The recent story of Joshua Duggar, and his 12-year-old sexual misconduct conviction, has ripped through the news. Now 27, Joshua admitted to unspecified inappropriate sexual behavior involving girls when he was 15, and this seems to coincide with an Arkansas State Police report from the same time (approximately 2006) involving “forcible molestation.” However, the police report, in order to protect the minors involved, has been heavily redacted, and now expunged, so names and details don’t show on the report.
As news of this reached TLC, they quickly pulled the plug on their hit show, 19 Kids and Counting, a reality program about the Duggar family, their faith in God and how they’ve raised 19 children. Because Christian culture is in the limelight, the fallout from this type of move is significant. There are some who feel TLC is persecuting this family because of their faith, even though TLC did something similar to the family show, Honey Boo Boo, when one of its main stars was allegedly dating a pedophile. Others are outraged by Joshua’s behavior, teenager or not, and think the punishment was fitting, even though Joshua already faced civil prosecution according to Arkansas law, sought counseling and offered help to his victims.
Let’s face it, there are no acceptable excuses for perpetrators of sexual abuse. Sex crimes carry with them severe long-term pain for the victims, and the monsters behind those crimes deserve severe punishment.
Personally, I think Joshua Duggar should rot for his crimes. And while I’m at it, so should you.
Maybe you’re not a confessed sexual abuser, but I’m sure you have a list of crimes (illegal or otherwise) that you should rot for, too. Let me know if any of these would register on your record:
Gossiping: I think there are few crimes more devastating, yet more acceptable, in our culture than Gossip. Gossip fuels rivalries, breaks up relationships, stirs distrust, ruins the workplace and splits churches faster than almost any other type of crime. We all hate it, yet most of us participate in it at some level.
Lying: A close cousin of Gossip, but far more deadly and deliberate. In gossip, I might spread an untruth but genuinely not know. “I heard it from so and so...” and spread it like bubonic. With a lie, I know what I’m saying isn’t true, and yet I share it anyway. Lies drove a young teenage cheerleader in Florida to take her own life last year. Lies have corrupted presidencies, destroyed pastors, landed people in jail, ruined marriages, split up families and started wars. Lying might be the most sinister crime of all (it was the first crime ever committed).
Power abuse: Have you ever abused your position of authority? Have you ever taken your frustration out on a child or spouse, a co-worker, employee or sub-contractor? In the Christian world, I’ve seen far too many pastors, elders, counselors, camp directors, association leaders, deacons, choir directors and ministry leaders who have misused their authority for their own gain. In the church, it’s usually veiled in a “I’m doing what’s best for the [insert cause/organizaiton/church here]” but most often reeks of personal gain. Outside the church walls, power abuse is a daily headline, from politicians to corrupt CEOs, from sports organizations to non-profit fundraising groups, where ever there is power and authority, there is the possibility that abuse is happening.
Lust: Here’s a crime that likes to sneak under the radar. Unlike the other three listed above, lust hides primarily in your thought life. Lust can camouflage itself in any environment, and can slowly release its venom for years. Decades. Sometimes called “Window shopping” or excused for “I look but I don’t touch,” lust corrupts the beauty of sex and turns it into a self-focused, self-pleasing experience. Lust turns other humans into objects, and fuels an industry for trafficked people around the world. Lust is not a victimless crime, yet we’re sold its virtues everyday online, on billboards and newspaper ads and television commercials.
I could go on, but I suspect that if you’re anything like me, I’ve already struck at something connected to you.
I don’t know the extent of Josh Duggar’s crimes, and neither do most of you. Right now, after reading hours of online stories and documents, the details of his offense are protected. His victims are, at this point, silent, and to the best of my knowledge, the legal, civil and spiritual consequences have been met. His crime is inexcusable, and his victims will live with his actions for the rest of their lives (as a pastor for almost 20 years, I’ve seen the devastating impact of this kind of personal violation), and he will bear the guilt, shame and, now, public disgrace as a result. What else should happen to him? I’m not sure I can answer that objectively.
Yet I wonder what would happen to you or me if our crimes were brought to light? What if your texts were broadcast to everyone, your browser history exposed on Facebook or your private conversations made public? What if your secret thoughts were televised nationally or your past indiscretions exposed on the evening news? What would we think about you? What would you think about me?
As I’ve read about the Duggar case I have come to at least three conclusions:
- All of us are guilty, it’s just that not all of us are exposed for our guilt. Romans 3:23 makes it plain that everyone commits crimes (legal or otherwise, the Bible calls these crimes, “sin”), and every crime is worthy of punishment. Josh’s “forced molestation” is heinous, just as your gossip, my lying, your power abuse and my lust are the vilest of offenses. Don’t down play your crimes because they are unknown or socially acceptable, own the fact that you are guilty, too.
- Admitting guilt is the hardest step, but it puts us on the best path. When news broke of Joshua Duggar’s crime, I admired this about his response: He owned it out of the gate (as far as I can tell), and accepted responsibility without a “but” (“I did it...but it wasn’t my fault...”). When’s the last time you looked at your list of crimes and owned them? When’s the last time you confessed them, even publicly (when appropriate), and began the process of restoration (when appropriate)? (Quick soap box: Restoration does not mean that a human relationship can be restored to its prior place. Restoration means that sin has been acknowledged, forgiveness has been granted, and offender and victim are restored to their right place with God. Consequences may continue, and the relationship may be forever changed, but restoration can still be a reality.) [end of soap box] You and I are only as sick as the secrets we keep, so admit your own crimes and begin the process toward health!
- God’s justice and mercy are compatible, and His grace surrounds both. It seems that many responses to this Duggar scandal have been either justice (“I hope he rots in prison!”) or mercy (“He did the right thing, we should all forgive him!”). The truth is, God is the ultimate example of both, and neither His mercy or justice trumps the other, and both are filtered through His grace. God perfectly gives us what we deserve (justice), yet because of His mercy (not giving us what we do deserve) we’re not all dead. Holy justice means God can’t look away from our sin, it must be punished, and that punishment is death here, and eternal separation in the next life. In the same vein however, God withholds the full brunt of His judgement (mercy), giving us what we need (grace) in order to be changed into the likeness of His Son. When I cry out for God’s full justice to be unloaded on anyone (the sex abuser, the gossip, the power abuser, the liar or the pervert), I should ask God to do the same to me; and falling headlong into the full wrath of God’s full justice is a horrible place to be.
At the end of the day I realize I want mercy and grace in my life. I mess up and I know I deserve God’s unshielded, unbiased judgement, and I sit here today thankful that He provides mercy and grace. No matter what I feel about Joshua Duggar’s crimes, I want the same for Him, too. Because if there’s no mercy for Josh, there’s no mercy for me. That doesn’t excuse his sin, and it doesn’t require the removal of legal, social or public punishment that may come with it, any more than it excuses my sin or removes the punishment due me. His story just brings to light that all of us are guilty, all of us are in God’s justice system, and all of us are doomed without God’s grace and mercy.
I hope the reports I’ve read about Joshua Duggar’s confession and restoration are correct. I hope his victims have found help and healing through counselors who point them to Christ, and true hope through God who loves and restores the brokenhearted. I pray that you, too, will find healing for the crimes that have been forged against you, and that you and I will be reminded of the crimes we’ve committed against others, and do our part to undo the harm we’ve perpetrated.
May we all live aware of God's justice, be thankful for His mercy and be distributors of His grace.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.