By now I am sure that the reader is painfully aware of the recent developments in regard to the Duggar family, of late reality show fame, so I won’t recap what is, or at least ought to be, a very unpleasant revelation about the family’s eldest son, Josh. (If you don’t know what I am referring to, you should be able to crawl out from under your rock, and hear a full accounting from the nearest passer-by.) I’ll just say that it was some really, really messed-up stuff that is difficult for me to hear, much less understand, and we’ll leave it at that.
To say that I was disheartened by what I heard would be an understatement. My heart sank in me when I first heard it, and I fervently hoped that it wasn’t true. Well, unfortunately, it is, and now we have to face that reality. The full ramifications of this public revelation are still playing out as I write, but whatever comes out of this story, it seems unlikely that things will ever quite be the same for the Dugger family, and their now cancelled TV show. Those tragic events that took place 12 years ago should be a source of sadness to every person of professed goodwill, and most especially to those calling themselves Christians.
A naive observer might almost be surprised, then, to hear that for many they are not a source of sadness. Quite the contrary, in fact. The story has been greeted with glee and downright unseemly delight by many. To some, this tragic story is like a breath of fresh air. Reading through online comments you can hear the same repeating theme. In each case, the individual never stops with simply condemning the Duggars’ actions from twelve years ago, but continues on to say something else about how they don’t like this or that unrelated aspect of the Duggars’ conservative, Christian lifestyle. Now for the record, I’m not a big fan of so-called “reality” shows. Nor have I ever professed to believe that it was all that great of an idea for the Duggars to have a show in the first place. But if we’re being honest, most of the flak they’ve taken has not been related to that decision at all. The Duggar family has become a symbol of conservative, (dare I say even earnest?), Christianity. The kind of Christianity that actually stands for something and is distinctly different from the world it lives in. And for that they are hated. This wouldn’t be the first time the family has been involved in controversy, but it is the first time anyone has had anything really good to use against them. The homosexuals in particular despise the Duggars for their biblical stance, but they are far from the only ones. A month or so before this I remember reading an entire article about all the “shocking” things that the Duggars believed. (By which I understood the author to mean that he fervently wished they were shocking.) Mostly what was listed was basic Bible 101. Oh yes, some people have been waiting for this a very long time.
And what of the Christians? I can understand why the other side might greet this event with joy. After all, they are no doubt convicted and offended by the family’s clean living and lack of dysfunction – so rampant in today’s culture. Yes, I can see why non-Christians might be glad to hear of such a serious shortcoming. But I wonder what the presence of a similar attitude says about Christians who rush to condemn the Duggar family for the way they handled this sin? Christians might reasonably be expected to understand something about the transformative, atoning power of the blood of Jesus Chirst. They might also be expected to understand that when a sin has been humbly confessed and forsaken, especially for a long period of time, it means something. That is, if they understand anything about the aforementioned process. However loudly they profess to be disgusted by these actions, one wonders how sad Christians really are about it if they choose to use it as an opportunity to pile-on to a family of earnest, fellow Christians who have taken a public stand for a careful, Biblical brand of Christianity. So I have to ask, what is the real issue? Are the high standards and careful living a conviction to some Christians?
However loudly they profess to be disgusted by these actions, one wonders how sad Christians really are about it if they choose to use it as an opportunity to pile-on to a family of earnest, fellow Christians who have taken a public stand for a careful, Biblical brand of Christianity
None of this is to in any way excuse Josh Duggar’s actions from twelve years ago. Indeed, Josh himself makes no attempt to do so and, I was comforted to note, avoided the use of the word, “mistake” when describing his wrongdoing. (That word get’s used way, way too often by politicians caught up in sex scandals.) The sin was confessed, dealt with, and forsaken some time ago. In so far as we have any reason to believe, there has been no recurrence. What then is the ongoing issue that requires our righteous indignation? The way the parents handled that horrifying development? So say some, but would you have your 14 year old child branded as a sex offender? Would you turn him over? Really? Maybe you would have. Maybe they should have. Do you know for sure? I’ve heard it said that we should place ourselves in the position of the victims. Fair enough – sounds like a good idea. Perhaps we should also place ourselves in the position of the parents and pray to God we never have to make that call. In any case, Mr. and Mrs. Duggar where unwilling to allow that situation to continue. In fact they did not allow it to continue as evidenced by the fact that they took immediate steps to remove any physical possibility of a recurrence, (after internal measures failed), until they were satisfied that sufficient spiritual progress had been made. You may fault their methods, but in the end they did get results. I wonder if the correctional system could have done as well.
I’ve heard it said that we should place ourselves in the position of the victims. Fair enough – sounds like a good idea. Perhaps we should also place ourselves in the position of the parents and pray to God we never have to make that call.
So what should be our response to this information? Sadness? Certainly. We should feel the same deep pain and regret that we would feel if we ourselves had done something equally monstrous and had now come to repentance. (Though understandably to a lesser degree.) But what about indignation and a desire to punish and condemn? I could certainly understand a feeling of righteous indignation at an ongoing sin, but what about one that is acknowledged, repented of and forsaken? (For an ample proving time – say, twelve years.) There would be no purpose to any righteous indignation in that case. It would not, in fact, be righteous. How much less righteous would be any feelings of joy or relief at finding out that Josh Duggar had once messed up really bad? We should not respond with the same gleeful delight that many have. Rather we should resolve to be more careful, more circumspect, and more courageous in telling the truth. Not because we are perfect and deserving vessels, but because doing anything else would be a waste of the breath that God gave us.
“but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”