I mostly agree with Tod Kelly’s post, Why I’m a Secularist: Icky Scandal Edition on the difference between Christianists circling the wagons around Josh Duggar and scientists revealing the fraud of Michael LaCour, I felt he presumed that Duggar was a pedophile, (he’s probably not, my experience of pedophiles suggests, it’s more likely he committed sexual assault.)
Before reading Tod’s post, I didn’t think I could empathize with the Dugger clan, stars of the reality show 19 Kids and Counting and the way his parents (read: his father!) dealt with what he’d done. But I dug in to understand why it bothered me that Josh is being labeled a pedophile — and it’s mostly because that hides a wider cultural problem that the Duggar’s are participating in — physical and mental abuse of women and children to fund the coffers of several different publishing conglomerations that equals a multi-million dollar industry in home-school curriculum for Christianists families.
Now I say mulit-million, it may well be a multi-billion dollar industry, I didn’t do an exhaustive search of curriculum developers . I did research some of them on Guidestar; they’re mostly non-profits and have to file a form 990 with the IRS; by registering with guidestar, you can see those tax forms. What they have in common is selling home-school and family curriculum for Christian families who subscribe to a strict, traditional (non-Catholic) beliefs. But some are for-profit companies. Hobby Lobby, for instance. Or TLC, The Learning Channel, which hosts the Duggar’s show and built their house for them.
These beliefs were on display in the Dugger’s TV show in an ever-so-charming Walton-esque way. There’s Bob, the head of the family, filled with wisdom and love. Michelle, the mother, who is subservient to Bob. If she sassed back, she’d be sinning, and risking falling from grace. Children are blessing — particularly these Christian’s children — an army for God, so contraception a sin, and the so the Duggar’s famous 19 and counting children. Girls and boys have no right to have sex with anyone (including kissing and hand holding) until marriage, and wives have no right to say no to their husbands. If a girl catches the ever-lustful eye of some man (all men are sinners), and is assaulted, it’s likely she’ll be blamed for his discretion because she was not pure enough, demure enough, and tempted him, and she should find grace and join the body of God. He can be forgiven by repenting and rejoining the body of Christ, and living in the ways prescribed in the many books and on-line courses and seminars offered by the Christianist publishing industry. They’ve got the market cornered, too, becuase outside information, material, music, movies, even schools let demons into your world, and they are to be shunned.
This is a pyramid scheme, a cult. Indoctrination begins as soon as a baby can move about enough to leave a small blanket on the floor. It’s called blanket training, described here by R. L. Stoller, Community Coordinator for Homeschoolers Anonymous:
Blanket training is a child training method advocated by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo and popularized by the Duggar family through their TLC show. It has its own Wikipedia page and has its own featured page on the Duggar Family Blog. Parents have adopted this child training method specifically because of the Duggars.
In its simplest form, blanket training consists of 3 actions: (1) place a young child (usually an infant or toddler) on a small blanket, (2) tell that child not to move off the blanket, and (3) strike that child if they move off the blanket. Rinse, repeat.
The training can be more elaborate than this. Some advocates may describe it more gently, poetically, or less fearsome-sounding. Others prefer corporal punishment to be a last resort if a child moves off the blanket. But despite linguistic dress-up, at its core it remains the same: you punish a young, still-developing child for wanting to indulge its natural curiosity and crawl off a blanket.
Stoller says this is an example of an idea called ‘first-time obedience, and quotes a mother (Rose) who used the method, The boundaries of the blanket have brought us tremendous freedom. We can take her to meetings and expect her to sit quietly.
Rose minces no words here. The best part of this training method is not what it teaches the child but rather that “we can take her to meetings and expect her to sit quietly.” In other words, it trains children to be seen not heard, that old adage which expresses nothing but contempt for children and the beautiful chaos they bring into our lives.
Nicole Ducote, also a Community Coordinator at HA, did a review of Home Education Ideologies and Literature which breaks down some of the differing creeds and the people behind them, and lays out the difference between “inclusives” (unschooling) and “believers” (Christianist schooling, as the Duggar’s practice) based Mitchell Steven’s book, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Unschooling, I’m familiar with, and it’s built on a philosophy of fostering the child’s independence and self-determination.
Believers, on the other hand, are into blanket training, and that’s for life, pre-cradle to after life. Children need to be ‘trained up,’ which may be the best-seller (next to the bible, of course) book of all time for the believer’s home-school publishing industry. To Train Up a Child was written by Michael & Debi Pearl, who a non-profit corporation, No Greater Joy Ministries. For a ministry of joy, they put a lot of effort into telling people to suck up abuse and isolate their children.
These techniques spark a host of heart-breaking stories from mothers and children caught up in the web of abuse, isolaton, and ignorance the Christianist publishing industry fosters. But there’s no doubt — men in charge, women unable to speak back, children trained to be obedient is a recipe for sexual abuse, educational neglect, and family violence.
The problem with Josh Duggar isn’t that he’s a pedophile, it’s that he’s part of a cult that profits from indoctrinating children and adults into a world of cruelty in the name of Jesus. He and his family were recruiters nor for an army of the righteous, but for a lifestyle that veers to evil when taken to its extremes.
God help him.
Edited to add: I want to be perfectly clear about something: if you put a 10-month old baby on a small blanket, tell her she has to stay there for five minutes, or maybe it’s fifteen minutes, and then slap her every time she crawls off that blanket, you are committing child abuse, you deserve to face legal justice for that abuse, no matter your personal religious beliefs. You do not have a right to treat a child like that, and if you do, the state has every right to intervene. If you aid and abet someone who is doing this, in my view, and perhaps legally, you are also criminally and morally guilty of child abuse.