A friend wondered why many are so obsessed with the whole Josh Duggar situation.
I replied that it is deeply personal for so many people, but for varied reasons. This includes, but is not limited to: people who have been affected by religion, for the positive or for the negative; people who have been abused, whether sexually, emotionally, or other; and people who have been restricted in some way, whether by a narrow-minded religion, helicopter parents, or controlling spouse (or other!)
A seemingly simple story about a reality-TV family affects people in so many ways, and is a scary indication of some of the challenges we may have to face in the future. The news of late has shown us all sorts of injustice and restrictive or prejudiced ways of thought. We aren't as free as we think; and that realization hits us... hard.
There is a mix of feelings involved because of the many different angles the story takes. For me, I'm angry at those who have done harm and feel sympathy for those who have been victimized. I defend the concept of religion, but distance myself from fundamentalism. I understand how and why those involved believe what they do, but wish they could open their eyes to the destruction involved.
And yet, I recognize that by my own desire for tolerance, I must respect at some level that they are staying true to their beliefs. They cannot understand how doing things another way might actually be kinder and more Jesus-like because of the extreme fear of the outside world and assumption that someone like me (who loves God, but doesn't take The Bible literally; who respects many other religions' teachings -- and knows amazing atheists -- for their morality and love, so does not believe Christianity is the only way to live a meaningful, helpful, generous, spiritual life) might be "tempting" them towards something they feel is wrong.
That said, there is a line, and they -- like other extremists in other religions -- have crossed it. Of course for some in this particular brand of fundamentalism, the idea is not a pure and faithful way of worship, but indeed a carefully-crafted way of exerting control over others knowingly. That's the scary part: someone can gain power by using "faithfulness" and "religion" as their motivations, and yet they definitely do not "practice what they preach," and in fact are more harmful than the Devil that their way of life is supposed to shun. Some people involved in extremist religions or cults are naively earnest and others are deviously "pious."
Some of the Duggars understand the hypocrisy in their actions. Others may not; or, believe they are somehow exempt. In the past, I've seen evidence of questioning from some of the Duggar girls. Will one or more of them break free? Or, is it too great a risk for them?
I understand how people can become "same" and complaint with those who they are around. My beliefs have definitely changed based on my environment. Things that seem reasonable in one situation suddenly don't feel right in another. I've witnessed how those who are very sheltered will believe things that make sense in their bubble of the universe. It isn't that they are "stupid," but rather, that they are uneducated. They haven't been shown the world outside their particular environment. These people can't understand the value of different perspectives. They don't understand that the "right" answer for one person may be wrong for another. Given the opportunity to be open-minded, such people may truly flourish. But, all too often, they are kept in their bubble and are afraid to come out. This is not an intelligence problem, it is a survival problem. (They don't want to lose the respect of those they love, even if those relationships are built on control. Add to this financial and basic needs that may not be met if they leave, and it is "smarter" to stay.) Outside of restrictive environments, these people might contribute to society in sophisticated ways that they cannot even fathom while under the control of their religious captors (and, in ways that those who think of themselves as educated may not appreciate until it happens.)
When I say "uneducated" I don't necessarily mean "ignorant," since the latter implies some sort of choice in the matter, whereas the former is a result of circumstance. (I freely admit that I have huge holes in my understanding of different cultures and experiences. But, I'm aware of this, and will listen to other perspectives in an effort to understand.) When I think of people like the Duggars, I sincerely believe that some of those kids are probably quite intelligent, but they haven't been given the opportunity to develop their potential. And then, some may be using their particular position strategically. I'm looking at the male-types in particular, who know how to manipulate the controlling environment to their advantage, even if they don't actually believe in the righteousness in what they are doing. After all, if I was told at a young age that the holy thing to do would be to grow up to become the unquestioned head of something where I could force a bunch of people to do my bidding, then... hey, that sounds like a good deal, why would I fight that hierarchy?
But the young ladies? Well, they could be amazing people if they could be valued. (And, while I'm not in a religious cult, I can empathize with the idea that I wish I were valued, since I've been discounted many times for being female. And I won't even start to list the ways in which I've been shamed for my body parts or otherwise harassed in public because I happen to be female.)
Yes, the way Josh Duggar's molestation of his sisters (and other victims) has been handled is indeed a situation that hits many of us in negative ways. This news has been a trigger for people who were trapped in religious cults. It has been a reminder for those abused that "justice" is frequently not served. It has been a criticism of religion in general, which hurts those who care deeply for their particular beliefs.
And then... this evidence of unfair justice also brings to mind other situations in which there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy and/or unfairness in how people are treated. I have been shocked at the various pieces in the news, and outright cried when I saw a video in which a Black man is assumed to be disobedient when he was actually suffering a stroke. This in particular caught me because it highlights one of my big fears: that I will be assumed to be in the wrong when I actually need help. (This is relevant to the Duggar situation because of the ways in which their teachings emphasize that the female is always at fault, that they bring upon their own abuse.)
The Josh Duggar situation is scary because it preys upon people in so many ways, whether it is anger, defensiveness, or reopening a very painful wound. There are so many inappropriate ways that power is wielded and religion (and politics) is protecting evil-doers while punishing those who are just trying to survive. The Josh Duggar story highlights this, and so is an example that people want to share and discuss, in the hope that something can change for the better.