Tag Archives: fundamentalist

The Duggars

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar at the time of their marriage, ages 17 and 19 respectively.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar at the time of their marriage, ages 17 and 19 respectively.

One year ago, the Duggar family’s oldest son Josh had his coming out party as a perv. News broke of his serial molestation of five young girls. Four were his sisters. Despite some local politics with the newspaper, Springdale police, and Arkansas Department of Human Services, most of the story finally gained a full airing. Shortly thereafter, TLC yanked the Duggar reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting” from the airwaves.

Thank you Jesus.

Attempts by Josh’s parents to smooth things over resulted in the revelation that church elders had experienced this in other families. (Who are these people?) Soon news broke about Josh’s pornography addiction and his two accounts at the ‘cheating’ website “Ashley Madison.” [Because…one wasn’t enough?] He entered a faith-based rehab facility at Rockford, Illinois, where he spent seven months begging the porn and sex addiction demons to leave him alone.

Most knowledgeable observers will tell you these kinds of programs are worthless. Like ‘gay conversion’ therapy. If you’re gay, you’re gay. If you’re a horn-dog, no amount of manual labor or prayer will suppress that drive. What might work is real therapy where the individual learns that control issues and other emotional and psychological motivators propel some people into compulsive behavior. But that’s science based, not faith based, and about as far from the Duggar lexicon as you can get.

Josh has returned to live near his parents at Tontitown, Arkansas, where he spends his days at the family home or the place of his father’s original business, a used car lot. Reportedly, he’s trying to sell off vehicles he collected while rolling in money from his share from the TV show and later from his ‘job’ for the Family Research Council for which, we guess, his credentials centered on name recognition. The sad fact is that for him and the rest of this Duggar overpopulation of ignorance, he doesn’t know how to do anything and, as one wag puts it, “none are well enough educated to get a fast food job.”

Now that his name recognition is a liability, the truth about the Duggar clan rises to the surface. Josh doesn’t have any job training. Like the rest of his siblings, he grew up learning to disrespect education. Anything beyond high school might have been a threat to this carefully cultivated climate of willful ignorance.  Some of this home-schooled bunch never bothered to get their GED.

Most recently, Bill Gothard, the Duggar’s former minister and founding father of their home-schooling curriculum, has been sued by five women who claim he oversaw decades of systematic sexual abuse.   This is who Josh’s parents brought in to counsel him when his sisters first ratted him out. Gothard’s standard teaching on sexual matters is that a victim of sexual abuse is partly responsible for that abuse. In other words, those young girls made him feel them up.

Compare that to extremist Islam which blames the female if she’s raped. “The laws of Islam came to protect women’s honor and modesty. Islam forbids women to wear clothes that are not modest and to travel without a mahram; it forbids a woman to shake hands with a non-mahram man. Islam encourages young men and women to marry early, and many other rulings which close the door to rape. Hence it comes as no surprise when we hear or read that most of these crimes occur in permissive societies…”

Rape cases in the strictly Islamic nation of Saudi Arabia in 1988 stood at 2.19 rapes per 100,000 population. Under Sharia law, generally enforced by Islamic states, punishment imposed by the court punishes the rape victim if she first entered the rapist’s company in violation of purdah. (Purdah takes two forms: physical segregation of the sexes and the requirement that women cover their bodies so as to hide their skin and conceal their form.) In those cases, the victim can be sentenced to even harsher punishment than the assailant. So maybe there’s a bit of under-reporting going on…

Both Christian and Islamic extremist religionists adhere to the idea that the female is responsible for tempting the male, as much or more than the male is responsible for keeping it in his pants. Just like Eve was responsible for the downfall of humanity, evidently some of Josh’s ‘sin’ was the result of too much exposure to his sisters. Hence their duty to forgive their molester.

In an effort to prevent the ‘spoiling’ of young girls by uncontrolled sexual desires, extremist church fathers advocate early marriage. In Islam, if they give consent, girls who have begun their periods are fair game, pretty much identical to the beliefs of the Duggars and others in the Quiverfull movement. It goes without saying that the more girls on the market, the fewer men will have to suffer restraint.

Recently stories emerged about the Quiverfull movement’s founder Vaughn Ohlman who believes that girls should be married off as soon as they’re “physically mature enough to handle” childbirth “without damage.” Ohlman was organizing a ‘convention’ in Kansas this summer “designed to help parents find suitable arranged marriage partners for girls in their teens so that they can start producing offspring.” Word got out and the campground rescinded its welcome. No doubt they’ll gather somewhere else to practice their unique form of white slavery.

Evidently nothing of the Duggar family’s public humiliation has caused them to rethink their beliefs. They have not repudiated their close ties to the Quiverfull movement or Bill Gothard. They continue to homeschool their children. They continue to adhere to a belief system that sets up young females to be abused and controlled by their fathers, brothers, pastors, and any other male authority figure.

The fallout for the Duggars is that like Josh, the daughters who are married along with their husbands depend on patriarch Jim Bob for support. One report alleges that “Jill and her lazy unemployed husband Derrick scammed for donations for a fake missionary trip and had to give donations back.” Another states that “Jessa lives rent free in her grandmother’s home. Her husband Ben is not employed outside [but does] odd jobs like mowing lawns for her dad.”

Jim Bob has worked hard trying to regain airtime—or any time in the public eye—that might produce an income. The result has been the recent TLC “Counting On” series starring Jill and Jessa, their spouses, and their children. According to one person close to the situation, the show was “supposed to be about what is going on with the girls, yet Jim Bob and Michelle found their way on tv in the very first episode.”

Further, Josh Duggar has recruited his wife Anna to “reach out to people like Dr. Phil and Megyn Kelly so he can have his mea culpa moment. If that goes well and people are sympathetic towards him, he is sure he can convince TLC to give him and Anna a spin-off – something to do with healing their marriage within the Christian faith.”

Thankfully for the rest of us, that might not happen. Sponsor rejections came fast and furious once the “Counting On” series began. “After the first episode of Counting On aired, seven advertisers publicly distanced themselves from the program after their advertisements were run during the episode. Those companies included Pure Michigan, Verizon Wireless, Mattress Firm, Cici’s Pizza, Choice Hotels, The UPS Store and Whitewave foods…It got worse during the second week.” Additional companies retreating from the Duggar family include RCN Corporation, Credit Karma, Gazelle, Ring.com, candy and gum giant Wrigley, and Combe Inc. Chattem, Inc. saw ads aired for its ACT Kids Batman Rinse and more during the program and are now stating those commercials aired “in error.”

(Such ad placements occur when companies buy air time and allow the network to place the ads where they want them. Questions about TLC’s programming decisions have put Nancy Daniels, general manager, on the hot seat.)

A depressing timelime of the Duggar family proliferation can be found here.

The greater issue concerning anyone even dimly cognizant of these goings-on is the failure of TLC or any religious organization to stand up and disavow not only the Duggars but everything they stand for. Unbelievably, the Duggars still enjoy a cult following.

In their isolated east/west coast lives, media mavens may see the Duggars, Honey Boo-Boo, Duck Dynasts, and other cultural deviants as entertainment. They make good money playing these folks to the rest of us. What the network people don’t understand is that by the mere presence of extremists on television, they encourage and inspire others to take up the same beliefs and behaviors.

At the least, TLC and advertisers for such programs should post a large disclaimer with each episode stating this is what NOT to do.

It is irresponsible, selfish, and arrogant to produce nineteen children in a world where too many children already live in desperate conditions. It is morally wrong to add to world suffering. If someone wants to have a houseful of kids, once you’ve replicated your gene pool three or four times, ADOPTION is the only decent route.

There are already too many under- and un-educated people struggling to find ways to make ends meet. EDUCATION should be the top priority of any responsible parent.

Too many women suffer abuse, abduction, assault, rape, marrying too young and/or yielding all autonomy to a male. EQUAL RIGHTS is about females having the same rights as males to be educated, hold gainful employment, refuse sex she doesn’t want, and otherwise be in control of her own body and life. Propagating any other viewpoint is criminal.

For all their pious beliefs, reproduction as practiced by the Duggars is animal behavior. Only animals blindly try to fertilize every egg that rolls down the tube because…predators. We have intellects, undeveloped as they may be in some cases, and have subdued our natural predators.

That leaves us duty bound as humans to think about what we’re doing.

 

 

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The Devil Within

ID-100214173(1)In my last blog post, I wrote about Josh Duggar, Justin Harris, and Arkansas’ continuing stream of revealed perversion by rightwing religious and political leaders. I thought I said it all. I turned off the light and went to bed.

Then came responses in defense of Josh Duggar. Oh, he was a kid. It happened a long time ago. It wasn’t that big of a deal, and anyway he confessed and asked forgiveness. They prayed and he became closer to God.

So let me first address those points.

There is no evidence that Josh Duggar came forward as a penitent to admit his wrongdoing. The heavily redacted police report allows for multiple interpretations of who said what. “Someone” tearfully came to the Duggar parents, stating that “someone” had been sneaking into “their” bedroom at night and that it had happened “four or five times.”

Another objection to the public airing of the poor boy’s ‘minor offense’ is that he was only fourteen. Yes, when first reported in March 2002, Josh was fourteen. His parents considered ‘discipline’ a sufficient response. Four months later in July 2002, Josh was found to have resumed his incestuous behavior. He was again ‘disciplined.’

Because if it didn’t work the first time, it’s sure to work the second time.

This too failed to achieve the expected results. Once again apparently oblivious to potentially permanent psychological and emotional harm suffered by Josh’s prey, the parents continued life as usual. A full year after the first report, in March 2003, the now-fifteen year old Josh’s incestuous abuse again came to the parents’ attention.

Clearly Josh sought opportunities to ‘cop a feel.’ Just as clearly, his targets did not report every single incident at the time it happened. Josh knew how far he could go without triggering a complaint. This is not the behavior of a child, but rather a person capable of calculated predation.

It was only after this third complaint that Josh’s father Jim Bob Duggar consulted with church elders. That’s because everyone knows that in cases of sexual deviancy and incest, church elders are the experts. According to the police report, the initial consensus was that Josh should be placed in treatment. On second thought, Mr. Duggar voiced concern about the possible negative effects of exposure to other youth at the treatment facility. It was this threat of contamination by troubled non-Christian peers that drove the placement of Josh with a known Christian friend in Little Rock.

Apparently the overriding concern focused on Josh. Get him away from his tempting sisters. Place him with an understanding adult male where no such temptation existed. Put a hammer in his hands and set him to hard labor for a while.

Based on statements made to date, we assume the possibility of mental health care never came up. Evidently a treatment program was initially viewed as a punishment, not a means to access therapy that might have helped Josh understand why he felt such urges. Counseling for his victims also apparently never entered the discussion.

A different face of the same problem awaits appropriate closure in the failed adoption of three sisters by Rep. Justin Harris and his wife Marsha. Certain that God guided them to bring the girls into their home, the Harrises pushed through a private adoption against the advice of therapists and caseworkers for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, who warned that the girls had endured significant sexual abuse in the home. According to the foster parents who had kept the girls in their home for over a year, Harris used his position as a state legislator to pressure DHS to sign off on the adoption.

Almost immediately, the oldest of the three, age six, was sent away after the Harrises experienced the extent of her disturbed behavior first hand. For the next year, the two younger girls suffered through the twisted parenting of Justin and Marsha which included being locked in a room stripped of books, toys, and other diversions and allowed no contact with her sister. The girls were signed in as ‘present’ at the Harris preschool, ‘Growing God’s Kingdom,’ but often were not present. And despite denials by the Harris attorney, former and current school employees have described Marsha Harris’ practice of ‘praying out demons.’ [The Arkansas Times’ ongoing coverage of the Harris adoption/preschool story has included use of assigned names for the three girls. The youngest, age four at the time of the incident described below, has the name Annie.]

The former classroom aide recalled a specific incident in 2013 in which Marsha Harris voiced a conviction that her adopted girls’ behavior was fueled by demonic influences. “I remember [Annie] was in the classroom just crying and crying, and [the other teacher] couldn’t even talk to her. I sat on the floor and started saying, ‘I see a purple dinosaur,’ or whatever was around the room. She’d cry, and then stop and look, and cry again, and I kept talking and kind of brought her out of the little tizzy she was in.

“I finally asked her what’s wrong. She said she wet her pants, and I said, ‘That’s OK, we all have accidents,’ and I went out, took her wet ones off, and was getting some other ones. About that time, Marsha came storming in and said, ‘What’s going on in here?’ I said [Annie] had an accident, and she said, ‘That was no accident.’

“And that’s when she told me that it was one of her demons that was making her do that. Then that afternoon or maybe later, she told me that they’d already driven out nine demons, but [Annie] still has one that’s making her do those kind of things.”

It wasn’t long after, in late 2013, that the Harrises gave up entirely on the girls and shuffled them off to another family, Eric and Stacey Francis.

Evidently God had changed His mind.

Only a few months after that, the middle girl now age six was raped by her new ‘father.’ After that incident and several other revealed instances of sexual abuse by Mr. Francis, he was ultimately sentenced to forty years in prison.

Just as the Duggars kept Josh’s secret for twelve years, so did the Harrises fail to notify parents of their preschool flock that a former instructor, Eric Francis, had been convicted of child rape and molestation. Harris also failed to mention that his and Marsha’s adopted girls had been given to the Francis household. Undoubtedly they would have preferred their role in the whole sordid mess never see the light of day. Only the careful journalism of an Arkansas Times reporter uncovered the mess.

Harris has yet to apologize for his role in this little girl’s rape, for his utter and abject failure as an adoptive parent. Instead, his only response has been through an attorney and an occasional Biblical quote on social media such as: The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.

Oh poor Justin Harris!

Which brings up the bigger problem.

The crushing outcome of the Harris involvement in the lives of these already horrifically traumatized young girls didn’t earn Mr. Harris any censure or removal from office by his rightwing colleagues in the state legislature or a rebuke by the rightwing governor. Based on Mr. Harris’ most recent public appearances and remarks in social media, he continues to view himself as the victim. It surely has not occurred to him that he and his wife might benefit from mental health care in addressing Justin’s god complex and Marsha’s belief in demons.

Where is oversight—government or church—that could intervene? The Harrises are daily in charge of over one hundred vulnerable young minds in an operation funded by our tax dollars.

The failure of the Harrises, Duggars, church elders, and even a state police officer and elected officials to understand the need for mental health care for abuser and victims stems from the pervasive practice of willful ignorance among fundamental/evangelical extremists in general. They view mental health caregivers in the same ilk as witches and ‘godless pagans.’ There’s a belief that what a person ‘thinks’ is between him and God. Prayer is the cure for all ills.

For most extremists, practice of faith has moved a few steps away from refusing all medical care. But anyone can see a broken arm. No one can see the terror and confusion inside little girls who have lived with sexual abuse by meth addicts in their family home, then suffered moving through foster care to finally be adopted before learning—from their new parents—that they are demon possessed. No one can see emotional trauma that results from sexual molestation such as anxiety, fear, or post-traumatic stress disorder likely to surface years later in the Duggar abuse case. No one can see the obsession controlling the abuser’s acts, the neurochemical and dissociative high produced by intense sexual fantasy likely to surface at some point in Josh Duggar’s future.

This willful ignorance and inevitable negative results hold true not only in Christian fundamentalism-evangelism, but also in Amish communities and populations of orthodox Jews. One Israeli study confirmed that “…religious Jews who were in prison were more likely to be in for sex crimes.”[1] A study of freshmen at a southern university in the U.S. found that “…those who had been sexually abused by a relative were much more likely to be affiliated with fundamental Protestant religions.”[2] It probably goes without saying that Catholics have a sordid history along these lines. A study of religious affiliations among adult sexual offenders found that persons who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims, than other groups including atheists.[3]

Studies in social dynamics have long shown that placing a person in absolute authority over others often leads to tyrannical behavior. The set-up for sexual abuse is inherent in patriarchal environments required by fundamentalist religion. The all-powerful male gains a sense of divine empowerment: “I can do anything. God is with me.” Abusers believe forgiveness through confession and prayer solves any problem. The abuser struggles with obsessive responses to sexual repression. The victims are within easy access, either siblings, children in a church group, or a church member seeking emotional support for some personal crisis. The victim trusts the abuser and accepts his authority. Fear and shame often prevent the victim from talking to anyone about the experience(s).[4]

In 2001, Dr. James Dobson’s evangelical radio show “Focus on the Family” hosted a discussion about a “crisis” among pastors of evangelical churches. A study had found that 21% of evangelical/protestant pastors had had inappropriate sexual contact with members of their congregations including children and youth. Sixty percent had a problem with pornography. Victims were pressured not to report the abuse—it would harm the church, harm the mission. God does not want you to tell, the Bible says to handle such offenses privately.

It’s almost as if sex offenders self-select for extremist religion because (a) they don’t understand their secret desires would be more appropriately addressed by mental health care, (b) God will cure/forgive them, and (c) they are more able to indulge their illness in an environment rich with molestation opportunities.

The rot goes all the way to the top.

After a particularly threatening scandal came to light in a 2011 20/20 report, the nation’s flagship fundamentalist institution Bob Jones University commissioned an internal study by a group called Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE). GRACE was founded by Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham and a professor at Liberty University. In 2003, driven by his experiences as a sex crimes prosecutor, Tchividjian set up a team of investigators including lawyers, pastors, and therapists. He sums up his work over the intervening years by stating that evangelicals are worse than Catholics at covering up sexual abuse.

[An extensive article about the work of GRACE can be found here.]

GRACE spent over two years working on the Bob Jones University case. They found that men in top positions at the school, one of them charged with providing counseling to students, routinely engaged in victim blaming and shaming in order to suppress complaints. After BJU reviewed preliminary copies of the GRACE study, they attempted to cancel the study. That too became public and they re-engaged. Released in late 2014, the study revealed that Bob Jones III, chancellor and grandson of the founder, and Jim Berg, counselor and dean of students for thirty years, earned the harshest criticism. (Typical for such cases, Berg had zero professional training in counseling.)

GRACE found that students who reported abuse were blamed for bringing it on themselves and that proper authorities had not been notified. The organization said Jones, as the president from 1971 until 2005, and Berg, who stepped down as dean in 2010, were primarily responsible. The report recommended that Jones be disciplined and that Berg be banned from both counseling and teaching counseling and that the school no longer use or sell his books or DVDs.

To date, BJU has ignored these recommendations. Berg remains on staff. BJU ‘investigated’ and found that his teaching materials followed the Bible and there was no reason to discontinue them. The school evidenced no concern for the emotional or psychological health of the victims, not only students at BJU, but people everywhere who relied on Berg’s teaching materials for guidance on how to handle such problems.

What did GRACE find at BJU that caused them to recommend the dismissal of Berg? Here’s a small sample from the report:

[BJU student Cathy] Harris said she was counseled by Berg for six months in 1996 after she started to have flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse. She said she’d go to his office on the second floor of the Administration Building weekly and sit in a wing-back chair. He remained seated behind his desk.

She told him she wanted to go to the police, she said.

“He said the police wouldn’t believe me,” she said.

He told her a report would bring shame on the cause of Christ.

Berg also asked whether she felt any pleasure during any of the abuse and, if she did, she needed to repent, she said.

[See more here ]

Tchividjian says the goal of GRACE is to avoid a major scandal for Protestants similar to what happened over a period of years within the Catholic church. He wants churches to be more open, more responsive to the victims’ needs. Tchividjian worries that while a few larger institutions and even a few homeschooling systems have accessed GRACE and followed its recommendations, many who commission studies refuse to accept the final report. It’s a perfect storm of denial and the inability to comprehend the full extent of the problem.

Even worse, many churches and homeschooling networks in particular continue to operate with the traditional patriarchal framework that leads to such abuses in the first place: authority of males over females, an obsession with sexuality, tribalism, hostility to science and anything else modern, and an extremely literal interpretation of the Bible.[5] The persons in charge are those who have the most to lose. They won’t let go easily.

Coming Soon: The Threat of Willful Ignorance

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

[1] Ben-David S, & Weller L (1995). Religiosity,criminality and types of offences of Jewish male prisoners. Medicine and law, 14 (7-8), 509-19 PMID: 8667998

[2] Stout-Miller, R., Miller, L., & Langenbrunner, M. (1998). Religiosity and Child Sexual Abuse: A Risk Factor Assessment Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 6 (4), 15-34 DOI: 10.1300/J070v06n04_02

[3] Eshuys, Donna and Stephen Smallbone, “Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders.” August 2006. http://static1.squarespace.com/static/500ee7f0c4aa5f5d4c9fee39/t/53e90d54e4b07e6a4418caff/1407782228523/Religious+Affiliations+Among+Adult+Sexual+Offenders.pdf

[4] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/03/does-religion-and-not-just-catholicism-produce-more-than-its-fair-share-of-child-abusers/

[5] “The Duggars: How Fundamentalism’s Teachings on Sexuality Create Predatory Behavior ,” Diary of an Autodidact. May 23, 2015. http://fiddlrts.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-duggars-how-fundamentalisms.html