Josh Duggar admitted to sexually abusing underage girls multiple times while he was a teenager. It is also known that his sisters were among the victims.
The fact that ‘counselling’ was the single consequence for him surprises me not at all. Christian counselling is often used as a means of paying lip service to justice while actually sweeping everything under the rug.
I grew up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. The same doctrines taught to the Duggars were taught to me, and I’ll tell you right now, theirs is a culture of victim blaming, shame and epic-level cover-ups.
A little about IFB culture:
Independent Fundamental Baptist churches are a classification of churches (because they insist on not being called a denomination) without governing bodies, recognizing the Pastor as the god-appointed leader of his flock. Women are not allowed to serve in the church beyond tending to the children and participating in musical ministry which often consists only of archaic hymns sung to piano and woodwind accompaniment. Women are viewed as subservient, submissive helpers to the men, bearers of children and keepers of the home.
IFB churches are ‘feeder’ churches to a few private fundamentalist colleges in the United States, chief among them is Bob Jones University (who in only 2000 officially lifted the ban on interracial dating, though the culture of racism remains).
All IFB churches believe to ‘spare the rod is to spoil the child’. Beatings are frequent, particularly with young children (many families beginning at the age of 6 months, if not earlier) to ‘break the spirit of the child’ and inspire ‘swift and joyful obedience’ in line with the teachings of the book To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.
Isolation is a tactic used by the parents in these churches to make sure their children remain ‘pure’ from the worldly influence. Friends outside the church are always taught to be seen as ‘lost’ and are to be kept at arm’s length. Extracurricular activities, when the children are not being homeschooled, are viewed as proving grounds for the children’s ‘witness to the Gospel’, or their attempts to convert the people around them.
Sexual purity is paramount, and shame is taught to girls at an incredibly early age. Modesty is taught from the beginning as the girl’s responsibility to keep their brothers in Christ from sinning.
Virginity is considered the most important and heavily guarded asset a woman has, and without it she is always deemed dirty, tainted and utterly unloveable. God created each woman and her body for her future husband and to betray that is to reduce her value on the marriage market. In that culture, if you’re not getting married and having children, you’re not fulfilling your potential.
It’s easy to see, given all this information, how sexual assault of young children is rampant in the Independent Fundamental Baptist churches.
Isolation, shame, and fear of violent retribution in the face of rebellion (even in something just as small as asking a challenging question) not to mention the constant fire and brimstone preaching to even the youngest of congregants primes the children of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches to be silent, powerless victims.
When issues come to light, if they’re not immediately ignored and dismissed, they are addressed in the Biblical way of seeking out Christian counsellors (almost always other members of the church who are silently condoning or at the very least cognizant of the crime). No police, no charges, these things are dealt with internally.
I have been witness to this process as a child when my step-father was not charged with assault, but was instead counselled by the Pastor and released back into our home.
Blame is shifted to the victim, and they are left alone to deal with the shame and guilt of having tempted a member of the church to sin with them.
It is no surprise to me that Josh Duggar got away with this heinous crime five times as a teenager. He is to blame for the assaults, and the culture of fundamentalist Christianity, shame and misogyny are to blame for the fear those girls felt about coming forward about it.
I’m disgusted to hear about this, and I hope that more is done about the incredibly high levels of child abuse and sexual assault in these cult-like Christian sects.
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