Let’s Not Forget Anna Duggar

Skullduggery.  Or perhaps I should say "Skull-Duggar-y"?
Skullduggery. Or perhaps I should say “Skull-Duggar-y”?

In all of the buzz about Josh Duggar’s skullduggery (or perhaps I should call it skull-Duggar-y?  HA!!!!!!  Made a funny!!!!!!!), let us not forget Anna Duggar.

Imagine what it’s like to be Anna Duggar right now.  This post by Elizabeth Esther gives us some insight:

Have a little decency. Imagine what it’s like to be Anna Duggar right now:

In the span of three months the world finds out your husband molested little girls—his sisters!—then you have a baby and then? THEN he’s exposed as a cheater. Your husband confesses to being the “biggest hypocrite ever” and just like that you’re having the worst day of your life. And PEOPLE ARE HAPPY ABOUT IT. Heck, they’re practically gleeful.

Tabloids are screaming and everyone has an opinion. Everyone seems to know what is best for you. Thousands upon thousands of people are saying hateful things about this man you love. Thousands upon thousands of people are saying the most hateful things about this family you married into. On top of that, your heart is shattered. Did I mention you just found out your husband cheated on you? Did I mention you just had a baby?

If you’re Anna Duggar, you grew up in a very strict conservative Christian family, much like the Duggars.  Your family was deeply immersed in a Christian homeschooling movement that subscribes to the ideas and teachings of Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, Voddie Baucham, and many others.

You grew up in the thick of a purity culture that takes the Christian discipline of reserving sex for marriage to absurd extremes.  You were taught to “guard your heart”, that if you even so much as had romantic feelings for a boy you were committing emotional adultery against your eventual husband.  Your whole approach to meeting guys was through very closely supervised courtship.  You were promised that if you did things this way you would have mindblowing sex and a marriage made in heaven.  You are now seeing how that worked out.

You grew up in a family where you were not allowed to talk about your feelings.  Certainly not with any of your siblings.  All you had was 15 minutes a week with your mother to talk about your feelings.  (This People Magazine feature piece gives insight into this and other aspects of Anna Duggar’s life and upbringing.)

You married a guy who was the public face of the Christian homeschooling movement that had been your world.  He was living proof that if people followed the teachings and principles of the homeschooling movement and its leaders, they too would have perfect kids who would grow up to be perfect Christians.  You are now seeing how that worked out.

Now you have just endured the worst week of your life.  And you don’t even have your husband to share it with.  His family saw to that when they spirited him away to some faith-based rehab facility (we’ll see how that works out but I have my doubts.  The kinds of things Josh Duggar is dealing with cannot be treated just by throwing Bible verses at them).  You have to walk through this all by yourself.

So let’s not forget Anna Duggar in all of this.  She needs our thoughts and prayers now more than ever.

Let’s also not forget that this thing is about much more than just Josh and Anna Duggar.

More from the Elizabeth Esther piece:

This isn’t just about one guy’s sexual screw-ups. It’s about American Christian culture as a WHOLE and OUR really messed up relationship with sexuality.

This isn’t just about the downfall of one family, it’s about an ENTIRE Christian culture that is now reaping the bitter fruits of our misguided, ugly “culture wars.” This is about an entire CULTURE of American Christianity that equates political victories with moral ones.

…This is about an American Christian culture that made insane promises like: “If you just wait until you’re married to have sex, everything will be wonderful.”

This is about an American Christian culture that turned purity into profit; using a 21-year old kid named Josh Harris to promote the fantasy that if you just “kiss dating goodbye,” you’ll end up with a faithful, godly, loving spouse for the rest of your life.

This is about an ENTIRE culture of American Christianity that has wreaked havoc in the physical, emotional and spiritual lives of millions. This is about an ENTIRE culture that has traded an authentic relationship with God for the trappings of “good Christian living.”

This is about an entire culture of Christianity that became so obsessed with ‘looking like a good Christian’ that it created an impossible standard of “purity” and made it completely unsafe to be a real, broken human being.

This is about a Christian culture that sets people up for failure.

This isn’t just about Josh Duggar, it’s about our really sick, twisted relationship with sex, shame, self-loathing and perfectionism.

And if we can’t see that, then NONE of us will get better.

The view may be different where you are.  Perhaps you are in a church that isn’t all about politics and the culture wars.  Perhaps you are in a church that isn’t all about homeschooling or the purity culture.  Perhaps you are in a community where you are free to express differing opinions, free to be a real, broken human being.  Remember that you are a happy exception.  Remember that there are way too many places out there in the evangelical world where what Elizabeth Esther relates is reality.

Let us remember what got us to where we are now.  Let us work tirelessly to shine the light of truth into all the stinking armpits of evangelicalism where what Anna Duggar has lived and what Elizabeth Esther relates are reality.

Let us work to make all of evangelicalism a place where it is safe to be a real, broken human being.

Les Miserables 87: The Rue De L’Homme Armee

lesmiserablesWe now return to Jean Valjean.

When he received the note that said “Move Out”, given to him by Eponine as we recall, he believed that he was being pursued.  He was already on edge because of the rising political tension in the city and the increased police presence, and this note put him over the edge.  He immediately made plans to move to the place in the Rue de l’Homme Armee.  Cosette objected but to no avail, so great was the danger Valjean believed himself to be in.

Because Valjean wanted to slip out quietly, he waited until nightfall.  This left Cosette time to write a note to Marius, which we saw last time.  Eponine kept this note and didn’t give it to Marius until she was dying in the barricade.

The next day, after he and Cosette were settled in the Rue de l’Homme Armee and everyone had had a good night’s sleep, he felt much more at ease.  In his mind, he could see no obstacle to continuing his happy life with Cosette.  They would go to England for a few months, wait for the situation in Paris to cool off, and everything would be good.

At certain moments, everything seems impossible; at others, everything appears easy; Jean Valjean was in one of those happy moments.  They usually follow after the bad ones, like day after night, by that law of succession and contrast that lies at the very heart of nature, and which superficial minds call antithesis.  In this peaceful street where he had taken refuge, Jean Valjean was relieved of all that had been troubling him for some time past.  From the very fact that he had seen a good deal of darkness, he began to glimpse a little blue sky.  To have left the Rue Plumet without complications or incidents was already a piece of good fortune.

…Cosette was his nation.  Cosette was enough for his happiness; the idea that perhaps he was not enough for Cosette’s happiness, this idea, once cause of fever and insomnia, did not even occur to him.  All his past griefs had disappeared, and he was in full flush of optimism.  Cosette, being near him, seemed to belong to him; an optical effect that everybody has experienced.  He settled in his own mind, and with great ease, the departure to England with Cosette, and he saw his happiness rebuilt, no matter where, in the landscape of his reverie.

Then he saw a sight that rocked his world.  Cosette had left the blotter she had used to write her letter to Marius out on the sideboard when they first arrived at the Rue de l’Homme Armee; it reflected in the mirror so that Valjean could clearly see what Cosette had written.  The effect on him was devastating.  He did not know Marius’s name, but he knew it was him.  In his grief at losing Cosette he began to feel hatred of Marius rising up inside of him.

After he had firmly established that the young man was at the bottom of this state of affairs, and that everything stemmed from him, he, Jean Valjean, the regenerated man, the man who had so labored on his soul, the man who had made so many efforts to resolve all life, all misery, and all misfortune into love; he looked within himself and saw a specter, Hatred.

Great griefs contain dejection.  They discourage existence.  The man they enter feels something go out of him.  In youth, their visit is dismal, in later years it is ominous.  Alas, when the blood is hot, when the hair is black, when the head is erect on the body like the flame on the torch, when the sheaf of destiny is still quite full, when the heart, filled with a fortunate love, still has pulsations that can be responded to, when we have before us the time to atone, when all women are there, and all smiles, and all the future, and all the horizon, when the strength of life is complete, if despair is a fearful thing, then what is it in old age, when the years rush along, growing bleaker and bleaker, at the twilight hour, when we begin to see the stars of the tomb!

Earlier in the day, the servant Toussaint had mentioned fighting in the city.  Now Valjean asked her where it was, and she told him it was over in Saint-Merry.  He then was seized by the impulse to go outside.  So he went outside, sat down and listened while brooding with his thoughts.

Recall that several chapters earlier, on that same day, M. Mabeuf was down to the last of his money.  He asked his servant, Madame Plutarch, what the noise was and she said there was fighting over near the Arsenal.  So he went out and began to wander the city.  We saw what happened to Mabeuf.  Now Valjean is leaving the house, faced with a similar grief, with the fighting off in the distance.  We will see what happens to him later.

But first, recall that Gavroche had left the barricade, sent by Marius with his response to Cosette’s letter.  Gavroche entered the Rue de l’Homme Armee, singing loudly and busting out streetlamps with rocks as he went.  He found Valjean and gave the letter to him.  Valjean went back inside and read the letter.  In his emotional turmoil, all he was able to process was Marius’s last line:  “–I will die…When you read this, my soul will be near you.”  First, Valjean was overjoyed.  Marius was going away on his own, without his having to do anything.  Recall that everyone in that barricade was under a death sentence; barring a miracle, no one would make it out alive.  Marius knew this.  And so did Valjean.  All he had to do was let events take their course, and soon he would have Cosette all to himself.  Just like at Montreuil-Sur-Mer when he was mayor M. Madeleine and all he had to do was keep quiet and let events take their course and an innocent man would go to prison in his place.  We saw Valjean struggle with that and ultimately decide to go to court and declare himself.  So we can guess that in this situation, Valjean will probably not sit back and just let events take their course.  Sure enough, Valjean begins to feel gloomy, and in just a few minutes he is out the door, dressed in his National Guard uniform.

We return to Gavroche, headed back towards the barricade, wandering the streets in a carefree manner, singing loudly and slinging stones at streetlamps.  He steals a cart from a homeless person, but causes such a racket that he awakens the National Guard.  They come at him, but he heaves the cart at them and in the confusion he escapes.

Complementarianism Has Jumped the Shark

sharkjumpComplementarianism has completely and totally jumped the shark.

How do I know this?

Well, it’s pretty obvious when John Piper says something and people from his own tradition start piling on.

What did John Piper say this time?

An unmarried woman who subscribes to the complementarian way of looking at things wrote in to Desiring God to ask Piper’s opinion on whether it would be proper for a woman to serve as a police officer.

Okay.  We’ve got problems right out of the chute.

–Who would ask such a question in the first place?

–Who would ask a pastor such a question?

–Who would consider a pastor qualified to speak to such a question?

–And why on God’s green earth would the pastor in question consider himself qualified to answer such a question?

Yet none of that stopped Piper from venturing his opinion on the subject.

Here is how I have approached these kinds of issues, because police officer is just one of so many questions that arise if you want to be a godly man or woman and walk in paths of relationships with the opposite sex that are pleasing to the Lord. And I have tried to wrestle with the Scriptures which is, I hope and pray, my final authority in these matters. And I have come up with a general definition of what I think the heart of mature manhood and the heart of mature womanhood are. And then I have argued these and spelled them out in a little book called What’s the Difference? And these are really foundational for me and they helped me answer a lot of questions.

So Piper’s basis for thinking that he has something to say on the subject is Scripture.  Or more accurately, Scripture as Piper interprets it.  You see, Scripture does not spell out what mature manhood and mature womanhood are.  John Piper does, based on his interpretation of Scripture.

Having made the case, in his mind at least, that he is qualified to speak to this question by virtue of that Bible in his hand, Piper then goes on to answer it.  Here is the essence of his answer:

…At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. The postman won’t relate to the lady at the door the way a husband will, but he will be a man. At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

…There is a continuum from very personal influence, very eye-to-eye, close personal influence, to non-personal influence. And the other continuum is very directive — commands and forcefulness — directive influence to very non-directive influence. And here is my conviction. To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order. To an extent, a woman’s leadership or influence may be personal and non-directive or directive and non-personal, but I don’t think we should push the limits.

…If a woman’s job involves a good deal of directives toward men, they will need to be non-personal in general, or men and women won’t flourish in the long run in that relationship without compromising profound biblical and psychological issues. And conversely, if a woman’s relationship to a man is very personal, then the way she offers guidance and influence will need to be more non-directive. And my own view is that there are some roles in society that will strain godly manhood and womanhood to the breaking point.

There’s a lot I could say here.  For instance, who made John Piper the all-knowing authority whose interpretations of Scripture on this subject we must accept without question?  If we’re back in the Roman Catholic church and Piper is the Magisterium, somebody forgot to tell me.

But I think it best to let someone who shares Piper’s way of looking at things answer him.  Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary, himself a complimentarian, goes so far as to call the sort of complimentarianism promoted by Piper “sheer silliness”:

I rarely read complementarian literature these days. I felt it lost its way when it became an all-embracing view of the world and not simply a matter for church and household.   I am a firm believer in a male-only ordained ministry in the church but I find increasingly bizarre the broader cultural crusade which complementarianism has become.  It seems now to be more a kind of reaction against feminism than a balanced exposition of the Bible’s teaching on the relationships of men and women.   Thus, for example, marriage is all about submission of wife to husband (Eph. 5) and rarely about the delight of friendship and the  kind of playful but subtly expressed eroticism we find in the Song of Songs.  Too often cultural complementarianism ironically offers a rather disenchanted and mundane account of the mystery and beauty of male-female relations.  And too often it slides into sheer silliness.


Josh Duggar and the Purity/Courtship Culture’s Distorted View of Sex

“Hey Dad, somebody hacked into Ashley Madison and is gonna leak all their data…” [turns around and looks at Dad-shaped hole in the wall]

Who would have imagined a scene like this playing out at the Duggar home?

On second thought, given the purity culture of the stream of evangelicalism that the Duggars represent, it isn’t that far-fetched after all.

duggarJosh Duggar admitted cheating on his wife this week.  This came a day after a Gawker article revealed that he had maintained two Ashley Madison accounts.  Duggar, of the TLC reality show “19 Kids And Counting”, had parlayed that fame into a position as executive director of Family Research Council, a conservative family-values lobbying organization based in DC.  Duggar resigned earlier this year amid controversy over reports that he had molested five young women, four of them his sisters, starting back in 2002.

It’s a story that continues to grow and mutate with each passing week.  But instead of focusing on Josh and the Duggar family, we should instead focus on the ideas, theology, and culture that got us here.

The Duggars are the most public representatives of a small but prominent evangelical tribe which has, among other things, very specific views about sex before marriage.  They place a very strong emphasis on not having sex prior to marriage and on courtship–heavily supervised courtship–as the proper way for men and women to connect relationally.

Reserving sex for marriage is an essential discipline of the Christian faith, and there are very good reasons for this.  Yet in many parts of evangelicalism, there is such a heavy emphasis on sexual purity as the way in which we Christians live out our faith that it crowds out anything else that can be said about God and Jesus Christ.  In these places, sexual purity is what moves the needle and Jesus Christ is, at best, an assumed but unimportant presence.  I have written about this in an earlier post.

An example of this is young-ish conservative writer/speaker/blogger Matt Walsh’s Facebook rant, written the day after the story broke and the day Duggar released his confession.  A money quote:

In any case, we learn yet again that, as Chesterton said, the Christian ideal has never been tried and found wanting, but it has been tried and found difficult. To live up to our faith is difficult. Nobody does it perfectly — I know I certainly don’t — but when we put ourselves in front of the world as role models, we are called to carry an even heavier burden of responsibility.

Notice how Walsh apparently equates the purity/courtship movement’s view of sex with the Christian ideal.  It is true enough that Christianity has been tried and found difficult, but in this instance what is being tried and found wanting is not the Christian ideal, but the sexual ideology of a small evangelical movement.  Also note how Walsh emphasizes sin, personal responsibility, and bad decisions, as if ideas, theology, and culture do nothing whatsoever to create a context in which these bad decisions are made.  Duggar bears full responsibility for his sinful choices, and there is no attempt to examine or question the sexual ideology that provided the context for those choices.

No one sins in a vacuum.  All our choices happen within the context of ideas, beliefs, and culture.  Yet the whole emphasis of Walsh’s rant is on Duggar’s choices, for which he alone bears full responsibility.  Duggar failed to follow the rules, let him reap the consequences.  No suggestion that the rules themselves may be flawed.  The Duggars, and the purity/courtship movement which they represent, promote abstinence and courtship as THE key to sound marriages, yet here we have an instance where that claim is found severely wanting.  When you obsess about sex (and the not having of it), don’t be surprised to see sex become an obsession.  When you treat sex as a shameful thing never to be discussed, don’t be surprised to see people turning sex into a shameful thing.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But there is an even bigger question in play here.  I asked it in my earlier post and I shall ask it again:  Where is God in all of this?  Where is Jesus Christ in all of this?  When you speak of the purity/courtship culture’s sexual ideology as the Christian ideal, you crowd out anything else that could be said about God or Jesus Christ.

Our faith does have things to say about sex, and we need to talk about that at some point.  But when an evangelical subculture conflates their sexual ideology with the Christian message, it creates a faith which is stunted and inadequate.  Especially when this ideology makes promises on which it cannot deliver, such as the purity/courtship movement’s claim that their way of doing relationships results in perfect relationships and fairytale marriages.  We are seeing one such marriage disintegrate right before our very eyes, and it is not a pretty sight.

Jim Bakker Is Back (Again)

bakkerA few months back we noted that Jim Bakker has returned to active ministry.  That is, if peddling end-of-the-world survivalist gear is what strikes your fancy as active ministry.  Bakker has a TV show where he specializes in convincing viewers that some sort of apocalypse is around the corner and that you had better buy his prepper food to get you through.  Lots of it.  As in, like, TONS of it.

But the apocalypse prepper food market is a tough market to be in, because you can only go so far with the gays/terrorists/ISIS schtick.  Apparently Bakker is realizing this.  So last week Bakker brought on this guy Rick Wiles (a fellow end-times preacher), who said that the earth is on a 206-year cycle.  We just came out of a 206-year global warming cycle, and now we are about to enter a 206-year global cooling cycle.  Which means we are headed for a mini-Ice Age.  Which means food will be scarce.  And when food is scarce, people go to war.  Gangs will take over all the major cities, with looting and cannibalism to follow.  Watch for yourself, courtesy of the good people over at Right Wing Watch:

So you’d better get on over and order yourself some of those 6-gallon jugs of potato soup NOW!!!  Or else you will wake up with the world coming apart and think “Why didn’t I order something?”  Just think, with all that potato soup, you could have PARTIES while the world is coming apart!!!!!

Target Just Became the New Front Line of the Culture Wars

In case you missed it:  Target just announced that they would be doing away with gender-specific signage in their children’s toy and bedding departments.  Not surprisingly, the complementarians of the world are crying cultural capitulation.  Grant Castleberry of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the flagship organization of the complementarian movement, took to the blogosphere to denounce Target for blurring the God-ordained distinction between male and female.  In his view, “the very concept of gender is being neutralized” and “parents themselves are trying to outrun their own gender identities, dragging their children onto their own dark labyrinths”.  In this day and age, “all it seems to take is a few social media punches from disgruntled, progressive customers, and companies are swift to jump on the winding, zigzag gender line.  The problem is, the line keeps moving and twisting, and in this case, disappearing.”  “Rather than reinforcing maleness and femaleness, this confuses it.  Instead of helping guide children towards embracing who they actually are, this blurs reality.”

Anybody out there starting to get “Blurred Lines” running through your head?

In a rant almost worthy of an Ayn Rand speech, Castleberry asserts that “gender means things”.  Regardless of how we may feel about it, we are all fundamentally and inescapably wired by God to be either male or female.  This distinction means that men are wired by God “to protect and to pursue”, while women are wired “to nurture and to be pursued”, as the Bible clearly teaches.  This works itself out in the form of boys gravitating toward toys that involve fighting, building and racing while girls gravitate toward American Girl and Barbie dolls and Disney Princess dresses.  (Not that toy companies actually believe the Bible.  They don’t.  But they’re smart enough to know how the universe works, which is of course based on the Bible.)  But this is all rubbish to the progressive/postmodern mindset, because the sovereign, self-determining individual is the arbiter of all things and is free to remake himself and his world in his own image, removing all the God-ordained realities and boundary markers of our universe.  Yet in the end, this is a losing enterprise.  It does not work.  There are fixed realities in the universe that will not budge, and reality will avenge itself in the end.

True enough.  There is a distinction between male and female that is woven into the very fabric of our being.  Male and female are two completely different experiences of being human, and it takes a great deal of empathetic imagination for one to relate to the other.  Male and female are not interchangeable, as the more progressive and liberal elements of our society would like us to believe.

Yet in the world of complementarianism. the distinction between male and female is loaded down with a lot of excess baggage that it was never meant to carry.  In their view, the Bible clearly teaches that, as noted above, men are created “to protect and to pursue” while women are created “to nurture and to be pursued”, and they have very rigid and specific ideas about what this is supposed to look like in the home, in the church, and in society.  These ideas amount to an absurd legalism that reduces masculinity and femininity to a list of prescribed rules and roles and behaviors.  Example:  John Piper, in a withering diatribe against women in combat that was originally written in 2007 and resurfaced a couple of years back, gives the illustration in which a male and female student are headed out for late-night munchies and get attacked by a man with a knife.  The female student has a black belt in karate but is nonetheless required by God to submit to the male student’s attempts to protect her, even at the cost of his life and potentially hers as well.  Another example:  Owen Strachan dropped this doozy in response to that “Dad Mom” Tide commercial a couple of years back in which he castigated any man who makes less money than his wife and chooses to serve his family as a stay-at-home dad as a “man fail”, because the Bible clearly teaches that it is the responsibility of women to work inside the home while it is the responsibility of men to work outside the home.  It doesn’t matter if a woman is better at fighting than the man.  It doesn’t matter if a woman enjoys work or is good at what she does or if a man has a passion to help out at home and be involved in the lives of his children.  It doesn’t matter if the male student’s attempts to fight off the assailant with the knife would put both him and the female student in mortal danger.  It doesn’t matter if the man is incapable of earning at a very high level while his wife is required to give up her lifelong passion and the entire family suffers for it.  God is God.  He ordained these gender roles.  These roles will not be mocked, and neither will the God who ordained them.

People:  If your theology requires these kinds of sacrifices, if your theology preaches a God who is not above delighting in such sacrifices and the destruction wrought by such sacrifices, CHANGE YOUR THEOLOGY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Male and female are not interchangeable, as the liberal and progressive elements of our society would have us believe.  But when the distinction between male and female is reduced to a list of rigid, prescribed rules and roles and behaviors, it takes on baggage it was never meant to carry and we all suffer for it.

Read This Before You Jump On That Sex Trafficking Bandwagon

Sex trafficking has become a cause du jour among evangelicals this decade.  There has been an explosion of individuals and organizations working to shine a light on one of the gravest injustices of contemporary society.  Yet an unfortunate aspect of this explosive growth is that many are rushing into an issue they don’t fully understand, without taking the time to understand it.  Many, for instance, have never heard from any sex trafficking survivors except perhaps those few who are out on the speaking/bookselling circuit.  As a result, they operate on the basis of a narrative that is hugely at variance with reality in regards to this issue.  This presents an injustice almost as grave as that posed by the sex traffickers themselves.

Benjamin L. Corey, who blogs at Formerly Fundie, has invited Meg Munoz, a sex trafficking survivor, to share on his blog.  Her first post is live right now; other posts to come will include her story and her answers to questions from readers.  In this post she addresses many of the misperceptions concerning the issue of sex trafficking, and offers links to many resources around the web.

If you are interested in fighting sex trafficking, I strongly recommend you read Meg’s story.  Educate yourself on the real issues surrounding sex trafficking.  Take some time to read the links Meg has provided and familiarize yourself with the reality in the world of sex trafficking, which is significantly more complicated than you may have believed.  Understand that many approaches, like pushing Jesus at every turn and treating the real damage in the lives of sex trafficking victims as something that can be solved by just throwing a few Bible verses around, are not helpful and may represent an injustice just as grave as that presented by the sex traffickers themselves.

Read:  “I Am A Human Trafficking Survivor & Here’s What I Want To Ask Christian Activists”