Jun. 1st, 2015

There are a few lessons to learn from the Duggar Scandal. Cover-ups only make it worse. Rigid gender roles make sexual predation easier. Religion doesn't make you better.

I want to focus on one that, if forgotten, will force you to forget all the others as well.

Moral hubris leads to doing evil and calling it good.

The Quiverfull movement, like much of Conservative Christianity (not all Christianity is conservative, but I'm referring to that element thereof), dresses its hubris in terms of humility. Oh, they'll tell you that they do not own morality, but God does, and they just happen to know that God wants their specific set of rules obeyed without question and without exception. It's in the bible, therefore it must be true.

Never mind that Christianity doesn't need the bible to be written by God or to be infallible, it is to them and so is their interpretation. They may even argue that the bible needs interpretation in the first place, it just plainly means what they think it means and any notion otherwise is you either being ignorant, immoral, or both.

It's not so much the notion that they are infallible, but that they never even consider the possibility of their error long enough to consider it impossible. Hubris that is so fast and yet so pervasive that it cannot be seen any more than the air in front of your face.

Because the Duggars were so certain not only that God existed, not only that God owns morality, but that God's desires were exactly what they thought, without any room allowed for the slightest doubt on all grounds, they had an obligation. They couldn't let the world around them be confused on the matter. Such details as children who aren't smiling would just confuse the outside world, possibly make outsiders doubt the truth of Conservative Christianity or the Quiverfull movement*.

That notion was a part of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's mindset when they were first told that their eldest son had molested a pre-teen girl. Others were at play, as well, which is why they disbelieved the first girl to come forward on the notion that children make things up. Still, when Josh Duggar told them, himself, they waited a year, doing nothing. When they finally did something, Michelle and Jim Bob sent young Josh to Christian Counseling... in a facility set up by Bill Gothard, who is now noted for his own sexual abuse of minors.

This story should give many of us a feeling of deja-vu. If you've paid attention at all since the late 90s, this can't help but seem familiar.

Because of moral certainty, moral degradation was inevitable. The Duggars could no more allow the world to question their own moral credibility than could the Catholic Church. So, both covered up abuses, blamed and devalued victims, and proclaimed the importance of their remorse while ignoring the importance of restoring power to the victims.

Those are egregious examples. Only slightly less so is Ray Comfort's insistence that Josh Duggar is a fine moral example now, on the basis that his "mistakes" happened before he was a Christian. Ray Comfort's definition of "Christian" makes another example**. Less egregious, if only due to the distance of time, is William Lane Craig, so certain of the truth of the story of Exodus and the moral perfection of God, defense of biblical genocides.

This is an important lesson to learn and we need to both learn and apply it. We need to apply that lesson in our way of life, in our choices at the voting booth, in how we treat each other and how we treat others.

The moment you come to the conclusion that morality is something that can be so easily owned, your descent into evil is inevitable. It might be what has now become stereotypical. It might be anything from bullying to bigotry to brutal murder. You might not even do it, yourself. But, once you believe that morality can be owned and that you or your religion or your community or your family can own it, you will find ways to shield it from outside notice.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it is moral hubris that rolls over the concrete.

For your own good. For the good all those you care about. Please, doubt.

*For a blog that, among other things, takes a look at the abusive practices of the Quiverfull movement, check out this blog http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/

**Ray Comfort defines "Christian" as someone who has a personal relationship with the risen Christ, a relationship marked by believing the same things that Ray Comfort finds it important to believe (which Josh Duggar, to all available evidence including his own word on the subject, believed) and not being a moral embarrassment to those who meet the first condition.

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