When I first heard about this, I suspect that I was probably the least surprised person on the planet. Not that I treat it trivially; very much the opposite, in fact. A young life has been damaged, by the betrayal of not only her sibling, but her parents as well. That is reason enough to take it as seriously as hell.
But surprised? Not really.
I am a recovering evangelical Christian, recovering from both the ignorance and the hypocrisy that comes hand-in-hand with a belief system that claims a monopoly on truth itself. The ignorance is bad enough; you are, in order to buy into a cramped relief system, forced to withdraw from whole sectors of society that might be of more benefit to you, and to which you might bring some benefit as well. But the hypocrisy is perhaps worse. In evangelical Christianity, there is very little if any check on those in positions of power--ironic, perhaps, given the evangelical obsession with the fallen nature of humans and the like of true righteousness in all of us. Ironic, and, in the case of the Duggars' daughter, unbearably tragic.
Jim Bob Duggar is, I am sorry to say, fairly typical of the unquestioned patriarchy that controls the day-to-day lives of evangelicals. I'm the husband. I'm the father. I'm the provider and decision-maker for everyone. What I say and do goes. So says the Bible, and so say I. And woe to those who disagree with me. So, if I decide to have 19 children, well, God told me to be fruitful and multiply. And, if I decide to turn my oversized family into a reality show because I have no way otherwise to pay for it, well, that's just God's way of providing. And, if that means I can't give any of my 19-kids-and-counting the individual love and attention they deserve, well, God will provide some more.
It's precisely at this point, however, that the line is easily crossed between trusting God and trusting your own ability to discern God's will. Because, when circumstances start to become personally inconvenient, it becomes all to easy to use God as a cop-out for not accepting the responsibilities that go along with your power (to paraphrase Spider-Man's Uncle Ben). I don't have to change. God will provide, and anyone who says I need to make changes is just not trusting in God's will.
And, once that line is crossed, the person who has crossed is exposed with regard to his or her true ultimate motive: power. And all you have to do to see how Jim Bob crossed that line is to see how, in the middle of a U.S. Senate race where his family-values image was front-and-center, he handled--or rather, didn't handle--one child's cruelty toward another. To which he added his own cruelty of a cover-up, and worse.
This is why, I am sorry to say, social conservatives line up so easily with their counterparts in economic and foreign policy. Together, they are not about family values, or personal responsibility, or limited government, or even might making right. They are about might for might's sake--for their sake. They are all about power.
And it's time for the rest of us to stop them from abusing it. Before even one more child is betrayed.