A few weeks ago, I saw a headline that read: “Josh Duggar faces child porn charges.”
Instantly, I was intrigued.
Growing up, my family watched 19 kids and counting almost weekly. The Duggar family appeared to be a great example of how to handle personal life with grace. They spoke of Jesus, prayed, and seem to have a great family dynamic. The show remained wholesome and they appeared picture-perfect.
But pictures are said to be worth a thousand words, and in 2015 this family’s perfection shattered when the world learned a dark secret. In his younger years, the oldest son, Josh, had inappropriately touched four of his sisters as well as another girl. Shortly after the abuse happened, Josh confessed to his parents and committed the act two more times within the year. Jim Bob and Michelle sent him to a training camp for boys who had made bad choices. Later, the parents took him to “talk” to a police officer (a family friend) who recorded the report, but no charges were made against him.
He was given grace.
This particular incident was the first thing I recalled when I saw his unapologetic mugshot across social media weeks ago. However, I did not expect the charge of having the “worst of the worst” images of child porn on his laptop. He is charged with having 200+ images of children ages 18 months to 12-years-old, the same ages as his six children.
“Two hundred images.” “Eighteen months old.” “Same age as his children.”
These words swirled in my brain as I tried to make sense of what I was reading, yet, I couldn’t. After pleading “not guilty,” Duggar was released on bail and still given the right to see his children with his wife’s supervision.
He received grace again.
I do not know how his trial will end, but if we look at the evidence we’ve already seen, it is apparent that he was granted grace in each of these horrible instances. The question is, was it the right choice?
As believers, we know that God is gracious and forgiving. But in this situation, my heart goes out to the individuals affected by Josh’s actions. What about the hundreds of little children being abused on his computer screen? Where is their grace?
In this particular case, Josh had allegedly flooded his computer with videos of children being raped, tortured, and molested. And when it comes to hurting children, Jesus has some strong words:
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
But Josh Duggar’s addiction proves one thing more than the rest: sexual addictions are just as likely to happen from a church pew as they are in hedonistic lifestyles, and when it comes to addressing it, the church is dumbfounded.
Josh did not commit these crimes within the church, but he was a member. If the church would have been aware of the horrible issue of pornography and sexual abuse, I wonder if this could have been stopped. Many are unaware of what fellow congregants are facing, or doing, within the church walls.
In 2019, the Houston Chronicle released an article that revealed allegations against 380 Southern Baptist church leaders. Left in their rubble were 700 victims who had been molested, abused, and shattered by the actions of someone they trusted. Is their grace having to walk the halls with their abusers?
It shouldn’t be.
When reading Scripture, it’s easy to see that the Lord offers grace, but also justice.
It’s apparent that cheap grace isn’t cutting it, and more must be done to help protect the victims. This issue must be addressed for the sake of Christian marriages, families, and victims of these vile men (and women in some cases). We’re long past the days of patting a brother on the back and telling him to “pray about it.” There must be actions taken to ensure the same mistakes won’t be repeated. But we must first be aware.
My biggest heartache comes from seeing young children abused in the church. Predators thrive due to the naïveté of church leadership and trusting parents. In an ideal world, the church would be the safest place on earth. But unfortunately, this is not the case.
On this, Pastor Deepak Reju says, “Sexual predators know that these dynamics operate in churches, and they know they can get away with a lot on account of it.”
These predatory wolves are sly enough to maintain a straight face as they trick, toy, and manipulate their students into committing the act and leaving their victims shattered. So to combat such atrocities, the church must be vigilant. A background check doesn’t uncover everything about a person, so churches must put forth an effort to learn about their volunteers and ministers before putting them in a significant role. A couple of ways to do this is an extensive interview, lots of letters of recommendation, and seeking the Lord for guidance.
Another thing the church must do is help addicts. A survey reported that 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. Meanwhile, 93% of pastors recognize this issue, but only 7% have a plan to deal with it.
Of course, Jesus forgives, and we should too, but we should try to minister to the hurting and help them along in their journey to recovery. We need godly men to step up and help hold other men accountable. The church needs individuals who are willing to ask hard questions and be able to listen. Likewise, the church must prepare to minister to the hurting family of an addict.
If a pastor walked into the pulpit and saw someone on the verge of dying after a terrible accident, he wouldn’t ignore it. Instead, he would call the police and try to help the victim best. The same should be true for those dealing with sexual abuse…especially within the church.
I pray that the church learns to handle this crime better both in and outside of the building. One day, He will make all things new. Until then, however, may we seek to shine a light for those who cannot.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open, Luke 8:17.