Monday, August 6, 2007

More about "17 Children?"

I find the Duggar family, and spectacles like them, disturbing on multiple levels.

On one hand, you have the racial and socioeconomic considerations mentioned by Sue. Already fired up after having read the story of Sametta Heyward, another recent news story involving elements of motherhood and resources, the Duggar story made me particularly ill.

On the other hand, you have the creepiness factor.

Every time I encounter a story about a family whose inordinate number of children catapults their existence to “Discovery Health” fodder, I go through a response resembling the stages of grief.

Denial – “There must be a healthy, wholesome, acceptable explanation for this. I’m going to read this article and have an appreciation and respect for these people when I finish. I’m going to like them this time.” It never works. Because next comes…

Anger – “These kids are going to be completely maladjusted, socially inept, and either depressed or crazy. And this family is sucking up unbelievable amounts of resources, the consumption of which they invariably validate with whichever holier-than-thou mentality they’re parading on national television.”

Depression – The response to these stories seems by-and-large to be positive. They’re viewed with awe and seen as an inspiration to barely-holding-it-together moms everywhere. Their ridiculous circumstances lend credibility to their on-the-fringe beliefs. We ignore, though, the fact that the challenges they’re overcoming are self-inflicted.

I usually get stuck somewhere between anger and depression, with a yicky taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong. I think people should take control of their reproductive lives. I support the freedoms that allow for people to choose the lifestyle that is right for them. I also ascribe to Christian beliefs and have a thorough understanding of them. These factors contribute to the disappointment I feel when the creepiness factor bobs to the surface.

In the case of the Duggars, this doesn’t take long. Seeing as how their website begins with a Psalm, the flags start popping up immediately. In my pursuit of reasons to like the Duggar family, I came upon Michelle’s reference to the ATIA curriculum used in their home-schooling.
Wikipedia describes this as a ministry of The Institute in Basic Life Principles. And, not very surprisingly, Wikipedia goes on to describe the criticism and cult-like characteristics of IBLP.

There are also links to fire-and-brimstone sites like Focus on the Family and the fascinating Creation Science Evangelism, which is worth a visit for creative enlightenment on such topics as how the marsupials got to Australia. When you take into account the home-schooling, the removal of “worldly” materials from the home, the schedule that clearly rules out the possibility of interaction with the outside world, all the Biblical literalism, and the evangelism, the information available about the Duggars plays out like a cult-criteria checklist.

And then, like the toy surprise at the bottom of your box of Creepy Jacks, you have the Duggars’ membership in the Quiverfull movement. Evidently this approach to family life has gone more smoothly for the Duggars than it did for fellow QF Christians Andrea and Rusty Yates.

The one question I keep encountering regarding the Duggars is how they support a family of 19 on the income of a real-estate agent. A click through their site, though, reveals this family to be a marketing machine. Visit the Duggars’ site, and you will inevitably arrive at a site selling some product marketed by IBLP. As a matter of fact, all of the resources links lead you to this organization, which is said to rake in $63 million a year.

The Duggars’ role as poster family, and their in-home hosting of the IBLP-associated Financial Freedom Seminar, and their TV appearances, et cetera, most certainly contribute a great deal to the debt-free lifestyle they’re touting. Ironic, then, that the Duggars advocate “protecting your family by removing books, magazines, television, or Internet that have worldly or sensual content,” when these are the very vehicles by way of which they fund their army of God. It is the very media-darling status of their children that drives traffic to their site and viewers to their television shows.

A good deal of the commentary regarding this family speaks of respecting their choices and dedication to ideals. Though not all. There are those who admire their purportedly Christian values. Judging by their links and isolation of their children from the world at large, though, these people appear to be less than accepting of the lifestyles of others. Others have mentioned the carbon footprint of a family of 19. What gets me is the self-righteous attitude and rejection of others. And there’s the soaking up of resources that could be devoted elsewhere. Imagine the impact a privately owned school bus and the roughly 104 days a year contributed by just one “angel” could make if dedicated elsewhere. While I try to maintain respect for these people, their every mention of sin leaves me pondering the hypocrisy inherent to their lifestyle of gluttony.


  1. Apparently they just read the first part of the Psalm, "Children are a heritage of the Lord." The second part goes, "But God likes Sundays off, too -- so keep your damn pants on once in a while."

  2. Wow, you are all so hard on large families--as if they couldn't "keep their pants on". When women choose to raise a lot of kids, shouldn't their CHOICE be as respected as much as the "termination" choice other women make? As for the kids being "completely maladjusted, socially inept, and either depressed or crazy" I have to say you should get to know us before you make a statement like that. I am a graphic designer with a college degree; I work a full time job, live on my own, and lead a healthy and happy social life. But I also grew up in a large family with twelve full-blooded siblings, was homeschooled, and involved with IBLP. (As to IBLP being a cult--we weren't forced to do anything we didn't want to do!) I can't say if I'll have a large family myself eventually, but I can say that my growing up years were packed with fun times and special memories. So far, none of us have had any trouble getting scholarships for college. As we've grown older and left the home, we've all done very well in social groups elsewhere. All I can say is--give us a chance! We just want to add a positive contribution to our society.

  3. Very well written. I completely agree.

  4. The pompous Ms. Monongahela, Ms. Chief Editor seems to define the hypocritical nature of this sorry blog, but her reference to a more filthy website reveals where her mind must be--in the sewer.
    I have an idea what is in the sewer, but common sense tells me to avoid it like the plague.
    She seems to have a real passion for promoting its contents, with a clothespin clamped firmly on her nose, while she promotes it with glee to her willfully ignorant acolytes.

  5. I say God bless the Duggers & their children. I just wouldn't be able to take care of that any children. I do believe God chose them as special people.

  6. "Home educated students generally score at the 65th to 80th percentile on achievement tests, 15 to 30 percentile points higher than those in public schools." -Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

    Umm... why are we complaining about homeschooling again?

    PS: I'm a former pre-law/debate student and wikipedia... ah never mind :)