I have been trying to collect my thoughts on the recent Duggar Scandal for over a week now. I have read news articles, blog posts, as well as the many Facebook threads going on among Progressive Christians regarding the tragic failings of Josh Duggar, his parents and the strictly fundamental Quiverfull Movement. The story broke on or around May 21, 2015 and since then the reaction has been filled with pain, anger, and the resurfacing of memories of personal trauma for many people.
There is a time and place for Christ followers to use their voice whether via social media or within their personal relationships to stand with the oppressed. It is necessary that the Church speak out against sexual abuse and abuse of all forms as we are here to represent Jesus our King.
But the question that I have yet to see addressed is:
What, instead, is our actual message?
In all honesty, I am tired of the online bashing of The Duggars, of Michelle’s out-dated hair style, of their openly opposition to the LGBTQ community, their tight connections to politics, etc. These things aren’t new. Yes, they are a public family. Yes, they have exploited their faith, their children, and have compromised some basic teachings of Jesus in exchange for a platform, an agenda, and profits. But we knew ALL of this before the molestation/abuse story came out. And while I completely understand the need to point out their hypocrisy, and I realize that there is a time and place to say to the world, “We (Christ followers) are not like that”, that message has been spoken loud and clear. And I am not sure anyone even cares. It’s not like we are saying anything different from the MANY articles on Huffington Post.
You see, the message goes so much further than “we aren’t like that”. It is unfortunate that as Christ followers, we have become defined more by what we are against, rather than Who we are following. We allow these stories to suck us in to the point that we forget to actually point others in the direction we were created for. Progressives are just the “liberal” version of “conservative fundamentalists”. And there’s just a whole lot of noise going on back and forth with little to no inspiration for how to move forward.
And perhaps I have skipped a step-the step in which acknowledging and validating the victims of abuse is so necessary. Abuse of ANY kind was not what Jesus was about and I am so sorry for the pain and trauma of those who have been touched by such evil. I have experienced different forms of abuse over the last eight years of my life and I know the battle of survival that comes with trying to heal. I am with you and you are not alone. I wish I had advice or steps to take, but for victims, you know as well as I do that there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all path to healing. It can take a lifetime for many, but I encourage you all to keep fighting for life and health. Don’t let the enemy take anymore from you than he already has. (And yes, that is so much more easier said than done.) What’s more however, is that I acknowledge the necessity of doing less talking and more listening as survivors tell their stories. THAT is something I want to be better at offering those I encounter on a daily basis.
As far as my thoughts on the tragic news of the Duggars and the sect of Christianity they have come to represent, I cannot stand with Conservatives or Progressives on this matter. If you have read my past blog posts, you know that I tend to not identify with either side of the spectrum. Any form of Christianity that seeks identity from a political venue in some way, shape, or form isn’t really offering anything new. It’s just politics with the name of “Jesus” stamped all over it. And it seems that the conversation quickly turns to lowering the debate to the level of the Duggars and how they link their faith to the Republican party. Let me just say that the opposite of Conservative-Christian Republican should not be Progressive-Christian Democrat (or insert whatever political term you wish to). The opposite is Jesus.
So what can I offer? What does it mean to follow Jesus and why is He such good news to the victims AND screw-ups in the world?
Jesus came and loved like no other. There are many stories of women in the Bible who were either victims of their cultural/political/religious environment (actually they all were) and/or suffering from physical ailments. From the woman in a constant state of hemorrhage, to the prostitute with the expensive jar of perfume, to Mary and Martha, and many others; they all were under pressures to submit to the different forms of neglect and abuse or conformity imposed on them by their culture and/or religion of the time.
There are similar stories of men who found themselves as outcasts in which Jesus chose a friendship with.
These life changing stories are ones of validation, hope and triumph. THAT, my friends, is the good news that people need to hear today. That just like I don’t identify with the Duggars or their supposed “Christian” views, I also (and you also) don’t have to identify as dirty, trashy, worthless, shameful, guilty, disgraced. Christ offers new identities for us such as chosen, loved, esteemed, valuable, unique, wanted, and worthy. He took all of those legalities, those abusive misrepresentations of God, and turned them on their head. He said the last shall be first, the broken will be uplifted, the hungry will be fed, and resurrection is ours for the taking.
There is a time to be angry and a time to speak out, but let it not stop there. My prayer is that we get better and better at sharing and representing the One whom we follow with those who might be looking for Him. This world (politics included) can’t match what we find in Jesus. He has called us to follow Him, to imitate Him. This means opting out of situations that turn mean-spirited and unproductive. This means speaking/listening more to those who are hurting rather than engaging with those who oppress. This means being a refuge, not an army-not when it comes to flesh and blood.
I pray for Josh Duggar and all of the people involved in what seems to be a harmful form of religion/idolatry. I pray that I am always mindful that Jesus died for our enemies too. I pray that people will see that Jesus isn’t pro exclusion, hierarchy, abuse, or ugly hairstyles (hahaha! Sorry, I had to.) But more than that, I pray that people will see more of what He is for-love, hope, justice, friendship, empowerment, freedom and the list goes on.
*For more on what I mean by all of this, stay tuned for a blog post on my journey of swinging the pendulum from one end of the spectrum to the other and how I am finding my center…