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This Duggars Business, Sex, and Christian Love

Concerning this Duggars business, the cause celebre du jour, many of us had the same reaction about Ted Haggard and the “forgiveness” he received from his flock when he repented of all of his sexual misconduct.

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Josh Duggar

The problem for those of us outside of the conservative, evangelical Christian milieu is that a majority of us operate with a contemporary understanding of morality, of right and wrong that takes into account the past but “upgrades” from time to time, and they don’t. Our opinions about sexual behavior and values are for the most part informed by the last 100-150 years of study. There are, no doubt, lingering remnants of older, primitive or tribalistic sexual mores hanging around in our limbic system, but for the most part, we live in a waaaay post-Freudian world with regard to sexuality and its practice and its impact on the health of an individual, the family, and society.

The Duggars, Mike Huckabee, Ted Haggard, and many of our family members do not. They operate within a particular interpretation of an ancient moral code that viewed women, children, and subordinates in drastically different ways than we do in contemporary society. It would be far too lengthy to describe, but check out the first 5 books of the Bible when you get a chance. For an example, however, let’s take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where, when the mob threatened to invade Lot’s house so they could “show their visitors a good time” in the city, Lot’s response was to offer the mob his two daughters instead. It was shameful to allow his guests to be mobbed and sexually violated, but his unmarried daughters were apparently an okay trade. Our 2015 sensibilities would have us presume that the following verses would involve the angels revealing their true natures and wagging their celestial index fingers in Lot’s face “Shame, shame, shame!” But no, they just blinded the (original) village people and shut the door.

Then Jesus came along and established kind of an amazing new precedent: He forgave everybody. Like, everybody. And didn’t necessarily tell them how to live their lives after that, beyond telling them not to sin anymore (which I personally believe was tongue-in-cheek) and teaching them the Golden Rule and to seek and depend on God and not to sell Plexus at church (my paraphrase). He introduced Grace into the conversation, that whatever you’ve done, no matter how heinous and horrible, you’re already forgiven, and you can participate in the abundant life of the Kingdom of Heaven (whatever that is, it’s probably awesome). You can start over at any time. He taught that, at the end of things, all the unloving, unkind things we’ve done will be tossed out, like weeds, and the loving parts of us, the child-of-God parts of us, will be gathered into the harvest (and, as we know, the harvest is where we get our food, so probably the redeemed part of us goes on to feed the life of the world, to produce more good in the world and – possibly – some sort of life beyond this one, but I’m not going there yet). I like this Jesus, although I’d be interested to hear his take on the Tsarnaev brothers.

bibleSo, the Duggar/Huckabee/Haggard types are trying to reconcile their belief that every bit of the Bible is factually true and has to hang together (because it says in II Timothy that all scripture is given by God and later in Revelations that if anybody deletes or copy-pastes additional material that they’ll be annihilated) with what’s playing out in their lives in front of them. So, Old Testament and parts of Paul’s letters say certain behaviors are sins. Well, then you’d best repent of ’em if you done ’em and show the world that you’re repentant and then don’t mess up again or they’ll really cancel your TV show for good. It seems like that’s what the Bible is saying, right? In John’s first letter (at the back of the Bible, not the Gospel of John), it says that if we confess our sins that God will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). So, Duggar boy just needs to pray and confess and then stop touching people’s privates except for his wife’s, and he can be accepted again into the fold and get big-time conservative politicians to devote air and screen time to his cause and maybe even give him a job — as long as it’s not with kids.

Unfortunately, back to that “ancient morality code thing meets the Jesus-and-Grace thing”, he confessed and repented, so he gets to still be a celebrity. We practicing homosexuals are unrepentant, so we should definitely not be allowed to marry and should probably be put on an island and either be bombed out or left to infect each other with STDs until we all die out. This is a solution I have actually heard suggested; like, who would sell them an ISLAND to do that?

Until conservative, evangelical Christians re-examine the Levitical code with regard to sexuality and sexual behavior, we will continue to see such “double standards” as this one. Only, it isn’t a double standard at all, see? Duggar repented, so he’s forgiven, and he gets to be a celebrity. People like me (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer) are “dead in trespasses and sins” to them, whether or not we’ve made some sort of formal commitment to Christ, been baptized, confirmed, gotten saved, etc. The religious among us are seen as exiles from the kingdom at best and as apostates and threats to the faith and to the family by many. Because we are not coming to them asking for their help in getting rid of what they perceive as a sin, many of them are deciding it’s best just to get rid of us. So they come up with this rhetoric about us attacking them… So they are justified in continuing to attack us. See how that works?

I am sorry that this doesn’t really offer much hope, but I feel like we need to be clear here. The Duggars and the Huckabees of the world are not operating under a double standard. They cannot be accused of that. They are doing what they believe their Bible and their God is telling them to do. It is a monumental shift to go from believing the way they do to being able to look at the Bible and say, “Okay, let’s look at this again. What of this is enduring and true for our lives today and what of this can be released into ancient history and abandoned for a more enlightened view of things in line with the teachings of Jesus?”

I know, because I went through it myself. It was difficult, scary, painful, exhilarating, and ultimately liberating. I wish that all of these people would be able to let go of that old, hurtful way of believing and step into a way of faith that is more life-giving. I don’t know that they will, but maybe you will, or your friend or your family member will.

Be a light, and don’t give up hope. Some of them will come around. Love anyway.

John Willis

John Willis is a Little Rock-based singer/songwriter, yoga teacher, and spiritual seeker. He manages the non-profit, interfaith Arkansas House of Prayer, the only completely silent meditation and prayer center in Arkansas. As a musician, he has released two recent projects, a solo EP called "King of the Cocktail Party," and the "Bad Boyfriend" EP with his band Late Romantics. In his writing - both musical and otherwise - he explores questions of truth, authenticity, human love and the desire to connect. As a Southerner, his work is steeped in biblical symbolism and plenty of wry wit.

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