Friday, November 14, 2008

An Open Letter to the Duggar Family

Dear Jim-Bob, Michelle and kids,

Congratulations on becoming in-laws. It is this show, more than any other, that will stand out in my mind. First let me list why I admire you:

1. Michelle--no one needs to have an opinion on your hair or clothes, but you! [Unless you are indecent in your choices and violate the law, of course.]

2. Teaching your kids that God's Word is against pre-marital sex is a good thing.

3. Teaching your children responsibility and good stewardship are additional good things.

4. It's no one's business how you birth, name, dress, feed or educate your children unless in doing so you are committing child abuse or child neglect.

5. You are Americans, so you are free to speak your mind no matter how unpopular the statements you utter. You are also free to believe and worship as you see fit.

6. Being debt free is awesome. If more followed your example [myself included] we would be a much stronger nation.

We differ on some things, but I too, teach my kids "Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself Last." It's a good way to live. Now, here's where the road divides and we go our separate ways:

1. While you are totally free to believe and practice the Quiverfull lifestyle, the more I watch of your show the more I am reminded of the story of the man who dies in the flood. When he gets to Heaven he says: "Lord, I cried out to you, but you didn't save me!" The Lord replies: "Oh but how I tried! I put the Weatherman on tv to warn about the upcoming storm. Then I sent the National Weather Service with the Warning. Then I put the governor on the airwaves to broadcast the evacuation order. Next I sent the local police and volunteers going house to house looking for those who couldn't flee the storm. I even sent a National Guard helicopter for you, but you wouldn't listen to my voice in them."

My point here is that God is possibly telling you, through the need for a c-section, through the stares and disapproval or even your own family, the often exhausted "countenance" of your older daughters who are running your home and raising their siblings, and through the "looks that would kill" from a few of your older children on the Today Show, through the outrage of little Jackson being sent alone to an airport bathroom and being lost without you realizing it, that enough is enough. When children have to be raised by "buddies" and must sign up for time with Mom things are not as they should be. Be Still and Know that He is God. He may be telling you something subtle.

2. When is "old enough?" and when do you finally let your children rely on God and not YOU to help with temptations? My case in point are the newlyweds--Josh and Anna. Both seem nice and reasonably bright. Both seem to be true Christians. So why were they considered so weak in faith that they could not even talk alone? While I agree that kissing etc can get "out of control" even for devout Christians, I don't see the harm in letting them trust God for help in dealing with the temptations. I find it very Saudi Arabia of you to keep them THIS cloistered. If they are old enough to marry, surely they are old enough to take the adult responsibility for "knowing when to say when" with each other. I totally agree the "consummation" should wait for the wedding night. But, come on! Communication, honesty, transparency are vitally important to a future of healthy married life. And that frenzied hand-holding was more barf-inducing than wallowing all over each other. A young man in love, unless he's on parade with the Marines, would want to stroke her hair or snuggle against her and certainly KISS HER!! Still, you are free to believe as you do. In fact, your son's stance inspired my own 14 year old. I'm grateful--he gets nothing but worldly examples at school. But we went on to talk about prayer and relying on God's strength and not our own.

3. Aside from one grammatical error from Josh ["I've came here every year...."] your kids seem very articulate and seem to have an education on par with most public schools--albeit with more knowledge of the Bible than of popular culture. No harm in that. But why isn't Josh, with his apparent interest in business, going to his beloved University of Arkansas for a business degree? Why, on the Discovery Channel web site, do your daughters only list career goals that are offered by Bill Gothard's ATI programs? Are CHRISTIAN Colleges--such as nearby Ozark Bible College so "full of sin" that your kids can't "risk it?" When is their faith mature enough to meet up with other Christians--let alone agnostics, Muslims or Jews? Patrick Henry College would seem an obvious fit. I find it shocking and sad that you don't want them to live the Great Commission and go out and convert the nations and baptise them--or to defend their faith.

4. When is it ok for your kids to say "Mom and Dad, I love you, but I'm out of here?" Most parents would say "Good luck, God bless, we love you, call or email often." Would you? I wonder. It seems to me that you have fostered the kind of dependence that even Michael Pearl has disavowed. But, again, you are free to believe and do this--it's just where we differ. You see, I WANT my kids to leave home--not because I don't want to be with them, but because I trust them to become adults--and, if you've read this blog you know with one of my kids that's a mighty big leap of faith. But I'll take it. We'll clear the hurdle. They'll have their own lives. I will always be part of their lives but the Bible says we must leave our father and mother and we must put away childish things. When does that happen?

5. Is Amy [or other cousins] the only non-Gothard kid your children see regularly? Quite frankly, I found her to be a normal 20-something Christian woman. She can think for herself, but goes back to the "way she was trained" to rely on God's help. She dresses appropriately for her age and with enough modesty for me. I can't imagine, with her spunk, that she'd let ANYONE pick a husband for her. How about slacking off on the buddy and jurisdiction duties and letting Jessa, Jana, Jill and Jinger hang out with her more? How about letting them choose to try modest jeans or modest shorts for a change? They are beautiful young women. If you've brought them up "right" they won't turn into bar-hopping, Church missing, Bible-dissing *luts just for dumping the Gothard-gear wardrobes. If they try Amy's way they may still happily choose your way, but for Heaven's sake let them try! How about a job off the compound instead of buddydom or laundry land? Is their faith so ill-formed and weak that a "Godless" boss could rob them of their purity while they're boxing fried chicken or getting someone to buy fries with that?

I have tried to write this with respect--for their is much about you and your family that I DO respect, but I do wonder what the future holds for your children. I pray for them as you do. I hope we meet in Heaven. Meanwhile, I'll be seeing you in re-runs for years, I'm sure.


Dave said...

What a great post! I hope many of the Gothard types read this. I have ministered to families like this for years and have seen the severe depression, the personal compromises, and the incredible damage to extended family and church relationships. In spite of what we see on TV, many of these families are far from happy.

There are simple answers to your five points, of course. In fact, it is one simple answer. These families believe that they will become, or at least look, more spiritual by these “standards.”

1. Children are a blessing from the Lord. What spiritual person wouldn’t want as many blessings from the Lord as possible? He will take care of the other problems, right?

2. If remaining a virgin until marriage is good, then refraining from kissing until marriage is better. (Oh, I could tell you stories!)

3. Going to secular (or even Christian) colleges may require distance from mom and dad’s “protection” and may risk temptations. To remain spiritual, only the super-controlled environment is permissible. (Some Gothard families won’t even risk that!)

4. Technically, this doesn’t happen. Even Gothard considered himself under his parents’ authority until they died. Spiritual people don’t set aside their parents’ wisdom, so to be more spiritual these families never really leave their parents’ direct influence.

5. If “bad company ruins good morals,” then spiritual people will stay away even from Christians who disagree with the list of standards. As far as the kids going wild and disrespecting everything they have learned – well, many have. Ultra-control often leads to ultra-rebellion. In order to “protect” the children, even more control must be used.

I have wondered whether the exposure of being on TV doesn’t offer increased isolation for this family. I would guess that they believe they are witnessing for the Lord and that they are prepared to weather the criticisms as a “spiritual” act of sacrifice. In other words, even the TV show allows them to become or feel more spiritual. That’s what it is all about.

If you don’t mind a shameless plug, I have written a short article called, “When the Formula Fails,” about using standards and actions as a formula for spirituality. Sometimes, when things don’t work out as expected, there are severe reactions. There is a better way. The article is posted under the “Resources” tab on my site.

Thanks again for a great post!


Hopewell said...

Thanks for your comments--I especially agree with tv isolating them even more.

Anonymous said...

ever heard of overpopulation? these people are selfish beyond description. if they really want so many children, adopt, there are so many that need a good home.

the problems of this world are directly linked to overpopulation and these selfish people are huge contributors..for their ignorance and selfishness for which they think they will be rewarded, they will get a big surprise and it won't be a pretty one..

Hopewell said...

I totally agree on adoption! My own kids are both adopted! I'm afraid Mr. Gothard thinks adoption is evil so the Duggars will never consider it. Too bad since the Bible teaches us we are all His adopted children.

Laura said...

This is an old post...but I just read it for the first time so I hope it's ok if I comment. I thought the beginning of your post was encouraging (except the hair part...thought that was a little odd) but anyways...regarding your points, you didn't list any concerns that showed they were sinning. I feel rebukes should be given very carefully and only where Biblical commands are violated.

This is probably the biggest downfall of blogs...bloggers feel the need to express every thought and opinion. Real life is quite different, isn't it?

Jennie said...

I agree with Laura 100%. If you feel that Michelle Duggar is in the wrong the proper Biblical route is to go to her privately and certainly not in an open letter. She does have a web-site, you know. Maybe you could contact her in that way since you obviously feel so strongly about her behaviour.
I wonder, do you know her personally or just what you have seen on TV? If only on TV, it seems to me that this probably lies within the realm of malicious conversation.
Yes, I have personally known "Gothardites" who are legalistic and this is truly sad and a great need for prayer and if appropriate, Biblical rebuke.
Really, what business is it of yours anyway? I feel if you are going to publish things like this publicly, you need to let your readers know what right you have to mention this. Have you gone to Michelle privately, then taken 2 or 3 witnesses, then gone before the church? I wonder. If not then maybe you should take out the log, then you may see the speck...

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon your site through a link to your article on Perfect Madness, when I notice the post on your sidebar, one of your "best" - An Open Letter to the Duggar Family.

I felt sad when I read this post... that anyone would feel the need to publicly evaluate and criticize the way someone else chooses to live?

We're called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Life is tough and what everyone really needs is to be loved, accepted and encouraged vs. being criticized and condemned.

I admire the Duggars for living out their religious convictions - for walking the talk. Their hearts are in the right place - seeking to live out life in the way they believe honors God.

Just curious, as to your heart's intent/motive, for publicly criticizing the Duggar family?

ecbspj at

Civilla said...

When people go public like the Duggars have, people are free to criticize publicly, imo.

They are free to do what that want. I would not, however, have wanted to have been raised that way.

Hopewell said...

I appreciate you each taking time to present your concerns, but I stand by my post. The Duggars, by allowing TLC into their homes, have invited critques of their family. I tried to write honestly, but respectfully, my opinion.

Again, I value your comments and the time you gave to reading my blog.

Miz Kizzle said...

I ;enjoyed your post about the Duggar family. It was thought-provoking and respectful. I am an attorney and a Christian, although not of the Duggar variety. The fact that the family has voluntarily appeared on television makes them public figures and as such, they are open to comment from bloggers such as yourself. I found it interesting that to some of your readers anything less than total admiration for the Duggars' lifestyle is perceived as an attack. Have some Christians become so paranoid and fearful of others who chose not to live in a tightly controlled environment that they're afraid of everyone who isn't exactly like themselves? The world is full of a variety of wonderful people of many faiths. It's arrogant to think that there is only one correct way to live and that the Gothard way is the only way.
I too feel sad for those kids, especially the girls. They deserve to wear jeans and cute tops and see a bit of the world instead of constantly babysitting and doing laundry. I think if I were born into the Duggar family I'd have tunneled under the perimeter wire and made a break foe it by the time I was fifteen.

Hopewell said...

It is sad that people think they must wall their kids off from the world to raise them to be Christians. I also find it interesting that they claim they watch very little or no tv yet take $$ to appear on tv.....Good comments--thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Well...this post prompted me to watch the show (when I got the chance...) I found the Duggar family amazingly refreshing! (and I am definitely *not* a Gothardite!)

The Duggars have chosen a lifestyle very few could possibly does, however, work for them and I did not hear a hint of them trying to convince the audience that this is the only way to raise a family.

Yes, they have made their lives very public and will of course hear criticism but I am not sure how one can Biblically defend some of the 'mean' comments and admonitions made to them. Apparently their biggest offenses seem to be the clothes they wear and the fact that their girls are being raised w/ a view to be homemakers. Are these even sin issues?! Their children are obviously very loved and well cared for...and with the number of children that they have it is, quite frankly, amazing!

I know that there are freaky families out there...following all kinds of rules in the name of 'Jesus', but the Duggars are not one of them!

dragonfly said...

I'm with Miz Kizzle, Hopewell.

Everyone is entitled to express their opinion about public figures. Indeed, unless you enter the realms of slander or libel, I believe you are legally free to state your views about all and sundry so long as we are all clear that it is just that - opinion.

Any suggestion that it is inappropriate to take issue with the Duggars' or any other public figure unless you've been to see them privately on more than one occasion with reinforcements is patently ridiculous. Unless I missed the bit where you suggest the Duggars be excommunicated should they continue to disagree with you.

In your post you go to lengths to speak respectfully about the Duggars and to point out what you see as their strengths. Nicely done.

Molly said...

You raise an excellent point. How weak is their faith in their children, and their children's faith in religion, that they MUST keep kids so very sheltered? I went to a very liberal college with people of all religions. I remember being impressed by my Christian friends who were smart enough and secure enough in their faith to go to a place where their beliefs were not the norm, and who had no problem respectfully and thoughtfully disagreeing about issues with their peers. They made great ambassadors for the Christian community because I was able to engage in discourse with them, instead of being baffled by the fact that people my age still live under their parents thumb, and appear to not be able to think for themselves...

Hopewell said...

Molly--that's my experience at a Big 10 School as well. In fact one of the most nicely memorable students was a very religious young woman on my floor who simply didn't drink (& didn't preach about it) and just lived her faith by example. How much MORE good that would do than keeping all the young adults in the Duggar family at home!

Anonymous said...

I have read about Gothard, Quiverfull, the Duggars quiver is certainly filled, crowded and overflowing and while I think each christian should follow God's will for his/her life, Gohthad, QF and other similar ideologies allow anything but someone finding God's will for their individual life.

If Quiverfull was God's perfect way how did so many preachers and teachers into the 20th-21st century since the advent of birth control miss it. Why is it not preached in every pulpit for every last christian around the world?

In the mid 20th century, dedicated American missionaries chose to have only a few children and often left them behind for others to raise as they went into sometimes dangerous mission fields. That was considered truly following God to give up your children for the mission field. When did that stop becoming "God's way". How did those missionaries, seeking the will of God, miss out on the message of quiverful?

Chaplain to the U.S. Senate, Peter Marshall, had only one child. Was he not following God? Was he wrong for only preaching following God through a relationship with Jesus Christ instead of the message of having large large families?

Rusty and Andrea Yates were quiverful adherents. They had 5 children one right after another. Her doctor told her to slow down, give her body rest and time for hormones to normalize. But the Yates thought to do so was to disobey God. Look what happened--- she went off the deep end, drowned her 5 children, she is is prison and the husband has divorced her, remarried and has a child. Where ws the promise of God that HE Would bless and provide for following QF?

Isn't it interesting how God rarely repeats Himself? Here are a few examples of the many One-Time-Only Wonders....There was only one Abraham who by faith believed God's promise to make him a nation (and he had only one son from Sarah), only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and witnessed the one and only parting of the Red Sea, only one Noah who rode out the flood with all the animals on the one and only ark, just one David who using only one stone, brought down a giant. And one Mary who was visited by the one Holy Spirit to become mother of the one and only Jesus who proclaims that HE is the only One by whom salvation can be had. None of them attended any Gothard seminars and large home taught families was their only way of life because there was no birth-control. Nor were there cars nor electric lights back then but we use them now without feeling sinful. And God has made only one YOU and one incredible distinct personality found lost and wandering that He will paint and frame into one masterpiece! And that masterpiece will look like no other!

Hopewell said...

If I remember correctly, Peter Marshall's wife was very ill for a time after Peter John's birth and likely could not have more children. As it is Peter himself died when his son was very young. Still your point on pastors and birth control is correct.

Anonymous said...

They have openly stated that they are not quiverful. He's openly stated that he's always left it up to Michele if they have more. And she has openly stated that the lifestyle is not for everyone- they felt personally called to leave it up to God how many children they have.

Anonymous said...

With 19 children the law of averages dictates that one if not a few of the duggar offspring will "go their own way". With maturity and experiences outside the compound a change in a persons perspective comes whether welcomed or not. The religious moral compass usually remains intact but personal beliefs and environment always teach a method of sustenance. A sort of self preservation adapted through struggle and success. You eventually end up becoming part of how you were raised and part of your adulthood, combining wisdom of experiences with basic rules of moral religious compatibilty taught at a young age. Not all the duggar children will be protected from failure, some will falter, some will end up being average. There is even strong chance that one will come out as homosexual. Those are life's odds, like it or not.