“…You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” ~ Matthew 23:27-28
So just in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, Josh Duggar molested several young women as a teen, including his own sisters, all while being a star on a national T.V. show. The Duggar’s are often touted as a model Christian family for their squeaky clean image, which includes “traditional” family values and waiting until marriage to share a kiss. However, this scandal points to the Duggar’s being much like the white washed tombs that Jesus talked about in the book of Matthew: beautiful and pristine on the outside, but full of hypocrisy and wickedness just underneath the surface.
Now, this is not about to be a rant about the Duggar’s or how disgusting it is that they knew of the molestation but did little to protect their daughters or their purity that they placed such a high value on. I’m not going to spend the rest of my time talking about how I think the money train that TLC was chugging into their bank accounts was more important to them than protecting their own children. The heinous acts committed by John Duggar and his parents run far deeper than that family and their show. While there’s so much attention placed on the Duggar family, this is, by no means, an isolated incident. It just happens to catch our attention because of the pedestal they’ve been placed on by TLC and the Christians that have gushed over their lifestyle. Incest and sexual abuse happen in far more households than the Duggar’s. And John Duggar is not the first one to lean on Jesus to excuse himself of despicable sexual deviancy. The issue that is really at hand is an issue that Christians all over this nation need to be addressing right now.
The Church has deep issues with sex, sexuality and sexual abuse. The reason we have issues with almost anything surrounding sex, is because sex generally is not something that concerns one’s outward appearance. Sexual sin, in particular, can be hidden in the dark as a relative creeps into a child’s room at night. It can be concealed by secret trips to hotel rooms that a pastor makes with a vulnerable congregant. It can be hushed by the shame of the girl too afraid to admit that she’s been raped for fear of being told she brought it on herself for not remaining “pure.” Issues surrounding sexuality rarely get addressed in the church, unless it’s obviously apparent on the outside. And let’s just be real about it. We avoid talking about sex, because too many of us are concerned with maintaining outward appearances. Too many of us are comfortable with our lives, families and churches being filled with dead bones as long as it doesn’t look that way on the outside.
Before we get so focused on why the Duggar family handled sexual abuse in the way that they did, let’s ask ourselves why so many of us, as Christians, get so fixated over the outward appearance of people, with little to no regard over what is going on within? Because this isn’t just a Duggar family issue, this is a Church issue. This is a major issue within the body of Christ. How is it that we can be so comfortable with condemning those who openly live a homosexual lifestyle, yet remain silent about those who quietly molest children behind closed doors? How can we be so quick to talk about and “sit down” girls that get pregnant out of wedlock, but slow to address the fact that many girls who act out sexually at young ages do so because they’ve been sexually abused as a child? We love to preach the purity culture to our teens but say nothing about purity to clergy who abuse their positions to sexually exploit male and female members. We have no problem telling young women to dress modestly and act like Proverbs 31 women, yet conveniently forget to mention that 1 out of 3 of them will be a victim of rape, incest or molestation by the time they turn 18, regardless of how they dress or act. We are so busy power washing the outside of the tombs we call churches, that we can’t even see that our pews are full of the bones of countless sexual assault victims each and every Sunday. We’re so busy polishing off the outisde that we don’t see the filth of the perpetrators who sit along side us in the pews, choir stands and pulpits, often using the church as a way to target victims and cover up their tracks.
So before the turn our noses too far up at the Duggar’s, let’s take a glance in the mirror. Let’s take a look into our lives, our family dynamics, and our church culture. How many of us have defended wrong-doers, because of their “Christian” appearance? How many of us have stood up for pastors facing allegations of sexual abuse, simply because they are “men/women of God,” without hearing out the victim? How many of us get so hype about people who look the part and act the part, that we aren’t using our God-given wisdom and discernment to know when something isn’t quite right in our own families and churches? The Duggar’s aren’t the only ones that need to be checked on their disgusting behavior. They aren’t the only ones that need to sweep out their tombs and get ride of their hypocrisy and wickedness. Many of us need to take look inside our own tombs and start cleaning house. You know, I think it’s fitting that the Duggar scandal came out so close to Pentecost. It’s time to stop defending the perpetrators of heinous acts, even if they happen to be your favorite pastor or reality T.V. star. It’s time to stop patting ourselves on the back and thinking we’ve adequately addressed sexuality, by telling kids to remain pure and not be gay. It’s time to stop feeling good for preaching a sliver of the Gospel when it comes to sexual sin, while leaving out the parts that makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s time to stop using Christ and His forgiveness as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for sick individuals that cause lifelong damage to those that they abuse, while shaming and silencing victims. The Cross is a place of refuge for the hurting and the broken, not a hiding place for sexual predators. It’s time for the Church to start doing the dirty work of cleaning the filth that we’ve allowed to fill our sanctuaries surrounding sex and sexual abuse.
The Duggar’s are just one example of the problem that far too many Christians have surrounding sexuality and sexual abuse. It’s beyond time for us to start having these hard and uncomfortable conversations about sexual abuse and sexuality. It’s time to heavily examine what sexual sins we decide are important enough to preach from the pulpit and teach on Wednesday night Bible study. It’s time to start offering trained counseling and resources to the many victims of sexual abuse that sit with the hurt and pain of the trauma they’ve faced week. It’s time to finally start allowing the church to be a place of healing and restoration for those broken by sexual abuse.