Josh Duggar has been arrested by the feds, and I’m so sad for Anna Duggar.
I wasn’t going to write about this today, but it actually intersects with a number of things I’ve been thinking about this week, and I thought I could put them all in one place.
For those of you who may not know, Josh Duggar is the oldest Duggar child, of the 19 Kids and Counting show. It was revealed a few years ago that he had sexually abused some of his sisters and another child when he was a young teenager, and then a few years after that he was caught up in the Ashley Madison scandal. It was largely because of these scandals that the Duggars lost their TV show.
But through it all Anna stuck with her husband.
I have absolutely no idea what counsel Anna has been given, and whether she feels trapped or not.
I do know that she grew up in a religious tradition that thinks that the husband is the decision-maker and supreme leader of the home, and you are there to support him. And this tradition also sees divorce as one of the worst evils. She also married into a family that believes this, too. How much support she would have to leave Josh, I don’t know.
And now she is apparently pregnant with her seventh child as well.
Earlier this week, though, I read an article at the Above Rubies website that I found very disturbing with a scenario similar to Anna’s.
Basically, this woman had had a very rough year where she discovered she was pregnant with her fifth child four months after the fourth one was born. She also had to move, and she had little family support, and she was exhausted and feeling bitter at God.
Then, after her fifth baby was born, she discovered that her husband had passed an STD on to her, and she discovered that he had been watching porn.
You may think this is going to be a typical story–she told her church, and they told her to stay. But that’s not actually what happened at all.
Being a Christian, I decided that the right thing to do would be to go to my pastor for advice.When presented with the evidence, my pastor looked at me and said, “Do you need the name of a lawyer?”I stared at him in disbelief.He continued, “You have grounds, you know…”
I left the office. I believe my pastor meant well, but simply didn’t know how to respond. I also sought the advice of an older woman at the church, only to receive more of the same advice. Soon, however, it seemed like everyone knew about the situation, and most people treated me like a woman about to be divorced, pitying me, and offering jobs, welfare tips, apartment leads, and the like.And all of them said, “Oh, if only you didn’t have all those children.”The reaction of everyone about me being pregnant with Isobel was bad enough, but knowing that I was submitted to God in this area with “that” sort of husband made me look like a fool!
I went to a counselor who suggested my modest dress might have caused my husband to stray, and then told me that I was allowing myself to be blackmailed into accepting his bad behavior by being a stay-at-home mother with no means of financially supporting myself!
I went to a small group session for wives of men with this problem, where I discovered that a woman who views herself as her husband’s helpmeet is an “enabler”, and a woman who is too focused on her family is “co-dependent”.A woman who believes that her value and worth as a woman created by God is in fulfilling the high call of being a wife and mother has some “self esteem issues”.A woman who believes in self-sacrificing in order to see God’s will perfected in her family and neighborhood has a “boundaries crises”.
I felt betrayed by God. Here I was, with five small children, no job and no means to have a job that could pay for the daycare of all of my children, no car in my name, no credit history, and a husband who did this!I felt somehow that it was God’s duty to keep anything bad from happening to me, and I felt like God had turned His back on me completely.
I was standing in line at the grocery store when I noticed a young man with a bracelet that said WWJD.Good question, I thought.What would Jesus do?As soon as I asked myself what Jesus would do about personal boundaries, a verse popped into my mind.”Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) What would Jesus do?I believe that question has already been settled.
I still was not in a right relationship with the Lord, and I was still very much out of fellowship with my family. On the outside I am sure I still looked like a “good Christian mother” but on the inside only the Lord and I know how filthy I had allowed myself to become.But I was making some efforts towards restoring my relationship with my husband, a relationship that I had neglected for some time.I began praying for the first time in a long time for the Lord to show me what to do.
So she went to a pastor, to mentors, to friends, and most of them told her that it was okay to leave, and, in fact, she may be enabling bad behavior if she stayed.
But she didn’t want to hear that, even though multiple people had told her this. Instead, she waited until she “heard from God” what she wanted to hear–that her husband’s behavior was all her fault. Because, you see, if it was all her fault, then it could be fixed. If she just changed, then the whole thing could be fixed! So she decided to accept the blame.
I prayed and fasted for a while and then went to my husband.I told him that I needed to talk to him about something serious. His face reflected horror. We had never actually addressed, face to face, this whole situation. He had become indignant and cold toward me, and I was afraid of the blowup we were going to have.
Instead, to his shock and surprise, I said,”Honey, I love you, and I want to submit to you and be your helpmeet.Please forgive me for being such a lousy wife these last few years…” We went on to discuss the pornography situation, and resolved that.
Martin was completely disarmed by my submissive attitude towards him. I believe that God softened his heart when I finally determined to do things God’s way, rather than my own way. As we prayed together, and discussed ways that I could help him fight this temptation and be a better helpmeet, Martin was restored in his relationship to me and to the Lord. He has become victorious in this area once again.
So this guy had passed an STD along to his postpartum wife who also had four other children, including one who was just over a year old, and the conclusion they came to was that she had been selfish for being unavailable to him for the previous year, and for being preoccupied with herself.
And thus his sin was caused by her unsubmissiveness.
I cannot begin to tell you how toxic I believe this approach is–and i do not mean to assume that Anna Duggar is getting the same messages (although these messages are in the books, like Debi Pearl’s, that the Duggars tend to recommend). But I want to ask a bigger question:
What do we think constitutes success in the marriage department?
In reading that article, I would say that they define success as:
- Staying married no matter what
- Learning to give up all of your needs and wants and surrendering yourself completely to someone else
- Never allowing yourself to be swayed by your own needs and feelings, but emptying yourself of everything
I have written before why this approach is unbiblical, but I’ll point you to just two:
- A Letter to the Woman with a Controlling Husband
- On Created To Be His Helpmeet and an Unbiblical View of Suffering
I do not think those things constitute success in marriage. Notice that while they may be all dressed up in Jesus language, they actually have very little to do with Jesus? After all, what did Jesus come to do? He came to set the captives free. He came to help us look more like Him and learn how to live. He came to transform the world into something where justice and mercy would reign. He came to go after the lost sheep and protect those who are being hurt.
I believe that we have made marriage an idol, and too often we’ve left Jesus out of it.
Sure, this woman is basing what she’s doing on Jesus’ attitude in Philippians 2, but she’s forgetting the bigger picture. Jesus did not become nothing and let others walk over Him for no reason. He did so to provide a way for people to live in right relationship with God. If, in becoming nothing and letting others walk all over us, we are pushing people even further away from right relationship with God, we are not doing what Jesus did whatsoever.
Staying married no matter what does not help people know Jesus, especially if there are no consequences for egregious behavior. It simply allows them to keep going down the road of sin and using others and realizing they can do that with impunity.
Are you GOOD or are you NICE?
The same day that someone sent me that horrible article from Above Rubies, another person sent me an article detailing Terry Crews’ recovery from porn.
He and his wife (who also have five children, just like the Above Rubies wife) decided to do a 90-day sex fast to rekindle intimacy and get rid of the residual effects of porn. In other words, when he was caught, clear boundaries were laid down and he decided to change. He explained:
“90 days — no sex, all relationship, all talk, all cuddle,” he recounted. “I found that at the end of that 90 days … I knew who she was, and it wasn’t about ‘Let’s go out because I know I’m gonna get some sex later.’ It was like, ‘Let’s go because I want to talk to you. I want to know you’.”
According to Crews, “every man has a desire for intimacy.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t always result in every man attempting to forge a lasting connection with his significant other. ‘
“You’re not looking for porn. You’re looking for someone to know you and love you at the same time,” he outlined. “That’s all you want — every man out there. But he’s scared sometimes. That’s why men put up big fronts.”
This story, which was widely reported and praised in the secular press, shows a better route to recovery than many “Christian” pieces of advice.
I think it’s because the secular world is focused on what actually works, while too many Christians get distracted by weird ideas about marriage and gender roles and things that can cause us to feel like it’s a sin to draw boundaries. We need to remember that Jesus said you can judge by the fruit. If the fruit of the doctrine is destroyed marriages and destroyed women, then that’s a sign our particular doctrines about marriage aren’t centered in Jesus.
Terry Crews is a Christian, and I’m glad that he chose a route to recovery that involved true repentance, real counseling, and addressing his underlying need for intimacy, not just a route that blamed his wife for not having sex enough (yes, I’m looking at you, Every Man’s Battle).
Again, I have no idea what’s going on in Anna Duggar’s marriage, nor what advice she is being given. But I hope she asks the bigger questions. A marriage is not a success simply because a divorce does not occur. And children need to be shown what it means to have boundaries, and how you should allow others to treat you. Children need to see their mother respecting herself, too. I pray some around Anna can tell her that, because this situation looks heartbreaking, and, unfortunately, there are far too many who will misuse the Bible to make women take responsibility for their husband’s sins.
UPDATE: News has now broken that Josh was arrested last night for possession of child sexual abuse material, more commonly called child porn (I think CSAM is a better word for it). Oh, my word. I pray that Anna has wise people who can help her and her children. And I now think that it is imperative that she separate for the safety of her children (although it’s likely that Josh will serve a long prison term anyway).
UPDATE 2: I edited this post because I learned that Terry Crews claims faith in Christ, too! (which is awesome)
What do you think? Have you seen women in Anna Duggar’s position pressured to stay with husbands? How should we better define success in marriage? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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