Wednesday, April 06, 2011

This year’s open letter to the Duggars, Bates and TLC

[Actually this is for both this season and some of last season.]


Thank you, Jim-Bob and Michelle AND Gil and Kelly for going to the hospital with your latest births. I’m not here to debate home birthing, just thank you for showing the example of COMMON SENSE. Thank you for not staying home to birth when it could have caused martyrdom for Mom and/or baby. Thank you, too, for treating real illnesses with real medication when necessary. Michelle, thank you for not staying home and nearly dying by treating preeclampsia with some kind of herbal tea. Thank you, too, for keeping Josie out-of-harm’s way when you travel or have large groups in. It’s nice to see her being so lovingly cared for by her own mother as well as by her Dad and siblings.

People have snarked about your mission trips—they don’t get it. I’ve lived in the 3rd world and know that while it can be easily and conclusively argued that there are better, sustainable ways to help people than giving them a bag of beans and an audio Bible in their own language, I know that you ARE giving them hope and showing them that people in the richest nation on Earth due CARE. That’s huge. It’s also so important that kids find out how the other half lives—both in our own country and abroad. I totally agree with you that this trumps any textbook, any AP class any anything when it comes to teaching about poverty, about caring, about living your faith. It makes your children see how well off they are and helps them not take it all for granted. I’m glad to see that the Bates’ children have now also gone on a mission trip. Even better was the fact that they had to earn some of the money for it (maybe the Duggar kids did too and it just wasn’t mentioned?).

Charity begins at home and although it’s hard to show it without seeming to say “look how great we are—we’re doing all this,” I think it’s good that you are willing to take those comments in order to set a good example and to inspire others who may want to do such things, but lack the courage. The Fish Fry is the kind of event we should ALL support. It’s about coming together to help those in need. Lending your “celebrity” status to good causes is one of the GOOD things such status imparts. Think Jim-Bob Duggar—Bono of the far-right. Helping the Bates build their house, giving them the mini- bus, the green dining room table and all the ways you’ve helped that weren’t shown—that’s important. That’s living your faith.

Snark was thrown, too, over your local community involvement. Last year’s protest of a mini-mart liquor license is good example. Personally, I say: “THANK YOU.” The last thing rural America needs is another beer, cigarette and lottery store. (I’ve seen the combination of deer and drunk driver. It isn’t pretty.) But are we really to believe it was more important than “being there for Josie?” Priorities seem a big askew here. Giving the building to the fire department was a nice gesture to make up for having the film crew in their face and to help keep training costs down. Also we know the girls are mostly doing this as a public relations thing—not a career. The silly skirts don’t fool anyone. It’s good that they can be first responders—we should all have that training. But don’t kid us that they’ll ever be more than eye-candy for the department or that the department is thrilled to have them and their camera crew along to get in the way. John David, however, seems to have found a career which, in an “ordinary family,” he would be encouraged to pursue rather than starting a towing service. John’s following in Daddy’s footsteps and running for office seemed….forced? last-minute? Wrong? All of the above? Not sure of the timing so I don’t know if it was in response to Zak Bates winning an office in Tennessee or not. Still, it didn’t seem his heart was in it. More like a stunt for the tv show. Still, it was very polite and gentlemanly of him to call the victor.

I loved the “big announcement”—that one of wife of a crew member was pregnant! That was so nice to do that for them!! And it shows that while God may not have nailed the womb door shut you’ve discovered some sense of responsibility in regards to marital relations.

Icky Stuff:

Nike!! Defrauded!!!!!

I cannot get over the fact that you find everything so defrauding, yet continue to defraud viewers with all the kissing. We get it, you are married and you can do that. Do you think EVERYONE watching you knows that? It’s icky. I don’t mean the “bye-bye” kind of kisses that would naturally occur—it’s the stunt kisses, the ones just because you “can.” Ick. At least Josh and Anna have cooled down some—that was really icky watching them grab each other or her icky lap-sitting. Thank you for growing up. And TLC, if I see another kid booggering their nose I’m going to barf. We. Get. It. They are “normal” kids. [Except a normal Mom would have dealt with the nose picking problem by now!] Same goes for diaper sniffing, stopped up toilets, discussion and games about poop, shots of dog poop, discussions of cervix softening, snot running, open-mouth chewing and crotch scratching. It happens. We don’t need or want to see it—ok???? Ditto shots of the “howler monkeys” screaming and acting like they’ve been zapped by a cattle prod. I thought these were “such well behaved” children?? Another thing—surely to God they eat more than that gross Tater Tot Casserole or frozen lasagna. If you want a guy to step up and court one of those girls Jim-Bob some better looking food will help—he gets it that your girls are likely fertile, ok?

Hospitality and Promotion:

Maybe this is my Grandmother coming out in me, but serving Dr. Charles Stanley, tater-tot-slop-casserole on Styrofoam plates, no place mats or table cloth was a bit….well, RUDE. How “honored” he must have felt. NOT! What gracious living, what warm, inviting hospitality. One of the best known Christians of our day and you honor him with enough sodium, fat and noise to cause a coronary. I have to wonder what Mr. Gothard would get if he showed up. After all, HOSPITALITY is crucial in ATI families. You made the guests at the baby shower feel much more honored, even with the icky-diaper game, than you did Dr. Stanley. I also cringe for all the times that you’ve laughed and said you love having the Bates visit because “they do all the work.” Wow. Way to make them feel appreciated.

Image from:

You’ve now plugged most of the major ATI/Quiverfull/Patriarchy businesses and leaders on your show. There was a touching visit from Beall Phillips, an uncomfortable visit with the head of Franklin Springs media, another awkward visit with a well-know ATI Dad/financial adviser, an episode-long promo for the owners of Fort Rock Family Camp, the Maxwell’s “Chore Packs” and a few others. We’ve met the group “Southern Raised” as they performed at the Bates’ home. We’ve seen plugs for Hobby Lobby and Chic-fil-et. Nice to give them all free publicity, but it’s time to go back to simply product placements for Swiffer, ok?

Daily Life:

Jim-Bob, this season proves you are ever the politician! We, the viewers, have complained about the big girls doing all the work and you responded by showing yourself and Michelle doing much more [at least on camera] with the little guys. Michelle, if you keep it up, Josie won’t be yelling for “Jill!!!” like Jennifer, Jackson and Jordan have.

I also think it’s too bad that Grandma has to be the housekeeper. She’s your MOTHER, Jim-Bob, not the “help.” She doesn’t have to “earn her keep”—however nice about it she may be. Don’t get me wrong though—last year it was entirely correct for ALL the family to pitch in and do what had to be done while Josie was in the hospital. ANY family would do that! I know of many college kids who have come home to work and help pay bills during hard times, have taken a leave of absence to care for a sick parent or grandparent—that’s what families do. It’s the rest of the time that the girls are used as unpaid help that makes us angry.

Nice to see some age-appropriate activities for a change. Not only the big mission trip, but the Voice of the Martyrs day and the train ride. I understand you like to do things as a family and that’s fine, but how thrilling is it for a young adult to go on a pretend train robbing? And, too, how scary for a little one? The Biltmore House showed how bizarre it was to try to mix such a huge age range—what on earth did the little ones get out of that? And how thrilling for John and Jana to have the “experience” of picking fruit! Very fun to let the little guys dress up for the Noah’s Ark party too! I know a lot of families who skip Halloween but this was a fun way to get to do the costumes part! A huge step up from the awkward visit to that elementary school with no age-appropriate children in tow.

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You’ve also tried to show how “normal” your young adults’ lives are—“college” classes, volunteer work, going on mission trips, going on retreats. We’d be more convinced of this if the kids were ever able to do something: a) without at least one sibling along or, b) without having Gothard/ATI involved. College thru “College Plus” is not the same as getting in the car and going to a college. Ask Erin Bates—I bet she can spell out the differences for you. [And, you don’t need to pay extra to do CLEP tests—anyone can do that.] While we may not be shown courtship to protect their privacy [which I can understand] it does seem odd that they seemingly only socialize with the Bates, Wilsons, Querys and a few others. I guess God really will have to send potential marriage partners right to the front door.

What makes viewers so angry are the lack of REAL choices all of your kids are offered.

First, let’s look at the choices for the girls:

There’s nothing wrong with becoming a doula, but what about becoming a real labor and delivery nurse?? You may have missed the fact that today’s nurses often work only one or two days per week---very family friendly! And, while I haven’t got a statistic handy, I do know that many, many pediatricians, ob/gyn and family practice physicians are women [so to are just about any other type of M.D.] At least at a [gasp] Catholic hospital, they would not be called on to help with an abortion.

To be a music teacher at home with Daddy or Hubby’s permission is fine. To be a school teacher is bad—although our schools are crying out for decent teachers. Then there’s a photography business from home. Ok, nothing bad about that, but you can’t swing a dead cat around the internet without finding way too many ATI-trained photographers offering modest wedding photos or only-first-time-married-husband-and-wife family photos. Ditto blog and web site designers , and “home grown” ebook or how-to-video sellers. Market saturation, Jim-Bob.

Image from: Gladys Aylward

To be a Missionary’s WIFE is great—to be a single, female missionary is wrong in spite of the examples of Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward and many others in the books Vision Forum and other Patriarchal sources love to promote. How cruel to show girls these selfless examples of faith and service and then turn around and say “Nope. God hasn’t told Daddy you may do this.” Ridiculous. Other girls their age raise money to support themselves as missionaries all the time. I’ve helped support a few of them. They do an awesome job of serving the Lord and living their faith. Now that just might just inspire your viewers!

Above all the girls are forced to spend YEARS apprenticing as homemakers. To what end? I’m pretty sure with a little grown-up supervision Johanna could make tater tot casserole and Jackson could scrub a toilet and turn on the washer! Why does this need so much practice that they can’t spare time to go to real classes, hold a part-time job or do something else they want to do? Sorry, but many of us suspect it’s because Mommy would have more than she could handle. That’s where DADDY is supposed to step in and help, not big sisters. They didn’t have the brilliant idea to have the biggest family in the state! But, Jim-Bob and Michelle, we do know that God doesn’t give you more than you CAN handle—just maybe more than you’d LIKE to handle. There's a significant difference here. Birthing them was the easy part—you still have to raise them.

The guys’ choices aren’t much better:

Will John David, if he chooses, be able to become a fully qualified EMT and firefighter? Most parents would be PROUD of this career choice. Or will he be stuck towing cars all his life for what most likely is his Daddy’s renamed towing firm. First Josh had a vision to sell used cars like Daddy, then suddenly John was inspired to tow cars like Daddy. The zoning thing showed how little Josh knows about the legal side his own business and property records and business filings may show it is Daddy’s (or Grandma's) business after all.

Although a little off course at the moment, Josh has mentioned working toward a law degree. If so, he’d better’d head for a real University or move to California—the only state where ATI’s law school graduates are “welcome” to practice. Sad, that a young entrepreneur can’t be seen to attend the University of Arkansas for a legitimate business or marketing degree. Sad too that John can’t be seen to enroll in firefighter training at a technical college.

And what about Joseph and Josiah?? ‘Siah seems to be sporting some attitude [totally at the right age for it]—maybe because he is totally not made to live the life of a glorified handy-man? Maybe he’d like to do something ELSE besides fix things, tow cars or sell cars?? Lawson Bates [who like all the kids mentioned here seems genuinely nice and helpful] gets to run his own ATI-trained lawn service. Wow. What a unique idea. Had he come up with the idea at say, 11, and dragged a mower around the neighborhood all summer and a snow shovel in the winter and grew it into a business without Gothard-approved training it might be original. And yes, such businesses can really grow and prosper and support a family (I know one that went out of business because he couldn't hire ENOUGH help). And, true some guys cannot deal with working inside. I hope he’s one of them otherwise, he must surely he has dreams beyond mowing grass and deciding eventually [when he’s run out of siblings] about hiring illegal aliens to help out. Which brings us to the next big thing that ticks viewers off:

When do your children get to be considered REAL ADULTS??

Yet, unless I’m wrong, it was JANA, not John, who wanted to go on that mission trip to Southeast Asia. But, she wasn’t trusted to go on a Gothard-sponsored trip without a male relative as chaperon? And, Michaela Bates had to join the fire department to chaperon her older brother—who is trusted by the citizens of the county as an ELECTED OFFICIAL so he could serve those same citizens as a part-time volunteer firefighter? ?? My gosh, does he have to take Katie and Warden with him to his elected job?? And, John-David has to have a sister with him to go save a burning home? Why?? Afraid he might be defrauded by an old lady in a night gown fleeing her burning home?? Call me crazy, but most parents would no more chaperon a 21 year old than they would freely drink anti-freeze.

I can understand that the girls’ “celebrity status” might put them in danger of those “weirdo” guys who truly could stalk them, but why can’t they get an apartment and live their own lives?? There’s a rumor that John has moved out of the family home. If true, why not the big girls? Couldn’t the four of them be trusted? Why do they have to wait for “Mr.Right,” I mean “Mr. Daddy Approved,” to be able to start their lives. If they TRULY do choose to live at home fine, but it’s hard to TRULY choose when the deck is stacked against you. The Bates took a leap of faith and let Erin go to a REAL COLLEGE, albeit an extremely small and conservative one. Looks to me like the walls didn’t come crashing down or anything. And what about Anna’s sister—the one who cut her hair?? Is she a hopeless outcast for thinking a little for herself? Of course not!!

Seriously, when are you children old enough to be trusted to be “in the world, not of the world?” And, more importantly, when are you [the parents] going to be mature enough Christians to trust the Lord to protect them? We’re to pray for a hedge of protection to surround them, not an umbrella of authority to shelter them. I understand protecting and sheltering little ones, but if the protection is never withdrawn or withdrawn to slowly you end up with emotionally stunted adults. Adults who can’t make a decision. You get women who are easily abused. You get adults who are too easily taken advantage of by others. Little lambs who are easy prey for the wolves. Adults with zero street smarts. Adults who, in fact, are in no way adults. It’s by stepping out of the safety of home that we learn to make our way in life. It’s how our faith deepens and grows. It’s how we learn to rely not on Daddy, but on Our Father in Heaven. The Lord speaks to us all—not just to Daddys and Husbands. We all need that time to test our wings and fly. God will be there to protect them or not as he sees fit. It’s for Him to decide to protect or not—not Daddy and Mama. We all need the kind of experiences that build our emotional intelligence. The Bible tells us as parents to train up a child in the way he should go and WHEN HE IS OLD he will not stray from it. “When he is old” does not imply he will always make the right choices on the way to old age, but it does imply—in fact it’s guaranteed--that if he is contrite he will be forgiven. That’s what it’s about. Forgiven. Not shunned. Not kept ”safe” in a never-ending childhood.


Susan said...

As usual, well-done! I think I'm more pro-Duggar than you generally, but I agree with much of this. It *is* odd how the kids seem like kids still at 20 or so. Also odd that Josh has married and moved out, yet aren't some of the next kids due to do the same, and we've heard nothing about courtships for them unless they're just not publicizing them. Jana seems to have basically disappeared and that seems really odd to me.

Hopewell said...

John is rumored to have moved out. My guess is, if anyone is courting, they are not saying to protect the privacy of the other person in case the courtship "fails." I hadn't noticed Jana--I'll have to rewatch a few episodes. She could, I suppose, be visiting another family or be working behind the scenes with ATI or something.