With the latest round of Josh Duggar scandals, it’s time to
address a few things that have been floating around, both in the religious
blogosphere and tabloid and mainstream media. If you’re going to write about
the Duggars, here are some things you need to know.
Before I begin with my list though, I want to say one other
thing. If you defended Josh Duggar the
child molester I don’t even want to hear your condemnation of Josh Dugger the
adulterer. Consensual sex between two adults isn’t in the same universe as
child sexual assault. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to reexamine their
With that said, here are some things you need to understand
if you’re going to write about Josh Duggar.
1. Fundamentalist ≠ Quiverfull
It’s tempting to conflate the two concepts, especially
since those who were involved in the latter insist that they’re the only
true fundamentalists, but they’re not the same thing.
Fundamentalism is, at its core, a theological position
dating to the formulation of the Five Fundamentals of Christian doctrine and
Controversy of the early 20th century. The five fundamentals
were the core doctrinal beliefs that those who came to be called “fundamentalists”
believed were central to orthodox Christian doctrine. Those fundamentals were
the inspiration of scripture by the Holy Spirit and Biblical inerrancy, belief
in the virgin birth of Christ, that Christ’s death was an atonement for sin,
the bodily resurrection, and that Christ’s miracles happened.
Pretty much every Evangelical church in America believes in
those Five Fundamentals, though most of those churches would eschew the “fundamentalist”
label because of the additional baggage the term has taken on over the years.
It’s entirely possible to believe in the Five Fundamentals and still believe in
women’s equality, marriage equality, evolution, and left-wing politics.
What most people, including evangelicals, mean when they
refer to “fundamentalists” are people who have taken the first fundamental—inerrancy
of scripture, and turned that into an extremely literal and rule-based reading
of the text. The distinction that I was given growing up was that fundamentalists are rigid and legalistic.
The Bible is a rule book and as long as you follow all the rules you’ll have a
You don’t have to
homeschool to be a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists send their kids to
public and private schools. Fundamentalist homeschooling says that if you’re a
really good Christian you’ll homeschool your kids, but just as not all
homeschoolers are fundamentalists, not all fundamentalists are homeschoolers.
All quiverfull are
fundamentalists but not all fundamentalists are quiverfull. Quiverfull
adherents will tell you that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but the
vast majority of fundamentalists in the last hundred years that the term has
been in use have taken steps to limit the size of their families.
Quiverfull is a politicized ideology based on Psalm 127 that
says you should have as many children as possible because those children are
arrows in the culture wars. It’s explicitly about taking over society by
outbreeding the rest of the population.
Fundamentalism itself wasn’t even politicized until the rise
of the Moral Majority and related groups in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most
fundamentalists believed that Christians should stay out of politics. The quiverfull
movement came even later and didn’t gain much foothold until the 1990s.
Bottom line? Quiverfull is a subset of the politicized
fundamentalism that developed in just the last forty years.
2. Quiverfull is an Ideology, ATI is a Cult
The Duggars are members of ATI, the high-control,
authoritarian homeschooling cult founded by Bill Gothard. Bill Gothard
teaches quiverfull ideology, but ATI is about so much more than just
As I’ve written about before, like Scientology, ATI
even has its own set of definitions of common words and concepts.
I’m not sure if there’s an aspect of life where Bill Gothard
doesn’t tell members how to live. He tells you what kind of bread to eat (whole
grain), how to dress (navy blue and white are especially godly), when a husband
and wife can and can’t have sex (follow the Levitical purity laws, so wait a
week after a woman’s period, 80 days after a girl is born, 40 for a boy), and
even how to do road safety so as not to get raped when your car breaks down (really).
If you don’t follow all of Gothard’s rules then you’ve
stepped out from under the Umbrella of Authority and are open to all sorts of
attacks from Satan.
You can be quiverfull without following any of those rules.
Heck, you can be quiverfull and believe that dating is okay and that women can
dress however they want. Anyone who talks
about the Duggars and doesn’t make the distinction between quiverfull,
fundamentalism, and ATI, or who treats fundamentalism and quiverfull as the
same thing doesn’t fully understand the issues at play.
3. I don’t know if Anna Duggar will stay, neither do you
I feel the need to emphasize this because all of the tabloid
speculation and comments from unnamed “insiders” is just that, speculation.
The only person who knows what Anna will do is Anna, and she
may not know yet herself. Whatever she decides to do, she’s got a difficult
road ahead for her and for her children, and the choices she makes aren’t going
to be easy ones no matter what decision she finally makes. Her life has been
turned upside down these last few months, she has a newborn, and the entire
world is watching her. For all we know, she’s been weighing her options since
the molestation story broke. She may not make a decision for a long time, and
Know this though. Adultery
is the one area where divorce is unquestionably Biblical. This idea that
because she was raised in a fundamentalist, quiverfull ATI family and married
into another one means she can’t leave is bogus. That’s not how any of this
works. Leaving because of the molestation scandal? That could have gotten her
shunned, told she was being unforgiving and bitter over something that happened
before she met Josh and that he’d repented over. Leaving because she discovered
he was cheating on her? That’s acceptable because the Bible specifically allows
divorce for adultery. It’s a messed up standard, but that’s what it is.
If anybody tells you they know what she’s going to do
because of patriarchal culture, they’re bullshitting you.
This whole story makes me sad for Anna because she was sold
a bill of goods, that if you followed all the rules, did the courtship like you
were supposed to, and got to work on having the dozen kids while staying under
your husband’s umbrella of protection your life will be great. And it’s not. ATI
breeds dysfunction and she and the kids are paying the price.
I feel awful for Josh’s sisters too. They got trotted in
front of the camera to do damage control and proclaim how he had changed, he
wasn’t the same person, and they’d all moved past it. And now they know without
a shadow of a doubt that they were sent out in front of cameras to sell a lie
and protect the Duggar brand.
There are no winners in this.