8.27.2015

anna duggar, jane eyre, and the bible



This is not the kind of thing I would normally write. While I have strong political and religious convictions, I tend to keep many of them off the internet for various reasons. But I was lying in bed reading Jane Eyre when a paragraph jumped out at me. It was so fitting I read it five times in a row, and this has been stirring so strongly in me lately that I have to write about it.

Let me preface this by saying I do not consider myself a feminist. Do I believe women should have equal rights as men and should receive the same compensation? 100%. But there are many values and beliefs of modern feminism that I just can't subscribe to. I believe in gender roles, I believe abortion is downright murder. I could go on, but I won't.

With that said, my heart has been grieving for Anna Duggar this week. I am a Christian. The Duggars are Christians. Let me cut to the chase and say no, I don't believe Josh Duggar is a Christian, though of course I can't say for certain. He has lived a life embracing sin, which is evidence he never repented to begin with. Acts 3:19 says that when you repent (as Josh said he did as a teenager after the scandal with his sisters), you turn away from sin. You flee from it. We will always sin, but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are in the process of sanctification to become more Christ-like. We are battling our sin and turning away, not embracing it. Josh is not a true Christian, and true Christians are not like Josh. The Bible teaches there will be people who will claim to be Christians, who say all the right things, but their actions prove they never knew God (Matthew 15:8, Matthew 7:21-23, 1 John 1:6, etc). I've watched the Duggar's show since high school. I've even met the family. Obviously I can't know their true character from a 2 minute conversation with Michelle and Jim Bob, but they seemed very genuine and were two of the sweetest people I've ever met.

However, they're affiliated with a group of "Christians" I could never support. They follow a man named Bill Gothard (who had a secret life much like Josh's), who has dangerous, legalistic, and dogmatic teachings. He's part of the patriarchal movement which teaches women should fully submit to their husbands. Yes, that is biblical, but according to Gothard, that means women shouldn't go to college, should live with their parents until they're married and are under their authority even as adults, and shouldn't pursue careers, as well as many other things. Women are essentially around to please their husbands and raise their kids. The Duggar's pastor, who is affiliated with Gothard, preached on Sunday that a man will stray from his wife if she doesn't keep him happy enough at home. There are even excerpts from Gothard's books on how to counsel victims of sexual abuse that put all the blame on the victim and none on the abuser.

Basically, the guy is nuts. He is wrong. I believe many of his teachings are based on good intentions, but they go far overboard and many are absolutely not biblical. This movement tends to go hand-in-hand with the quiver-full movement that basically makes women out to be baby-making machines.

As everyone probably knows, it's been all over the internet that Anna will "absorb part of the blame" for Josh's affairs (just typing that made me want to scream) and will not leave him. This movement (or rather, cult) teaches that divorce is never an option. The Bible does teach that in cases of adultery, divorce is permitted (Matthew 19:9). It doesn't mean she should go file for divorce, but it's certainly an acceptable option if absolutely necessary.

One problem with their movement is that it teaches women shouldn't be self-sufficient. Even if a woman needed to separate from her husband for her safety and that of their children, how would she support herself? She has no education and has never lived on her own. She's trapped.

I was reading Jane Eyre last night and came across this passage:

"Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creators to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex." 

GET IT, BRONTE. 200 years ahead of her time, that woman.

I am saying all of this as a woman who chose to be a stay-at-home mom. I find more satisfaction in changing diapers and cooking dinner and knitting things than I ever did in a job. I thrive in domesticity. But I went to college, I've lived on my own, and while I no longer have a "career," that education and life experience benefited me in ways I can't begin to describe, and I know it will benefit Gracie as well and will only serve to make me a better mother and wife. But it is every woman's choice to have a career or stay home, to have kids or not have them, to go to college or to not go to college, to wear a long skirt or to wear jeans.

This family represents Christianity in our country. I believe the Duggars are doing their best, and they are right in many ways, but this situation is not an accurate representation of what the Bible teaches. What Josh did was horrifying. Christians sin and mess up just like everyone else, but this is an example of what happens when unbiblical rules and expectations are placed on people. Please know the Bible does not condemn a woman to the confines of her home and long, denim skirts. It does not blame women for their abuse. The Bible teaches that women are useful and valuable. Even the Proverbs 31 woman conducted business in the marketplace while taking care of her family. It teaches that self-control is a fruit of the spirit (ahem, Josh).  If it's a personal conviction of yours to dress and behave a certain way, that's completely fine. But we are not required to behave the way the Duggars do, and to say so is wrong. We have freedom in Christ. We are not saved through works like birthing 19 kids or cooking dinner every night, we are saved through grace and faith alone (Romans 3:23-25). Laws and rules exist to show us our sin and teach us right from wrong (Romans 7:7), but it's not abiding by the law or the rules that save us (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:28).

So go to law school or stay home with your kids. Wear jeans or wear dresses. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we do it all for the glory or God.

27 comments:

  1. This! All of this!! Also, Why did you wait this long to read Jane Eyre?!

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  2. GET IT MICHELLE

    Seriously, spot on.

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  3. GET IT MICHELLE

    Seriously, spot on.

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  4. I need to read me some Jane E. Wow! I absolutely love your take on this, girl. Thanks for writing.

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  5. This was so freaking well-written that I want to hug your neck. You are SPOT ON. This seriously pumped me up so much, I felt the urge to chest bump someone. You, my dear, are the bomb.com.

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  6. Yes. Absolutely. Sometimes things like this need to be said. I can't stand it when the Bible and God and Jesus are blamed for the highly faulty teachings of humans.

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  7. Oddly enough, I don't associate the Duggars with what I believe of Christianity. Like you've said, the type of Christianity they follow is so so different that I have a hard time calling it that at all.

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  8. LOVE THIS. I am blessed to have a friend in you, Michelle. Having a friend that doesn't stray from the Truth stated in The Bible is a rare gift these days.
    Also, I am so glad you are enjoying Jane Eyre. In a way, I think it is a good thing that we didn't read it until later in life. I'm not sure (at least that I) would have understood/appreciated all the things Bronte wrote if I would have read it in high school or even in college.

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    1. Also, I love your new MichMash button :)

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    2. Thanks, Jo!!! I don't know what I would do without you and your constant encouragement :) I'm so glad you're in my life!

      I have the exact same thoughts about Jane Eyre and most classic books. The older I get, the more I appreciate literature.

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  9. I have so many positive feels about everything you just wrote. As someone who survived a cult church and is now on the other side, living as a non-christian I feel so many of these things. Seeing what this family has gone through because someone doesn't truly believe something in their heart has been simply terrible, and seeing the way that certain groups perpetually put women down because of our "inherently sinful natures" sickens me.

    Also, I am so glad you wrote this, because after all of this happened, my first instinct was that you and I should have deep and involved conversations about this, because we are both so fascinated by the Duggars.

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  10. Fabulous post! I also loved watching the Duggar family. Anna is the one who I feel most sorry for (and her children also). The "church" they belong to sounds awful, and seems like the opposite of the church I know and love.

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  11. I am so glad you wrote this post. God does not make boxes for us...we make them for ourselves.

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  12. I'll add my yes! to the pile. My family was in the same "christian" cult for a short period of time, but the long term effects (affects? I'll never get it right) are hard to overstate. Sadly, because I know these types of "Christians" so well, it wasn't even surprising to me. I'm thankful my parents realized how erroneous and legalistic it was relatively quickly, but the teachings are hard to forget. It makes it really hard to view God as a loving father instead of a distant father just waiting for me to screw up so he can punish me. Ugh, typing that is ugly, and thankfully being in healthy churches for the last 10 years has helped SO much. Thanks for writing this.

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  13. Thanks for sharing this! I loved when you said "Acts 3:19 says that when you repent (as Josh said he did as a teenager after the scandal with his sisters), you turn away from sin. You flee from it. We will always sin, but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are in the process of sanctification to become more Christ-like. We are battling our sin and turning away, not embracing it." You hit that right on the head - that we need to flee from sin and not run towards it.

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  14. I find it funny that you don't identify as a feminist because what you just said up there is feminism to me! So Amen to Jane Eyre and amen to what you said. For me, feminism is about the choices I get to have, the choices I will try and ensure that my daughter has. I'm staying home with her now, but I'll try to continue my education and subsequently pursue a career as she grows. And I don't ever, ever want her to feel any less worthy as a child of God because of her gender.

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  15. AMEN TO ALL OF THIS! This is exactly how I feel. I have seen SO many Christians on FB going on about how we should all just forgive Josh Duggar already because he "repented" and "grace" and "who are you to judge" and the whole time I am giving side eye and wanting to point the finger back and say, "Thou has not read your Bible well!" I, as well, do not believe Josh Duggar to be a Christian. God knows the heart, but we know him by his fruit and his fruit is just down right rotten. So many of my fellow Christians just love the Duggar's and don't take the time to research anything about them-- like the Quiverfull movement and Gothard. They stare at me like I have three heads when I try to explain and act like I am getting all my dirt from tabloids. I want to scream. Thank you for making me feel like I am not alone in my beliefs as another Christian gal! <3

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    1. You're welcome! It's so disheartening to see fellow Christians say things like that. Stand up for the truth, girl.

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  16. Although I agree with everything you wrote 110% this line right here makes me want to fly to Ohio and give you a big old High FIVE "Even the Proverbs 31 woman conducted business in the marketplace while taking care of her family."
    HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD. I am so thankful for the internet and people like you who can write on such sensitive subjects in such a profound way... my prayer is that someone googling to find answers on this horrific situation will run across what you wrote find meaning in your words.

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  17. This was really well written and just great! I hadn't heard about this new Duggar development but that is sad. I hate that Christianity gets skewed like that sometimes. And crazy how ahead of its time those classics are!

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  18. As another person who isn't big on displaying my religious or political beliefs on her personal blog, I commend you for writing this, because many people tend to get the wrong impression about what faith is truly about, what it can teach us, how to put it into practice every day. When people hide behind "religion" to place blame or "explain away" actions that were done consciously, it makes the greater population look ignorant, lost, or evil. Thanks for reminding others that all Christians do not share the same frame of mind that the Duggars, specifically Josh, do.

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