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On Josh and Anna Duggar and the Fundamentalist Christian Culture of Forgiving Molesters and Abusers

May 22, 2015 1 comment

I don’t often write non book reviews anymore, but something has come into the news that hits close to my heart and my own personal experience, and I felt it necessary to put my perspective out there.

Probably most people by now have heard that Josh Duggar of the famous Quiverfull family the Duggars has admitted that he molested young girls when he was a teenager (source).  Perhaps what may be more shocking to most people is the knowledge that his wife, Anna, knew about this before they were married and married him anyway and is having children with him.  (They currently have three young children, with a fourth on the way).

If you read Anna’s and Josh’s official statements, you will notice a theme among them.

Anna says, “He continued to do what he was taught. [I know] who Josh really is – someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended.  Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.” source, bold emphasis added by me.

Josh says, “I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions.  I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.source, bold emphasis added by me.

In the fundamentalist Christian community, there is this idea that only those who were not truly saved are capable of abuse or molestation.  I know this, because I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian community and heard this rhetoric over and over again.  If Christianity was a ladder with fundamentalism at the top and the most liberal church you can think of at the bottom, my church growing up was one rung below the Quiverfulls.  (If you are not familiar with what Quiverfull is, I highly recommend reading this expose on it).

Even in my slightly less fundamentalist fundamentalist Christian community growing up this idea existed.  If someone has molested or abused people, they are clearly not saved, because no one with Jesus living in their heart would be capable of such heinous acts.  Thus, if a person who has committed these acts “comes to Jesus” aka gets saved aka simply states that they now have faith in Jesus, the community believes that they are now incapable of molesting or abusing anyone.  What this means is that all a molester or abuser has to do when caught is state how truly sorry they are, that they have seen their wrongs, that they have asked Christ to come into their lives and save them, that they have now repented and are turning 180 degrees from what they were.

You can see this same rhetoric in what Anna and Josh say above.  While I seriously doubt that Josh is actually the changed person he claims to be (once a molester, always a molester, in my opinion), I do believe that his wife, Anna, truly believes that it’s ok to have children with him, because Josh is different now. He’s got Jesus. He didn’t have Jesus before, and that was bad, but he does now, so it’s ok.  You can see how these ideas would lead to the harboring of abusers and molesters within the community.  The molester and/or abuser knows exactly what rhetoric to say to get out of it.  EVEN IF they had previously claimed they were saved, they can simply state that they thought they had been saved, but they must not have truly been one with Jesus or Satan wouldn’t have been able to entice them to commit these heinous acts.  It’s irrelevant if the molester actually believes this or not, they simply know the rhetoric to say to get a clean slate in the community.  While forgiveness is admirable, there are just situations and circumstances where that forgiveness should not go hand-in-hand with trusting the person to be around vulnerable people or with not punishing them at all or holding them accountable at all.

I personally know of at least two scenarios in my own community I grew up in where similar abusers and/or molesters have been given a free pass to be around children because they have “repented and come to Jesus now” so they “couldn’t possibly be capable of it anymore.”  This culture fundamentalist Christianity has of sweeping these situations under the rug and protecting the abusers and molesters simply because they have come to Jesus is inexcusable.  Yet it is so deeply ingrained in the culture, that I doubt it will ever change.  So why am I bothering to write this?  I want anyone who comes into contact with people from that community to be aware of the fact that just because they claim someone is a man of God or an upstanding citizen or a woman after God’s own heart that that does NOT mean that they have done nothing heinous in their past.  They may have, and the community may even know of it and still speak of them that way.  If you are in contact with children from this community please listen to what they say closely.  If they say something like “so-and-so used to be very bad but then they came to Jesus so it’s ok now,” that is most likely a situation that warrants closer attention.  These children need us to pay attention and try to protect them because God knows their own community will not.

Book Review: Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

June 17, 2010 1 comment

A white little girl standing with a black little boy in front of a school bus.Summary:
In this memoir, Julia recalls growing up in a conservative Calvinist family in Indiana with her two adopted black brothers and the parental abuse and general racism they faced.  The last part of the memoir recalls her time spent in the Dominican Republic at a fundamentalist Christian reform school–Escuela Caribe–and the further abuse inflicted upon herself and David there.

Review:
I heard about this memoir due to the section on Escuela Caribe.  A cousin of mine was sent there by her parents in the 2000s and when googling it, I came across all the controversy surrounding the school with this memoir frequently cited.  I therefore expected this book to predominantly be about a vicious reform school.  In fact, it is a stunning exploration of race and racism in the United States.

Julia was four when her parents adopted David, and they immediately bonded.  Julia frequently expresses feeling as if David, who is only a few months younger than herself, is her twin brother.  They are happy siblings and oblivious to the racism around them until their parents adopt another boy a year older than them, Jerome, so that David can “have one of his own kind around.”  Jerome is violent, steals, slacks at school, and molests Julia.  Julia eventually comes to wonder why her parents beat Jerome and David when they sin but simply send her to her room.  This combined with Jerome’s continued attempts to convince David to side with him against “the whiteys” is confusing and painful to Julia.  Julia and David feel as if they are truly brother and sister, why doesn’t anyone else treat them that way?  Julia beautifully depicts her own struggles against imitating racist actions and words as well as her brother David’s struggles against internalizing the racism they are surrounded with.

The other element strong in the memoir is a bracing look at the violence, anger, and fear often found in fundamentalist Christian homes.  Children are guided with anger and violence instead of love due to the Bible verse “spare the rod, spoil the child.”  Julia’s parents believed in this, and Escuela Caribe clearly firmly believes it as well.  They believe the children are horrible people and the sin must be beaten out of them, whether with belts, boxing gloves, over-exercising, humiliation, or excruciating physical labor.  This is important for people to know about, and Julia paints a clear picture in an unbiased voice.  Indeed, this is the least biased narrative voice I’ve ever read in a memoir, which makes it all that much more believable and painful to read.

Julia’s writing talent is strong, and she weaves a painful narrative that is difficult to put down and forces the reader to confront racism and abuse in American culture.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs or has an interest in race relations or fundamentalist Christianity.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Swaptree

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