Josh Duggar, Scumbaggery, and the Gospel
Josh Duggar is a serial adulterer. Josh Duggar is a child fondler.
There, I said…er, wrote it.
When I heard that the Ashley Madison website (a prominent website that facilitates spouses cheating on one another, for those of you who don’t read the news or aren’t addicted to porn) had been hacked several weeks ago, I knew that a good number of celebrities and politicians would be chewing their nails in nervousness, hoping and praying to whatever sky-fairy they were accustomed to that their adulterous, cheating hearts wouldn’t be exposed. I did not expect one of those celebrities to be Josh Duggar.
The hackers, who have to be motivated by a sheer whimsy to watch the world burn, released over twenty gigabytes of data relating to the who and where of registered users of the website. Reports came in to me yesterday via the Pulpit Bunker that Josh Duggar was one of those caught in the cyber-net. Some suggested it could be a sham, but then Duggar confessed to the affairs…
“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.”
“You jerk,” I thought. “Just greeeat.”
Of course, my dismay was self-serving. I defended this nincompoop just a few months ago when it was discovered that he had fondled several underaged girls while he, himself, was underage. While valid questions could be asked regarding how his folks handled it and when they reported what to whom and when, it appeared that Josh – for all outward observance – had repented of that sin and been forgiven by (at least some) of his victims. When people can sin, repent, ask forgiveness and be forgiven, that’s a Gospel victory.
I also saw the regular and obligatory worldling parade of anti-homeschoolers and liberals who think that having more than 2.3 kids is child abuse use this as an opportunity to attack those who otherwise are a godly, decent family. And frankly, I would have rather grown up in the Duggar home than the Kardashian home any day of the week – in spite of the fact that one of their kids went a little sexually sideways. We wrote the viral post, The Gospel is for Josh Duggar, Too. I did the podcast, Josh Duggar and Dealing with Sexual Sin. I preached a sermon on forgiveness in which I briefly mention Josh Duggar. I got into an ill-advised feud with Janet Mefferd when I believed her husband had expressed a heavy-handed dose of classical self-righteousness over the topic and wrote this post on why we must Run From Self-Righteousness, after which she went on to skewer me on her website. In other words, to put it lightly, I have some skin in this game.
That is, of course, if by game you mean “a national conversation on the revelation that possibly the most notorious American Christian family’s eldest son is a sexual deviant who doesn’t seem to have repented of his sin.” Game doesn’t seem like quite the right word. I have skin in this…tragedy. Well…egg on my face. I guess he’s a pervert after all.
And not only a pervert, but as he admits, a hypocritical one at that. Not only has the man’s sin caused unbelievable harm to the good and increasingly-important homeschooling movement, to reproductively prolific Christian families (for lack of a better way of saying, “Christians who have more kids than baseball teams have players”), to Christians in general, but his sin has caused unbelievable harm to the cause of Biblical marriage. As Duggar was lobbying for “traditional marriage” because any relationship of a sexual nature outside of matrimony between one man and one woman is a reproach to God, he was checking his phone for updates about possible extramarital hook-ups. That’s not only hypocrisy, that’s kick-you-in-the-face-and-call-your-mother-a-name-it-hurts-so-bad hypocrisy.
1. Admit we were wrong on the repentance of Josh Duggar. While he may have repented of fondling girls when he was a youth, he had apparently not repented of sexual immorality in general. It’s safe to say that he has not genuinely repented of such sexual immorality, and neither am I assuming he is repentant now, having confessed a sin that was already confessed for him by a group of hackers. This should serve as a good reminder to me, you, and everyone on Planet Earth that we don’t know the minds and hearts of men.
2. Don’t go overboard on the excuses. From what we knew at the time, there was no reason to not believe Duggar was repentant. At best, we could assume the Duggar patriarch and matriarch were incredibly unwise to jump upon a pedestal (whether or not that was their intention) with this really, really ugly skeleton in the closet. Well…more of a bloated, dead, rotting corpse than a skeleton – the sin wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of things. That was stupid. Or maybe naive. Or maybe…just stupid. Ditto for Josh, in not disclosing this to the Family Research Council and ditto for the Family Research Council if they knew and didn’t care. But, my first instinct is to play defense and say, “With the facts we had to go on, we should have erred on the side of grace.” Yeah, well…that may be true. But it’s also true that Josh Duggar and Bill Clinton are in a race for the least repentant sexual sinners from Arkansas. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
3. We had better speak up – and speak up loudly – that we do not believe homeschooling, having kids by the dozen, or wearing culottes is a cure-all for the sinful depravity of fallen man. The homeschool survivor groups consisting of embittered, angry women who are upset they couldn’t go to prom will no doubt add this to their exhibits of homeschooling-gone-wrong. In reality, this is an exhibit in the unconquerable wickedness of man. Parenting how we parent to glorify God is entirely different than parenting how we parent to make children bulletproof to sexual deviancy, behavioral delinquency or overall disgustingness. If all a godly lifestyle is aimed toward is producing spiritually bulletproof children, then Josh Duggar is all the anecdotal evidence the crazy-eyed and traumatized survivor bloggers need to declare homeschooling anathema (how the other 287 Duggar children turn out is inconsequential to their argumentation). Instead, we must reiterate that sin can permeate any dwelling or lifestyle, even those of us who don’t cannonball our children into the pool of iniquity that is the public school system.
4. We should dig in our heels when it comes to what we said about forgiveness and restoration the last time Josh Duggar was in the headlines. We should scream louder than ever that the Gospel was given so that Josh Duggar might be forgiven. Yes, even the Josh Duggar who is a serial adulterer and child fondler. Yes, even the Josh Duggar who we would probably be foolish at this point to believe is repentant. I stand as opposed as ever to notion of Michael Reagan on the Brannon Howse program that, “Once a child molester, always a child molester.” To hell with that (literally). I don’t believe that. And I don’t believe, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Don’t get me wrong – that doesn’t mean that I would have Josh Duggar babysit my kids or chauffeur my wife anywhere. What that does mean is that the Gospel can radically transform anyone – even a serial adulterer and child fondler who might just have a hardened heart from years of seeing true religion but not being conformed to it. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that some of us were made fools of by Josh Duggar. And yet, we must not give up the hope that the Gospel can change people like Josh Duggar.
5. While acknowledging that Josh Duggar seems to be a scumbag, we must not overlook our own scumbaggery. Thirty-two million users…that’s what Ashley Madison had. That’s one in ten breathing people in the United States (assuming they were all Americans – which they were not). That’s roughly one in three adult men. Even if you factor in international users, that’s a huge percentage of technology-using adults worldwide. Think of it this way – that’s a whopping tenth of the users Facebook has, and that’s huge. What this tells us is that there’s a lot of scumbaggery in the world, pornography is a huge problem and along with it, infidelity. And, when we consider our own thought-life and lust in our own heart – yes, even you, dear reader (feel free not to nod if your wife is looking over your shoulder) – we see that our hearts are not free of at least some of that same scumbaggery. Our mouths really are open graves. The poison of asps really is on our lips. Homeschool, private school, public school, spy school, beauty school – it does not matter. Fundamentalist, liberal, Amish, Portlandian – it makes no difference. Wickedness is in the world and it is rampant, and some of it has found a way even into the hearts of Pulpit & Pen readers (shocking, I know).
No doubt, the coming days will have many enemies of our true religion and sacred traditions ringing bells of celebration. No doubt, they’ll talk about how being sheltered is what caused Josh Duggar to do what he’s done, as though sin and immorality ought to be slowly and measuredly injected into our children’s veins when they’re young as some kind of iniquity inoculation, lest they are overcome by it when they’re older. No doubt, they’ll blame everything from hymns to homeschool to hillbillies to hand-me-downs for the type of environment that led to this bad behavior, all the while ignoring the constant stream of news stories of elementary kids giving each other oral sex in the public schools. They’ll have a field day over it. As they say back in the hills from where both the Duggars and I am from, “Pay it no never mind.”
Instead, focus on a Gospel that’s so great it can even save Josh Duggar. As we said back in our original post on the topic…
We all can echo Charles Spurgeon, who said, “It’s a good thing God chose me before I was born, because He surely would not have afterwards.” God loved Josh Duggar so much that He sent His holy and perfect Son to be murdered on a cross by sinful men just like Josh Duggar. God saves us from our sins, but not always from the earthly consequences. Christians have to live with the consequences of iniquities done before God saved them. Many of us are living with the consequences we’ve committed while walking with Christ! This should not lead us to wallow in guilt and shame, but rather our past iniquities should lead us to the cross to feast on the Gospel.
[Contributed by JD Hall]