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.