I think this show should have been booted off the air long ago. The Duggars should never have achieved this level of fame. 19 Kids and Counting put a happy face on abuse and served it up on a disposable Dixie platter as the new standard for good Christian living.
Duggar defenders abound. They never cease to point out how "happy" the kids are. They point out how well the Duggars live considering their thriftiness. The children aren't doing drugs and aren't promiscuous. The children are well-behaved and do their chores. If they want to have this many children, it's their business.
Most casual TV watchers and 19K&C fans are really unaware of how the Quiverfull system works and they don't understand the Christian homeschooling movement. Duggar children and similar families use a homeschool curriculum from ATI (The Advanced Training Institute). In order to be a part of this program, you have to be approved for it. There are behavior codes, dress codes and even hairstyle codes (ever wonder why the Duggar girls all have to have that long wavy hair?) Exposure to the secular world is tightly controlled. College is discouraged for boys and nearly forbidden for girls. The program tightly controls every aspect of a child's life so that she never questions anything and accepts everything she is told as truth.
What happens if a child questions the rules or thinks for himself? Punishment from your parents is the first result, but more than that, kids are taught to fear breaking the rules for emotional, financial, and spiritual reasons. If you don't live according to these rules for a Godly life, you will likely end up on drugs or your marriage is doomed to fail and leave you a single parent on (GASP) public assistance. Should you escape a miserable life of loneliness and poverty despite your rebellion, then you will surely go to Hell when you die. Eternity in Hell isn't worth a brief, free-thinking life on earth, is it?
"But look how happy the Duggars are. They're always smiling. The kids are always cheerful. They never complain."
That's true. That's because the cheerful spirit is part of the belief system. Children are punished for showing anything but happiness and contentment
"Well, I wish my kids would do their chores so cheerfully. Kids need to learn responsibility."
I agree, but this goes above and beyond giving your kids responsibility in the house. As soon as Mama Michelle weans a new baby, she passes it off to an older daughter to raise. Older children are completely responsible for their younger siblings including feeding, changing, dressing, grooming, changing, and even educating. How much of raising a young baby do you want to put in the hands of a 13-year-old?
"None of the kids are on drugs. They're not getting pregnant. They make it to adulthood without the usual teenage troubles."
Is your only criteria for successful parenting is that kids don't do drugs or have sex? How successful of a parent are you if your adult children are living at home, do not attend college, and do not have jobs that can realistically sustain them? The Duggar parents claim they want each child to pursue his or her dreams and goals and have the kinds of careers they want, and can pursue the education needed to fulfill that goal. In the early days of Duggar fame, many children expressed a desire to have careers in law and medicine for example. Not a single child has ever attended an accredited college or pursued a career that required a degree. Some girls expressed a desire to be midwives. None of them ever became certified midwives, but instead became poorly-trained doulas. Prior to joining FRC Josh ran a used car lot that his parents owned and never went to law school as he used to dream. Is this what you call raising children successfully?
Duggars, and others in the Christian homeschool movement, are both forced to grow up rapidly and yet are simultaneously infantilized. They are told that there is "no such thing as teenagers" and that teens should be raising children and taking on adult responsibilities. At the same time, they are treated as children well into adulthood. Adults still need their parents' permission to do anything outside the circle of the home. A woman can't just run to the store for milk without a sibling along as an "accountability partner". TV and Internet are closely monitored. All dates with the opposite sex must be supervised. At what point in a child's life do you feel parents should stop monitoring all of their behaviors? Do you think a woman in her 20s should have that right?
To me this isn't what faith is about. When you shelter your kids so closely that they don't know anything else but their own religion, you're not really teaching them faith. You're just teaching them to follow blindly. I always thought that the definition of faith was belief despite evidence to the contrary. These children are never challenged. Their faith is never tested. Their lives are carefully controlled so that they aren't exposed too long to other ways of thinking. If they don't understand other ways of thinking, how can what they believe truly be called faith?
Do you think I'm exaggerating the way the Duggars live and that I don't know any better? I'm not pulling these opinions out of my butt crack. The Duggars are not the only Biblical homeschooling family out there, and many children who came to escape these situations have told their stories. Libby Anne, who grew up in a Quiverfull family and changed her beliefs after having the rare opportunity to go to college wrote this piece that explains the Duggar situation far better than I am doing. This is only a fraction of the information out there regarding the dangers of homeschool cults from those who have escaped them. Recovering Grace focuses just on those who suffered abuse at the hands of ATI and its lecherous leader Bill Gothard. Homeschoolers Anonymous covers a variety of topics on abuses in the Christian homeschool community. Other resources include the blog No Longer Quivering, whose author escaped a horrible, life-threatening Quiverfull marriage. I would also recommend the Book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy by Katherine Joyce.
The Duggars may be the most famous family, but they are hardly the only ones trying to push their agenda to the public. You can read any number of Christian Patriarchy sites online. The Duggars are not even the worst. For example the Maxwells put such tight, cult-like restrictions on their children that they make the Duggars seem liberal by comparison. Then there are the infamous Andersons who are openly hateful in their homophobic and anti-semitic opionions (no "love the sinner, hate the sin" here) and openly advocate domestic abuse. Steve Anderson's racist political rants have landed him on the Secret Service watch list. The Duggars are not an isolated case children are suffering mental, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse at the hands of their controlling parents. These same parents are willing to put their lives, and the lives of their babies, at risk due to the need to have as many pregnancies as possible.
I also worry about the kind of disappointments and difficulties these children will suffer once they realize that their beliefs will not necessarily grant them the perfect like they desire. Young Quiverfull women believe the supervised courtship model of dating will mean that God will find them the perfect spouse and they will marry and never divorce. As we see Quiverfull kids maturing into adults we see that life is not working out the way they had hoped. My heart nearly broke for poor Anna Sophia Botkin on her 25th birthday when she wrote this long post where she blamed women (and by default) herself for her single state, rather than the system that she was raised in. Sarah Maxwell is over 30 now and still living in her parents' home and writing bad books for her parents' business. Jana Duggar has watched two of her younger sisters marry. What happens if these women, and even the men, are thrown out into the wide world because their parents can't care for them? They have few marketable skills. Their social skills would also be terrible because they have been taught not mingle too much with outsiders. How will they survive? They are so assured they will be cared for in the lifestyle they are accustomed to because of their beliefs. This may not prove to be true. What then?
It is entirely possible that twentysomething Quiverfull women are deliberately avoiding marriage. They have spent their lives raising younger siblings and they don't want to be having to raise more. By not marrying young, they will limit the number of children they have eventually when they do marry. I hope that's what these women truly are thinking right now. It's tragic to think of these girls praying every day for a Prince Charming who never comes.
Quiverfull families are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to issues with raising kids in isolation. Any time your religion (or really any belief system) insists that you separate your family from the world and outside influences, there is potential for abuse. If you limit a child's contact with those who don't think like you, then there will be no one to help them if something goes wrong. This is true of the Amish, of Hasidic Jews, of Fundamentalist Mormans, and any other group that sticks mostly to its own community. It is unfortunately true of the programs that most Quiverfull homeschoolers use. Bill Gothard or ATI sexually harassed his young female employees for years. Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum (another homeshool curriculum company) had an adulterous affair with an underage employee. There is so much potential for abuse here.
Should I care so much about the Duggars? What's it to me if I think they're wrong about everything and that I don't personally know their kids? Let's discuss the main reason Quiverfull exists. Quiverfull supports dominionism. They believe that we should have a Christian government ruled by Biblical principle (or their interpretation of Biblical principles). The Duggar family and others like them do what they can do involve themselves in politics. Jim Bob Duggar served a term on the Arkansas legislature and even tried to run for Senate. Josh was working for a political action group before this scandal erupted. John David Duggar is a local constable. They will work their way into government any way they can. Also think about how the Duggars so heavily supported Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. They are having this many children because they want to breed more people like them. They want to outbreed the secularists and put more (WHITE) Christians in this country. They are responding to a country that is becoming increasingly non-religious and where whites are slowly becoming a minority.
Do you think a Christian nation is not a bad idea? Do you think a Christian nation would be moral? Do you not see a problem with wholesome people like the Duggars being in charge? Tell me, how much does your own moral code really jive with the Duggars? Do you like to dance? If you're a woman, do you like to wear pants or shorts? Do you like to listen to rock music? Do you like a glass of wine now and then? Do you have a gay friend? Is your favorite movie a secular movie? Do you want to wear this to the beach?
I don't know if Josh Duggar is an actual pedophile, or was just mentally messed up because his parents made him repress his budding sexuality for so long. Either way, it's wrong. The nature of their community denied him treatment and it possibly drove him to commit these terrible acts in the first place.
My biggest hope is that just one of these kids, and not just the Duggars, but one of all the Biblical homeschooled kids, breaks free and lives a real life That's why I have been following the Duggars all these years. I keep hoping to see that spark, that motivation, that willingness to look around and admit something is wrong and do something about it. I never give up hope that one day, we will Free Jinger.