January 7, 2015
So I understand that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, after “challenging” married couples to “take a happily married picture and post it” on their Facebook page, have now removed photos shared by gay married couples. Apparently, this “challenge” came as the result of some raised eyebrows following a photo posted by their newly-married daughter, Jessa, on her Instagram account showing her and her new husband (the one she famously was not allowed to kiss, and was only permitted to “side-hug,” prior to their nuptials) locked in a steamy embrace (okay, it was actually a pretty tame, and, frankly, sort of awkward, closed-mouth smooch). Because of the internet, this has now become a bit of a thing, which I suppose I am only serving to perpetuate by posting this blog, which is something worth thinking about—later, that is, after I’ve said what I have to say about this particular issue.
As an initial matter, the Duggars certainly have a right control the content of their Facebook page, and the rest of us are free to support or oppose their words and viewpoints, or (perhaps the better choice) to simply ignore them altogether. After all, I’m not sure that any of us gain very much from paying too much attention to reality television stars whose fame is premised entirely upon the fact that they’ve been very successful at procreating.
As well, since I’ve watched their television program for a grand total of about fifteen minutes, I’m not sure I feel qualified to render an informed opinion about who the Duggars are or what they stand for. From what I did see, however, Michelle and Jim Bob seem to be loving, caring parents who have taken full economic responsibility for their many offspring and live within their means by making careful financial decisions and doing themselves what many of us hire other people to do. (It doesn’t hurt, of course, that they are featured on a wildly popular television show, the earnings from which probably go a long way towards feeding and clothing those nineteen children). They also seem to have raised thoughtful, creative, kind children who appear to be well-adjusted and happily help in the work of running a large, busy household (and who each also play a stringed instrument). Perhaps somewhere down the road one of the kids will pen a “Mommy/Daddy Dearest” sort of tome, and we’ll learn that things weren’t so rosy in the Duggar household after all; from what I can tell from my admittedly limited knowledge on this point, however, the Duggars seem to be making it work and setting an example of a close, loving family that is a sort of refreshing thing in today’s world where it seems that every time I log onto Huffington Post, I read about some man killing his pregnant wife or some mother leaving a newborn in dumpster.
But now the Duggars have officially expressed their opposition as to gay marriage (which I guess anyone with half a brain could probably have anticipated), and in support of that stance have offered the following from Rick Warren: “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. Second is that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
I agree with Rick Warren, whomever he is, and I don’t fear or hate the Duggars simply because they have (not surprisingly) espoused a position I find repugnant, nor do I believe that they should be pressured by anyone to change that position. Perhaps we should even congratulate the Duggars for remaining strong in their convictions, even though I doubt they will be faced with much opposition within what I gather is a fairly tight-knit, like-minded community, such that it’s probably not all that difficult or brave for them to promulgate their beliefs. It would probably have been a lot more difficult, and would have required a lot more bravery, for them to have joyfully accepted and welcomed gay couples in their celebration of married love, but anyone who is surprised that they didn’t is sort of naïve, and to get too riled up about their behavior is kind of stupid, not to mention a waste of time, since in the history of the internet, I don’t know of a single instance in which someone read an viewpoint contrary to their own, considered it, and then said, “maybe I should rethink my position on this one.” Instead, it seems we do just the opposite by figuratively sticking our fingers in our ears and running around the back yard shouting, “I can’t HEAR you” like a three-year-old. That’s pretty much where we’ve evolved in the age of the world wide web.
Neither do I believe, moreover, that loving someone means you have to agree with everything they believe or do (just ask my husband), and I suppose this statement is encouraging, because it suggests that the Duggars do in fact love all gay people despite their gayness. I suppose this is something of an improvement on groups who just flat-out, and unabashedly, hate gay people and are proud of it (Westboro Baptist Church, I’m talking about you), even though the “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude is just a tad bit condescending, communicating, as it does, “I’ll love you even though you’re defective.” I’m just not sure that it’s terribly “compassionate” to exclude an entire segment of society from your Facebook page celebrating happy marriages in order that your “convictions” remain uncompromised, but, then, I guess that pretty much sums up what’s been going on in our country since, like, forever.
As I noted above, the Duggars’ position on the issue of marriage equality is hardly surprising, but I find myself disappointed nonetheless. I’m not a religious person, but I do have tremendous respect for people whose lives are a testament to integrity, honesty, kindness, and love in the name of their faith. My mother- and father-in-law are such people, and so are the Duggars, I think, and so I guess I would have hoped that when they saw the photos of gay couples on their website, even if those photos made them uncomfortable, they would have celebrated the love they saw as worth celebrating. I would have hoped this especially given how blessed Michelle and Jim Bob have been by the recent marriages of two lovely daughters whose weddings were showcased in People magazine as the joyful celebrations all married couples hope to experience on their wedding day, but which are still denied to same-sex couples in about a third of our United States. It would have been so wonderfully inspiring if Michelle and Jim Bob had just left those pictures on their Facebook page for everyone to see, and if anyone said a word about it, would have urged their critics to embrace their brothers and sisters in Christ, or Allah, or Mohammad, or Zoroaster, or whomever, and say, “there are two people who are trying to make it work. Isn’t that great.”
I guess I was overly optimistic, and if I’m disappointed by people to whom no one would pay any attention if they’d had only two kids, instead of 19, then that’s on me, and I’m an idiot. And who knows; with nineteen children, the oldest of whom are already at work on creating their own double-digit families, there’s bound to be at least one child or grandchild who’s gay, and perhaps that child or grandchild will be the impetus for some soul-searching and an opportunity to rethink the party line.
I don’t think Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are monsters, I don’t think they’re hateful, and I have a feeling if I met them, I’d like them just fine. But I would have liked them better, and respected them more, if they’d been able to tolerate a harmless picture of a same-sex married couple on their Facebook page. Since they didn’t, I’d like to invite any married couple—gay or straight—to post their “happily married picture” on mine.