The Ideology Of Underage Marriages In Conservative Christianity

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Andrew Malone.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Laura Lawrence’s blog The Rambling Soapbox. It was originally published on September 8, 2015.

A Teen by Definition is Not “Mature”

*Little disclaimer: By “mature” I mean as physically developed and/or experienced in life as adults. I am not referring to responsibility, which many teens are better at than some adults. 

I was just 16 but I knew it was love, and my boyfriend, also 16, and I secretly but seriously discussed our future. It was my 18th birthday when my new boyfriend and Sr. year highschool sweetheart proposed to me at our favorite park. I was 18 still when we married and my 19th birthday came one week later. My husband was barely 20.

Over the past 13 years of marriage, we have occasionally reflected on the past. On this issue, we both have come to the conclusion that marrying so young is not something we would now recommend to others. We were in love, but we were not prepared. We were not prepared financially, reproductive-wise, and he was not prepared mentally. Until my new husband kindly walked me through the steps, I had never paid a bill before. I didn’t know how to cook beyond pasta salad and boxed mac and cheese. We had no long-term plans, no goals other than my determination to get my Bachelor’s (it took 7 years, but I finally did).

We were strongly encouraged to marry fast in order to avoid living or falling into sin (sex), and we happily and naively agreed for the sake of our spiritual health and physical desires. It never occurred to our superiors/supporters that if we couldn’t be mature and responsible sexually before marriage, we weren’t mature enough for marriage. Our best friends and family were devastated and deeply concerned. They thought we were being way too hasty.

We struggled much for the first few years, forced to grow up very quickly and alone, for our friends were still in college when we began having babies. Not knowing how to budget, how to pay bills, or how to plan for long-term savings, and neither of us having a college degree, we suffered financially. Some decisions we made so long ago still haunt us today. We were encouraged not to take birth control since they were “full of toxins” and “not natural”, but to try the spit and microscope method of birth control instead. Wouldn’t you know it? Within 7 months I was pregnant.


Underage Marriage in the United States?

I was skeptical when a spiritual abuse blog I follow, posted an article on their FB page about child marriages in certain fundamental, homeschool, patriarchal, Christian circles. I knew it happened in many developing countries. I knew about the practice in fundamental Mormon (FLDS) churches out West. I knew it was a growing issue in the US due to the influx of immigrant cultures, but surely this article was grossly exaggerating the occurrence of underage marriages in these Protestant Christian groups. The article only highlighted two instances of child marriage, and both happened in the same family with a mother (married at 15) and her daughter (married at 16).

I asked for more information, and the moderator of the Spiritual Sounding Board Facebook page generously provided me with 3 more articles. While none of them could make a convincing case for the actual practice of child marriages, the positive mindset among several general commenters, the remarks of Kevin Swanson and Dave Bruehner (two big names in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement), and even Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame, began to show a disturbing trend.

There is a legal, and for some, ethical, difference between underage child marriages which occur between 12-17 (more typically, 15-17) years of age, and young or early marriage, which happens between 18-22 years of age, generally speaking. While the latter has been increasingly pushed by some in Evangelical circles to prevent or reduce sin, when the former does occur or is promoted, many times it is for very similar reasons.


Early/Young Marriage, 18-22

Today there is “a sort of attitude … magical thinking, that if we get you married, then you’ll be fine and we don’t have to worry about anti-poverty programs… we don’t have to worry about child care.” Scholars, pundits and other policy elites need to end their magical thinking about marriage and acknowledge the widespread nature of marital poverty and economic hardship. Married Without Means, p. 3

Statistics have told those with “ears to hear” for years that the rate of divorce decreases, the older a couple is when married. Couples between the ages of 18-24 (or younger) have the highest rates of divorce among married couples. This age group of married couples also tend to suffer significantly lower incomes, many times at or even below poverty level. Poverty’s fallout among young people and society includes poor education, single parenting (related both to the high divorce rate and young, unmarried mothers), severe stress, poor mental and physical health, drug abuse, child abuse, abortion, and the ignominious welfare state-all issues that conservative Christians are deeply worried about.

Still, there are many examples of conservative celebrity Christians, politicians, and leaders who strongly promote the idea of early marriage as a panacea for society’s ills. The often-cited op-ed article from Christianity Today called, The Case for Early Marriage (July 2009), by Mark Regnerus—a sociologist with much to say on the topic of young marriages in the church (see also Regnerus’s similar article titled, Freedom to Marry Young, April 2009, from the Washington Post)—seems to be mostly concerned with abstinence (rather a lack thereof), baby-making, the “decreasing market value of women” as they age, and economics; it is cheaper to live together with someone, pooling resources, than living alone, he insists. Continuing in the CT article, Regnerus appears to idolize marriage as a “formative institution” and elevates it to the status of duty, meanwhile stigmatizing singles (especially women) as if they are forced to settle into their singleness. Regnerus is a real romantic.

The Duggar Family’s long-running reality TV show has garnered them much influence. The Duggars, of “19 Kids and Counting” fame, do not self-identify as a Quiverfull family, but they do maintain similar strict beliefs concerning children, homeschooling, marriage, modesty, patriarchy, and courtship. “Jim Bob and Michelle were married on July 21, 1984, just after Michelle’s high school graduation. She was 17 and he was 19 when they married; neither went to college, according to “19_Kids_and_Counting.

It would seem that oldest son Josh Duggar and his wife, Anna, were married when they were both 20. Anna says on their webpage, she first saw Josh via the TV show when they were both 13. They met at a homeschooling conference in 2006, when they would have both been 18. After a carefully cultivated courtship, they were married in 2008 and now have 4 children.

Josh was recently found to have cheated on his wife with a sex worker (at least once), engaging in rough, unprotected sex and potentially exposing both his wife and unborn child to venereal disease. Of Josh’s two married sisters, one was married at 20, the other waited until the ripe old age of 24. Both young women became pregnant immediately, none of the Duggars have gone to or have been encouraged to attend college. Although the Duggars’ lifestyle has worked for them financially because of their celebrity status, the average couple who marries early becomes just another statistic.


Child Marriage: A Rose by Any Other Name

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-10

Rather than at least remaining neutral on the subject or better yet, speaking up for voiceless girls and young women like the Bible adjures Christians to do, certain teachers, preachers, and celebrities like Swanson, Bruehner, Robertson, the Duggar family, and others, actively encourage early marriage, even child marriage, although most Evangelicals draw the line at age 18-20 (*Disclaimer: I do not know that the Duggars advocate for child marriage, but the others in this list have, as has already been discussed in this article).

“At a Sportsmen’s Ministry talk in 2009, [Phil] Robertson had some advice for a young man. “Make sure that she can cook a meal, you need to eat some meals that she cooks, check that out,” he said. “Make sure she carries her Bible. That’ll save you a lot of trouble down the road. And if she picks your ducks, now, that’s a woman.” 

“They got to where they’re getting hard to find,” Robertson remarked. “Mainly because these boys are waiting until they get to be about 20 years old before they marry ’em. Look, you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” The Duck Commander company founder added: “You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that of course.” “ 

And Robertson practices what he preaches. He began dating his wife, Kay, when she was only 14 and he was 18. They waited until Kay was 16 to get married. See “Duck Dynasty Star: Girls Should Carry a Bible Cook and Marry When They are 15″ from Raw Story.

In a radio broadcast defending Phil Robertson’s comments above, former Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, and current head of Generations with Vision, Kevin Swanson stated: “Remember that one concern people had over Duck Dynasty, when the guy came out and said the girls, 15 or 16 years of age, she’s able to get married, they got all mad. Because boy, you get a girl married at 15 or 16 years of age, that’s a sin! Dave Bruehner: Well it is because she doesn’t have a whole life of fornication ahead of her anymore. Later on, the men remarked, “I mean, think about what the president of the Girl Scouts would say about this, Dave, if we said, “Hey, these 15 year old girls, 16 year old girls, they may be ready to get married. They don’t have to live these, you know, independent lifestyles.””

The story of Matthew Chapman is famous/infamous depending on your perspective. He is well-known in conservative homeschooling groups for courting a young teen named Maranatha while she was 13 and he 25, eventually marrying her with her father’s permission and approval when she was 15 and Matthew was 27.

It seems that Matthew Chapman is going to be a keynote speaker at Christian Home Educators of Ohio’s annual homeschool convention this summer. This is a major convention…In addition to Matthew serving as keynote speaker, his wife Maranatha is slated as a featured speaker. Matthew runs Kindling Publications, and both Maranatha and Lauren is featured heavily on organization’s website. See “Matthew Chapman and Why I Included Lauren’s Picture” by Love, Joy, Feminism.

Attorneys claim Phillips, a close friend to the Duggar family and an associate of actor Kirk Cameron, “methodically groomed” Lourdes Torres since she was 15 years old and led her to believe they would be married. Phillips told the girl this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, “was going to die soon.” See “Lawsuit Reveals Teen was Groomed as Personal Sex Slave in the Duggar Family’s Movement” via Raw Story.

Child marriages heralded by the above-mentioned men, seem genuinely logical in their anachronistic culture which sometimes encompasses such names as Quiverfull, Patriarchy, and Evangelical Homeschool Movement (*there is much overlap here; not all families that adhere to these labels believe all the same things, perhaps especially on the issue of underage marriages). These movements, along with some Fundamental Evangelical Christians and churches, strive to bring back a romanticized 1950s, in some cases 1850s, believing those times to be Christianity’s heyday in America. Interestingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, those eras in history saw higher rates of underage marriages and sexual abuse, wife submission, and patriarchy-centered households -all hallmarks of the above-mentioned movements. It wasn’t until women’s groups moved strongly to shed light on the issues and promote change, that child marriage began to become a thing of the past.

While many might consider child marriages to be a form of pedophilia, medically and legally speaking, pedophilia is limited to sexual attraction to prepubescent children and child molestation is limited to the sexual touching of children 14 and younger. Sexual abuse, then is the term to be used concerning the topic of child marriages.

UNICEF has stated that child marriage “represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls”.[5] The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression,[6] post-traumatic stress disorder,[7] anxiety,[8] complex post-traumatic stress disorder,[9] propensity to further victimization in adulthood,[10] and physical injury to the child, among other problems.[11]  From “End Child Marriage PDF-UNICEF, p. 8.”

The main debate points against pedophilia concern:

  • The lack of true consent on the part of the child
  • The manipulation and power plays on the part of adult authority figures/taking advantage of a child’s innocence, naivete, and inability to say “no”
  • The safety and health of a child which includes the possibility of pregnancy, STDs, and/or physical damage
  • Using a child for the gratification of an adult

While the legal definitions exclude underage, child marriages from being classified as pedophilia or child molestation, there are still strong similarities because of the unique, fundamental culture of the groups that propose it:

  • The young girls in such families are not able to give their own consent, because the consent is settled between the father-patriarch and the bridegroom.
  • There are significant power plays on the part of older adults as they take advantage of such a sheltered girl’s innocence, naivete, and inability to say “no”.
  • The safety and health of the young lady is not taken into consideration, since medicine has shown how dangerous pregnancy can be for teens and their babies, yet in many of these families, contraception is considered a terrible sin against God. As was seen in the Josh Duggar-Ashley Madison case (see link above), these innocent teen girls may still be at risk of STDs as well.
  • Finally, these young marriages are pushed or arranged purely for the gratification of the adults involved and not the benefit of the girl.

Conclusion

  • Young/Early marriages occur between at least one party who is between 18-24 years old. In most cases, the couple are peers in age.
  • Young/Early marriages are often encouraged among traditionally-minded churches and religious groups as a way to reduce sexual sin and single parenthood.
  • Young/Early marriages and child marriages have the highest rates of divorce among married couples. Many times, young couples are uneducated, leading to poverty, which in turn leads to a variety of personal, familial, and social problems.
  • Child marriages are marriages that occur between at least one party who is between 12-17 years old. In many cases, the minor is a female and the bridegroom is in his mid-20s or older.
  • Child marriages are happening in the United States due to the culture of immigrants coming in and religious fundamental cults throughout the states.
  • Child marriages are a form of sexual abuse, no matter how prettily packaged they may seem.

References and Research:

Orthodox Pedophile: I Married My Child Victim So There was No Sexual Abuse

Early Marriage Survives in the USChicago Tribune

DayoftheGirl.org

Child Marriage in the United States and its Association with Mental Health in WomenPediatrics Journal

Child Marriage and Christian FundamentalistsRepublic of Gilead Blog

On Child Marriage: Kevin Swanson and Dave Bruehner Defend Phil Robertson—Homeschoolers Anonymous

Red Sex, Blue SexThe New Yorker

Wait for Sex and Marriage? Evangelicals Convicted

Unsatisfied With Pushing Abstinence Alone, Evangelicals Begin Pushing Early Marriages As WellJezebel

Teenage Brides and Titus 2 Women of the Homeschool ApostatesBecoming Worldly

Robert Van Handel: A Disturbing Look into the Mind of a Pedophile Priest

Bill Gothard’s Abuse is Not a Surprise

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Rachael Moore.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on February 19, 2016.

If you follow developments in homeschool leadership, you likely know that prominent homeschool leader Bill Gothard is alleged to have sexually groomed and molested dozens of young women during his leadership career in homeschool and other fundamentalist Christian circles, beginning in the 1970s and continuing until he stepped down from leadership a couple years ago. You likely also know that a handful of graduates from his leadership programme, IBLB, are suing Gothard, and subsequently the entire IBLP leadership board for turning a blind-eye to Gothard’s crimes.

In the lawsuit documents, the woman describe strikingly similar Gothard experiences: Gothard noticed beautiful girls or woman at his conferences, asked the girls or women to come work for him, and once the girls or women arrived, he made them his secretary, although they were, in many cases, too young (a minor; only 18, etc) or unskilled for the task. He initially would invite the young girls into his office to “counsel” them, and from this relationship, he groomed and then molested or harassed the young women. He called the young women his “energy giver,” and the lawsuit documents state that it was well-known that Gothard had “pets” and a certain “types” of women.

Homeschool blogger Libby Anne recently describes this grooming in her description of the lawsuit:

10. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took teenage girls as “pets.” It was also common knowledge that Gothard’s behavior with regard to these girls was not appropriate. At one point in the early 1990s, after Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, the board barred Gothard from having female personal assistants. This ban was never enforced, and Gothard continued his pattern.

I’m sitting here trying to come up with some explanation for how this went on for as long as it did. People knew this was going on. The IBLP Board of Directors knew, the personal assistant who told Jane Doe III to buy shorter skirts knew, the employee who arranged the room assignment for Jamie Deering knew. People knew something was off. We’re talking about an organization that sent teenage boys home for merely talking to girls, while its leader held late night one-on-one “mentoring” sessions in his office with teenage girls.

Well sure, you say, it was a cult. That’s how cults work. But I want to stress just how widespread IBLP’s influence was within the Christian homeschooling world throughout my entire childhood and beyond. There were hundreds and thousands of families involved who had no idea that anything untoward was happening. This wasn’t so much an insular group like we’re used to thinking about, with its members cut off from contact with the outside. Rather, it was one that faced outward and led wide swaths people across the country to trust it its leadership and its “godly” mission and methods.

I highlighted a couple sentences from Libby Anne’s post that I want to address, namely to what degree did the thousands of homeschool families know about all this.

My family was one of those involved in ATI, the homeschool branch of IBLP, mostly from a distance. We were involved in ATI my entire homeschool career, from about 2nd grade until 10th grade, when we started slowly distancing ourselves from the programme more and more, although my family did not completely severe ties until I was in college. What ATI looked like for my family was yearly visits to the national homeschool convention in Knoxville, Tennessee; quarterly meetings with the homeschool families in our areas; and attendance to several conferences. I did attend one of their local homeschool camps, and we did visit the ALERT academy (a homeschool “army” training programme) occasionally, namely because we lived nearby their main headquarters.

My experiences in ATI were enough to remember some of the strict rules. For example, I had to walk with my head down when I passed ALERT guys, and I can remember the weird campus luncheons where guys pulled out the chairs for us young ladies, and then we sang a hymn and prayed, before eating together.

However, my experience in ATI was still small enough that I had a life outside ATI; my family never visited the Indiana campus, for example, and I never recall speaking to Gothard personally, although I am sure my parents did at some point.

From all appearances, my family was one of the thousand sea of faces that passed in and out of conferences or a campus every year, while remaining mostly a nobody family.

I bring this up because despite the fact that my family barely met Gothard, never worked on our local campus, other than a few volunteer days, and only occasionally visited the campus, my parents were well aware that Gothard had “pets” and “types.”

Here are a few family conversations I remember, which went something like this:

In elementary school:

Me: “Mom, dad, why do we have to wear  our hair down and wear white shirts and blue skirts to conferences. This is so dumb.”
Dad: “Because Mr. Gothard likes girls dressed that way, and he makes the rules.”

In middle school:

Me: “Why does this say we have to curl our hair?”
Dad (beginning to connect the dots): “Gothard is attracted to women with wavy, though not too curly, hair. *He* likes women that way. That’s why he says this.”

In high school:

Mom’s Friend: “We spoke with Mr. Gothard at family camp. You should have been there. Mr. Gothard asked my daughter Hope to come work for him at headquarters. He is so impressed with her and her character and wants her to be his assistant.”
Mom: “Your daughter is ONLY 15.  She needs to finish high school.”
Dad: “Yes, but she knows enough already, and she can catch up during the summer, he says.”
Mom: “He isn’t interested in your daughter because she’s godly. Your daughter is super attractive. He wants her because she is pretty, not because she’s godly.”

I can still remember the conversation my parents had about the daughter Hope at the dinner table that day. Hope was “his type.” Hope had “long, thick wavy hair and perfect complexion.” Hope had little education, and would wait on his every beck and call, because she wouldn’t know better. Dad just kept saying, “Gothard is creepy; I know he is. He spent his whole life [indirectly] telling us that our daughters with very straight hair had inferior hair because it isn’t wavy. Too bad the girls didn’t get my hair, haha.”

I want to be clear; this conversation occurred long before the testimonies of Gothard’s “type” surfaced the internet through the website Recovering Grace. In fact, my family did not have internet at this time that I remember, other than email via dial-up. My parents had this conversations without any personal verification; they obviously had heard gossip about his “pets” and “types,” but they never heard that he was actually touching young girls.

When these young women, who suffered abuse at Gothard’s hands, finally told their story, neither one of my parents expressed shock. They said, “of course, he is guilty.”

And my parents non-shock is not because my parents are cynical; on the contrary, they were extremely shocked when Doug Phillip, another homeschool leader, had to resign from his leadership position, because he assaulted a homeschool girl. My dad said, “nah” when I read him the news about Phillips, and my mom just kept repeating, “How could this be?”

But with Gothard? My parents just said, “of course, he’s guilty; he’s always had ‘types’ and ‘pets.”

When I read the lawsuit accounts, it was creepy to see how much Hope matched the description of the other girls. Like many of the young women, Hope also came from an unstable family. For example, one of Hope’s siblings had a child marriage; her brother married a 15 year girl (I don’t remember his age; perhaps 18? 19?), in a sort of arranged marriage. None of her siblings have a high school education, at least by government standards. Every sibling has married by age 19. Gothard likely knew at least part of this family’s history, because they attended family camp annually (the same family camp the Duggars from 19 Kids and Counting attend) and had the loud-kind of mouth that liked to brag about how they had married their children off. In addition, as I mentioned, Hope was gorgeous, and she spent 2 hours in front of the mirror each day working on her hair and face to make her look even more beautiful.

Thankfully, Hope did not go to the Indiana training centre. My parents had an influence on her family, and for that, I am thankful. Hope married a son of a prominent staff family who worked at the Indiana training centre. (They met at family camp.)

I echo what Libby Anne said; it’s weird that no one stepped in and did anything permanent about the abuse. But I do suggest one additional thing: these allegations are not really a shock, not even to most ordinary homeschool families.

As my parents said, he has always had pets and types; we all knew this.

I’m Tired of Talking About Bill Gothard and The Duggars

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Micah J. Murray’s blog, Redemption Pictures. It was originally published on May 26, 2015.

I’m so very tired.

I just got home from a four-day camping trip — four days of sunshine and rain and afternoon naps and black coffee — and when I opened my computer for the first time last night, the notifications started rolling in. Tweets and Facebook comments and interview requests from the tabloids and click-bait blogs.

I know what they want.

They want to talk to me about the Duggars. About Bill Gothard. About my life in a cult.

They want to talk to me about sweet, sweet scandal — the poster-children for family values caught in a headline-making disaster.

But they don’t want the truth. I know what they really want.

They want to split me open and dissect me like a freak.

They want a juicy quote from me — “The Duggars are cult freaks too!“, perhaps. I’ve done this before. I know the drill.  

They want to splash words and pictures on their shiny pages and say, “Look at the way these folks lived! Isn’t it cute? isn’t it fascinating?”

 

duggars-people-april-2014

No. It’s not cute. It’s not fucking fascinating. It’s devastating.

And I’m tired of it.

Because sitting in their media conglomerate offices in New York or L.A., they have no way of comprehending the questions they’re asking.

They bounce from one thing to another — the Training Centers, courtship rules, and oh my god they didn’t kiss until they were married can you imagine that? — looking for a juicy tidbit to carve out and serve to their barely-interested readers.

They have no way of comprehending what it means for that to be your normal.

And I’m tired of trying to explain it.

I’m tired of watching them fumble around with dramatic heaviness the “oh my god can you believe this scandal?” when it was my fucking life for twenty years. It was all of our lives.

It was normal.

What the gawkers and headline-makers can’t comprehend is that for every scandal splashed across their glossy tabloids, there are a thousand broken lives that will never make the news. 

Sick as it is, sexual abuse sells page views. So they fire up the ol’ outrage machines and crank out a few thousand dollars worth of shock over the latest discovery.

But there will never be headlines for broken marriages and broken hearts, for eating disorders and suicidal depression. For innocent faith destroyed beyond repair. You won’t read in the news about years and years of therapy, about brainwashing and codependency and deprogramming. There won’t be stories about the way some songs still make us get up and walk out of church services, about the thirty- and forty- and fifty-year-olds still trying to believe that their childhood hearts were loved.

This is our normal.

I’m so tired of it.

I’m tired of reading stories of abuse at the hands of those entrusted with the hearts of children. You should be too.

I’m tired and fucking sick to death that we need to keep having this conversation.

And I keep thinking that at some point the church will open their goddamn eyes.

But they duck and weave and slip sideways to avoid how complicit they still are. The church wants to wash her hands of Bill Gothard — “we never knew him!” — but the backers and supporters and poster children are still celebrated. I’ve told you all this before. And I’m tired.

Every time another pillar collapses, you clutch your pearls and buy your tabloids and “oh god isn’t that awful.”

Yes. It’s fucking awful.

And also, it’s completely unsurprising.

But they just rename and rebrand and the show goes on and on and on.

And you keep defending it: “Not all homeschoolers… It was a mistake… Nobody’s perfect….”

I’m tired.

I’m tired of hearing folks like Mike Huckabee taking to the microphones to say shit like:

“They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends.”

Goddamn it, Mike Huckabee. Don’t bring God’s love into this. Not like that. Not now.

Because your words are fucking clanging cymbals. Your religious phrases are the brush-strokes whitewashing the tomb of a system rotten to its very core.

You want to talk about Jesus?

Let’s talk about how Jesus said, “If the root is evil, the fruit will be evil. Then there’s nothing to be done but to cut the whole tree down and cast it into the fire.”

Stop gathering around the rotted-out tree, gawking at the rotten fruit sagging from its branches and saying “How awful. How terrible. How could all this rotten fruit come from this wonderful tree?”

Please, just stop. Stop.

I’m so tired.

Somebody grab the matches and gasoline.

It’s time to burn this motherfucker down. 


Here are some good places to start:

http://www.recoveringgrace.org

https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-the-duggars-josh-20150524-story.html#page=1

http://fiddlrts.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-duggars-how-fundamentalisms.html

Why Public Speculation about the Duggar Children’s Sexuality Should Be Off Limits

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on January 5, 2016.

When Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar signed on with TLC, they put their family before the public as a form of entertainment, and that is how many Americans seem to view the Duggars—as entertainment. I’m not surprised, then, to see people publicly speculating about the Duggar children’s sexuality, but I am concerned. To be clear, I’m not talking about noting that the odds are one of the Duggar kids is going to be gay. I’m talking about public speculation about the sexual orientation of individual Duggar children. I’ve seen fans and critics alike analyze individual Duggar children’s dress, bearing, and other details looking for indications that this one or that may be gay, and then gleefully trumpeting their findings.

There are some very serious problems with public speculation about the sexual orientation of individual Duggar children, particularly those still living at home (whether or not they are minors). First, while Jim Bob and Michelle chose to sign with TLC, thrusting their family into the public eye, their children have never had a choice in the matter. Second, while it may not be obvious at first glance, speculating about the Duggar children’s sexuality is actively dangerous.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a teenage child growing up in a fundamentalist Christian homeschooling household. Imagine, now, that there are rumors circulating that you are gay, rumors based on your appearance or bearing, or your interests or likes. Think for a moment about how such rumors would impact you—because you better believe they would. These rumors might make your local homeschool and church community standoffish and suspicious, and they would certainly lead your parents to crack down on any sign of failure to toe the party line.

Your every move would be scrutinized. 

This is not idle speculation on my part, either. I know of homeschool alumni who experienced exactly what I described above. As rumors swirled in their communities, or as their parents became concerned that they might be showing gay tendencies, they faced consequences—whether or not they were in fact gay. They were shunned by their communities, or had their parents treat them with suspicion and quick judgement or even try to “cure” them of their tendencies. Speculation about a fundamentalist child’s sexual identity isn’t just harmful, it can be outright dangerous.

Roughly 40% of homeless teenagers are gay. Where do you think all those gay homeless teens came from, exactly? There are fundamentalist Christian families out there who respond to having a gay child very very badly. Remember Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen who walked in front of a truck a year ago? Her parents were fundamentalist Christians whose efforts to “cure” their daughter’s gender identity ultimately led to her death. There are other stories too. Homeschool alumni Susie writes this of coming out to her parents:

After a few weeks of gay therapy, I was still gay so my parents did the unthinkable. They both, in my opinion, totally slipped over the edge of reason. I had gone to my therapy appointment and when I came home, as I was pulling in the driveway I realized my driver’s license was not in the console of the car where I usually kept it. So I went inside and asked my mom if she knew where my driver’s license was. Long story short, in an effort to “protect me from myself,” my dad had taken my driver’s license, passport, social security card, birth certificate, credit card and debit card and put them all in a safety deposit box at the bank. I had no legal identity!

I am trying to share enough details to paint the picture, without boring you. So I am going to cut to the chase.

My mom ended up driving me two hours away, in my car, with some of my things and dropped me off with $7 to my name. Tough love is what they called it. I was lucky enough that a friend had a house with two of his friends and they let me stay in an open room. I had no bed, just a pillow and a sleeping bag with some clothes. I didn’t even have a blanket.

Tough love.

Leelah and Susie both chose to come out to their parents, on their own timing. Engaging in public speculation about the sexuality of children living in fundamentalist Christian homes risks forcing those children’s hands, which, again, is actively dangerous. Being a gay teen in a fundamentalist Christian home is a risky proposition even without having to worry about public speculation forcing you out of the closet, especially when the consequences can be astronomically high.

But wait, you say! Speculation about the Duggar children’s sexuality will never actually get back to the Duggars themselves! This is not at all clear to me. It’s fairly clear that the Duggars follow what the media says about them. After the news broke that Josh Duggar had molested four of his sisters as a teen, the girls themselves spoke of feeling re-victimized by the media. The Duggar children still living in the home do have internet access, albeit with certain restrictions. And even if such rumors never make it to the kids themselves, the same is unlikely to be true for the Duggar parents—or for others in their communities.

Perhaps you would still argue that the Duggars signed on for this when they signed with TLC? Public speculation about your personal life is just one more consequence of leading a public life, yes? First, let me repeat, again, that the Duggar children didn’t have a choice in the matter. And second, do you truly care more about your “right” to publicly snark and speculate about the Duggars than you do about the Duggar children’s safety or autonomy? I certainly don’t.

Yes, it is likely, given the sheer number of Duggar children, that one of them is gay. But we need to give that child the space they need to decide when and how to come out, on their own terms, and without having to worry about public speculation about their sexual orientation. This isn’t just about privacy, though it is about that as well. This is also about basic personal safety. Growing up gay in a fundamentalist home is hard enough without the risk of being forced out of the closet by rumors fed or created by public speculation. As homeschool alumni Andrew Roblyer put it:

I often equate growing up gay to growing up in a warzone, where bombs fall all around you day after day after day.  Eventually the abject terror you feel when one lands nearby fades into a constant clenching in your stomach that you don’t even realize, because while you can’t entirely relax, you can’t afford to run at full alert at all times.  I saw and heard so many gay people attacked and condemned by the people I grew up with that my stomach was perpetually clenched, terrified that their rhetoric and doctrine would be used to attack me if they ever found out.

How can we make things better for children like Roblyer? And, presuming that at least one of the Duggar children is gay, what can we do to support that child?

To begin with, we can stop making children’s sexual identities a thing of snark or speculation or a “gotcha” against fundamentalist Christian parents and instead demonstrate our support for LGBTQ youth wherever they are found (and that includes respect for their self-determination of when and how to come out). We can prove ourselves safe people by being safe people. And while we’re at it, we can deconstruct myths about homosexuality or queer identities and criticize the Duggar parents’ anti-gay rhetoric without putting their children in the firing line.

If we care at all about the safety and wellbeing of the Duggar children, and not just about the entertainment value they provide, we need to end public speculation about whether this or that one may be gay.

A Quiverfull of Definitions

CC image courtesy of Flickr, WannaBEEfarmer Jeff.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on September 2, 2015.

I’ve increasingly seen the media use the word “quiverfull” used to describe the Duggars’ entire subculture, and that’s bugging me, because this use of terminology is neither very accurate nor very helpful. In its purest definition, “quiverfull” means abstaining from using any form of birth control and instead letting God plan your family, and yet I’m increasingly seeing it used as a label for an entire subculture. There are several issues with this.

First, “quiverfull” is usually a term used by outsiders looking in. The Duggars themselves have said they do not use the word to describe themselves, and honestly, it is fairly rare to find someone who does. My parents never used the term.

Second, many people who are often included under the “quiverfull” umbrella are not in fact quiverfull. For example, Michael and Debi Pearl actively preach against quiverfull teachings. They do not have a problem with couples using birth control.

Third, one can be quiverfull without adhering to patriarchy (this is actually a thing that really does exist), but this gets completely erased when the term “quiverfull” is treated as a wholistic descriptor for people like the Duggars.

The best way to implode some of the overlaps and issues here may be to tell you a story about something that happened to my mother. First, a word of background. As a child, I grew up reading Above Rubies magazine, which we received regularly. While even she does not use the term “quiverfull” to describe herself or her ministry, Above Rubies’ Nancy Campbell is probably the closest you can get to pure quiverfull, with her magazines full of stories of oversized families and tubal reversals. Her magazines center on the beauty of large families and the value of motherhood and the importance of accepting as many “blessings” as God has to send your way.

Some years back my mother attended an Above Rubies conference. She told me that when the other women at the conference found out that she had twelve children, they gathered around her and called her blessed (that’s Bible language for heaped her with praise and adoration). But when they asked her if she was open to having more children, she told them she had recently had her tubes tied. As a result result, she was shunned for the remainder of the conference.

My mother was really upset when she told me this story, because, she explained, Michael and Debi Pearl taught that a woman must bow to her husband’s will in areas like this, and it was my dad who had insisted on her getting her tubes tied even though she hadn’t wanted to. She felt that she had been unfairly shunned by these women. She wanted to have more children. She hadn’t wanted her tubes tied. I remember her crying over this decision. But my dad said he was going to lose his sanity if we had more children, and for all of the importance my mom put on welcoming every blessing God had to send along, she believed even more strongly in male headship and female submission, so she submitted and underwent a tubal ligation.

Actually, there’s one more thing I should share about my parents as long as we’re talking about definitions. My parents used birth control from time to time to space us children out a bit, but never methods they considered “abortifacient.” Yet even though they sporadically used birth control, they talked about children as “blessings” and spoke of raising us out to send us into the world to win souls and retake it for Christ, all of which is classic quiverfull rhetoric. Were my parents quiver full, then? Or were they not? There’s no real agreement on the definition of quiverfull, and there are plenty of homeschooling families that have more children than they might otherwise as a result of exposure to quiverfull rhetoric, but still use birth control to limit their family size. Where do they fit, exactly? Who is quiverfull, and who isn’t?

But let’s talk for just a moment about what I just described as “classic quiverfull rhetoric.” The term quiverfull is adapted from Psalm 127:3-5, which reads as follows: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” From this verse comes both the rhetoric about children being a blessing (or a reward, or heritage) and the more militant rhetoric that positions children as a weapon and their father as a warrior.

Even here, within these rhetorics, different leaders place the emphasis differently. Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies focuses on the babies as blessings rhetoric and rarely uses rhetoric with a more militant focus. When I read her magazines as a child, her focus was always on mothers and childbearing. In contrast, Michael Farris of the HSLDA focuses heavily on military rhetoric when discussing the importance of having large numbers of children.

farris

In fact, you might very well argue that quiverfull has two separate rhetorics, one mother-focused and one militant-focused, which sometimes overlap and sometimes don’t. But more than this, neither of these rhetorics requires a full rejection of birth control. There are many many many families that use these rhetorics and also use birth control. In some sense, quiverfull rhetorics have invaded the Christian homeschooling culture more generally, and in so doing have become at once more diluted and more widespread and pervasive.

Even when using the purest definition of quiverfull (abstaining from birth control), you are going to find variations in emphasis between families. These variations will often depend on what Christian leader and ministry one became quiverfull through.  Bill Gothard preaches quiverfull within an authoritarian patriarchal family structure and through a ministry (ATI) that is often described as cult-like. Nancy Campbell preaches quiverfull through a ministry that is mother-focused and centered around babies and children. Campbell is still patriarchal, but the articles in her Above Rubies are written by mothers, not male pastors or authority figures. While both might be rightly described as quiverfull (though neither uses the word), the two ministries have very different feels and position their rejection of birth control differently.

The Duggars are followers of Bill Gothard. Their social circles (including both church and homeschool conventions) have long centered around Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute, and until recently, even their curriculum was ATI. The Duggars eschew birth control based on the teachings of Bill Gothard. In fact, essentially every one of the Duggar’s beliefs, from JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last) to the umbrella of authority, comes from Bill Gothard. Yes, the Duggars fit the technical definition of quiverfull (though they do not use that term themselves), but their essence is ATI.

The wider Christian homeschooling subculture the Duggars belong to is best understood as a cluster of overlapping circles, each circle representing a specific leader and/or ministry. There is Gothard’s ATI, there is Nancy Campbell’s Above Rubies, there is Michael and Debi Pearl’s No Greater Joy, and Michael Farris’s HSLDA, and Doug Wilson’s Credenda Agenda, and Jonathan Lindvall and others, and until recently there was Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum. These various groups and leaders may sometimes overlap, but they also have points of disagreement and position their various emphases differently.

My parents primarily followed Michael and Debi Pearl, Doug Phillips, and Michael Farris. But even then, they were not as close Pearl followers as those who go to the Pearls’ Shindigs, and they were not as close followers of Doug Phillips as those who attended his various conventions, and they were not as close followers of Michael Farris as those who sent their children to Patrick Henry College. In other words, there are those families who sample from a variety of these leaders and ministries, and there are those families who lock onto one and refuse to let go, joining an inner circle of sorts.

There are some ideas that these various individuals and organizations tend to share, but each leader and each ministry is slightly different, not only in focus but also in belief. These overlapping circles all tend to be patriarchal, though Farris encourages parents to send their daughters to college while Phillips argues against sending daughters to college and Gothard tends to be against anyone going to college. They all tend to favor large families, though Gothard is against birth control while Wilson is not, and Campbell’s reasons for opposing birth control are different from Farris’s. Perhaps the greatest point of commonality between these groups is the belief that children must be sheltered from the world and carefully trained in Christian beliefs.

Attempts to describe this constellation of groups as “quiverfull” run into serious definitional problems. While quiverfull rhetorics pervade many if not most of these overlapping circles, the number of families that give up birth control entirely is small, and even these don’t generally use the term “quiverfull” to describe themselves. One might argue that this subculture is better termed “patriarchal” than “quiverfull,” but even then I am given pause when I remember my mother’s experience at the Above Rubies conference she attended, and when I think of all of the letters the Pearls receive from women who desperately want to leave their childbearing up to God only to face resistance from their husbands.

In some sense this loose constellation of individuals and ministries is most united not by its emphasis on large families (to stretch the definition of quiverfull to its breaking point) or its emphasis male headship (which is a widespread belief among fundamentalist and evangelicals in general) but rather by its emphasis on using homeschooling to shelter children and train them up to follow God. Yet even that isn’t specific enough, because there are evangelical and fundamentalist homeschoolers who seek to shelter their children and give them a Christian education but don’t follow any of the leaders discussed above or become involved in the alternate universe that is this subculture. Perhaps it is the creation of a parallel culture in pursuance of this goal that is its most defining feature.

I’m not entirely sure where that leaves us. At the moment, we do not have a term that adequately describes the overlapping circles of leaders and organizations that make up the subculture that is conservative Christian homeschooling. Perhaps that is what we need—a new label. If nothing else, though, I hope I have given you a better grasp on the term “quiverfull” and the issues surrounding its definition, use, and meaning.

See also Quiverfull Is an Ideology, Not a Movement or a Cult.

Josh Duggar Checks Into Treatment Center After Porn Star Details “Very Traumatic” and “Terrifying” Sexual Encounter

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Increasingly disturbing revelations continue to surface in the tragic circumstances surrounding the Duggars, the former TLC celebrity family of “19 Kids and Counting.”

This last May it came to light that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and the now-disgraced former executive of the Family Research Council’s legislative action arm, had molested five children when he was a teenager, including members of his own family. Other celebrities from the Religious Right immediately stepped up to defend Josh and minimize the horrors of child molestation, including: Rick Boyer, board member of the Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV); Matt Walsh, viral blogger and popular homeschool speaker at the Great Homeschool Conventions; Mike Huckabee, Republican Presidential hopeful endorsed by HSLDA’s Michael Farris; Ray Comfort, a popular New Zealand Christian evangelist; and Kevin Swanson, director of Generations with Vision and former executive director of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

Then a week ago, Gawker broke the story that Josh had paid almost $1,000 for a “guaranteed” affair via the adultery-promoting website Ashley Madison. This led Josh to publicly confess to cheating on his wife, though in his statement he appeared to blame a “pornography addiction” for leading him to that point. Josh said,

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.

 

Ironically, it was then adultery — rather than the far more chilling and actual crime of molesting children — that led several of Josh’s previous defenders to finally realize the absolute seriousness of Josh’s situation. Rick Boyer said in a public Facebook post that he “was wrong” that Josh was currently living “an exemplary life.” However, Boyer also qualified that by saying he “was right in all that” regarding child molestation, namely, that Josh’s “poor sisters had been abused far more by the buzzard-like media than they ever were by Josh” (image archived here).  Similarly, Matt Walsh said in a public Facebook post that he “was wrong about the Duggar situation” (image archived here). But unlike Boyer, who had the gall to say the media “abused” molested children more than their actual molester, Walsh realized what we homeschool alumni have been saying all along: that the Duggars should never have paraded around their family on TV right after their son molested five children, including siblings. Walsh said,

The more I think about this, I realized I was too easy on the the Duggar parents as well. Jim Bob and Michelle knew that their oldest son was struggling with severe sexual sin, they knew their daughters had been abused, they knew their family was in the midst of moral and spiritual turmoil, yet they STILL decided to put themselves and their children on TV for ten years.

Of course, back in May, Walsh just dismissed people saying this very thing in the flippant way he always treats people with different opinions than his own.

After Josh’s Ashley Madison account became public, secret profiles of Josh’s on Facebook and OKCupid also surfaced. These profiles revealed his private online relationships with strippers and porn stars, including a relatively new porn star named Danica Dillon.

Today Danica revealed the full extent of her relationship with Josh — namely, that while Josh’s wife Anna was pregnant with their fourth child, Josh allegedly forced Danica into having “very traumatic” and “terrifying” rough sex without the use of protection. Though Danica is taking pains to claim the sex was “consensual,” the fact that Josh exchanged money for sex that Danica clearly was not comfortable with — considering both her fear of his use of force as well as his unwillingness to use protection — indicates very clearly full and enthusiastic consent wasn’t important to Josh. Danica says that Josh was “basically tossing me around like I was a rag doll.”

Furthermore, Josh’s unwillingness to use protection clearly puts not only himself and Danica in danger of sexually transmitted diseases, but also Josh’s wife Anna – who was completely oblivious to Josh’s extraordinarily risky and abusive sexual actions.

My heart continues to break for Anna and I really hope she can receive help if she wants it.

Anna was raised in a conservative Christian homeschooling environment that promoted sexual purity until marriage at all costs. Purity was guaranteed as the sure-fire way to stay safe from romantic heartbreak and sexual diseases. Yet now Anna has to deal with the potential devastation of those very things despite following the purity script. At this point we have no idea how many sex workers Josh forced into having unprotected sex with him and thus potentially exposed Anna to any resulting diseases.

This is yet another tragic example of why we need to rethink how homeschooling parents teach their child about “purity”: Sexuality and sexual health are far more complicated than the white picket fence and white wedding dress fantasies of purity culture. When two young people engage in betrothal or courtship and hardly get the opportunity to have personal, private, one-on-one conversations with each other, they have no idea if their spouse, for example, experienced sexual abuse as a child. So even if your spouse never engaged in willing, premarital sex, you don’t know if your spouse is STD-free. That’s something couples need to talk about, even couples who grew up “pure.” And if your spouse cheats on you like Josh did, he might not think about the importance of protection, and thereby place you at risk for STDs — without you even knowing about it. This is why realism in sex and relationship education is desperately important — and potentially life-saving.

In the wake of Danica Dillon’s allegations, Michelle Duggar today wrote on her blog that, “Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center.” An image of her full statement follows:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 11.24.19 AM

Text is:

We are so thankful for the outpouring of love, care and prayers for our family during this most difficult situation with Josh. As parents we are so deeply grieved by our son’s decisions and actions. His wrong choices have deeply hurt his precious wife and children and have negatively affected so many others. He has also brought great insult to the values and faith we hold dear. Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center. For him it will be a long journey toward wholeness and recovery. We pray that in this he comes to complete repentance and sincere change. In the meantime, we will be offering our love, care and devoted support to Anna and our grandchildren as she also receives counsel and help for her own heart and future. During this time we continue to look to God—He is our rock and comfort. We ask for your continued prayers for our entire family.

When it became public several months ago that Josh had molested five children, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar originally claimed that they had sent him to a “faith-based” treatment center run by Bill Gothard, whose sexual abuse counseling material blames victims for their own abuse and discourages wives from leaving husbands who molest their children. Similarly, it is rumored that Josh has again been sent to a “faith-based” treatment center, this time Reformers Unanimous (RU). RU, which offers treatment for pornography addiction and sex addiction, is run by Paul Kingsbury. Kingsbury has zero academic credentials in counseling, medicine, or therapy. Though he calls himself a “Doctor” due to two honorary degrees, his highest actual level of education is a Bachelor of Arts from Hyles-Anderson College, an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist college. Kingsbury was mentored in his career by Dr. Jack Hyles, who infamously defended child molestors in the church he founded, First Baptist Church of Hammond.

However, as of the time of publication, the Duggar family has yet to officially confirm where Josh checked himself into.

An Open Letter to Anna Duggar

Dear Anna,

We don’t know each other. But I feel a connection with you and Josh because, like both of you, I grew up in a conservative Christian home and was homeschooled my entire life. Like Josh’s parents, my parents were leaders of homeschool groups and organizations (albeit on a smaller scale than Josh’s). So I grew up under the spotlight. I am familiar with living a life where your every move — and every stumble — has the potential to be examined by all sorts of people ready to critique you.

Of course, there’s also a huge chasm between you and Josh and myself. Whereas Josh and his parents — and consequently you and your children — have become new faces of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement we all grew up in, I now help facilitate a very different movement: the rising voices from alumni and graduates of the conservative Christian homeschooling movement who are speaking up about the abuses and pain they experienced. I have no idea if you’ve ever heard of Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out. And if you have, I’m guessing you probably heard about us in a negative way — that we’re apostates, the Benedict Arnolds of homeschooling, the greatest threat to homeschooling freedoms, and so forth. So it’s highly probable you will never even read this.

But if you do, here’s all I really want to say: My heart breaks for you and your children and I’m so sorry for all the pain you have gone through this last year.

I have seen the Internet gleefully throw parties over the transgressions of your husband. I don’t want to minimize those transgressions, and I hope you know we should not minimize them. Child sexual abuse destroys bodies and souls. I know this personally, as I was sexually abused as a child. What Josh did is inexcusable and it is important that we talk about that. If you haven’t already, please talk about it. Get Josh to a qualified, licensed therapist. Ask him the hard questions: Does he still struggle? Does he think about hurting your children? I know these are uncomfortable questions but they need to be asked. Your children deserve to be safe and you deserve to know the truth.

But you and your children do not deserve to reduced to the punchline of cruel Internet jokes. You do not deserve to be bullied into leaving your husband or shamed for making your own decisions in that regard. I know many people are doing those very things and my heart goes out to you. You deserve better than that.

What Josh did years ago — molesting children — and what Josh did recently — cheating on you — doesn’t just impact Josh. They impact you. They impact your children. And it makes me furious to see so many people talk about and mock Josh as if you and your children do not exist. So many people seem to pay no regard to how their words and their actions will impact you. They want to redefine your last name to refer to sexual abuse, even though you and your children never abused anyone. Yes, Josh has hurt many people. Yes, we need to talk about that. But you and your children will live under that shadow for the rest of your lives. We need to remember that.

I also want you to know that what happened — Josh cheating on you — is not your fault. What your spouse or partner does by means of his own will is never your fault. And anyone telling you otherwise is lying. Anyone telling you otherwise is victim-blaming and victim-blaming is wrong. It is not your fault that Josh chose to break his wedding vows. It is not your fault that Josh could not control his sexual urges. It is not your fault that he betrayed you.

It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.

Marriage (and all relationships, really) are about communication. And Josh failed to communicate his needs and struggles with you. Instead he threw you to the wolves of his infidelity. Even worse, his infidelity was on a site that got hacked, and now most people around the world know in explicit detail how he hurt you. In fact, they might have known he hurt you before you knew. And they chose to disclose that fact with explicit details that served no purpose other than to shame and laugh at your husband. That just kills me. I’m so sorry you had to find out like this.

I know all sorts of people online are giving you unsolicited advice now. They’re saying you should divorce Josh, you must leave him if you truly love yourself, you better flee from him if you love your children. Anna, that’s not their place. And it’s not my place to tell you what to do, either.

You — and you alone — have the right to decide what is best for yourself.

I hope and pray that you do make your decision based on that criterion (and that criterion alone) — namely, what is best for you. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and safe, Anna. You really do deserve that. I know that the homeschooling world we grew up in often said otherwise. It often said that, as a woman, your place was to please your husband. That your needs were less than your husband’s needs. That you had fewer rights to happiness and health.

But the world we grew up in often lied. It is within your rights to make decisions that guarantee your happiness and health. Do not feel you must make your decision based on any other criteria — what is best for the Duggar Family™ Brand, what your religious subculture demands of you, what Josh demands from you, etc.

The only exception to this, of course, is if staying with Josh puts your children in danger. I don’t know Josh, and I don’t know if you lay awake at night worrying if Josh’s allegedly “in the past” actions of molesting children truly are in the past. I don’t know if you have picked up on warning signs, slowly but ever so surely, indicating that he might hurt your children. I just don’t know. But I do know that if you are worried, if your inner radar is going off, please do not wait to act. Please do everything you can to protect your children, even if that means hurting the Duggar Family™ Brand and betraying your religious subculture. The Duggar Family™ Brand and your religious subculture are not Jesus. They are not your gods. They do not deserve your absolute obedience. Jesus calls us to follow him and part of that call is to protect children from adults who would harm them. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” If you have questions or worries about this, I highly recommend checking out the resources from Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an organization run by Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian. My organization HARO also has resources on child abuse.

To be honest, Anna, I don’t pray much anymore. From a young age I was praying to Jesus. From a young age I learned how others prayed in public and I strived to imitate them. I strived to pray my public prayers in a way that elicited those “Amens” and “Yes, Father”s that proved someone knew how to pray well. And I’ve seen so much hypocrisy among both myself back then as well as other homeschool leaders who prayed one way but lived their lives another way. So praying these days leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

But I want you to know I am thinking prayerish thoughts for you.

We here are Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out are thinking about you and wishing you the best.

If you ever need help or support from fellow alumni, we’re here for you.

Sincerely,

Ryan Stollar

HARO Executive Director

Josh Duggar Blames Porn and Satan in Public Statement

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 20, 2015.

Josh Duggar has now released a public statement.

Statement from Josh Duggar:

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.

I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.

I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust.

The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country, in my heart I had allowed Satan to build a fortress that no one knew about.

As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose to our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.

I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.

Josh Duggar

The idea that porn viewing leads to porn addiction which leads to cheating on one’s spouse is a common one in evangelical circles. It’s also false. But it’s very clearly an idea Josh is leaning on heavily. He’s positioned himself perfectly to travel the evangelical speaking circuit as anti-porn advocate with a powerful testimony.

Also, by putting the mention of his infidelity behind a double mention of porn, he made it easy to miss and effectively minimized it. I already had one person ask me whether the infidelity refers to the porn, not, you know, actual infidelity. Josh may not realize that most people don’t care that he watched porn. Seriously.

It’s the cheating on his wife thing that is an issue here.

Josh says he “allowed Satan to build a fortress.” What that means is that it was Satan who worked this evil in Josh’s life, and Josh’s only mistake was allowing it. This is most definitely a variant of “the devil made me do it.” It’s a way to shift responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate that Josh acknowledged that the consequences he is facing are deserved, that he stated that we have the freedom to choose our actions, and that he has admitted that he was a hypocrite. Still, I’m bothered by the way he blames both porn and Satan for what happened, and I can explain why.

First, notice what doesn’t appear in this statement: Any acknowledgment that any of Josh or his parents’ beliefs may be implicated in what happened. Now yes, lots of people cheat. But remember that Josh and his parents have portrayed their rigid beliefs about sex and relationship formation as the key to creating healthy, happy, sound marriages.

Courtship, not having sex until the altar, all of that is supposed to protect you from problems like this one. And it didn’t work.

There is nothing in Josh’s statement admitting that perhaps a highly chaperoned courtship and sexual abstinence before marriage isn’t so foolproof after all. Instead it’s all about porn and Satan. The problem, the statement suggests, is that Josh didn’t follow the rules closely enough, not that the rules themselves may be flawed.

I was raised in a home much like the Duggars’, but I am no longer religious, and my husband isn’t either. In the Duggars’ worldview, that means we have given ourselves over to Satan, because we are no longer protected from sin or temptation by the blood of Jesus. My husband and I began our relationship as a courtship, but switched to just dating when my parents’ started layering on restrictions. We had sex before the wedding. And you know what? We don’t subscribe to that whole no-porn business. And yet, somehow, neither of us has ever been anywhere near cheating.

The Duggars promote very specific sex and relationship rules, rules that are supposed to protect young adults from just this heartbreak. I’ve been saying for years that these rules are seriously flawed, and others who grew up in this environment have as well, but the Duggars have continued to promote courtship and abstinence as the foundation for sound marriages. Courtship and abstinence before marriage were supposed to give Josh and Anna the perfect relationship and a fairy tale marriage, but it didn’t. Josh’s infidelity ought to put a dent in their starry-eyed promotion of courtship, at the very least, but given the way this statement is phrased, I don’t see that happening.

The Duggar boys aren’t allowed smartphones for fear they’ll access porn. The Duggar children, including the adult children, are only allowed on the internet with someone else sitting by them watching them, to make sure they don’t access objectionable things like porn. It’s almost like they never stopped to ask themselves whether making such a huge deal about porn might backfire when their sons got out of the house and had control over their own internet.

When you obsess over sex, you shouldn’t be surprised when sex becomes an obsession.

But you know what?

I don’t think any of these questions will be asked, and I don’t think any of these conversations will be had, at least by the Duggars.

And that’s sad.

Sex Abuse Victim Allegedly Filing Lawsuit Against Josh Duggar

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

By now, nearly everyone with access to the Internet has likely heard of the Duggar family tragedy. At least five young girls were allegedly molested by Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. The family waited several years to report the crimes. When they finally did so, they only told a police officer who was a family friend, who himself was later convicted of child pornography.

A new report today by InTouch Weekly reveals that one of Josh Duggar’s alleged victims is preparing to file a lawsuit against him. The report says,

A non-Duggar family molestation victim is preparing to file a civil suit against Josh Duggar, sources tell In Touch magazine exclusively in the new issue on newsstands today.

The shocking development means that Josh and his parents Jim Bob and Michelle could be forced to give depositions and testify about Josh’s molestation scandal. The Duggars likely will have to answer every question as they will not be able to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because the criminal statute of limitations has expired.

While I would not normally feel comfortable citing from a gossip magazine, InTouch Weekly has led the investigative journalism charge on the Duggar tragedy. The information they have uncovered on this issue has thus far been credible.

For further reading:

How Roland Barthes’s “Myth” Functions in Modern Homeschooling

Roland Barthes.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on October 6, 2014.

In a previous post on emotional abuse in homeshooling, I wrote this:

The reason I connect this to homeschooling is that homeschooling made the shit seem natural, the way that it was ought to be.

In the comment section of that post, one reader writes:

I also went through verbal and emotional abuse, but we weren’t homeschooled. . . . I still thought this was normal, even though I saw a lot of other families in school. Because my parents truly loved me and cared about me; they just had tempers and fears.

I do realize that the majority of abuse survivors, probably especially children, think what their experience is normal and not abuse. But when I spoke of “the shit” seeming “natural,” I was speaking of a lot more. Let me explain.

Most of you are probably familiar with the way that companies use advertisements to sale their products. Just to help illustrate, you can view the following commercial:

Mercedes is just a car. But this advertisement is not just selling a car – it is selling a lifestyle. From watching this clip, think of the wolf, the mountains, the modern house, and even the phrase “untamed” and how it all signifies a certain lifestyle.

All of us today are aware of basic advertisement strategies. Roland Barthes, a 20th century social critic and structuralist from France, was the first to coin advertising as “myth.” Barthes argues that advertisements has a double order of signification. A Mercedes sales both a car and a lifestyle. The myth is the lifestyle.

But what Barthes says is that myth functions in all of language, not just in advertising. In his short essay “Myth Today,” Barthes argues that myth sacrifices history. He illustrates with this picture:

myth

This is the front page of the Paris Match. Barthes explains:

“I am at the barber’s, and copy of Paris-Match is offered to me. On the cover, a young Negro in a French uniform is saluting, with his eyes uplifted, probably fixed on a fold of the tricolour. All this is the meaning of the picture. But whether naively or not, I see very well what it signifies to me : that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, without any colour discrimination, faithfully serve under the flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so-called oppressors.”

Myth sacrifices history. Myth in this photo re-ordered the history of colonization and made it appears as if it was “natural,” as if it was the only way to be.

So how does this connect to homeschooling?

The homeschool community fosters several “myths.”

Remember I said that when someone buys a Mercedes, he or she is not just buying a car, even though technically all they receive is a car. He or she thinks they are buying a whole lifestyle, which is why they are willing to pay more than twice the price of a regular car and drive by a poor neighbor on the way home from the car lot. Myth makes one feel young, important, ageless, etc.

It is the same way with conservative homeschooling. Our parents did not just buy a method of education or a lifestyle of doing school at home. Instead they were buying a package of a happy, happy, godly, content, grateful, loving, spiritual, happy, loving, happy, loving, spiritual, happy, loving family.

Think of the Duggar poster family. They represent the homeschool lifestyle and send certain messages to the American public. The Duggars are not just selling “big family.” They are selling the message that their lifestyle makes people happy and godly. The myth says, “raise your kids the Duggar way, and they will be polite and want to become missionaries and aways get along with each other.” The Duggars even sale books telling you how to produce this kind of family.

I actually wrote about this in my post The Duggars are Not Crazy. Homeschooling and fundamentalism sold something besides just education. It sold a lifestyle, a lifestyle that looked extremely appealing.

I like this picture of the Duggars because instruments are part of the homeschool myth:

duggarhope

We play instruments, yes, but the instruments in homeschooling also signify the big happy family. Big homeschool families, the myth tells us, are happy, get along, and even play instruments together. When homeschoolers pick up their instruments, they know they are doing more than just learning an instrument; they are practicing the big, happy homeschool lifestyle.

So what is my point? What is the problem with myth? According to Barthes, myth demands the sacrifice of nature. Myth rewrites history. It changes everything while making everything in front of us seem natural, as if it was the only way to be.

And that is what I was saying about homeschooling making abuse seem so natural.  When my mom yelled at me, spanked me, and said I was rebellious, not only did the emotional abuse seem natural to me, as if it was the only thing I ever knew, but also the whole homeschool myth made our pain seem necessary to the overall goal to produce a happy homeschool family who would go on to save the world. Part of the myth was that the tears and struggle were necessary in order to overcome a rebellious heart and stubborn spirit.

It wasn’t just that mom exploded, and she covered it up. My mom actually would call her friends on the phone, and they would discuss how to break my rebellious spirit.  My parents’ friends were the ones who told my parents to take my basketball away from me because I forgot to say thank you. My mother’s friend told her to just give me bread and water and make me stay in my room for being disrespectful. As Barthes argues, myth does not lie. When you sign up for the conferences, they told our parents that winning their kids souls for God would be difficult but not to let down because the end result was a happy and godly generation of arrows for God.

Thus Mom and her friends would brag to each other about their discipline. Sure no one saw the degree of the emotional abuse in our family. Nevertheless, myth was always covering up my parent’s tracks and always sacrificing the truth. You may notice that whenever a homeschool alumni comes out and tells his or her story of abuse, a flock of homeschol parents comments and says it’s no big deal and the alumni is just being disrespectful. So many parents still believe that breaking the spirit of children is totally necessary.

Everything around us was sacrified for the homeschool lifestyle, as it came completely natural to us, as natural as eating.

Again, to illustrate, think of phrases from North American history textbooks, such as the American “frontier,” the belief that God gave us the land, “the virgin land,” and progress. All of these myths allowed us to steal land from the First Nations People in North America and then kill their culture.

Similar the belief that homeschooling is a Biblical command, the belief in purity and courtship, and all of the homeschool “lifestyle” that homeschoolers bought into when they signed up for the conferences, all allowed parents to sacrifice the hearts of their kids.

As Ryan Stollar argued in his paper, patriarchy and legalism are a small part of the problems in American homeschooling. Homeschooling was a myth that has covered all our broken pieces. The fact that there was so much abuse in our families is not a surprise.

Myth is always too good to be true.