Controversy surrounding TLC program reminds us why it's not always so easy to judge

By Emma Goodwin

I have a guilty pleasure that I’m not always ready to admit. Despite their seemingly “insane” beliefs and “crazy” ideals, I really like to follow the shows, Instagram accounts and news articles surrounding the clans from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” and UP TV’s “Bringing Up Bates.”

Even though their beliefs can be controversial and it seems dumb that the girls wear skirts all the time, as a member of the Christian faith, I admire their dedication to the Gospel and its teachings.

That’s not to say I don’t disagree with the way the Duggar or Bates families live these teachings. I also frequently disagree with their execution in teaching these beliefs.

Instead of being based on faith, a lot of my viewing (and presumably that of others), comes from pure curiosity. “How on earth do you cook for 19 kids?” and “Are Jana and John-David courting people?” seem to come up frequently.

But never before did I think, “How were some of these young Duggar girls able to live with someone who may have sexually abused them as kids?”

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And then, this summer, just as allegations directed toward Josh Duggar started swirling around, I found myself at a crossroads. Josh Duggar allegedly touched five girls inappropriately 12 years ago, some of whom may have been his sisters.

Some of you may be confident in your stance regarding how you feel about this. But the fact of the matter is, we do not stand to have all the information. And because of that, I can never feel comfortable in the way I choose to judge or not judge either of these labeled “fundie” families.

This case seems black and white. And it might have been at the time. But now, after purported therapy and particular treatment procedures, to me, everything is grey.

I am jealous of those of you who can say this family – or particularly Josh himself – is a group of freakish-incestually-abusive weirdos. I am jealous of those of who you can say this family – or particularly Josh himself – is forgiven by God, and therefore the rest of the world. You see one side with your whole heart, when I can only see both of these as viable options.

But no matter how I feel about it – and no matter how all of you feel about it – I keep coming back to the fact that we don’t have all the information. And instead of jumping to a punishment for Josh, there are two things I know I want to see coming from this terrible series of events: victim care and a way for the Duggars to readdress their values.

First and foremost, what Josh Duggar did is not a mistake. It was a crime that largely affected other people. But, to me, the only fact here is that it should have been handled appropriately 12 years ago. Now that it’s resurfacing, it presents us with an opportunity to rehash past events. But maybe it would be better to help the victims rather than trying to reopen a case that is impossible to reopen.

If we see the gross way this case was mishandled, it’s probably safe to assume the victims received similar treatment or counseling. As any Christian can hopefully attest to, prayer is a powerful tool. But there are other powerful tools that can be used while striving to heal, and regardless of how familial relations are depicted on television, the old skeletons that can be banished should be.

The second topic that needs to be addressed coming from this scandal is the way the Duggar family preaches their values. Michelle Duggar herself has warned people that those who identify as transgender are child predators. I shouldn’t need to explain the sad irony coming from those claims.

Well, Duggar family: practice what you preach. By taking any mistakes made by the few and expanding them to be representative of a whole group of people, you are then calling for the world to refer to people who live your similar lifestyle as sexual abusers, as well.

God may forgive and the Bible may say “Judge not lest he be judged,” but preaching, or doing anything, hypocritically has no place in this world. Regardless of your future on TLC or your future in the spotlight, your family will survive, and your beliefs will persevere. But the way you announce them needs to change from a place of hypocritical claims to statements of honesty.

I don’t know what will happen from here with the Duggars, and I am in no position to judge, especially if I banish this family for doing exactly that. But there are lessons to be learned from these sad events, and they need to be learned immediately.

Emma is a junior in LAS.

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