I have seen multiple headlines and statuses on social networks from any and all sides concerning this Josh Duggar fiasco. It is clear that no, absolutely no, middle ground can be reached because folks commenting on the issue, regardless of their stance, fail to put their thoughts in a way in which a sensible and rational conversation can occur. There is fierce anger which leads to an intense feeling of defense from the opposing side, and these both materialize within any side of the argument.
I am going to attempt to portray the two primary sides of the argument here, the “progressive” or “liberal” side (that I have seen) and the “conservative” or “traditional” side (again, that I have seen). Then I will share my thoughts on the issue.
Before I begin, let me share some posts and comments I have come across in the last couple of days from different points of view (the posts are kept anonymous. It is the words said that are important, not who said them.):
“Mike Huckabee Argues Josh Duggar Deserves Forgiveness” (article)
“He has gone off the rails”
“This makes me sick. I have no words.”
“Mike Huckabee: Even Though He May Have Fondled Little Girls’ Breasts and…” (article)
“Josh Duggar: God Has Forgiven Me for Molesting Young Girls” (article)
“I doubt it”
“they think their god forgives…their actions…so they expect us to believe that they’re absolved of obligation or responsibility…”
“The Duggars Aren’t Hypocrites, Progressives Are” (article)
“He is so merciful and I will continue to chose [sic] not to judge this family for their mistakes. Nobody deserves to be prosecuted in this way for actions he and his family have clearly tried all in their power to make right and have had a tremendous amount of guilt for.”
“‘Reprehensible’ is cheating on a test. Molesting little girls is a horrific crime. Enough of Christian conservatives telling us how to live.”
“Tell TLC to Stop Supporting A Child Molester By Canceling 19 Kids and Counting” (article)
“…And then they kept filming their show lecturing America?”
“It is poetic justice that Josh Duggar, member of a family with an overbearing aura implicitly forcing their ‘family values’ on others, would be caught up in a child molestation scandal that remained hidden for over a decade.”
“If they had focused on Christian redemption and forgiveness, the story would be different. But Josh and his family have been elevating themselves and condemning those who are different from them.”
“Why is it we are happy to receive God’s grace that we don’t deserve and are not willing to allow others to experience the same grace. If he truly repented and it sounds as if he did, who are we to say he doesn’t deserve that same grace?”
“Jesus loves those harmed by sexual abuse and Jesus loves Josh, this I know. We are not called to be the judge of those who walk in darkness. We are called to be their light.”
“I cannot believe so many people are dismissing this man’s sexual assault on children as if because he is Christian it is okay. It’s NEVER okay!! It was covered up by his parents and now he is free to continue ruining children’s lives. Would you be so quick to forgive a child molester that was Muslim or Jewish or Atheist? Nope. But a Duggar…. oh, he made mistakes it’s fine. Disgusting!”
**Just a note, these are the more civil comments, articles, statuses, and posts that I have seen**
One side of the argument portrays Josh Duggar and his family as hypocrites. Regardless of whether or not that is a fair label is not the issue. Rather, the issue is why do folks see them as hypocrites. The thought comes about due to their support and activity within groups such as the Family Research Council that lobby, encourage, and sustain the political and social idea of traditional values. The website provides the group’s mission:
“Family Research Council’s mission is to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”
The two primary issues with which the group deals are traditional versus non-traditional marriage and abortion. There are others and a link is provided so that you can view them yourselves, but these are the two that are most noteworthy.
I will not go into detail concerning the political and social friction that occurs between this, for lack of a better label, conservative group and liberal groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, other than to say that each receives and spends vast sums of money to support and further their respective causes, and that those in support of either group believe wholeheartedly in those endeavors.
The hypocritical view arises from the Duggars’ support of traditional values and their attempts to suppress non-traditional ideals based on a strict interpretation of the Christian faith and the idea of the sanctity of the traditional family unit, essentially that the institution of marriage insists on the union of one male with one female. Where bitterness comes into play is the insistence that a holy mandate such as the traditional Christian union and sexual immorality (though not exclusively these) need to be codified into secular law. Put the two together and the old phrase “practice what you preach” comes into play, and since Mr. Duggar failed to do so gives him, or those in support of him, little ground on which to stand when believers attempt to stipulate, dictate, and legislate how other folks choose to live their lives. I think that is it in a nutshell. I could elaborate more, but that would only belabor the point.
Those in support of Mr. Duggar point out that he was 14 when the incidents of molestation occurred, and since that time he has repented of his sin, worked hard to right his sin, and has attempted to lead a Godly life. As told in the nineteenth verse of the third chapter of the book of Acts, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (NIV), by doing so he has been forgiven by God and, thus, is to be forgiven by fellow believers, and further with verse 38 in the second chapter of the same book, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,’” (NIV). Mr. Duggar has been held accountable by God. He has confessed his sin before God and his fellow believers, and he has repented of such. Therefore, he deserves forgiveness, because no one is perfect but only made perfect through Christ (Heb.10.14). Also since the United States is a country founded on Christian values, and that those values are given by God, the law of the land should reflect such (though neither in the Bible or in the Constitution can I find any reference for such). Again, that is it in a nutshell.
As I said, the conflict lies in the above two paragraphs in a nutshell, boiled down to the simplest points I can present.
The conflicting sides meet where personal faith and divine authority intersect with secular law and authority, essentially the law and authority as established by the people (Preamble) and ratified by the states (Article VII) according to the Constitution.
According to the Bible, Christians are to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4.32, NIV), and to forget “what is behind” and strain “toward what is ahead,” (Philippians 3.13, NIV). Also, Christians are told that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death,” (Romans 8.1-2, NIV). Therefore, according to these and numerous other passages concerning repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, Mr. Duggar is forgiven by God, is free of his sin, and is to be forgiven by fellow believers. This is just and fair according to one’s personal faith in Christ and his divine authority.
Where the hypocrisy comes into play is when that same gift of forgiveness is not bestowed universally. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins,” (Matt. 6.14-15, NIV). According to this verse, there are no conditions in which a believer in Christ cannot refuse to forgive “men their sins.” So we cannot pick and choose which sins we will forgive or which sinners we will forgive.
A primary question asked in this vein is how can this man be forgiven when in the next breath a man committing a wholly different sin is condemned, both faithfully and secularly? This is not an unfair question. Remember back to September 11, 2001 or the Katrina disaster in 2005 when self professed men of God proclaimed God’s wrath on our country for its moral backwardness and shortcomings.
Now, these men are not fringe elements of the Christian faith. Many millions of believers believe just as these two men do. Yet, many of those millions will come to the aid and support of Mr. Duggar and will forgive him of his sexual immorality, and yet, will, and do, pass judgment on those others deemed unworthy of such forgivenss for their immorality. This is where the hypocrisy lies.
The conflict is further intensified when laws based solely on personal faith and morality are promoted, legislated, and codified into secular law. There is a difference between the divine law of God and the secular law of the United States, or any secular nation, and it is clearly noted both in the Bible and in the Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The government has no role in religion, faith, or, really, any moral system beyond the protection of a citizen’s right to life, liberty, and property. Once a government begins to legislate an individual’s or group’s faith, it encroaches on the faith or belief of another individual or group. However, when one’s lack of morality encroaches on another citizen’s right to life, liberty or property, government comes into play. Yes, it is morally reprehensible, and morally wrong, to murder, kidnap, or rape someone. It is against secular law to do so because the rights of a victim of a crime are infringed. In the case of robbery, a citizen’s right to property is infringed upon by another citizen. In secular government, morals can only be legislated if the effect of one’s immorality infringes on the rights of another citizen. This is the crux of the First Amendment.
According to the Bible, Christians are to “submit” to “governing authorities” (Romans 13.1-5, NIV), “every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2.13, NIV), and “be subject to rulers and authorities…to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men,” (Titus 3.1-2, NIV). So, for Christians, there are two laws according to which we must live, the moral and spiritual law of Christ and the secular law of the country in which we live. One set of laws holds us accountable to God and the other set of laws holds us accountable to our neighbors and fellow citizens.
For those that disagree with the above statement, consider one question. Do you support a state-sanctioned death penalty for the sinful (or immoral) act and secular crime of murder, or really any secular penalty that provides secular justice?
I know the broader context of this issue will not go away soon. Friendships dissolve and families split over the central issue presented here. It does not have to be that way. All it takes is a little patience and a lot of introspection and consideration. A particular point of view does not have to be agreed upon, but should at least attempted to be understood.
There are other points and issues that have been raised and thousands of comments exist for any of them, but the crux of the argument is here. For a broader perspective, give this piece a read.