Monday, March 31, 2014

Growing Up Duggar - Part 1 Foreword: Explanations and Humblebrag

Pages XI to XII

If there's one thing you can count on, like the swallows returning to Capistrano yearly, it's that any book written (or ghostwritten) by the Duggar family will contain answers to viewers questions. Growing Up Duggar is no exception. The Foreword/Greetings lays this out quite quickly.

"We've written this book as a way to answer some of the questions we receive in emails and letters every day"

For some reason the Duggars (and many other Evangelicals) cannot handle anyone having questions or doubts about their way of life. We've seen this clearly in the many Duggar specials on TLC and on their television series "19 Kids & Counting" And the family have two ways only of dealing with the questions, either they drop or hide something like 'blanket training' as it appeared in the first special or they change what they are doing on the show, like the time people on Television Without Pity was criticizing the meals the Duggars made as being all processed bad for you foods and then the next special made a big deal of the kids being seen getting fresh oranges with their processed meat on white bread sandwiches.

Writing their books gives them a third option, answering (defending their choices) the questions in print. Heaven forfend that someone might raise an objection to their lifestyle, which to me speaks of a fundamental insecurity about what they are doing and just another attempt to keep the family in the media so that the money will continue to roll in.

Almost everything about the Duggar band wagon revolves around keeping the money train on the tracks. This book is no exception.

And now for some humble bragging all to common in Fundamentalism too.

"Maybe you're that girl we met in the locked ward--we still call it the cage--in the orphanage in Central America. Jana sat with you there and shared your hope that someday you would see your mother again.

Maybe you're the single mom whose baby Jill helped deliver as an apprentice midwife. You smiled and nodded when Jill asked if it would be okay if she said a prayer for your newborn babe.

You might be the mom who approached Jessa after we spoke at a women's conference somewhere. You asked for ideas about how you could be more helpful and encouraging to your teenage daughter as she struggles with relationships involving boys.

Or perhaps you're the girl Jinger met while she was ministering at the juvenile detention center. You could hardly bring yourself to believe God could really forgive you. But Jinger assured you He can. And will."
Fundamental/Evangelical approved occupations for stay-at-home daughters instead of college. Not that these are bad things, not at all, but when these are your only choices for going outside the compound walls it's a bit limiting. That's one of my big problems with the Duggar family and this book, the fact that the female members of the family are granted no agency of their own, no freedom, only what Daddy deems to be worthy.

The girls state that the purpose of the book is..

"..to continue the conversations we started with you but couldn't finish"
 and

"We'd like to know how we can impact your life for good"

Being the cynical old coot that I am I read those statements and feel the earnest squeaky-clean-image of the Duggar ladies and wonder how people being raised like veal in a box could possibly have enough life experience, sense of self and lack of cognitive dissonance to do just what they're proposing. Poor things.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Behind The Mask: Why Do We Join Christianity & Mask Our True Selves?

Have you ever asked yourself exactly how women get into fundamentalist-patriarchy Christianity and why they stay? What emotional payoff are they getting? What drives the desire to completely immerse oneself into a system that devalues you as a human? Giving up all autonomy for the sake of male rule?

Or are they really submissive or is it just a facade to cover up what's really going on inside? Seeing Michelle Duggar last week confirmed everything I'd been thinking about the submissive mask many women wear in Dominionism while actually being in charge of the family AND the husband. Lip service and control behind the scenes.

Back in my days attempting to be a fully submissive wife and a perfect Christian mother I observed an odd trend, the deeper into fundamentalist religion a family was, the more it seemed that the wife/mother of the family was the one spearheading the journey into more radical territory. The men seemed to trail behind their wives, not nearly as spiritually committed but eventually seizing upon the extreme beliefs of their wives.

Why the push of women to drag their husbands into radical evangelical-fundamentalist territory with all of its rules, legalism and bondage? Because behind the masks of Good Christian Submissive Wife they're actually in control.

Are they aware of this? Actively aware? No. But in the their subconscious, the unexamined parts of their mind is where this thought pattern that leads to fundamentalism to control what she cannot cope with lurks.

Vyckie Garrison and I have talked many times about the drive to plunge families and husbands into the most radical forms of Christianity. Here's what she thinks.

My theory is that when the man is not much of a leader and he is slacking, leaving his wife to carry most of the burden of keeping the family together ... the wife, who is stuck with him because God hates divorce, starts looking for ways to get the bum to step up to the plate ... It is indirect control of the man ... a weird psychological mind game in which she, by her submission and obedience, she is controlling God who has promised to make something beautiful of her marriage.

She knows she can't change her husband, so she gets on the good side of the One who can change him. Of course, the man has to already have some controlling tendencies himself. I've noticed that men who are inherently egalitarian, when they encounter patriarchal teachings of headship/submission, are not at all interested. They want a partner, not a Stepford wife.

And patriarchy is the perfect way for them to feel big and brave. The wives have the idea that what they need is an ego-boost, but self-esteem is anti-Christian, so they go for the whole "head of the home" thing instead. It is very twisted.

While I agree with Vyckie on everything she's said above I have to go a bit further. It's not only those in bad marriages or married to someone not engaged with being a good husband, but it's also those women that have untreated psychological issues, perhaps an addiction or an unhealthy tendency. For example, someone like Michelle Duggar.

Michelle has already come out and admitted she struggled with bulimia as a teen. A popular cheerleader with a secret condition. Bulimia is controlling one of the few things you can. It's an addiction and it's a control issue. In “Growing Up Duggar” Michelle says she was able to stop her bulimia merely by having a teenaged Jim Bob as her accountability partner.

I call bullshit on that. Most of the time anyone with an addiction and/or control issues is not just able to 'walk away' from them unscathed without doing some serious in depth work on themselves with a trained professional. What happens is the addiction/control issue merely gets transferred to something else. Like to religion.

That's my big take away from the book signing, seeing Michelle Duggar simperingly ask permission from Jim Bob to get up and speak, going ahead and speaking after his mild 'approval'. I've noticed on their show and other media outlets that Jim Bob says that Michelle is the one that decides when their family is finished and have noticed that he seems to be a genial go-along kind of a guy, not a 'leader' That fits with the pattern Vyckie has come up with.

Michelle is just like all the rest of us who've found ourselves in that mask of subservience while trying to control it all behind the scenes. Look at the chore charts, the ATI homeschooling, the keeping everyone home unpolluted by the outside world, the constant pushing of her life choices in front of a television audience and tell me she's not dealing with significant control issues. She's transferred whatever it was that started her on the road to bulimia onto religion as a form of control.

Being seen as a submissive Christian wife is one of the greatest covers for being the controlling one behind the scenes. Look at the types of men that there are in Biblical patriarchy, either very sort of mild-mannered or controlling, with both types eventually becoming more controlling themselves as time goes on.

As the relation changes and the wife carries the family deeper into fundamentalism, the wife shifts her control methods, seeking to make the man think he's in control when it's really just her manipulating him. Everyone ends up forced into unnatural roles, stuck in an existence that is dissonant to their actual feelings.

And why do people try to control everything in their path? Because they are afraid. Fear drives all of this.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Loveless Marriage: Seven Minimal Requirements For Christian Marriage

Last week I posted at NLQ Nathaniel Darnell of Persevero News called Three Lessons to Learn From Duggars' New Courtship.

While there were a few good nuggets of wisdom in the article, such as setting boundaries and expectations early on, must of it was the typical hand-wringing weak man trying to control women pap that Persevero is famous for. Like insisting Daddy control everything. Only men frightened of women insist on ruling them as if their vaginas were nuclear bombs.

Without further delay here's what Darnell said was necessary for marriage.

Seven Minimal Requirements for Christian Marriage:
  1. Must Be a Christian (II Cor. 6:14)
  2. Must Be to Person of the Opposite Gender (Gen. 1:27-28)
  3. Must Understand that They “Two Become One Flesh” (Matt. 19:5-6)
  4. The Man Must Be Diligent to Provide for His Family (I Tim. 5:8)
  5. The Man Must Understand Himself to Be the Shepherd of His Family (Eph. 5:23-33; 6:4)
  6. The Woman Must Be a Submissive and Fruitful Help Mate to Her Husband (Col. 3:18)
  7. Must Work Together to Take Dominion by Bringing Greater Value to the Raw Resources of Creation. (Gen. 1:27-28)
This seventh would include “taking dominion” by being fruitful in child birth and raising up the next generation as well as managing other raw materials available to them in nature to bring greater order and benefit in God’s world.
I'm a Christian and I have been married to the same guy for a happy twenty eight years and I can say none of those things, okay, maybe #2, had anything to do with our marriage being successful. So here's my list of those things that are essential.

  1. Must be a living breathing human.
  2. Must be whatever sex you are attracted to.
  3. Must have sexual chemistry between the two of you
  4. Must have skills or schooling and a plan for how you both are going to run the financial side of your marriage.
  5. The other partner must respect you and your choices or the marriage doesn't stand a chance. One person should not control everything and make the other one their servant.
  6. Each partner needs to have the freedom to disagree with their partner and it not be a big deal. It's really the end of the world.
  7. Must love one another and genuinely always want the best for their partner.
See how much easier it is without legalism guiding the way? Love is really the only rule to a successful marriage, everything else is really open to interpretation. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

By Its Cover

By Its Cover

or White Privilege, Judgmentalism and Duggars, Oh Boy!

Warning: This is long and I talk a great deal about how my daughter was treated by “Good Christians”. These are my impressions, not necessarily the views of anyone else.

Yesterday I took a little trip from my bungalow in Washington DC/Northern Virginia suburbia to another Northern Virginia section of suburbia to see TLC's “19 Kids & Counting” Duggars up close and in person. I took my college-aged daughter Laura from her studies at George Mason to the signing of Jana, Jill, Jinger and Jessa's book, “Growing Up Duggar”

We'd decided to have a fun outing and then go to the book signing late last week. I have to admit I was curious as to Laura's view of young ladies in her own age bracket that still toed many of the same religious lines we'd both done back in our days in Fundamentalism and Evangelical circles. Little did I realize when we made our plans to attend the signing at Alexandria's Family Christian Bookstore that the encounter would reveal much to me about the nature of judging a book by its cover.

That particular Family Christian Bookstore is on Route 1, a mere stones throw from Mount Vernon and Fort Belvoir, both places that represent freedom. Freedom in the shadow of religious oppression.

Once we arrived at the strip mall holding this store and a host of other stores we could see that the parking lot was full up. Imagine my surprise when I realized that there were more people at this book signing than at one last year at a nearby Barnes and Noble for a former President of the United States. The sad truth is that Americans appear to be more eager to rub elbows with reality television stars instead of leaders and great humanitarians.

The store held a line of white middle class ladies wearing mom jeans with little girls here and there. Some men, some boys and absolutely no people of color at all, unless you counted the several African Americans working the store registers. It was crowded and somewhat chaotic, the entire store was filled with all these eager well-scrubbed white folks looking like they would have fit in perfectly at any John Birch Society function. Less Fundy, more Reality TV Show junkies.

As the part-Jew mostly Cajun I was about the darkest one there, which always gives me the creeps.

But way my daughter was treated as soon as we joined the long line snaking through the store was the biggest surprise of the night.

First I must explain my daughter's latest look. She's dyed her chin length hair two differing shades of bright red. She's a pretty girl, had an appropriate amount of makeup on, wore a bright red wool trenchcoat and ombre circle scarf over jeans and layered shirts. She was dressed like just about every girl on the campus of George Mason, it was only the hair that was a bit outre. But she spent the night being treated like the spawn of Satan by just about every 'official' type person we encountered from moment one.

As we lined up one of the store employees handed out cards we were supposed to fill out with 'encouragements' for the Duggars. The worker handed one out of each of the six people before us, handed me one, and then handed them out to all the people behind us. He skipped Laura! Plus I saw the look he gave her, sort of a get behind me Satan glare.

But it was when she went out to seek a restroom and returned where it got very weird. The lady representing the Chick Fil A in the Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virginia, owned by Jeff Burke, took one look at Laura trying to enter the store right behind her and purposely shut the door in Laura's face. Later she was distributing Chick Fil A freebie coupons and did the same thing the FCB flunkie did, give things to those immediately in front of us and immediately behind and everywhere else, but deliberately skip Laura.

This behavior continued the rest of the night, people looking at Laura as if she were some dyed haired Jezebel. Echos of “Gone With The Wind' Mammy saying, “Do you know a dyed haired woman?”

Laura handled it with grace and peace, but we spent the hour and half in line giggling and whispering with Laura reading aloud to me parts of the book that were ridiculous and braying with laughter. She was tickled by the antiquated advice on relationships in the book. Her comment upon seeing the Duggars in the flesh was that they seemed more normal and less freaky than on the television.

Plus Laura wasn't the only one getting the bums rush. Several local street people wandered in and were encouraged to wander right back out and away. My heart broke for them, seemingly homeless older African-American men who came in just to see what all the fuss was about and treated with something less than Christian love and charity.

There was a large amount of Duck Dynasty merchandise in the store. So people were flipping out publicly months ago when Cracker Barrel and Wal Mart kept selling Duck Dynasty merchandise when Phil Robertson made his ignorant remarks, yet no one once mentioned that Family Christian Bookstore also carries a full line of Duck Dynasty merchandise. When did hate become a Christian family value?

There was a kerfuffle and moaning in the crowd when it was announced that the Duggar girls would not sign any books purchased anywhere else. You had to buy a copy of the book there right then, with it's special imprint, before you could have it signed. People were upset because many of them had already purchased a cheaper copy of the book on Amazon and Family Christian Bookstore was not going to allow them to have it signed.

Then the Duggars arrived, actually it was the rest of the family, not the four eldest girls or Josh Duggar. The film crew arrived, taking the store from crowded to bursting at the seams. Between the lights, the crowd and everything else it started getting red hot in there. The crowd was woohooing and cheering as Michelle climbed up on a chair and started speaking.

She welcomed everyone and spoke for a few minutes, but I cannot tell you what she said because I was trying to angle for a decent photo with my crappy cell phone camera. She could have been shouting out cult instructions or Satanic recipes and I wouldn't have known as I'd tuned out her voice to jockey for camera position. Michelle was followed by Jim Bob announcing that the girls were with Josh doing an interview for American Family Radio and would be arriving soon. This was well after the announced time that the event would start.

The remaining Duggar offspring flipped into automatic performance mode, like some cut-rate version of the Sound of Music family and sang several songs. For me this was the absolutely creepiest part of the night. I got chills, not in a good way, from the singing and presented perfection. I can't explain why I found it creepy, but it was.

Then the girls arrived, darting into the door rapidly, parting the crowd as they rushed to the tables set up for the signing. They passed so closely in front of Laura and I that we could have reached out and cast blessings or cursings right on their heads. And so finally the line began to move.

Once we got to the head of the line Laura took a shot of me with Jill, Jana and Jinger. I made small talk with Jill and Jana about how they'd have mighty writers cramp before the evening was over. All four of the girls were beautiful, except I was surprised to see how much makeup each wore. Jessa had her fiance Ben Seewald with her and I have to say I simply wasn't impressed. He came off like a very shy teenaged boy, doing what they told him, eyes down, concentrating on signing books. Of course, I could be mistaken about Ben, he hadn't been raised in this public circus like the rest.

The line was moving very slowly so you did have a chance to talk a bit as you waited for the family ahead of you to quit posing for photos. I spoke with Joseph, asking him how he liked coming out to the DC area to visit his big brother Josh. He waxed enthusiastic about visiting all the different places and events in the area. Sweet kid.

My Laura hung back, said little to nothing to the Duggar kids and that was fine.

The next time the line moved forward a bit I ended up in front of Anna, Josh's wife and she started talking to me. In the course of our interaction I have to say that she seems like the most normal of the entire family. I was charmed by her niceness. We talk a little of how different this area is to live in that just about anywhere. She's kind and gracious.

Someone has obviously restyled Anna, she looks like she could fit in well with any Washington group of ladies. She's been refined to a more classic look with the hair and makeup now. Again, prevailing culture making an impact on someone instead of the other way around. Looks like the move away from the family was a positive one for Anna, she seemed much more self-assured than she has in the television show.

Josh slipped in and sat down next to his wife, flustered and rushed. His hair is in retreat and I got the impression of a man with more demands on his time than he actually has time. He looks older than his years.

Laura and I oohed and ahhed over the absolute over the top cuteness of the youngest girls so seriously signing the books and Laura remarked that Anna was going to end up wearing a lot of permanent marker and Jim Bob laughed, saying that he might have to give the younger ones washable markers instead of Sharpies.

And then, the end of the line, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. I posed for a photo between the two and I told Jim Bob I was there representing No Longer Quivering of Patheos Faith platform. Told him that the kids were beautiful, because they absolutely are.

My impression of le Pere et Mere Duggar is that Michelle wears the pants. I have no evidence of that, it was just things I observed in body language and interactions. Jim Bob seemed pleasant enough, except that from tales I've heard from pals in Arkansas and some of his behavior last night I think he has an unhealthy dash of wanting to be recognized. He's enjoying his fame.

The children all seemed happy, healthly and well cared for, both Laura and I thought so. But much of the night just seemed to reinforce that the main body of folks there are so very far removed from the words and actions of Jesus.