Thursday, June 1, 2023

We Watched it for you: Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets



Let me start off by saying two things:  One, I have never watched a second of any of the Duggar shows or their spinoffs.  I had no interest in that and reality tv in general so the phenomenon of that show or that other show with the people who had a bunch of kids…. Kate Plus 8?  Or anything that was running on the so called Learning Channel.  Two, I would call myself a Christian and I came to know Jesus late in life( well into my 20’s) but I was not raised in church or would even think of calling myself a fundamentalist.  However, I know the basics tenets of the Bible and the history of Jesus.


Shiny Happy People is the story of the Duggar families rise and fall and how the corruption of the teachings of Jesus has led to hurt- physical, emotional, and finicial for those who grew up in that family as well as those who grew up in the faith that inspired them to have all them damn kids.  At the top of that is the patriarch- Jom Bob Duggar and his wife, Michelle.  These two parents, who were well into the ILBP( Institute of Basic Life Principles) and followed their tenets and their leader, Bill Gothard.  A story about a family with multiple kids, on the surface, seems to be just a whacky American story and it was filled with the "aw shucks" goodness but beneath the surface, the teachings of the church and how it was glossed over by The Learning Channel hid some terrible secrets of the church and the Duggars.


People are familiar with the Josh Duggar part- how he fell from grace in two big swoops.  First from admitting that he had molested his sisters and other young girls and then from being arrested, charged, and convicted of the possession of child pornography.  All damning stuff but this documentary looks into how the Duggars- right in the face of the people watching that show- were in a cult and presented that cult to the masses of their followers and fans and hid the abuse their son was committing, as well as the church that sponsored them.


The documentary has archival footage from all over the place but more importantly is has friends of Jim Bob Duggar and other family members, the most important of which is daughter Jill Duggar Dillard along with her husband Derek who give first hand account of what growing up in that environment and on televisions was like.  Since they were filming their lives for everyone to see for several years, there is so much video of their teachings that are and were suspect at the time but it was glossed over by mainstream media because: They were having another baby, or a special when one of the kids got married, etc.  Jill Dillard gives first hand account of all that and talks about how when she was molested by her brother, the family covered it up and made her and her sister go on Fox news( of course) to cover for their brother molesting them.  Its a sick story and abuse and manipulation under the guise of forgiveness and its heartbreaking.  This story, and others, are corroboated by family, cousins, police reports, and damning testimony from the Duggars themselves as to how they allowed Josh to molest these girls, get away with it legally, and be sent to Christian work camp as penace for it.


While Jim Bob and his wife are front and center, they are essentially usefel pawns of the ILBP and the cult leader Bill Gothard.  Countless witnesses come to speak about their growing up in that “church” and the abuses they received but also of how the church treated women and children as possessions that needed to be molded and trained into what Gothard believed women and children should be. Bibilical teachings were modified to fit their agenda which often lead to open abuse and feelings of guilty by those women and children who were lead to believe they somehow deserved this punichment for not being godly enough.  This “church” is not much different from other churches whose patriarchal stuctres often leads to abuse by the so-called men who are placed in positions of power.  And as almost always in these churches, there is a clear diversion away from Biblical teaching into the teachings of one man whose believes are not lined up with the Bible.  Gothards used these teachings and the Duggar’s to prostelize these beliefs to millions of people as they built their empire on the backs of their children.


As always, the root of these types of evil is money.  The Duggars continually pimped out their family for more and more money and The Learning Channel got their eager cut of the profits.  Once the money started to flow, the Duggars had more kids, married of their kids on TV for more money, and even the birth of their grandchildren for money- even when they kids did not want to do it.  Jim Bob signed his kids to one way contracts which prohibited them from earning money on their own outside of the Duggar umbrella and forced them into appearing on the show for fear of breaking their contract and being sued by their own father.


This is a 5 part documentary with each episode coming in under an hour.  I watched it in a day.  And while I loathe to see things like this, I do think its important for Christians to see this and to see how we wind up making idols out of so co called Christians and how doing so moves everyone involved further from God’s love and into a relationship with themselves and their love of money and power.


The Producer

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