone you know is or has been sexually abused, report it, regardless of whether or not your church or family leadership are telling you to do otherwise.
Forgiveness is important, but it does not in any way take the place of justice.
I do stand with the Duggars who have been hurt, betrayed or abused. I do not rise in defense of the abuser or his counterparts.