The Duggars recently announced that they are expecting their 20th child sometime next year, and the Internet has exploded with articles and posts. Either people denounced how irresponsible Michelle Duggar was for having a 20th child after a high risk pregnancy and Josie's extreme prematurity, or people defended the Duggars' right to choose, just as many people purposefully choose to limit the amount of kids they have.
While I wouldn't have twenty kids, I have no real issue with people making use of their abundant fertility so long as they can feed, shelter, clothe, educate, raise, and love their children properly. There are few people in the world who can care for 20 kids.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are not among them.
I have serious misgivings and trepidation for all of their children, including preemie Josie and #20. The Duggars are part of the Quiverfull movement, and are part of the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), which for all accounts and purposes is a religious cult, headed up by Bill Gothard and based in Oak Brook, IL. I fear for the kids because of that, and because the Duggars endorse the Pearls' To Train Up A Child book.
Yes. That book. The one that's been in the news lately, because, you know, some children have died because so-called parents followed the principles in it. Principles that include hitting kids with a plumbing line in order to make them obey. Oh, if you want to read it (and you have a strong stomach) the whole text is here: http://web.archive.org/web/20081119041414/http://www.achristianhome.org/to_train_up_a_child.htm
The endorsement of the Pearls is scary enough on its own. Who endorses someone who advocates hitting children with a plastic plumbing line in order to get them to obey? In that way, the Duggar family is advocating child abuse. They have been abusive themselves.
Before they were on TLC, Michelle Duggar was part of an online group, where she advocated using rulers for blanket training. Someone on the FreeJinger forums spoke of her experience.
Years ago, must have been 8 or so, I belonged to a forum called CMOMB (Christian Moms Of Many Blessings). This was before the TLC show, but Michelle was already a well known figure amongst the QFers. She came and did a guest chat and one of the things she talked about was blanket training. She used flexible rulers and talked about luring the baby off of the blanket and then swatting them with the ruler when they took the bait . The purpose was so that mom could visit with friends, have a phone conversation or go visiting and baby would stay put and quiet . After that chat flexible rulers were the thing, but at that time they weren't at every office supply and warehouse store, so there were lots of posts like "I found them at XYZ for $1.25, how many do you want me to pick up?!" When the TLC specials started airing and the interest in just how exactly they blanket trained babies was heating up I went to try to find a copy of the chat. I found it, but everything about spanking/hitting kids was deleted, as was any reference to Michelle in the flexible ruler threads. They circled the wagons around Michelle pretty fast.
You know what? Babies do not have the reasoning abilities yet to even remotely understand the purpose of blanket training. They only stay on the blanket because of these mothers, including Michelle Duggar, are "training" them by using the aversion response to their own advantage. In other words, the babies don't move off of the blanket because they're scared to. And who hits babies with rulers for child training? I mean, come ON.
It is unclear whether Michelle Duggar currently practice blanket training by hitting babies with rulers. Maybe they've reformed their ways. Or maybe they do it when the TLC cameras aren't around. Remember, TLC isn't around all the time, and that the shows we see on TV are very heavily edited.
I've also heard the argument that the "Duggars can't be guilty of child abuse look at how happy, well adjusted, sweet, and outgoing they seem to be!" Also, "The parents do so much good in the community, they can't be abusers!" Or, "They're so Godly, they can't be abusive!"
Uh...seriously? For one thing, if the Duggars really do follow what the Pearls teach, you have to whip a child until they smile. Seriously. Abuse them because they have no reason to be sad, because, according to that mindset, they need to get over their "selfishness."
Also, plenty of "godly" or "good" people are abusive. Michael and Debi Pearl. Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. FLDS. Jehovah's Witnesses. Priests. Pastors. Teachers. Neighbors. Parents. Not every creeper or abusive SOB sport a big jacket that says "CHILD ABUSER" on the back, or drive plain white vans, or walk around with their dick hanging out. Plenty of people "devoutly" believe in God, and twist the Bible's words into unintelligible prooftexting just to justify their actions. Like hitting kids with plumbing lines or starving them. Or through more subtle means, like psychological, verbal, and spiritual abuse.
Speaking from experience, families can easily put on a good face to the public while hiding the abuse that happens behind closed doors. Even my relatives who stayed with us from time to time didn't know of the psychological and verbal abuse that went on at home, because we were so good at hiding it. Some friends did remark that my dad seemed really odd, and thought that something more was going on, but only a few. Until I started speaking up about it. So many people didn't want to believe it, that my dad, well known in my hometown's homeschooling community, did not want to believe it.
The whole blanket training thing and the fact that they've endorsed the Pearls makes me fear for their current 19 kids, let alone baby #20.
Don't forget Bill Gothard. He's the one who started ATI and IBLP, the asshole over in Oak Brook running a religious cult through the guise of Biblical-based character training and in the name of God. It's not just a "more conservative theology," but rather a way to subjugate women and abuse children.
Before I delve into why I think Gothard runs a cultic organization, it's useful to understand what makes an organization a cult.
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
- Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
- The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
- The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
- The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.
- The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
- Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
- The group is preoccupied with making money.
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
- Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
- The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Yes. It's a cult.
If you happened to click on any or all of the links above--you can see why I was angry and scared for the kids. Not because of Michelle Duggar's incredible fertility, but because the kids are growing up in a fearful environment fraught with spiritual abuse and physical abuse, all done in the name of God.
May God have mercy on the children and help them to realize the danger they're in, and may they escape with as little lasting trauma as possible.