I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time but haven’t had the time. It’s probably a good thing because the story has become quite developed. I want to preface this by saying I have never watched an episode of the Duggars and have no clue who any of these people are. I’m not taking a side or defending anyone. If you haven’t heard about the Duggar scandal, Vox.com summed it up pretty well. They wrote:
“Stories about reality TV star Josh Duggar and the revelations that he molested several minors while he himself was a teenager have saturated the news over the past week (Weeks as of this posting).
The details of the allegations are bizarre, involving an alleged cover-up by Duggar’s parents and church, a disturbing police report, and a very badly timed marathon of the reality series Duggar stars in on a network that has experienced more than one reality show scandal in recent years.”
Josh Duggar admittedly molested several minors when he was a teenager. The majority of the victims were his own sisters. Many people are saddened by the story. Others find this to be proof that every family has their secrets and demons. But a different part of the story is what intrigues me. The world’s response is what has amazed me.
I’m a comment watcher. I follow as many news outlets as I can on social media. When a story is posted, I will read the story and then immediately run to the comment section. I’m not much of a commenter myself, but I’ll read the top 20 comments. I believe that through those comments I can gain perspective and gage where our culture and society lands on the topic being discussed.
The Duggar scandal blew me away. For as long as I can remember, molestation has always been viewed as one of the “big sins” in our society. There are some mistakes we Christians and Not-Yet-Christians can all easily forgive. If someone gets pregnant out of wedlock, caught cheating, or even arrested for a small offense, most of us don’t write the person off. Most of us view it as a forgivable offense. It can be painful and hard but we still see redemption as a possibility. We’re still able to show grace.
But molestation is a different story. I’ve heard molesters described as “sick people” and “monsters.” Not by Christians, but by the world. I’ve heard these descriptions on the television and seen them printed in the news. It’s one of the evils our world views as unforgivable. So as I read the comments reacting to the Duggar scandal, I fully expected to see these same descriptions. I did see a few predictable responses, but for the most part I saw something different.
What most of the comments on the Duggar scandal contained were acts of grace. I saw mercy. I saw forgiveness. I was blown away. People said they were praying for Josh and the family. People said that repentance and redemption was still possible and that they were hoping for healing. People were against judgement and were for love.
I was shocked and surprised. The week before I had read a similar story and people were in an outrage. But for some reason people wanted to show Josh Duggar grace. Why? I thought about it for a long time. I think the biggest reason is this: Josh is a real person to them.
Some fans of the show have watched this family for 10 seasons. For ten years they have watched this family grow up. They’ve watched Josh Duggar get married and start a family of his own. They’ve watched Josh’s faith. They feel like they know Josh. Josh is a nice guy. They feel like they know the Duggar family. They feel connected to Josh and the Duggar family. For that reason, this story breaks their hearts. For that reason, people are able to show Josh Duggar grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love.
But they didn’t know the man in the story I had read a week earlier. Because they didn’t “know him” they labeled him a monster sicko who deserved what he had coming. Why is it that one man receives grace and another does not? It’s the same crime. Josh Duggar actually molested more people. What is the difference? The world feels like they know Josh. He’s a real person to them and not just another molester in a story.
Matthew 5:7 ESV: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
I can imagine Jesus adding: “..because every person is real to me, precious to me, and loved by me.
I love what Paul said it looked like to be merciful.
Colossians 3:12 ESV: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
The Duggar scandal can teach us a lot about Grace. It can help us understand that those struggling with this temptation are not always monsters. They’re people like you and me. Some of them even love God and have a loving family of their own. They struggle like you and I struggle. They have sinned like you and I have sinned. They are real people who are loved by God. Repentance and redemption is available to them. Our response should be grace. We should have compassionate hearts. We should show kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. One day God will judge the amount of mercy we have shown others. And the merciful will be shown mercy. My prayer is that we treat every person and story we encounter with the same love and grace that we have chosen to show Josh and that God has chosen to show us.