Why Conservative Christians Defend the Duggars

I wasn’t going to write about the Duggars. Not because I don’t think sexual assault of children isn’t terrible (I do), but because I honestly don’t care at all about the Duggars, or about most things on TLC.

I’m the oldest of seven. My family was plenty dysfunctional. My dad has a large building jammed full of junk. I mean, antiques that he bought fully intending to sell, and still fully intends to sell. He’s a small business owner. People finding bizarre ways to save money? Try feeding a family of eight on $100 a week. See how far you get.

As far as I’m concerned, TLC is just a channel dedicated to piping in shows about people whose lives are train wrecks that are so fascinating you just can’t look away, and so messed up they make you feel better about your own train wreck of a life. There is nothing new or interesting on TLC for me.

But I digress.

Other people who know a lot more about what it’s like to be a victim of sexual assault and recovery and how bad it is have written excellent articles about it, and I will leave that to them.

What I’m interested in is why so many in the conservative Christian world are defending Josh and his family.

Conservative Christians are defending Josh Duggar because he shares their beliefs.

An attack on him is an attack on those beliefs, which is an attack on conservative Christians.

If you’ve read the articles from the left wing outlets, you may have noticed a common theme: hypocrisy. Many people have long disliked the Duggars, not only for their so-called squeaky-clean family values, but for their condemnation of gays and lesbians, among other social issues with which conservatives agree. Now that Josh has been outed as a (former?) pedophile, the popular response has been, “You’re a pedophile. How dare you lecture us on sexual ethics!”

  1. The Duggars have opinions about sexual morality with which we disagree.
  2. The Duggars defended their pedophile son from the consequences of his actions.
  3. The most vocal of their sons was the pedophile in question.
  4. Pedophilia is an immoral sexual behavior, and anyone who does it or prevents those who do it from the consequences of those actions has skewed views on sexuality.
  5. Therefore, the Duggars’ views on sexuality are skewed.
  6. Therefore, their opinions about sexuality (homosexuality in particular) are wrong.

I doubt anyone is explicitly making the leap to the implicit ad hominem point (6), but that’s moot because conservative Christians bought into the implicit ad hominem argument.

For them, (6) in the argument above cannot be correct, but it seems to follow from (5). It doesn’t. I disagree with their views, but the fact that the Duggars hold to those views does not make them wrong all by itself.

Conservative Christians know (5) isn’t correct because they share the Duggars’ views on sexuality, but (5) is where the implicit attack is.

5.b. I share the Duggars’ views about sexuality.
5.c. Therefore, my views about sexuality are skewed.

6.b. I share their opinions about sexuality (homosexuality in particular).
6.c. Therefore, my opinions about sexuality (homosexuality in particular) are wrong.

5.c. and 6.c. utterly and absolutely must not be true, but 5 (and, for the most part, 6) leap inevitably from (4).

4. Pedophilia is immoral sexual behavior, and anyone who does it or prevents those who do it from the consequences of those actions has skewed views on sexuality.

1-3 are impossible to reject, and (5) and (6) are the problems, so (4) absolutely must be stopped or otherwise gotten around. Which explains why the primary defense has so consistently been

“God forgives.”

“God Forgives” is an excellent defensive position to take. It offers a “special circumstances” argument to (4), (2) and (3). It places the sexual assault squarely in the past, and it gives a sort of “get out of jail free card” to their opinions about sexual morality.

It was wrong, but it’s forgiven. It uses the paradox of “not perfect; just forgiven” to both condemn Josh’s (and his family’s) actions and say that his and his family’s current (and past) opinions about sexuality are not skewed (and therefore 5b, 5c, 6b, and 6c are all wrong as well).


I’ll admit, there are few things so sweet as catching someone in hypocrisy who regularly offers self-righteous lectures about that very topic.

The bumper sticker truism of “not perfect; just forgiven” is a defense against that charge of hypocrisy, that “how dare you lecture us on morality when you do ____!

It’s why so many people were so delighted when the Catholic priest scandal came to light: because Catholics oppose abortion, birth control and sex out of wedlock. Pedophile priests allowed those who disagree with the Catholic church’s sexual mores to pull the moral high ground right out from under ’em.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Everybody with a moral opinion is vulnerable to this, no matter where they are on the political spectrum. If a progressive Christian blogger who disagreed with the Duggars about sexual ethics was in the exact same position as Josh Duggar, conservative Christians would throw him under the bus faster than you can say “God’s grace covers all sin.”

“See?” they’d say. “That blogger/speaker/author wasn’t a real Christian. Now we know why he defends gays: he’s a pedophile himself.” The ad hominem will easily go in either direction.

We could all go back and forth about forgiveness and grace, but ultimately, we’re more prone to extend forgiveness and grace to people who represent what we stand for. The Duggars are televised avatars for conservative Christians’ best selves.

The end result:

When conservative Christians defend the Duggars, ultimately, they aren’t defending the Duggars. They’re defending themselves.

David M Schell About David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.

Author: David M Schell

I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.

6 thoughts on “Why Conservative Christians Defend the Duggars”

  1. You’re right—reverse the political leanings and “progressives” do exactly the same. It’s gross no matter who thinks the perp is a hypocrite. It’s nice that God forgives, but most state laws do not. Thankfully.
    The thing no one wants to talk about is why anyone but Josh’s victim is threatened by his dumb-dumb actions. Why is he so many peoples’ Twitter entry? Why do so many think their personal brand will gain something by posting “progressive” and righteously indignant responses to a public idiot’s class 3 felony?
    I mean, Jesus, there were WAY more vicious sexual abuse instances this week in my city alone. Help those kids out, too, folks.
    “Progressive” doesn’t mean you find a reason to hate (the Duggars or whoever). It means you help the victims progress. Everyone wants to sell things to victims (or use them for a Tweet); no one wants to help them heal.

  2. It doesn’t matter what kind of Christians these people are. Josh Duggar committed a crime. Just because you believe you are ‘forgiven’ doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay a price for your crime. AKA: Arrest, trial, sentencing, and if applicable, prison time. Why Mr. Josh can spend several years in prison trying to convert all those wicked people.

      1. It’s been years since I was a crime reporter. There are *still* statutes of limitations on sex crimes?? Jesus.

        1. Also, I’m apparently too lazy to Google laws in Arkansas before I post an indignant half-assed comment.

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