[personal profile] wingedbeast
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.

Date: 2015-06-05 09:53 pm (UTC)
amarie24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amarie24
I marinated on this for a long while, but now I think I know what to say. Particularly in regards to the hubris angle you’ve found. You’re the first person I’ve seen that argues the hubris angle and I am absolutely enthralled with the accuracy of that angle. And, no, I don’t think you’ve said anything wrong.

But if I may add another side to that hubris angle? You assert that the hubris is a feature of the system, rather than a bug. I think the hubris also acts as an absolutely-required, totally-essential part of the reward system. And it is especially part of the reward system that’s in the branch of “Us vs. Them”.
That is, they have to be allowed to commit hubris, to believe that Us is better than Them because…they don’t really have anything else. I’ve talked about this before (over at Ana’s and with you) about the feelings of resentment, anger and entrapment that can come from following a certain set of rules and becoming quite simply sick from following those rules…and you look out the window, and you see Them actually breaking the rules. And not only are Them breaking the rules and not being punished for it, but they appear happier and healthier than you because they broke the rules.

Briefly, in my experience, this manifested in Good Christian Girls in high school. They had to follow the rules of wait until you’re married, be nice to everyone, want x number of children and a husband at y age, etc. and, as you can imagine, they suffered terribly for it. Meanwhile, us other kids (especially us other girls) did not really have such stringent rules in our immediate culture and, thus, we were breaking the rules those Good Christian Girls had to follow, we were not being punished for following those rules, but appeared happier and healthy for not following those rules.

I see this with the Duggars.

I feel sorry…not really for the men in this family-most especially not Jim Bob and Josh. My sympathy is mostly directed at those women and girls.

Now, again, I am 100% unsurprised at what happened. I will still be unsurprised when the Duggar patriarchal network will inevitably continue to fall and, with that continued fall, more and more shit comes out. No, I am not going to be surprised at all.

What I feel sorry for is the fact that I see this family (again, especially the female Duggars) give up so, so much to adhere to the rules. So, so much, some (or a lot) of which they may not even know they’re giving up because they know nothing else but this. I firmly believe that Michelle gives birth to complete strangers (was I the only one squicked out with her husband making an analogy in which their kids were “sheep” and not, ya know, their own children in that Fox News interview?). Complete strangers that she and her husband parade around the world as “blessings” and “flowers” and “God’s greatest gift”. And then she’s a woman in her late-forties that has been pregnant over 20 times (she suffered a miscarriage before she had the 19)…and pregnancy takes a toll on your body. A serious toll. I am going to be surprised if she lives past 60-something and, even then, without serious, painful and dangerous complications like eclampsia.

Then those girls have essentially been sister-wives all their lives and they will follow in their mother’s footsteps-deferring forever to a quite-possibly-abusive husband and giving birth to complete strangers. The boys, I’m sure, have to be severely emotionally detached with so much privilege and explicit patriarchy surrounding and imbuing them. I’d bet you it’s only the girls that learn basic life/domestic skills to care for themselves and other people. They’re all just stuck in this endless mill of patriarchy and Christian supremacy and sexism and misogyny and insular politics and deeply severed (or outright unformed) psychological and emotional detachments between each other.

And all of this on top of having to forever smile and pose for cameras. Always happy! Always close! Always content! No, we’re not perfect because, uhh…we’re quirky! But otherwise, we’re all perfectly happy and perfectly close and perfectly content. It’s perfectly normal and healthy for a family made up of human beings to, instead, never show the full range of emotions and reactions and different dynamics of bonds as, well…human families do. Uh huh!

I just…now, more than ever, I see them constantly paying and paying and paying to adhere to these rules. Now, yes, you could argue that it’s only Jim Bob and Michelle that know of the world outside-most definitely Jim Bob, as the patriarch, he’s more than allowed that access and Michelle was not part of the Quiverfull Movement when she met her husband (in fact, she was a cheerleader in her teens and, I think, she’s currently estranged from her family, who are far, far, far from being Quiverfull).

They pay and they pay and they pay and…this is what they get.
They get their eldest son committing sexual abuse against their daughters, a mad dash-and-scramble to cover it up and even then, people call them out on their shit.

This is the reward they get for all the rules they follow.
So I think this is the angle where the hubris can’t just be a feature of the system, but a necessary reward. Because if you take it away? If you drive it home to them that no matter how much O Holy Godliness and Whiteness and Pureness that they try to shove into their own and the rest of the world’s faces that their shit stinks just like the rest of us? That they get just as sleepy and horny and hungry and angry and grumpy just like the rest of us? That they’re just as human and fallible as the rest of us? And that reality doesn’t only come into play conveniently when they’ve publicly dug themselves a hole (like this) and they want to backtrack big time?

If you take that away then, I think, you’re taking away a huge, somewhat-tangible reward and comfort for them. Because the main trick to understand is that human beings despise paying so much for so little in obeying rules…while people just outside their window get to break those rules, not only pay nothing, and live happier and healthier for breaking them.

How dare Them do that while Us suffers?

How dare Them?

That’s…not fair. That’s nonsensical. That’s downright infuriating.

And that’s where, I think, the core of the inability to lose the hubris is. That’s where I think that they cling so, so hard to the hubris especially during times like this.

If the Duggars can’t be paid tangibly in a consistent sense of being inherently superior to Them, then…you just took away what little payment they have for the train wreck that’s their lives. You just took away whatever comfort they have as they hide and hide and hide raw humanity behind tightly closed doors. You just took away whatever reassurance they have that, despite how badly they struggle, they’re always right and they’re always right above and beyond Them.

If the Duggars have to face that they’re just like everyone else and are human just like everyone else and, thus, they can no longer practice hubris…then the fuck are they even doing? What are they even practicing?

Again, it’s wholly and painfully unfair to follow rules that everyone else has a blast breaking. It scorches the psyche to even consider, I believe. So the punishment that must be inserted is the punishment of delusional superiority-“You don’t suffer under these rules like us, so you must at least be inferior to us in every way, especially morally. You must.”

Take that away-take that hubris-away and…what left is there?

Date: 2015-06-05 11:20 pm (UTC)
amarie24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amarie24
What I think you're saying, and making a good case for, is that the hubris I refer to isn't just a cause of the problems, it's also the escape from the problems, something they indulge in to make themselves feel good or even feel normal, while the rest of the world seems to, if not attain the godly state they seek, at least deal with their stuff without noticeably suffering.


This, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Oh, and thanks for the Libby Anne link! Yes, it's actually her work that I read a few years ago that likened me into the sociology/social psychology of cults like the Duggars, yep!

As far as what society needs to do about it...I think the first step is changing our language. More specifically, starting to implement the proper language to articulate what we see happening over and over with [sex] scandals like these. Because, again, just as much as these scandals are clockwork...so the mainstream language that surrounds the commentary/reporting on them is clockwork.

It's pretty much like this, as far as I see it:

"They're hypocrites!"

"Okay, why are they hypocrites?"

"Because they don't even live up to their own damn standards while condemning and shunning normal people like us! Hypocrites!"

"Why do you think they don't even live up to their own standards?"

"Because they don't even think they have to! They think they're special! More special than the rest of us!"

"But...why do you think they think they're more special than the rest of us? And, in fact, treat us like we're less special than they are?"

"Because they misuse their religion to persecute others while elevating themselves!"

"Why do they misuse their religion in such a way? Where and how did they learn such a thing?"

"Their stupid, fundie communities that shelter them from everything!"

"Why do you think that their communities shelter them from everything?"

"Because they hate everyone that's different from them, that's why! They're all just intolerant, hateful bigots!!"

"...I give up."

And you see how...the mainstream narrative response just can't seem to go deeper than those themes, especially in my experience. In a way it...almost dehumanizes people like the Duggars, especially the girls and women. It purports, however unintentionally, that people behave this way almost entirely in a vacuum. That you just combine religion, small town and big family and BOOM! Nothing else has to happen but a combination of those things and voila!

So I think the first step has to be examining and refurnishing the language with which we talk about this.

Date: 2015-06-08 08:54 pm (UTC)
amarie24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amarie24
Oh, absolutely. Notice and make more-transparent that pattern of how these things happen. Definitely.

And also? In addition to educating people to inoculate against the same error? Also be sure to wheedle out the people that are attracted to movements/cultures like the Quiverfull one because they're some nasty, sleazy abusive people that are very much attracted to a specific system that absolves them of any accountability for their wrongdoing.

For example, I used to watch Dr. Phil when I was a very young teenager (I know, bear with me). This is an episode that still chills me to this day and I don't think I'll ever forget it. And one of the episodes' themes was of a man that molested his daughter and her son, his grandson. Every time the next set of allegations came up, every time he was confronted with what he'd done and how curious it was that his memory is oh-so selective? Every single time, he would say something along the lines of, “Oh, but I love the Lord! And one day, I want to be a youth counselor for children at a Christian Bible school/camp. I just love children and I love the Lord. This will be my redemption” and “You know what? One day I’ll stand before God and then we’ll all know the truth.”

And Dr. Phil, of course, didn’t get to the root of the problem and, instead, just kept acting like this man was confused about Bible verses for the most part. Hell, Dr. Phil even had a young Christian minister guest star to counteract the molester. I remember that I couldn’t quite touch on why that made me deeply uncomfortable, but now I know: I wanted the episode to emphasize the fact that the molester wasn’t really confused or uneducated about the Bible/Christian theology.

The molester was just attracted to a specific system that will absolve him of any accountability and, at the same time, give him even more access to more potential victims.

So yes. Educate to keep people away from such systems, and also watch out for those that want those systems because it means unchecked power over others they want to hurt.

Date: 2015-06-09 11:50 pm (UTC)
amarie24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amarie24
Ahh yes. All of this is definitely true. I forgot about that particular angle. Thank you oh-so much for reminding me! :D

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