Friday, August 28, 2015

Worshiping Jim Bob Duggar

For weeks now I've been keeping an eye on the Josh Duggar story. I wanted to know what would happen next. This sort of thing is important to me--he molested children, and got away with it; his parents and authorities who should have taken the allegations seriously didn't. So five girls--a minimum--are wounded, and, what's worse, are told their scars are unimportant and possibly their own fault. Five girls were hurt and yet left vulnerable, so it could happen again. Which it did. Josh molested them over a series of years.

If you've ever faced this sort of thing, you want there to be a reckoning. An acknowledgement of the seriousness of the crime. Some payback.

I wasn't expecting Josh to face criminal charges, since he and his family had cleverly evaded the statute of limitations. And, honestly, I thought of him as a victim too. A lot of people wanted to downplay his offenses as "experimentation." No. Experimentation is two four-year-olds comparing body parts. Experimentation is two non-related teenagers making out. Josh's behavior indicated real trouble, for which he needed real help. That he didn't get it is a tragedy I'm just beginning to understand.

Some people still love the Duggar family's "Christian values." Others have noted the cult-like deference to male authority, the multitude of sex offenders in the family's inner circle, the weird isolation of all those children from any semblance of the real world. The more I read about them the sadder I became. Because while everyone in the Duggar family is bending their knees to the same god, they aren't worshiping the creator of the universe, or Jesus Christ.

At age 17, after repeatedly being caught molesting children, Josh was sent away to do construction work and be lectured on Biblical principles (by a man who was recently accused of sexually harassing and molesting dozens of female employees). At age 20 Josh married a woman his father chose for him. Now he's been outed by Ashley Madison, OKCupid, and, eventually, himself, as a porn addict who cheated on his wife with strippers. Awful, but hardly surprising. He's a troubled man who never got help.

Nor is he getting it now. Josh has been sent to rehab at Reformers Unanimous, a "Christian" recovery center that purports to treat all sorts of problems--alcohol and drug addiction, porn and sexual addiction, but also eating disorders and, horrifyingly, something called "post-rape depression," by, once again, manual labor and prayer. According to the application for RU, clients will spend 8 hours a day doing volunteer work and several hours a day reading their Bibles and attending prayer groups and Bible study. No one is allowed to speak of their pasts, including why they are at the center. (So much for therapy!) No one receives actual counseling or medical therapy. Clients are not allowed any reading material or music. If they toe the line they can eventually make a limited number of monitored phone calls to pre-approved family members. Oh, and "negative remarks about the food will not be tolerated."

In other words, Josh has been put in a cult jail. If he'd been sent to an actual prison, he'd be able to read newspapers and magazines. He'd be allowed to complain about the food. He'd be permitted to think for himself. 

That's the rub. God gives us free will, but Jim Bob Duggar does not. His children have to act, speak, think and feel precisely as he permits--and, until recently, present perfect faces on national tv. When Josh Duggar disobeyed his parents before, his parents buried the evidence, and here's why:

Getting him real help would have exposed him to other points-of-view. He might have started to question the family's beliefs. He might have come into contact with non-fundamentalists and realized they weren't necessarily evil.

We don't know if Josh molested anyone else, or harmed any other woman besides his wife. Clearly, though, his sexual problems have not been resolved. So his father sent him off again, to another place where he won't be helped, but might be broken. To another place where his actions and thoughts will be precisely controlled.

The Duggars don't worship God. They worship Jim Bob Duggar.

Updated: Apparently, the church behind Reformers Unanimous has ties to convicted sex offenders.