Saturday, June 6, 2015

Not Ashamed of the Gospel: The Duggar Ordeal

I read the transcript of Ms. Kelly's interview with the Duggars, and I watched a few online videos of it as well. I thought they did a good job explaining the steps they took to address an incredibly scary situation.

Because I don't hate them, I could really understand what they were saying. I really heard their words, rather than scrutinized them in attack mode, which is what the haters did.

Next, I studied the response. I read early sets of comments in about three articles, mortified. The hateful response wasn't so much of a surprise, but the lack of contrary opinion really concerned me. Prior to the interview, there were still some brave Christians countering what the haters were saying.

Are we afraid to speak now? Have the moral relativists beaten us down? Has it become so dangerous to dissent on moral values that Christians will no longer speak? I understand that it sometimes seems futile. Reading the hateful comments, one can see the spiritual blindness in them. "They know not what they do"--certainly this is true here.

I know this kind of religious hate. I was on the receiving end of it from one of my own parents, with whom I cut off contact 16 months ago. Religious persecution is incredibly hard to handle and the closer the persecutor is to you, the harder it becomes. It eventually becomes so pervasive that you can only step away and honor that family member with your forgiveness and your prayers. You don't have to remain in the line of fire in order to forgive them--forgiving doesn't mean staying with.

What would the haters have done differently, I wondered as I read their vile comments?

Most of us wouldn't turn our sons over to the police for what Josh first confessed to, unless we became convinced we had lost him. A true or potential monster, even if it's our own son, needs to be turned over without hesitation. Josh demonstrated, in confessing on his own, that he wasn't entirely a lost lamb yet--just a terribly stray one. I believe the Duggars would have immediately turned him over if his offense had been worse.

And I believe they were vigilant in watching him out in public as well, in light of his confessions.

When they said..."this wasn't rape"...they weren't excusing his "touching over the clothes, and a few seconds under the clothes" (I haven't read the police report). They were only clarifying why they didn't take him to the police right away. They weren't saying their son didn't have a glaring, scary problem.

Would the haters, I wonder, at that juncture, have assumed their son was a real criminal who couldn't be rehabilitated by meticulously involved, serious, sober parenting? I agree some of us would have removed such a child from our home sooner, but take him to the police right away? How many would have done that?

They did take it very seriously. They were mortified. In loving their son despite his sin, they weren't failing to love their daughters. They did lock doors and protect their daughters at night, and watched Josh closely during daylight hours, even removing him from the home to be with his dad at work, so as not to burden Michelle with having to watch him so closely while she was homeschooling and caring for babies.

They poured their hearts into him, trying to win him for the Lord, without forgetting their daughters--forgetting their daughters being something for which they were brutally accused of on social media.

When he offended again (at least once with a five-year-old), they knew he couldn't live under their roof any longer. However, they didn't see a good outcome in sending him to a correctional facility, which didn't have reasonable success rates. Also, I suspect they weren't ready to conclude he needed to be registered as a sexual offender for life.

They spoke to church elders for guidance, knowing they had done all they could on their own, without resolution. They knew the risk in sharing (possible betrayal) but did it anyway. They didn't hide in the dark. It was decided to try Christian counseling/mentoring in another state for three months, followed by allowing him back in the house (having changed), with every child in the family, including Josh, receiving professional, accredited counseling.

When Josh returned from the mentoring program, he was apparently a new, rehabilitated creature in Christ, but they still kept safeguards in place. The father expressed in the interview that sending him away for mentoring was the best decision of the whole ordeal.

The haters don't get this and this is big. If you don't believe in Jesus Christ, resurrected, you don't believe in a transformation of the heart. You can't believe someone supernaturally becomes a new creation. This occurred in my own heart and life--having come to Christ at age 31. I look back at the old me and don't even recognize that former person.

My adult transformation does help me understand the blindness inherent in the spiritually dead. The word blindness is appropriate in describing the heart of the unsaved.

Only Josh and the Lord know the current state of Josh's heart, but so far, no new victims have come forward. It appears thus far, then, that Josh may be one of the 85% to 90% of boy offenders aged 12 to 14 who do this kind of thing sometime in these two years, without it being a prolonged sin following them into adulthood.

The Duggars learned a few things as parents through their ordeal: don't let boys babysit, don't let older boys hold little ones, don't let kids play games, such as hide-n-seek, alone in bedrooms. Everyone was to stay visible, according to the new rules.

They were attacked for these safeguards on social media. Many said these measures were ridiculous (that Josh himself was the problem, not his hormones or adolescent boys in general).

The parents did take Josh to the local police station (with a non-family witness in company) upon his return home from the three-month mentoring program. They didn't pick out any certain officer ahead of time. They got who they got, and it happened to be someone who only gave Josh a stern talking to, instead of filling out a report. Years later, this officer ended up in prison for pornography charges, which was a coincidence and not a reflection of the Duggars.

After the visit to the police station, the Duggars say they didn't know what would come next, whether it was an arrest, an investigation, whatever. They waited. Months went by and nothing happened, until 2006 when a tipster (apparently an acquaintance who betrayed them) started new police involvement, which included each child involved, except Josh, who was 18 by this time, being interviewed at length. Then, Josh went with the parents before the judge, who dismissed the case because of the statute of limitations having passed, and because all involved had already received counseling.

Child services said the family handled it well--better than most. People rarely take their children to the police for such things, according to the authorities.

Nothing the Duggars did to address the situation pleased any of the haters. Nothing.

Realistically, if people are honest, the only things some of us would have done differently is maybe put such a child in professional counseling immediately, as well as removing him from the home far sooner. However, it was the 3 months away that seemed to really turn his life around, so who are we to say the parents made a mistake with their timing?

In their defense, when it became clear it could be deeper and darker than teenage experimentation, such as when the five-year-old was involved, they removed him the same day.

Does any disagreement on the speed of counseling, or the speed of removing him (or even on getting the police involved), really make these parents vile, deserving of serious disrespect and hate? What two families handle anything exactly alike?

The haters even attacked Michelle's hairstyle, her eyes, her voice, the way she looked at her husband. They claimed the husband barely let Michelle speak. They claimed these two were uneducated hillbillies. (Obviously, the haters had read a thing or two about patriarchy and assumed Michelle had no say in their marriage, before actually seeing any evidence of this).

The Duggars say they are not part of patriarchy or Quiverful, but they do share a good number of the characteristics.

Personally, I felt Michelle said everything she wanted to say, and her husband was respectful of her the whole time (at least in the clips I saw). They seemed like a good team. Who wants to watch an interview wherein the parents are constantly talking over one another?

I wasn't watching the interview with a hateful heart, but a heart to understand and learn the facts about what has become an attack on this family--and by default, an attack on Christianity in this country (because so many had things to say about this family's stance on marriage equality, and on a certain robocall Michelle made in Arkansas last year. The attacks weren't primarily about how they handled their tragedy, so much as how they handled it in light of their political beliefs).

The clear message is: Don't have standards for people's behavior, or we'll come after you. Don't hold up the Bible as a standard for human behavior. Especially, don't do this if you aren't a saint yourself.

In other words, don't have standards, period, except law and order. Let's be a country without boundaries in our personal and collective behavior. Whatever makes you feel good that isn't cheating, stealing, violating or murdering, go for it and let well enough alone.

Never mind that this isn't working. Never mind that children are committing suicide and falling apart in huge numbers. Never mind that problem drinking in this country now affects a third of the population (are we going to become Russia, with it's shocking alcoholism figures)? Moral relativism is failing us as a nation.

My main problem with the Duggars prior to that interview was that they agreed to do a reality show and put their family out there, knowing something damaging could get out. I didn't enjoy all the mud-slinging toward Christians one bit. In fact, I can't sleep some nights thinking about what it's like for Christians in this country right now, though I trust God. I mourn the loss of any reasonable amount of respect. Years down the line, maybe it will be more than just respect, and become an issue of safety whenever we want to voice our Christian beliefs.

Back to the Duggars deciding to do a reality show in 2008 (and TV specials before that). They had nothing to hide at that point in 2008, apparently, but it was still risky, just two years out from the last contact with police, with the police record never getting sealed (because Josh was 18, an adult, when the last police work was done).

The law and the police were supposed to protect the victims, but not Josh at that point. He sued, and lost his battle to have his records sealed. More identifying circumstances should have been redacted in that released report, given the family's notoriety. Someone chose not to afford the family (the victims) this kindness.

Now, I think I understand the reality show decision a little better. They are a political family with a very strong ambition. They want to influence law and the culture for good. They agreed to the show, I surmise, partly to gain exposure. Apparently it was worth the risk to them--that's what ambition is, partially. Being willing to take risks to realize a goal. 

I can only partially understand this, having no personal drive for a national arena (or even a Facebook or Twitter arena).  It remains to be seen if they conclude, in the end, that it was worth the risk. God will use it for good. He already is. Due to Kelly's report, people are calling abuse hotlines in the droves.

One of the most difficult things about succeeding in politics is answering the question: How do I become a household name? A national show is one way in--something Huckabee chose as well, though in a different format.

I pray we all speak our minds without fear, while clinging to the Lord for strength. No matter what people say about us, we mustn't be ashamed of the Gospel. Speak, speak, speak, for the glory of God.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

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