Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

No, this isn't a picture of a kindly couple who are offering foster care to a dozen kids in addition to their own five. It's not a picture of the founders of a charter school and all of their charges. It's a picture of one family: one mom, one dad, and their seventeen biological children.

I'll be honest, my initial reaction to the Duggars was one of slight revulsion. They are a deeply religious couple who decided that they would bear any number of children that God saw fit to give to them, citing the scripture, "Children are an heritage of the Lord." When I first heard about them, they already had fourteen children, all of whom have names beginning with the letter "J", and I thought that they had gone far too far. It just seemed gross, somehow. And so unhealthy for the woman who had borne a child every year for years. And those poor children! Homeschooled! Indoctrinated! Isolated! Wearing home-sewn clothes! But as the years have gone by and I've watched specials on the Duggars on the Discovery channel, read articles about them in online periodicals, and pored over their website (yes, I'll admit to a mild obsession), I've come to love the Duggars. If anyone is qualified to raise 18 children, Jim Bob and Michelle are. They are now expecting their 18th child. And I'm excited for them!

But the Duggars' belief that God is the distributer of children, a belief that is also promoted in the LDS faith, gives me a bit of an uncomfortable feeling. From my observations of the world, it would seem that children are distributed pretty randomly. An anecdote: My good friend Ressa recently moved into an apartment complex in Idaho Falls. She and her daughter were settling down one evening to watch a movie when a baby starting screaming outside their window. Ressa, thinking that the baby's mom was probably just letting the baby cry while she had a quick cigarette, ignored it. But the crying persisted, so she peeked out the window to see what the problem was. And sitting on the sidewalk outside her window were an 18-month-old and a 7-month-old, whom she recognized as the children of one of her neighbors. They were alone. So Ressa went outside and stood with the little ones, waiting to see if Mom or Dad would show up. She waited. No one came. So she took them inside, leaving her door open in case their parents came back, and gave them some cuddles and a little food. The littler one was covered in cuts and bruises and seemed really hungry. Her feet were bleeding. Both of the children were in very dirty diapers. Ressa finally called the police, who eventually found the two lost girls' mother passed out on the floor of her apartment, drug paraphernalia lying nearby. Police photographed the girls--their unchanged diapers, their injuries--and took them to Child Protective Services. But if I had to guess, they're probably back home with their parents now.
To further illustrate this issue, I'm including the following brief descriptions of the condition of children living in homes where meth is manufactured:

-The five children ranged in age from 1 to 7 years old. The one-bedroom home had no electricity or heat other than a gas stove with the oven door opened. Used hypodermic needles and dog feces littered areas of the residence where the children were found playing. Because there were no beds for the children, they slept with blankets underneath a small card table in the front room. The bathroom had sewage backed up in the tub, leaving no place for the children to bathe. A subsequent hospital exam revealed that all the children were infected with hepatitis C. The youngest was very ill. His liver was enlarged to the size of an adult’s. The children had needle marks on their feet, legs, hands, and arms from accidental contact with syringes.

-At another lab site, a 2-year-old child was discovered during a lab seizure. Her parents both abused and manufactured methamphetamine. She was found with open, seeping sores around her eyes and on her forehead that resembled a severe burn. The condition was diagnosed as repeated, untreated cockroach bites.

Source: Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice Planning, n.d., Multi-Agency Partnerships: Linking Drugs with Child Endangerment, Sacramento, CA, p. 9.

These are not isolated incidents. One pediatric website reports that 13% of children in the United States live in a home with a parent who abuses illegal drugs; another 24% live with one or more parents who drink heavily. And it's not just parents who abuse drugs: there are children living in homes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse is common. Some children witness one parent abusing the other; others are harmed themselves. Children in such dysfunctional households grow up feeling unloved, unimportant, and with a sense that life is meaningless. They don't understand how to function in normal society. They don't know what a healthy relationship looks like. They frequently begin a pattern of substance abuse early in life.

On the other hand, there are millions of healthy, loving, stable people who are unable to bring children into this world.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it seems to me that if God is distributing the children, He's doing an awfully poor job of it. If God is in charge of fertility, one would think that he would be tying off the fallopian tubes and vas deferens of people who won't love, care for, and teach their children, and sending dozens of children to those who will. But as such is not the case, I'm wary of any notions about children being "sent" by God. I kind of feel like they just happen. Because if they don't, I've got a bone to pick in the next life.


Holly said...

Oh my heart. I want to cuddle those little kiddies.

Jamie and Michael said...

Wow, that was heart-wrenching. Don't get mad, but I think the ugliness in life caused by our agency, is part of what makes life beautiful-- people are amazing, and the only way to see what the human spirit is truly capable of is to see people struggle. This is easy for me to say, however, because I have a pretty good life and a great family. It would be hard to explain to those neglected children. Still, I believe in God, and I believe there are reasons for things, even if that reason is simply agency.

Lindy said...

Okay, so I'm catching up. Me not writing on my own blog led to guilt about reading other people's.

Anyways, I have THE SAME bone to pick in heaven--the same cognitive dissonance (to put it mildly) about God being involved (or not) in fertility. I could never have articulated it as well as you did here though: beautiful.

In the end for me, it's linked back to the age-old question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and vice versa. I don't know why. I wish I did. But I hang on tightly to hope in the absolute loving-kindness and mercy of our Heavenly Father and Savior who will sort it all out in the end.

One of my old bishops told briefly of his experiences with disciplinary action with members of the church. He would think of a solution, and invariably the prompting would be "Be more merciful." When I think of people who struggle with way more than I'll probably ever have to in life, I think of those words and remember that we are in the thick of the ugly, unsorted middle stage of our eternal existence. I remind myself how powerful God is to heal and restore our spirits, and He really will be more merciful, esp. in the next life, to all his children, especially to those who have suffered seemingly unnecessarily. After all, that's what happened to Him.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...