To think through this, let's agree on a couple of basics:
- Child abuse is never okay. It's never justifiable. It is wrong.
- The parents should have reported it immediately.
While the overwhelming majority of reasonable people will agree on the root-level basics, the water gets a little murkier when we get into the details. Sadly, it seems, anybody suggesting some alternate viewpoints on the murkier details is liable to be flamed themselves. I'm going to trust that my friends, colleagues, and those who know me will understand that I'm stimulating discussion, not justifying abhorrent behavior.
- At 14, Josh Duggar touched his sisters inappropriately. He did so on three occasions. As we already established, that was wrong. But there has been no indication that he has ever done it again. In fact, there is no indication that it was ever an issue in the Duggar household past that time. So is it fair to call the 14 year old boy an "evil monster" or "horrible predator" and demand that he fully disclose and carry that label with him for the rest of his life?
- The parents were negligent in not reporting this to the authorities. Yes, I agree. But being familiar with Child Protective Services (or whatever it is called in your locality), I can understand their hesitation to let the state step in. This would take a whole series of blogs (and I'm still collecting some data), but CPS is not always just and fair in their actions. And sometimes, Christian families get hit the hardest. Please don't shoot me and start demanding my evidence for that yet (this is a work in progress!), but it's not hard to imagine Josh in jail, the parents prosecuted, and the kids scattered to foster care by a crusading case worker (and in a late breaking development, a 9-1-1 call has surfaced from a social worker who was allegedly denied access to a Duggar child. Social Services will not comment, but why a visit now?)
- What is an appropriate punishment for the Duggars? After over a decade, comments have suggested anything from imprisonment to castration for Josh, prison for the parents, and forced restitution to the victims. There is outrage that they "got away with it" and therefore, there needs to be punishment. Which leads us to the next thought....
- This is a theological point, for Christians who believe the Bible is the Word of God: does Jesus love Josh Duggar? Is there no grace or forgiveness for the likes of him? Or did he commit an unpardonable sin, for which he will forever be damned to hell? Is there no healing for the girls or are they required to go through the rest of their lives as "victims," as if their forgiveness of their brother and their moving on with their lives is a bad thing?
- A lot of people hate the Duggars. But something I noticed is that most people who hate the Duggars, hated the Duggars before this scandal was revealed. Like the Duck Dynasty family, the Duggars have been blasted for their Biblical worldview, their social/political views, and their lifestyle choices. And I think this is telling: reading the comments, there is almost an "Ah hah! Gotcha!" glee that has nothing to do with child abuse. A dear friend of mine inadvertently made this point when she said that members of the Christian right would not hesitate condemning this if it was somebody we already hated. Yes, that's right. And with this scandal, haters of the Duggars jumped all over it.To be fair, some researchers have serious and well-thought out Biblical disagreements with the Duggars' particular brand of Christianity. I respect that. But often, the critiques of the Duggars start with statements like this: "Fundy Christians with lots of kids...that's bad." "Fundy Christians who denounce liberal ideas...that's bad." "Fundy Christians who are uneducated hicks from Arkansas, no less! That's bad." Haven't our liberal/progressive friends taught us that referring to "those kind of people" is the worst form of stereotype? Criticizing 19 Kids and Counting for a variety of reasons isn't new, we just need to be honest as we comment.
Let me state again: child abuse is reprehensible. And failing to report abuse is wrong. But there are answers we still don't have and questions that need to be asked. And like any controversial issue, we must often examine our own biases, our own values, and our own world view before trying to work through a very sad, very tragic, and a very explosive situation.
And once again, let me remind those who comment that name calling, foul language, and excessive ad hominem arguments are not allowed. I love smart people who disagree with me, and civility, sound reasoning, passion, and maybe a touch of humor are preferred.