Double jeopardy and the Duggars

Jerod Clark

Jerod Clark
June 2, 2015

Although forgiveness appears to have been sought and given in the Duggar family scandal, the public still demands punishment.

June 2, 2015

"But I also know the Bible teaches that no sin is worse than another. And as believers we also know that forgiveness from God means sins are erased." No. All have sinned? Yes. Every sin creates separation from God? Yes. But do you honestly think that losing patience and yelling at my 3-yr-old to get back in bed is no worse than pushing her down the stairs? Some sins ARE worse than others, and those that damage the powerless are the worst.

If I did push her down the stairs, God would forgive me. But that doesn't mean it would be erased in the sense that we should all pretend it never happened. You would have a right to "judge" my action and to oppose my attempts to be a public voice for "family values," even if I was very sorry. "Actions have consequences," I tell my children multiple times a day. I forgive them every time they sin, but that doesn't mean we behave as though the sins are not happening. There are consequences, and the more egregious the offense, and the more times it is repeated, the longer-term the consequences are likely to be. Refusing to trust them is not the same as refusing them forgiveness.

June 3, 2015

In Reply to Jennifer (comment #27184)
Jennifer, I would agree with you that actions have consequences and forgiveness doesn't equal trust. There will always be consequences for Josh and the past weeks prove it.

My main intention is to look at forgiveness. The Duggars are a openly Christian family who have gone through the heart-break and forgiveness process with this sin. In their belief system this is reconciliation. For the public, who found out about it a decade later, that's not enough. I just wonder when and if others can give him forgiveness as he tries to move forward and improve himself.

Doug Vande Griend
June 3, 2015

It wasn't mentioned here but must be, that Josh was 14/15 when he did what he did. No, not an excuse but a very important fact.

I've never watched the show (or even knew it existed) but I have practiced law for 35 years, including about 15 years of criminal defense where I saw adult and juvenile crimes up close and in detail. I don't think it is all that surprising, let alone shocking, that a kid this age did what he did to other kids. Again, not trying to excuse anything but rather comment about statistical reality and kids growing up and struggling to become grown up in both their brain and their body.

The real story here is that some adults decided to break the law in a highly aggregious way, for whatever their motivations, by releasing these records. That and only that is the reason there should be public concern, even outrage, about what happened here.

Diana Covell
June 3, 2015

Did the Duggers as parent shelter their children too much? Did they teach them about sexual matters? If I was Ms. Dugger, I could not keep up with all the kids, housework home schooling and all that comes with having 20+ kids. When one of the new babies had Down's Syndrome, I thought some birth control whether it was rhythm or whatever could have been put in place.

I think the issue here is what God says about sin and what the world says about sin. Christians are not exempt from the court system - nor should they be.

I have 3 adult children, 2 of whom are Christians and I raised my kids to be respectful, responsible and kind. However once they started school there were other influences on what they believed and how they acted.

June 3, 2015

Guess my biggest question is,as parents how many of us would try,as they did, to keep the private sins of our children from going public? Perhaps our children's sin, or our own may not seem as "bad" but do we want the world to know them,judge them, and publicly discuss them? I sure don't!

June 3, 2015

I'm encouraged by your truthful and balanced perspective on this, Jerod. My own opinions of the Duggars notwithstanding, I think what the media-fueled mob is really angry about is not the crime itself (as bad as it is) but the fact that their own trust in a false gospel has been compromised. There are so many who believe that a Christian should be a "good" person. What's more, it's often assumed that certain types of sins would necessarily disqualify a person from receiving grace. And if it is later discovered that sin has gone unpunished...well...then "forgiveness" sounds less like a laudable virtue than a scandalous attempt to sweep consequences of behavior under the rug. And when such things are fed to a mob that includes broken, spiritually lost, and religiously misdirected people, well...we know what happens in those kinds of situations. Just take a look at Matthew 27. Mobs aren't known for making reasonable decisions, after all. But cases like this expose the real gospel, which is harder to swallow for those who haven't taken a good hard look at their own standing before a holy God. The truth is that, for those who are in Christ, NO sin has gone unpunished. Not yours. Not mine. Not Josh's. But the world can't accept that our punishment fell on the Innocent. Our world still cries for the same blood on Josh that the mob of Matthew 27 placed on Jesus Christ.

The scandal of the cross is that what God did in Christ has made people like Josh--not to mention a host of countless other "undesirables" whose past crimes pale in comparison to Josh's--equals in Jesus' grace.

June 3, 2015

In Reply to JKana (comment #27195)
Thanks JKana. I keep wondering about that idea of a "false gospel," too. Would there of been any way they could have shared this dark time in their life publicly without the publicity we're seeing now? Could Josh have proactively shared his sin, showing he wasn't perfect but working towards redemption, without instantly being called a hypocrite? We all make mistakes, some harder to understand than others, but is there a way in society to talk rationally about moving forward in forgiveness as way for others to learn from our faults?

Maureen Herring
June 3, 2015

I never watched the Duggars show for many of the reasons Jerod expressed, but I wouldn't wish the kind of public judgment and shame they are experiencing on anyone. I haven't had to sort through anything so horrendous involving several of my children. There was no win-win scenario here, but I'm honestly most concerned for his sisters and what message the parent's cover-up must have sent them about their value.

The Duggar's narrow legalism probably seems foreign and fascinating to members of their audience who are not familiar with fundamentalist Christianity, and probably some of are aware but not adherents. Perhaps some find the concept of grace particularly scandalous in Josh's case. Hopefully the take-away will be the totally unconditional nature of God's love and utterly complete nature of His grace. Hopefully all the Duggars will experience that as well.

June 4, 2015

I do not want this family punished, I want the conversation to change.

Even as a Christian I recognize the inability of our traditional language to capture all that should be understood. This isn't all about sin and forgiveness. This is about this young man being appropriately diagnosed and dealt with accordingly. Then or now.

We don't know what happened, except that a 14 year old acted abnormally. Violating strong taboos. Was he acting out his own trauma or abuse? Is he an actual pedophile -- someone attracted to young children? By clinging to the simplest language and concepts we know, we've walked by a whole body of research and treatment, and acted like this is a "mistake" that with the word "sorry" can be adequately dealt with. You wouldn't continue to talk about sin and forgiveness and prayer while someone sat in front of you with a broken leg --you'd get a doctor. So we should know there is a body of information we haven't even begun to tap while we play this endless loop about sin and confession and forgiveness.

[email protected]
June 5, 2015

I could make a list of perps and victims of this and worse crimes. All done in homes, Christian or otherwise, all done by minors to minors, most often siblings. Many of us could. We know the stories. We've seen the damage. If you don't know many and you're young just wait a few decades. They'll creep out of the lives of friends and loved ones.

Most of this goes unreported, undiagnosed, unaddressed, no redress. OK, now what?

How many of the perps were themselves victims? Shall we make lists of names of these perps/victims, now living in middle age, haul them from their homes, expose them to their friends, neighbors, even spouses? What shall we do with them? Shall we erase the statute of limitations on all of this? Try them as adults or the children they were when the did these horrible things? Are these people abusing their children? Do we know? Can we? We might learn about it 20 years from now.

Many of the recipients of this have gone on to continue the secrets. They don't want to see the lives of their brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers destroyed even though their lives have been twisted in ways that they themselves seldom acknowledge. How about the spouses and children of the victims and the perp or perp/victims? Shall we make lists of their names too so they can point fingers, hold accountable, etc.? How have the psychological costs played out in the lives of the next generation even if no touching or sexual crime was committed? The lack of trust. The inability to form secure bonds. The control.

What about the doctors and lawyers and police and social workers and prison guards who must wade into this? Have they the answers?

I think the legal regimes we have today are an improvement over those 30 years ago. More children are rescued, but they don't always go to a better place. I watch the system struggle with separating children from parents and siblings and placed with other relatives or the foster care system. Children are removed from abusive homes only to be abused in their next places.

The Duggars are a "nice white Christian" family with wealth and privilege. Look at what happens in the poorer communities among people without this privilege. A smattering of social workers get involved but no nice connections to top quality therapists or nicely controlled relocation options.

It seemed to me that this very sad story was brought out for its value as culture war fodder. It is rich with it. This "quiver full" family are both willing and convenient targets. Should anyone invite their family to be a reality show? Really? Now everyone will go in front of the cameras and all of us will form judgments. Now this.

We have no answers or power to break these chains, only cheap judgments.

Jessica Kantrowitz
June 9, 2015

I definitely hear what you are saying, Jerod, and I agree with the importance of forgiveness. It is something I have wrestled with myself because my father was a prison chaplain in a small town in Maine, and knew many sexual offenders, and our family knew both the victims' families and the offenders' families. I think to me it's a question of weighing the needs and rights of all involved. For the victims, there is a need to have the crime recognized as such in order to heal. You can tell how incredibly powerful and necessary that is in this post by my friend Laura Parrot Perry: http://inotherswords.com/2015/01/18/1473/ It was not lack of forgiveness for Laura and Mary to report their grandfather's crime. It was a necessary step in their healing, and one that would have saved them years of incredible pain had their own parents been willing to take it.

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