Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Great Would THAT Be?

…if their home church, or some prominent national parachurch ministry like Focus on the Family, could reach out to Jon & Kate Gosselin and get their marriage back on a sound footing? Or, perhaps a good outcome would be for the Duggars to become a mentor couple for the Gosselins?

I've been watching the show for about a year. Having kids around the same age, I've enjoyed it. But I'm going to stop watching now. No more Jon & Kate. Why? Because it has become clear that the popularity of the show is feeding their marital problems. If I continue to contribute to their ratings, then I become a part of their problem. I just don't think that those of us watching can claim “innocent bystander” status.

TLC should (but won't) cancel the show now—immediately—or they bear some of the responsibility for damaging these children's lives. The Gosselins should refuse to tape any more shows as of right now, and perhaps good sense will overcome the love of the spotlight, and they will.

The deeper story is that the very complementarian Duggar family, strange as they must appear to American society, seem to have a strong marriage and are doing just fine. The much more “modern” Gosselin family appears to be in the midst of severe relationship trouble, with strong hints of divorce on last night's show and rampant allegations of infidelity. The Gosselins have experienced a role reversal in the past two years, with Kate going on the road to promote her newfound celebrity while Jon quit his job to stay at home and play Mr. Mom. The curt discussion of the arrangement between Jon & Kate on last night's episode clearly reveals how disastrous this role-swapping has been to their relationship.

Both the Duggars and the Gosselins make clear their church-going ways in their respective TV shows. On the line in the Gosselin saga is the question of whether Christianity has any answers for these sorts of problems. If the Gosselin family goes under, the clear message taken by a watching world will be that Christian marriages are no better suited to survive than are the marriages of those who do not know Christ. Indeed, this is the message that the world has already embraced not so much by looking at their TV screens as by looking up and down the block in their neighborhoods at the families in our churches.

The Bible does have answers for keeping a marriage healthy, and the Duggars are living out some of them in front of America through their own show. If they, or somebody else, could point the Gosselins to repentance, the granting of forgiveness, and the adoption of biblical priorities for their marriage, the wonderful message communicated would be that Christ has the power to turn people around from any unrighteousness. That kind of message does much to glorify God.

14 comments:

Baptist Theologue said...

Yep, I saw something about this on the morning news. My wife likes both shows, and I've occasionally watched them. This morning on TV, a body language expert was analyzing Jon and Kate. She said their body language was very bad. I guess there will be fascination with this new development, sort of like in the movie "The Truman Show." Life imitates art? Or art imitates life? Or is reality TV both life and art?

selahV said...

I'm living in the dark ages. Didn't know anything about either couple. Sorry to hear about any marriage falling apart. I have several folks in my real life I am praying for as their lives unravel because they are not putting Jesus first. My husband and I are a testimony of what Christ and following God's Word can do for a broken family. I will forever praise His name for all He has done in our lives. May people turn to Him today and let Him direct their course, change their attitudes and shape them through His precepts. selahV

selahV said...

Bart, I might add, that one of the things I admire about you, among many other things, is your deep interest in the welfare of children. It speaks volumes to me that you've adopted children who another did not keep.

Having been forsaken as a child, I know the value of a strong Christian home and am so very grateful for people like you and Tracey (sp?) who parent children as their own and bring them up with love and attention that exemplify God's goodness and mercy. selahV

Anonymous said...

I have not watched the show involving the Duggars. Don't know a thing about them.

I have caught some episodes of Jon& Kate plus 8 (or whatever it is called).

The first thing I noticed when watching the show was the 8 kids and all that goes along with that. My mouth was open in astonishment the entire time watching how difficult it must be to care for 8 kids who are all about the same age. Wow!

The second thing I noticed when watching the show was the oppressive attitude of Kate. Early on one could see that she had a very domineering spirit. She put down Jon a lot. Jon just appeared to be passive and noticeably detached during the discussions with Kate.

After I watched the first episode, I said to my wife, "How can that guy stand to be married to that woman? She addresses him and treats him like the 9th child."

I am not a bit surprised if Jon has gone elsewhere for female companionship, based on what I saw in the way they related.

But that is no excuse for his behavior. And Kate probably has one of the toughest jobs in the world. So if Jon is not pulling his weight, it's not surprising she treats him as a child.

I have no recommendations for this couple but stick it out. Maybe Kate can learn to treat her husband as a husband again, and not as a child. And maybe Jon can learn to be less passive and take responsibility and actually give Kate the support for which she is desperately crying out.

But it is a tough task. My hat is off to this couple for even getting this far.

I truly hope and pray that they may come to Christ, and that might give them an eternal hope and a present hope for a successful marriage.

Louis

Luke said...

Louis,

I've never watched the show myself but my 22 year old son was commenting to me about it and he said exactly what you are saying. And I am quite confident that your middle name isn't Bubba.

Bart,

My wish for them is the same as yours. No one profits when a home is broken.

Anonymous said...

Bart:
With all due respect, I'm concerned that you represent the Duggars as exemplary Christians. I'd suggest they should be identified as examples of a variety of American Christian Fundamentalism.

For example, I believe in one episode one of the parents stated they disagree that the earth is millions of years old. They subscribe to a young earth theory common among Christian Fundamentalists.

Another example is that the family apparently believes birth control is sinful.

Another example is the length of the women's hair.

Another is the fact that the women do not use make-up.

So to characterize this family as exemplary is problematic to those of us who do not think they represent a healthy and informed faith.

Bart Barber said...

Louis,

The Gosselins claim to be Christians. They have made that claim very publicly. That is one reason why I care about this.

Bart Barber said...

SelahV,

Thanks. You're perhaps the kindest person in blogging!

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

I do not know how believing in a young earth or wearing one's hair a certain way or having one or the other opinion about makeup would have any effect upon whether a family is or is not exemplary in their relationships as a family. Perhaps you could elaborate on the connection a bit, for I have missed it.

As to the birth control question, I can see how a family who regarded children as a gift from the Lord to be welcomed rather than a liability to be managed or avoided might have a better worldview for loving those children and for having a strong family. Certainly, people who do practice responsible, non-abortifacient birth control are also able to live in their families in an exemplary manner. But I cannot see how loving children and wanting more of them could be a disqualification for being an exemplary family. Again, you're going to have to explain to me how this is a negative strike against them.

Finally, although there's some Maybelline in our cabinet and the women in our household have hair cut above their shoulders, I think that the Duggars' idiosyncrasies prove that they are willing to let the whole world think that they are oddballs if that becomes necessary for them to do what they believe is right and godly. That kind of resistance to negative peer pressure is, IMHO, the thing most glaringly absent from the vast majority of the purportedly "healthy and informed" variants of American Christianity presently in practice, and I count it as an important asset in godly parenting.

RKSOKC66 said...

Bart:

Give us uninformed a brief idea of what these shows are.

Are they some type of "reality shows"? Are they scripted in Hollywood -- like sitcoms? Do they have voice overs or some type of "production" or are the shows just raw "surveylance camera" footage.

I watch so little TV that I don't have any idea of what you are describing. About the only thing I watch is Soccer Games and the Leher Newshour a few times a week.

What is the supposed "value" of these shows that would cause anyone to want to watch them.

Bart Barber said...

Roger:

“Jon & Kate Plus 8” chronicles the life of Jon and Kate Gosselin, parents of one set of twin girls and one set of sextuplets (both the result of advanced reproductive technologies). The Gosselins live in Pennsylvania. The show consists primarily of the Gosselins attempting to perform daily activities, go on vacations, etc., as a family so large and so young.

“18 Children and Counting” chronicles the life of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, parents of 18 children brought into this world one-at-a-time, the old fashioned way. The Duggars live in Northwest Arkansas, where Jim Bob works in the field of real estate. One of the sons is now married and, together with his new bride, is expecting his first child. Like “Jon & Kate”, the matter of the show primarily consists of watching the Duggars do things that many people do as a part of routine, but seeing how those activities change when a family consists of so many people.

The Gosselins, since their family has consisted entirely of younger children, tend to attract to their show those who are attempting to raise preschoolers themselves. If you find the lives of three-year-olds less than fascinating, you are likely to find “Jon & Kate” dull. If, on the other hand, you see wonder and mystery and joy there, then you might enjoy watching some of the material that has been generated in past seasons of “Jon & Kate”.

In contrast, I think that a good bit of the intrigue surrounding “18 Children and Counting” has to do with the differences made by the particular nuances of the Duggars' faith (see previous discussion in this thread). Thus, a series of episodes treated in detail Josh Duggar's engagement and marriage, which was non-traditional in many ways, including the fact that the couple's kiss at the end of the ceremony was their first. The mere size of their family is an obvious factor in the interest leading to their TV show, but I think most observers would acknowledge the differences in nuance that I have outlined here between the two shows.

Anonymous said...

Bart: I've responded below in parentheses.

You said:
I do not know how believing in a young earth or wearing one's hair a certain way or having one or the other opinion about makeup would have any effect upon whether a family is or is not exemplary in their relationships as a family. Perhaps you could elaborate on the connection a bit, for I have missed it.

(In your original post you suggest that the Duggar family should counsel the Gosselin family. You seem infatuated with the Duggars, saying they have used the Bible more faithfully than the Gosselin family. I would suggest that the Duggars' use of the Bible is problematic, wrought with a hermeneutic that smacks of legalism. The "young earth theory" represents one approach to the creation narative, but it certainly is not the only approach that may be found within conservative Christianity today, would you not agree? Do you hold Bishop Unsher's position that the earth is 6,000 years old? My issue is that we're mistaken to think that one's position on the date of the earth is important, but the Duggars DO make that position a dividing line within Christianity. They think the unrighteous believe in anything more than a 6,000 year old earth.)

As to the birth control question, I can see how a family who regarded children as a gift from the Lord to be welcomed rather than a liability to be managed or avoided might have a better worldview for loving those children and for having a strong family. Certainly, people who do practice responsible, non-abortifacient birth control are also able to live in their families in an exemplary manner. But I cannot see how loving children and wanting more of them could be a disqualification for being an exemplary family. Again, you're going to have to explain to me how this is a negative strike against them.

(Your position here too smacks of legalism to me. I hold that each of us is personally responsible to the Lord in this matter. How we follow him in the area of birth control certainly does not rise to the level of qualifying as a proper divider among Christians. You've elevated the Duggar family as exemplary, but I'd suggest they are following their own consciences before the Lord in this matter, and that if another family chooses to practice non-abortive birth control, then that is appropriate, if done in faith.)



Finally, although there's some Maybelline in our cabinet and the women in our household have hair cut above their shoulders, I think that the Duggars' idiosyncrasies prove that they are willing to let the whole world think that they are oddballs if that becomes necessary for them to do what they believe is right and godly. That kind of resistance to negative peer pressure is, IMHO, the thing most glaringly absent from the vast majority of the purportedly "healthy and informed" variants of American Christianity presently in practice, and I count it as an important asset in godly parenting.

(I think this your statements here indicate you probably agree with me, but don't want to admit it. Your wife doesn't do what the Duggar women do, which speaks volumes. I applaud your wife. I think the Duggars are legalistic about their appearance, and have chosen to be against culture (in Niebuhr's model) unwisely. The practical wisdom that your wife represents fits well with the NT. That good old adaptive notion of being all things to all men that so that we can win them comes to mind. The Duggars celebrate looking strange, and part of you seems to celebrate that strangeness, but you're inconsistent, knowing that the principle of adaptation (being all things to all men) grates against it.

Thanks for the chance to dialogue. God bless you and your family.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

I place the advantage to the Duggars over the Gosselins and commend them as mentors because:

1. Jim Bob Duggar is not out at bars carousing with single women, but Jon Gosselin apparently is.

2. The Duggars' marriage appears to be in no danger of soon ending, but the Gosselins' marriage (by their own statements) has an uncertain fate at this time.

Of course, I also mentioned the Gosselins' own home congregation as a counselor for them, and then Focus on the Family. I know of no good reason to suggest that these organizations are ideologically identical to the Duggars.

To find why I hold up the Duggars in this post, therefore, you need to ask yourself what the Duggars, Focus on the Family, and my presumptions about the Gosselins' home church would have in common. And here it is: I presume that they all would advise the Gosselins to put their marriage first, set aside the TV show and the book deals, and let's save this marriage!

Further in the text of the post, I've upheld complementarianism as superior to egalitarianism in marriage, showing specific tensions introduced into the Gosselin marriage (by their own testimonies) by their abandonment of a complementarian model. Not all complementarians are like the Duggars, but the Duggars appear to be complementarians.

Your statement about birth control seems to echo mine precisely. My point was simply that refusing to employ birth control does not make a family ineligible to be "exemplary." You retort that neither does practicing some responsible forms of birth control make a family ineligible to be "exemplary" (which, BTW, I explicitly also said in my reply to you). The only person in our conversation who has attempted to decry the "exemplariness" of a family on these grounds has been you, because the Duggars do not practice birth control. I thank you for retracting that statement and conceding the point.

As to strangeness, makeup, and hair: What I celebrate is neither strangeness for strangeness's sake nor adaptation in itself. Rather, I celebrate obedience for obedience's sake, and a concomitant willingness, for the sake of obedience, to be strange or adapted as obedience may make us.

The Duggars are only "legalists" in my book if they believe that those who wear makeup and short hair are outside the gospel. Can you show me where they have said so? If not, then there can only be two possible ways in which they differ from me.

First, it may be that they and we disagree as to whether the Bible commands us to eschew makeup and haircuts. This is the case with me. I can applaud their firm intention to be obedient, and I can hope that they would return the same, but I can just think that they need a better hermeneutic.

Second, it is possible that they and we could agree as to the content of the biblical commandments, but we could disagree as to whether we really ought to take that seriously what the Bible says. In which case the "legalist" is the person who just gets too caught up in trying to do what God has commanded us to do and hasn't learned to chill out and be a nice, average, normal Christian whose life has nothing in it offensive to pagan sensibilities.

The Duggars give every evidence of being a people who will follow the path of obedience wherever it goes, even if it makes them look to some people like a bunch of kooks. I HOPE AND PRAY THAT I AM EXACTLY LIKE THAT. I just think that they have misunderstood what obedience actually is.

Bart Barber said...

I thanked you, too, for the conversation, but then Blogger upbraided me for my comment being too long and required me to abridge it.