Public Purity versus Private Reality in the U.S. Frontline

JOSH DUGGAR AND THE PURITY LIE

duggarpurity

Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of “reality” TV and the real life conservative movement, has resigned his position as executive director of FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, after In Touch magazine reportedthat he sexually abused young girls, including, apparently, his sisters, as a teenager.

In a statement to People magazine, Duggar, now 27, said:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. . . . I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.

Ruining his life.

According to the police report, Jim Bob and Michelle, paragons of parenting, hid Josh’s crimes from the police and the public. In Touch reports, based on the police report it obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, that:

Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview [sic] by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.

The police report reveals that Jim Bob Duggar “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on” rather than contacting law enforcement. Josh was then sent to “Christian counseling” for three months, which, according to his mother’s admission, was not any sort of licensed counseling facility:

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”

In their own statement to People, Jim Bob and Michelle say that “when Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong,” that “each one of our family members drew closer to God,” and that they “pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family.”

But the Duggars and their supporters have very deliberately marketed them as a perfect family—or if not perfect, at least pure, and in particular, sexually pure.

The first episode of their “reality” television show aired in 2008, two years after the police interviewed family members about the sexual assaults that had taken place in 2002 and 2003; the statute of limitations had already run and the police could not pursue charges.

In 2010, the Family Research Council, Josh’s future employer, gave Jim Bob and Michelle the “Pro-Family Entertainment” award, describing the family as “outspoken ambassadors for Christian values in a secular world.”

On their television program in 2009, Josh Duggar was portrayed as devoting himself to a “courtship” with his future wife Anna, rather than dating, which was derided as part of the “divorce culture:”

Tonight, Anna described her husband to People as “someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended.”

This week, a recap of their television show on their blog discussed how Jim Bob and Michelle “encourage their kids to take a chaperone along on all their dates so they have someone to keep them accountable and ensure that they stick to their courtship standards.” In their family, they police sex outside of marriage. In politics they police sex between consenting adults, sex between people of the same sex; they are “pure” and “godly” because they police and condemn other people’s sexual lives. But now the public knows that this family which enforces “purity” has covered up the sexual predations—against children, even their own children— of their star son.

The Duggars haven’t shied away from “protecting” children in other contexts. As Right Wing Watchreports, last year Josh Duggar “led a successful campaign to defeat a LGBT nondiscrimination measure in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which he said jeopardized the safety of children,” and that his mother “also ran a robocall pushing for the repeal of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which she warned would empower ‘child predators’ to threaten ‘the safety and innocence of a child.’”

The Duggars are no ordinary spokespeople for the religious right; they are super-spokespeople. For years, they have been held up as exemplars of biblical living, of devotion to Christ, and of, especially, homespun honest living and sexual purity. It’s long been obvious to many that this is a product of marketing and packaging, not reality. But now no one can pretend anymore.

______________________________________________________________

It had to happen – sooner or later – that a publicist for conservative evangelical family morality would become less than believable in protestations of sexual propriety in their own family life.

This unfortunate revelation of family sexual impropriety has burst upon an unsuspecting public in the United States of America, where Republican-style evangelical broadcasters are often the fiercest critics of what they see as sexual immorality: in their book, the most heinous sin in present-day public and family life.

The fact of life they most neglect to factor into their harsh criticism of other people lies in their refusal to acknowledge the complexity of human sexual responses that, if not adequately understood and dealt with, can spoil the quality of life – not only for those who act outside their own religious code of ethics, but also for the victims that inevitably suffer from the propagation of prejudices that arise from ignorance of the facts.

In their haste to defend what they see as the ‘sanctity of marriage’ – especially in regard to the inapplicability of sexual relationships outside of marriage – this family has never resiled from publicly supporting these aims, despite the fact that one of their own family (who also supports the sexual purity code) has been proven to fall short of the professed degree of  purity required of the Duggars Family Crusade on broadcast television.

“All have sinned and fallen short” ought to be the public admission of any Christian who seeks to set other people on the path of moral sexual purity. Perhaps a broadcast public admission of their own family’s failure to measure up to their own code of conduct might help their audiences to better understand the problems associated with a mistaken proclamation of personal exemption from ‘sins of the flesh’ – to which we are all putative heirs, by virtue of our being human.

Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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