My family banned me from watching 19 Kids and Counting with them. Apparently, every time the show was on and I was in the room, I would make a statement and interrupt their TV experience. I had concerns. My concern was with the way it portrays Christians, and I just don’t see this family as being real. In reality TV, they always have to have extremes in order to keep people watching – with the Kardashians, those extremes are provocative; with the Duggars, those extremes are squeaky-clean.
But that’s TV. The Kardashians probably aren’t as provocative in real-life, and, as we have now learned, the Duggars aren’t as squeaky-clean. This thing is just heartbreaking, maddening, and disgusting. Not just that Josh Duggar, eldest son, sexually molested several girls (whose identities we’re keeping under wraps out of sensitivity to them), but also that his parents and several other people in authority kept it all quiet and off the books so as not to harm his reputation.
That is unacceptable. Completely.
So what can we learn from this? Hopefully nothing – hopefully you already know this stuff. But here’s what we can remember from it:
1) Talking to a pastor is great but it doesn’t replace professional counseling/therapy.
Josh Duggar and his dad talked to a pastor about what happened. That’s great, but it’s not enough. Pastors are equipped to provide spiritual and moral guidance; they aren’t equipped to help someone find emotional or mental health. If someone has a tendency to molest kids, that person has a broken brain and needs to see someone who specializes in broken brains. This is the same thing as going to your pastor about your heart condition; your pastor can pray with you about it, sure, but you also better go see an actual medical doctor as well.
And what about the victims? Pastoral visits aren’t going to be enough for them, either. If you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse, talking with your pastor over coffee isn’t going to bring you the healing you need. (You can also get confidential guidance by calling the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800.656.HOPE).
2) When a crime is committed in your home or someone else’s home, you have a responsibility to report it.
If it happens in your house, you must contact the authorities. Immediately. End of story. Yes, it can make things uncomfortable and messy and difficult – so what. This is the life of a child we’re talking about, so grow up and do the right thing.
3) If you’re a pastor and you hear about a crime, ESPECIALLY AGAINST kids, you have a responsibility to report that.
Pastors, you should already know this, but if you hear about a crime, you need to report it immediately. This is the law, and you could do time if you don’t. Again: grow up and do your job.
4) When you don’t talk to your kids about sex, they don’t talk to you about sex.
This is the biggest one to me, because it feels like much of this whole thing could’ve been avoided through some honest conversations. Look, you’re not going to be able to shield your kids from the world – it’s just the way it’s going to be. Plus, avoiding the topic of sex or sexualization in our culture is just going to turn it into forbidden fruit and make it all the more tempting.
So don’t. Quit trying to build a world for your kids that doesn’t exist and instead start teaching them what it means to be a Christian in the one that does. Teach them how to be a force for good, how to reject what our sexualized culture tells them is normal, and, most of all, what sex is all about. Does that make you uncomfortable? So what? Your kids are counting on you, so get over yourself and do it.