Shiny Happy People
Amazon released a documentary on the Duggars (think: TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting). It’s not a positive take on the family or on their approach to Christianity. Specifically, Amazon succeeds at painting a bad picture of the popular Bible teacher Bill Gothard. Those who are interviewed attest that he was abusive, manipulative, controlling, and predatory. The whole vibe I got from watching was that Gothard’s teaching was something of a mix between orthodox Christianity and a cult. Though he taught the Bible, Gothard also taught various forms of legalism. For instance, “modesty” was applied in a way that the Duggar women had to wear clothing that made them look like Pilgrims. Gals couldn’t wear pants, only long skirts that hit them at a certain point on their legs would do. Though much of the documentary I disagreed with and felt it to be unfair, I interpret its main point—the Duggars reliance upon Gothard’s teaching harmed people—as true.
Legalism is a nasty and harmful reality. It exchanges the truth of God for a lie that closely resembles the truth. We must resist legalism—the eradication of Christian freedom by prohibiting what God allows—while also preaching the importance of obedience to God’s Word. We must also resist groupthink. It seems that question-asking and critical thinking were banned in the Duggar household and in Gothard’s ministry. That’s bad. We must ask hard questions and allow others to ask hard questions. Not everyone has to think the same way. If you haven’t seen this documentary, you should watch it. Viewing it may be painful, especially if you’ve found Gothard’s teaching helpful, but I think there’s benefit to growing in our discernment.