By now you have likely heard the tragic news of the Josh Duggar scandal. Here’s a quick recap: The eldest son of the Duggar family, the stars of TLC’s television series “19 Kids and Counting,” has admitted to sexually abusing several younger sisters and other children as a teenager. As news of the scandal broke from media outlets, some Christians have been quick to come to Josh’s defense. I am disturbed by this, not because Josh is undeserving of compassion and help, but because those who are so quick to offer him grace and forgiveness are the same ones so quick to condemn the LGBTQ community. Here are four double standards that need to be addressed in the midst of this scandal:
1. Until his resignation this week, Josh served as Executive Director of Family Research Council Action, a group lobbying against the rights of LGBTQ persons and women. The Duggar family has also been actively involved in campaigns working to prohibit transgender persons from using the correct restrooms, with the claim that sexual predators would endanger the safety of young children in public restrooms. DOUBLE STANDARD #1: Comparing the LGBTQ community with sexual predators, when in fact they have been hiding the secret that Josh Duggar had sexually harmed young girls.
2. Members of the Christian community that have been vocally supportive of Josh in the midst of this scandal use the reasoning that everyone sins, but that he has repented and turned from his sinful ways, and now deserves forgiveness. DOUBLE STANDARD #2: The grace being offered to Josh has not been offered to the LGBTQ community. Instead, the people offering grace and forgiveness to Josh are the same ones condemning the LGBTQ community and actively working to pass laws based on the lie that we are harmful to society. While we don’t need to be forgiven for being queer, it reveals much about the heart of the theological agenda – it shows us that their definition of grace is not about radical love, but about affirming the worthiness of those who fit their worldview.
3. Why aren’t the people who affirm Josh asking about the root causes of his sinful behavior? As a gay person, I have been put under the microscope with a bombardment of questions from the same community supporting Josh. I have been asked countless times about why I am attracted to women, which is not a sin, with the inference that something must have caused me to be gay. Nothing caused us to be LGBTQ. It’s called an orientation or identity, and it harms no one. DOUBLE STANDARD #3: I don’t hear those same persons asking Josh what caused him to sexually harm young girls. Rather than put the LGBTQ community under scrutiny when we commit no crimes, people should be asking questions when a crime like this is committed. What led a young Josh to the place where he committed this violence? Was he himself a victim of sexual abuse? Was the oppressive environment laden with purity culture harmful to Josh? While there is absolutely no excuse or justification for his behavior, it is important to ask these questions so we can begin to get to the root causes of violence and break cycles that cause harm.
4. One of the common threads I have heard from Josh’s supporters in response to this scandal is that Josh should immediately be offered grace because God sees all sins as equal. DOUBLE STANDARD #4: I can’t think of anything more harmful and destructive to the women and men whose lives have been torn apart by sexual violence than to minimize their suffering with this garbage. This logic infers that if a child steals a candy bar from the store, it is equivalent to Josh Duggar sneaking into a bedroom at night and forcibly molesting his younger sisters. These are NOT the same, as one causes deep suffering in the life of the survivor, while the other costs the store owner a couple bucks. What this ideology essentially does is wipe away the stories of victims, putting the focus on Josh as an ordinary sinner, making sexual violence ordinary and dismissible, when it should be causing outrage and leading us to promote healing. Little attention has been given to the young victims of this crime. Our attention should be directed to survivors of sexual violence, leading us to ask deeper questions about how we support them and help them heal. If you are a survivor of sexual violence, there is hope for you, in the midst of a world that often seeks to wipe away your story.
We need to take a deeper look at the double standards perpetuated through harmful theology, that wound the souls of survivors without accountability for the aggressor. My hope is that we can one day live in a world that doesn’t seek to sweep victims of sexual abuse, homophobia, and transphobia under a rug to be forgotten, but rather graciously opens its arms wide to make a space for their stories, their healing, and their empowerment.