As I watch people on social media comment on the Josh Duggar fiasco, one thing I keep going back to is Daniel Hood at the University of Tennessee.
Hood was a 13-year-old in Sullivan County in the early 2000s when he participated in the brutal rape of his 14-year-old cousin. Hood didn’t actually rape her, but he watched as a 17-year-old friend did and even helped duct-tape the girl’s wrists. A jury found him guilty in juvenile court.
Six years later, Lane Kiffin offered Hood a scholarship to play football at Tennessee — a move that athletics director Mike Hamilton signed off on.
There was compelling evidence that Hood should be given a chance by Tennessee. Knoxville Catholic High School had already given him a second chance, and he had earned a 3.8 GPA and a 27 on his ACT. He would go on to become a model student-athlete at Tennessee — never in trouble, never in the headlines.
In 2009, when Kiffin offered Hood a scholarship, many UT fans initially balked at the decision, but almost all of them gradually came around. Comments flooded the UT message boards that were along the lines of, “We all did things at 13 that we regret,” or “What he did as a child shouldn’t be held against him as an adult.” Fans embraced Hood with open arms.
As I read my social media feeds this week, some of my friends who I distinctly remember coming to Hood’s defense in 2009 are railing against Josh Duggar — he should never be allowed to work around children, they say. The Duggars’ show should be yanked by TLC. He and the rest of his family are hypocrites.
Duggar was 14 years old when he apparently fondled several underage girls — including his sisters — in 2002. His parents — Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — placed him in a treatment program and, from all indications, his behavior changed and was not repeated. His wife says he confessed what he had done to her two years before they were married.
In other words, it appears — from all outward indications — that Daniel Hood and Josh Duggar are a lot alike. They committed pretty horrific and inexcusable sexual crimes as young teenagers, but they also learned from their mistakes and earned second chances.
Except Duggar shouldn’t be afforded a second chance, if you believe some folks on social media, because he’s a Christian.
Well, they don’t say it in so many words, of course. But it’s apparent enough in the words they do say.
That isn’t to say that everyone has to be okay with what Duggar did. You don’t have to feel that TLC made a mistake in pulling the show and its reruns from the air, or that everything should be hunky-dory in light of these allegations.
But when I see specific people who I recall defending Daniel Hood now condemning Josh Duggar, I can only shake my head.
Truth is, many people in America despise the Duggars because of who they are and what they stand for, and they’ve been waiting for an opportunity to tear them down. And so the second chances and forgiveness that exists for secular America doesn’t exist for the Duggar family.
Again, that isn’t to say that everyone who is truly disturbed by these appoints is just looking for an opportunity to bash Christians. I know some Christians who have a real problem with what was learned about the Duggar family this week. But I think we can all agree that for some of those — and the number is perhaps significant — who are so vehemently critical of the Duggars right now, the family’s faith and their public stances on issues involving faith are a primary reason why.
And that’s sad. Not surprising; in fact, it should be expected. But sad still.
I’ve often said of folks who wind up on the wrong side of the law that mistakes don’t define character; it’s how we respond to them that defines our character. And, by all accounts, the Duggars responded to this in a way that positively defines their character.
The media has feigned disbelief that Jim Bob Duggar didn’t report his son’s transgressions to police, using words like “bombshell” and “shocking” and “disturbing” to express their dismay. But as social commentator Matt Walsh aptly points out:
I know I’m opening myself up to serious criticism here, but let me be honest with you: If my own son, God forbid, came to me and admitted to doing what Josh Duggar did, I don’t know that I’d immediately run to the cops.
Would you? Is it really that simple? The decision to have your child arrested as a sex offender would be an automatic thing for you? Really?
I guess I’m just a horrible person then.
I’ll admit that when I first read that Jim Bob Duggar didn’t notify police, my reaction was, “Whoa!” Then I thought about it. How many parents would go to police in situations like this, as opposed to trying to get help for their child in a manner that did not include law enforcement? None of us truly knows, as individuals, how we would react until we’re placed into a situation like that. But I think we can safely say that most parents — almost all, probably — would react the same way Jim Bob Duggar reacted.
That’s simply parental instinct. Once police are involved, the courts become involved. Josh Duggar would have been removed from the family, placed into state’s custody, and spent time in youth rehab facilities. (And, as a side note, teens who are placed in those facilities are often exposed to a criminal element that can lead them further down the path of self-destruction. Obviously that wasn’t the case for Daniel Hood, but it’s the case for too many juvenile offenders who wind up incarcerated and placed in programs intended to help rehabilitate them.)
I think most families would act in a manner to preserve their family and keep it intact, if they felt that was possible.
If young Duggar’s behavior had continued and more girls had been victimized because appropriate action was not taken to stop his behavior, I would be at the front of the pack in calling for the Duggar family to be wiped from any position of influence within American society. But that didn’t happen.
Many of those who are so critical of the Duggar family are tossing about words like “hypocrite,” scoffing at the entire Christian faith. Again, I turn to Walsh, who’s much better with words than I and, as is almost always the case, hit the nail squarely on the head with his thoughts on the situation:
A Christian failing to live up to his faith does not make him a hypocrite. It makes him cowardly, perhaps. It makes him selfish. It makes him flawed. It makes him sinful. It makes him any number of things, but not necessarily a hypocrite. A hypocrite is an insincere person who misrepresents his own beliefs. But saying that you believe something is wrong, only to turn around and do it, doesn’t prove that you never held that belief. It just proves that you were too weak to stand by it.
Actually, we don’t even know if Josh Duggar was a person of faith at the age of 14. (I’m sure that information is out there, but I’m too lazy to dig for it.) But assuming that he was, Walsh is exactly right when he points out that even though Duggar’s behavior was “horrendous” and “disturbing” and “evil,” Christians do make mistakes, “which is the whole reason why Jesus died on the cross.”
That doesn’t excuse what Josh Duggar did. It isn’t an attempt to minimize what he did. But let’s not forget that he was a 14-year-old when these things happened. There are a reason why juveniles are treated differently by our system of justice — because, as a general rule, we don’t want mistakes committed by our youth to define their entire lives.
While recidivism is quite high among sexual offenders as a general rule, research has also shown that the passage of time greatly reduces the risk of recidivism across all types of crime. That’s why, in most states, juvenile records are sealed. For all intent and purpose, it’s as if the crime they committed never occurred. Later, as an adult, when they’re asked by a potential employer at a job interview whether they have a criminal record, they can legally say no.
In America’s juvenile justice system, people aren’t supposed to be raked across the coals for offenses they committed as juveniles. Josh Duggar was never charged with a crime. Maybe he should’ve been, but that’s a different argument. Even if a secular Josh Duggar had been charged with a crime as a 14-year-old, the passage of 13 years without recidivism would be enough to make it okay in the minds of most Americans. Walsh points out several examples of celebrity types who have been excused in the court of public opinion for sexual-based offenses — and many of them occurred after those examples were adults.
So why is the sauce that’s good for the goose not also good for the gander? If anyone can come up with any logical reason other than “because the Duggars are a prominent Christian family,” I’m all ears.
Forget that the entire Duggar family is being raked over the coals for this, or that their show was canceled. The real tragedy here is that this father of several young children and a contributing member of our society has lost his job, probably had his life ruined, because of a double standard that exists within our society — a double standard that has roots in a growing hatred for Christians and Christianity.
Again, this isn’t an effort to excuse what Josh Duggar did. That sort of thing is inexcusable — for an adult or for a juvenile. As a father, I would be horrified to learn that my 14-year-old son did the things that Duggar apparently did. And, as a father, if I learned that my daughter had been molested by a 14-year-old, forgiveness is not a word you would ever hear me mutter. But forgiveness is one of the basic tenets of Christianity, and it’s hard to make a legitimate argument that what Josh Duggar did delegitimatizes his testimony…let alone the testimony of his father and the rest of his family.
Josh Duggar should not be treated differently than anyone else in a comparable situation because he’s a Christian or a member of a prominent Christian family. Just from my personal social media feed, I think it’s safe to say that he has been.