Axiom No. 1: Instances of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy, conservative Protestants, the military, and police agencies tell us a great deal about the dysfunctional culture of those communities and institutions, and suggest avenues of reform. Axiom No. 2: Instances of sexual abuse involving elite New York City schools, Upper East Side synagogues, 500 teachers every year overwhelmingly employed at public schools, trendy yoga factions, the homes of the children of artsy millionaires, etc., tell us basically nothing.
I must confess that until the recent coverage of Josh Duggar’s child-molestation confession — as a teenager, he had fondled several children, including his sisters, mostly as they slept — I had never heard of the Duggars. I am informed that they are superstars among the Christian Right, but their celebrity apparently had not penetrated those corners of the Christian Right in which I am active.
This is not entirely surprising: The media adore tales of the exotic, and I have read about fundamentalist Christian specimens ranging from the Quiverfull movement (more on that in a bit) to adherents of Dominion Theology (an openly theocratic Christian movement) and Christian Reconstructionism; in the Catholic world, Opus Dei had a brief moment of notoriety related to Dan Brown’s religiously illiterate (and generally illiterate) The Da Vinci Code. But I have rarely if ever encountered any of these beasties in the real world of the Christian Right — I know a few Opus Dei members, and I encountered a bit of white-supremacist Christian Identity posturing while working with former prisoners some years ago. The one genuine Dominionist of any consequence ever to cross my path was indeed politically active: He was an enthusiastic funder of environmental causes.
When I was teaching at the King’s College, a Christian institution in New York, some of the students came from families that placed an intense emphasis on modesty — a flier on the school’s business-ready dress code amusingly counseled students against dressing like characters from Little House on the Prairie — but I have to date never heard the word “Quiverfull” uttered anywhere outside dire warnings about this atavistic movement whose members are, in my experience, practically nowhere to be found.
But don’t tell that to, e.g., Amanda Marcotte of Slate, Jennifer Martin of Gawker, or Wende Benner at Raw Story. Marcotte, in a recent piece attempting to use the Josh Duggar case to slur Republicans, insisted that the Duggars are “part of a far-right Quiverfull slice of the already far-right cult of Christian patriarchy.” Benner charges that the Duggars are immersed in Quiverfull and therefore courting the “traumas brought about by that dysfunctional culture.” Martin reports as fact that the Duggars are “followers of a particularly scary fundamentalist sect known as the Quiverfull movement.” The Duggars themselves insist that they are no such thing — they specifically deny that they are associated with Quiverfull. They do this in language that is as plain as can be: “Even though Wikipedia and some Internet blogs report that we are part of a Quiverfull movement, we are not.” As of this writing, neither Slate nor Gawker nor Raw Story has issued any correction or explanation of this apparent contradiction — but, really, why would they? The presence of an always emerging but never quite emerged, just-under-the-radar Christian Taliban is an article of faith for the Left. And when the facts don’t support an article of faith, the easiest thing to do is to invent new facts.
Philosophy matters: The Platonists argued that there is a “unity of virtues,” which is to say that every virtue is necessarily compatible with every other virtue, that understood with sufficient intelligence and enlightenment there is no conflict between the desire to exact justice and the desire to show mercy. The Left believes in a unity of virtues and in a unity of evils, too, insisting that every evil is a part of every other evil. Thus we are treated to hilarious denunciations of the purported “corporate theocracy” that secretly runs the United States, as though the jackbooted stormtroopers of Chick-fil-A were training in secret camps outside Colorado Springs. It’s a simple syllogism: “Child molestation is evil, Christian fundamentalists are evil, ergo Christian fundamentalists are child molesters,” or at the very least apt to encourage them, Team Evil being resolute in its single purpose.
If Josh Duggar’s offenses were intimately related to the patriarchal culture of conservative Christianity, what are we to make of the bacchanal of child sex abuse in the woman-dominated public schools?
At the height of the Catholic sex-abuse controversy, progressives argued that clerical abuse of minors was rooted in one of two things: either celibacy or the all-male priesthood and the male-dominated structure of the curia. But obvious counterexamples leap to mind: Howard Nevison was a Jewish cantor, not a Catholic priest; he was not celibate, but married. He was nonetheless convicted of sexually abusing his nephew. The world of the public schools is not male-dominated; if anything, the opposite is the case: The overwhelming majority of public-school teachers are female, and the majority of public-school principals are female. Nonetheless, thousands of public-school teachers, mostly female, were found to have engaged in sexual misconduct over one five-year period, and a string of female teachers have been convicted of statutory rape and related charges for having sexual relations with children in their care.
If it is the case, as the feminists charge, that Josh Duggar’s offenses were intimately related to the patriarchal culture of conservative Christianity, what are we to make of the bacchanal of child sex abuse in the woman-dominated public schools? If it is the case that celibacy leads to pederasty, what are we to make of the fact that men bound by vows of celibacy represent a vanishingly small portion — far less than 1 percent — of the men who sexually abuse children, or that the most common abusers of children are male non-relatives (stepfathers, stepbrothers, live-in mates) resident in the home, who in many cases are not only non-celibate but engaged in sexual relations with their victims’ mothers or other women in the household?
The instinct at work here is the same as that animating the Left’s ghoulish habit of sending out gun-control press releases on the occasion of every dramatic murder even before the blood is congealed. For the progressive, a crime cannot be a crime: A crime must be a soapbox.
While Christians may believe that sin can be forgiven, only the foolish believe that there exists a vaccine against it.
Not every large family is a family in thrall to one of the sundry do-it-yourself theologies that characterize that remarkably entrepreneurial current of Christianity within American Protestantism. We have, of course, been through this before: During the period of massive immigration from Ireland and other Catholic countries, American progressives and the Ku Klux Klan (the distinction was not strong at the time) stigmatized large minority-group families as a dysgenic threat to the “great races,” argued that the large immigrant family was a sign of cultural backwardness imported from Ireland or Poland or Ukraine (Jewish immigrants also tended to have large families), with Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger pithily summing up the prevailing progressive view: “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
Progressives hated unpopular religious minorities with large families in the 19th century, and progressives hate unpopular religious minorities with large families in the 21st century — there is, in reality, precious little progress in progressivism.
What do the crimes of Josh Duggar tell us about cultural conservatism or traditionalist Christianity? More or less the same thing as the crimes of the public-school teachers, day-care workers, Jewish cantors, diverse stepfathers, or Pakistani immigrants in the United Kingdom: That while Christians may believe that sin can be forgiven, only the foolish believe that there exists a vaccine against it.