I'm not the slightest bit surprised by the Duggar situation. Why should I be? I'd love for someone to give me a valid, rational reason why I should be surprised.
First of all, I can't imagine a scenario where a genuinely healthy family, with sound, mature leadership, would invite a reality TV camera crew into every aspect of their lives. These scenarios don't have a good track record, from individuals with shady motivations to others with sinister pasts. Over the last few years they've all imploded spectacularly, one after the other, causing advertisers to flee and their networks to drop them. In other words, to even consider being the subject of a reality show, you're likely already screwed up in some way.
Then, when you consider that the bastions of wisdom behind the foundational ideas the Duggars promote to the public and indoctrinate their children with (Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips) have both imploded amid serious sexual scandals, the math gets much simpler. Seeing as how both of these men have displayed classic characteristics of extreme narcissism, and given their sexual grooming downfalls, one has to wonder how much of a role that played in the development of their ideas on gender, purity, and all things sexual. Were these ideas developed specifically to one day be used to groom young women sexually? It's not out of the realm of possibility. Either way, these ideas on gender and purity, which originated with sexually and emotionally troubled men, have been relentlessly poured into the Duggar kids for their entire lives. It's sad to note that these same ideas (or very similar, almost sibling ideas) are poured into the vast majority of Christian homeschooled kids.
As I wrote here a couple years back...
How are people supposed to be emotionally healthy, and sexually healthy, in an environment where sex goes from the very worst thing a person could EVER do to the most wonderful thing a person can do, and the only thing that changes the dynamic are a few vows, a ring, and a few words from a preacher? That's a recipe for one effed up sex life (pun intended). When the value of a person is determined by whether or not they're "sexually pure" (or even "emotionally pure"), there really are no values - because people have become of no value, with the single exception of their ability to create new people to be indoctrinated.
As a lot of you who know this culture first-hand have said this week, this kind of nonsense likely helped create this problem in the Duggar clan. It would be naive to think this same scenario hasn't played out in countless Christian homeschooling families and been covered up under the shallow religious guise of "forgiveness".
So although I didn't know exactly what the bombshell would ultimately be, given the state they'd need to be in to be a reality TV subject (to even consider it), and given their extremist religious culture, I knew it was a matter of when and not if. No, I wasn't surprised, and I've never even watched their show.
I'm even more troubled to say I wasn't AT ALL surprised by the reaction to the scandal by the people in my world who I would describe as mainstream evangelicals.
Over the last few years, I've painfully surrendered to the reality that I live in a country predominantly populated by naive, low-information people. The less information they can receive, the better. People, in general, will travel outrageous mental distances to avoid cognitive dissonance. They'd rather be informed by their bias and cultural preferences. This is why they only seek out information sources, whether cultural, political, or religious, that confirm what they already believe to be true or desire to be true. Life, all of it, has become a team sport. Cheer for the guy wearing your jersey and jeer the guy in the other jersey, with no real examination of the "why".
In the past, I've described the image sold by the Christian homeschooling movement as "godly, spit-shined families with smiling faces on perpetual picnics in flowery meadows", and make no mistake, that IS the image they've tried to sell. When the average John or Joan Q. Evangelical from the church down the street, who has no idea about the Christian homeschool movement, no idea about the batshit craziness that lines its halls from cultic authority ideas, to purity, to Quiverfull/Dominionism, to courtship, et cetera, sees that photo, or sees a Duggar family on the screen, they think "These people are on my team! Go them!!!" Tribalism - and they really have no idea what it is they're seeing. None. They don't know that those children have no other option than to smile. That's unnecessary information. All they need to see is the jersey color. All they want to see is the jersey color. Christianity is so desperate for a cultural champion. The one their religion is based on obviously isn't enough.
Prior to last week, I've had only a handful of encounters with Christian people where the Duggars have come up. I quickly say something like, "Those people are nothing like you. You can't even imagine the crazy." In a couple of cases I could tell that trying to go deeper would just be spinning my wheels, but in the rest I've been able to enlighten some folks, especially if they know me and what I went through with the crazies.
When this scandal broke last week, I didn't say anything about it on my social media for a couple of days, mainly because I wanted to offer an informed opinion if I dared offer an opinion. I watched my newsfeed literally blow up with the stupid and the inhumane. I say inhumane because to devalue the victims in this case (or any other), to minimize their experience and trauma, is the same as offering their well-being as a sacrifice on the altar of your cultural god, and I saw a ton of that. Nobody seemed to give a shit about the girls (who were most likely very, very young at the time it occurred) or how what happened might really mess them up emotionally and sexually (and perhaps has), or what baggage it'll cause them to take into their marriages, and worst case, force their future children to bear the weight. Nobody cared that no one involved would ever get proper, professional counseling. That would require them to stop blindly cheering for the jersey long enough to get off their intellectually lazy asses and actually learn something - such as, any future mental or emotional baggage these girls might have manifest from this would be treated as a sin problem, on THEIR part, because they don't believe in mental illness or things like PTSD.
What I saw, from people who have no freakin' clue how crazy the beliefs of the Duggars are, were defenses of their cultural champions - Josh, Jim Bob, and Michelle - as if they were the victims, when they're anything, ANYTHING but. I saw cries of "PERSECUTION!!!", of liberal political agendas (seriously - that's what finally made me pop). Nary a word expressing concern for the victims from these folk. Not. A. Word.
Christianity in this country - both fundamentalist and mainstream - is SO shallow. SO desperately shallow. And stupid.
And they wonder why I don't identify with them anymore.