The Duggars Should've Never Had a Show

Climbing the ladder of leadership may have gotten easier, but a fall is no less devastating.

On May 19, 2015, In Touch magazine published an exclusive report that Josh Duggar, eldest son of 19 Kids and Counting's Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, had been named in an underage sexual abuse probe. Further reports and interviews confirmed that Josh had sexually molested five girls, including two of his own sisters, when he was a young teenager.

Just last week, the show's network decided to cancel the show after airing ten seasons. But as far as I'm concerned, the cancellation is about ten seasons too late.

Enough has already been said about how the Duggars handled the discovery of their son's abuse. From the year it took them to report it to the delay of professional help for Josh, many have been calling for the show's cancellation because the convoluted timeline smacks of a cover-up.

However, I can't fall in line with the rest of the critics who've never had a child molest one of their other children. I honestly don't know what I'd do.

It's hard to imagine that my parental defense mode wouldn't switch into overdrive and bring an abrupt end to all rational thought. No sane parent wants to expose their kids' shame. And while I won't say that abusers and victims should be treated the same, in this case, they would both be my children.

I try to avoid pulling this card, but if you're not a parent, you might not be able to understand that. The love of a parent for their child is an involuntary kind incomparable to any other human relationship. And nothing can warp our principles faster than the power of love.

That being said, I still don't think they should've ever had a show. And I think that because the Duggars didn't meet the Bible's qualifications for elders.

No, Jim Bob isn't a pastor; he's a real estate agent. And as far as I can tell, none of the Duggars have served as a formal elder in a church. Besides, you don't have to be an elder to be a TV personality. But if you're perceived as a spokesperson for Christianity, then the qualifications for elders apply to you.

Throughout most of its history, the church has appointed its leaders. As early as Acts 6, we find this precedent set when the first church was already suffering from infighting over food distribution. The modern church largely continued in this tradition with most denominations either appointing or electing their leaders.

Then, in the twentieth century, the definition of a leader began to change. With the help of radio and television, the individual's sphere of influence grew exponentially. Whereas church elders were appointed to minister to a limited and relatively small number of people, celebrities could reach virtually everyone on the planet.

Society continues to argue about how much responsibility being a celebrity carries (especially as scandals never cease to disappoint devoted fans). But it can't be ignored that regardless of whether they want to be leaders, people follow them.

Thus, the basis for leadership has shifted from position to platform. No one has to be told to follow a celebrity; they're followed by virtue of being in the public eye. And for this reason, the Duggars were leaders simply by being reality TV stars. And they were Christian leaders by making their faith a focal point of the show.

Looking, then, at the qualifications for elders, the Duggars failed on two points: at least one of their kids was disobedient and their family's reputation with those outside the church was consequently shattered. These standards might seem unreasonable and unattainable, but the point is that the leader be above reproach or blameless (as both lists of qualifications begin).

By not coming clean about their son before the show started, they disqualified themselves from having a platform. It probably sounds heartless to expect such complete transparency, but that's called leadership. It demands full disclosure because scandal thrives on the pursuit of privacy.

It's not for everyone; leadership is a choice. And for some the cost is too high--like exposing one's children to public disgrace. In that case, it would be better to decline the opportunity to star in a TV show. Because accepting the responsibility of a leader means accepting the risks.

The risk is a choice for all of us. Ever since the dawn of the internet, leadership has been within anyone's grasp. Even this blog reaches more people per week than the average pastor on Sunday. If you have something to hide, think twice before sharing your thoughts with a few hundred "friends." The only guarantee that leaders have is that whatever they have to hide will eventually be discovered.


photo credit: red carpet via photopin (license)

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