Written by Nika Mukherjee
…This was the words Josh Duggar’s wife used in the tweet and Instagram post she published, providing a link to her disgraced husband’s motion of acquittal. Just last year, Josh was found guilty of the possession of child sexual abuse material. Many had wondered whether Anna Duggar would stand by her husband or walk away from him. After all, they have seven children of their own, ranging from thirteen years of age to mere months old. Would she walk away, for the sake of her children, or stay, adamant that he is not a criminal?
But Anna Duggar’s breaking of silence was to defend her husband. It was to let the world know that she does not believe her husband is guilty of child sexual abuse material. More importantly, it was to let the world know that she upholds the values of her faith: to submit to and obey her husband and his authority.
Of course, the values she holds are not representative of all Christians. Christianity as a religion is multi-faceted, with several denominations, sets of values and practices. To suggest the Duggar’s are the gold standard for Christians would be simply untrue. What is more likely to be true is that Anna Duggar truly believes that the proper Christian thing to do is to stand by her husband. No matter the crime. If you are wondering how, or why, then I will present the perspectives of some voices popular among Anna Duggar and her circles.
See the words of Debi and Michael Pearl. The Pearls are best known for writing the book ‘To Train Up A Child’, a parenting manual that the Duggar’s relied on. The book is widely referred to as a child abuse manual, as it encourages quite shocking corporal punishment.
Anyway, they also provide marital advice.
From Debi Pearl’s ‘Created to Be His Helpmeet’:
If your husband ever sexually handles your children, call the authorities. Testify against him in court and pray that he gets at least twenty years in prison so that the children will be grown when he gets out. Visit him there and be an encouragement to him. Get him books and tapes on good Bible teaching, let him see the children three to four times a year in the prison visiting area.
And now, from a blog post written by Michael Pearl in their blog ‘No Greater Joy Ministries’. This particular quote refers to husbands who consume pornography or have been found to abuse children.
You must be willing to endure humiliation and to remain patient indefinitely. You must be willing for God to terminate your husband’s job and destroy him financially. You must be willing for him to go to jail. You must be willing to see him – the whole family – suffer humiliation. You must be willing to see your husband come down with a terrible disease.
Now, I present the words of popular ‘trad-wife’ Instagrammer, the Transformed Wife which is run by Lori Alexander. While the Duggar’s do not directly endorse the Transformed Wife, much of their values are the same, and the Transformed Wife has presented strong support for the Duggar’s in her written work. See her perspective on why Anna Duggar made the ‘Godly’ choice for staying with her husband:
God’s Word never states that divorce is a means of protecting the vulnerable. In fact, divorce was only given for hardened hearts. Anna’s heart is not hardened. She keeps eternity in her vision. She’s fighting for Josh’s eternal soul. It’s a spiritual battle. She understands this.
Women have won their disobedient husbands without the word by their godly behaviour. Carefully read 1 Peter 2 and 3.
No one guaranteed her of a safe and happy marriage. She obeyed God. She will reap many blessings. She will reap what she is sowing. This is an eternal principle. Josh wasn’t an “abusive” man.
It is likely that Anna Duggar is truly following these principles. Her father, Mike Keller described Anna and Josh’s wedding as:
The way God ordained it all, Josh becomes the authority at the wedding. He becomes her authority, not me, and that’s the way God designed the transfer of authority. And it’s a good design.
Similarly, Anna Duggar’s in-laws affirm this idea. Most famously, mother-in-law Michelle Duggar encouraged women to be ‘joyfully available’ to their husbands for sex, even if they are pregnant, tired or otherwise not feeling it.
So, what is the effect of these values?
Let’s be optimistic first. If you follow the idealised form of patriarchal hierarchy that these people encourage, the effect should be good, almost beautiful. The dutiful wife stays at home, tends to the home and home-schools her children. The industrious husband will provide for this family and do all he can to make sure that his family is supported financially and spiritually.
Now, let’s be practical. While this model may work with several families, it is not without its dangers. Under this model, husbands are the ultimate spiritual and familial authority. Women are not to disobey their husband and are expected to submit to their will no matter what. This is ideal for abusive and predatory men. Josh Duggar used this model to his benefit. Anna Duggar knew that her husband molested his young sisters, but she stood by him. When Josh Duggar was found to have been adulterous, she stood by him, quoting ‘til death do us part’. When Josh Duggar was found to have been possessing child sexual abuse material, Anna Duggar simply maintains what she has done this whole time, which is stand by him.
And she is not doing this empty-headedly. I would love to think she has no agency and no choice, but the beliefs she holds, the choices she made are genuine.
And unfortunately, Josh Duggar is not the only predatory man among these circles. In fact, his actions are simply one of many among their circles, in which there is a culture of protecting abusers.
In Part Two, we will deep dive into The Institute of Basic Life Principles, which forms the basis of the Duggar family’s interpretation of Biblical values. IBLP’s founder, Bill Gothard is no stranger to controversy, yet despite this IBLP still stands strong and is widely endorsed throughout fundamentalist Christian circles.