Introduction – “Our Biggest Test Begins”
For the last year I’ve been gingerly attempting to read this book for
the purposes of writing a review. Invariably what would happen is I
would either snort in outrage or be triggered by some statement straight
out of my old fundamentalist life and I’d end up abandoning the book in
it’s entirety for months.
Let me state for the record that I am not a Duggar family fan. In
fact, I believe they may be the most dangerous weapon that the
Evangelical Right has.
How so? The Duggars show the lifestyle of Quiverfull in a way so
attractive that it fools the average American television viewer into
thinking that while the Duggars lead a lifestyle that is religious it is
essentially harmless. You see a well-scrubbed, polite, behaved and
parent-honoring brood of children without seeing any of the usual
reality of families like theirs.
Sometimes I look at their family and think about that old horror movie “The Children of the Corn”
It’s the equivalent of sausage commercials, you see the beautifully
cooked sausages arranged with loving care on an attractive porcelain
plate without seeing the raising of the hogs, the kill floor, and the
processing plant where those hogs are run through the grinders and
stuffed into the casings. It skips all the unpleasant realities of the
situation that have to happen for the sausages to land on that pretty
The Duggars show a side to American viewers, that while it does
exist, it glosses over the things that led to this. Through the years
references to ATI, blanket training and a slew of other things in the
Duggaralia have disappeared as they’ve refined their message to the
masses to make Quiverfull more socially desirable.
Most Duggar-like Quiverfull families you see are living fifteen
children of all ages in a tiny three bedroom house with one bathroom.
Bedrooms stacked with bunkbeds like cordwood. Second hand possessions
and donated items. Financial struggles and some hardship. If I was one
of them I’d be seriously pissed about how easy and perfect the Duggars
make it all seem.
If this is what you want and you know going in that it might be a
struggle that’s one thing, but to see the Duggars and accept their
lifestyle as it is shown is being horribly deceived.
On to the book.
I was interested in reading the book because of the fact that this
was the book that dealt with the challenges the family faced when their
reproductive gambling came up snake eyes. How did the family manage to
function during the premature birth of Josie Duggar. The birth of a
premature baby would put undue stressers on any family, but might be a
special challenge for a bigger family.
Usually this is where I would complain about how the Duggar fecundity
would be sheer foolishness due to the advancing age of Michelle Duggar
and the many children she’d birthed. Even statistics show that the older
the mother is and the more births the odds are good something bad will
eventually happen. You can only throw that hot dog down the hallway so
many times before the door knobs get dented and floor greasy.
The introduction starts with Michelle describing Friday, December 4,
2009, before Josie and her early arrival. By the second paragraph you
get a good taste of how ‘abnormal’, even by evangelical Christian
measure, the day to day is in the Duggar family. The day starts with the
kids getting ready for a film crew, grooming, chores, music practice
and homeschooling. Half of the children are packing for an El Salvador
mission trip. The first mention is the filming, not that the children
should study or clean. Getting ready for filming took first priority.
The day was eaten up by the filming of the Australian film crew, the
way the book reads the filming was the most important part of the busy
day. Reenforces exactly what the priorities of JimBob and Michelle
really are, raising their children in the media eye. Any publicity is
good according to the gospel of JimBob. Even if it interferes with
school and chores.
During much of the day Michelle was resting, thinking she was passing
a kidney stone. But it’s obvious something more is going on and she
goes to the hospital for tests. She managed to put off going to the
hospital until after the film crew left.
I will give her credit for taking full advantage of modern medicine
instead of shunning it and ending up with a much worse outcome.
The rest of the introduction was spend on babbling over how their
faith would be tested and how even the very marital relationship would
be challenged. Hey, but at least they don’t have to worry about keeping
the house clean or having to find someone to babysit the kids. Built in
‘Buddies’ run everything.
JimBob broke the news to the kids, telling them that momma and baby might die:
“Pray hard,” Jim Bob would tell them as tears welled up in his eyes.
“Pray to God for Mama and for the baby; pray like you’re never prayed