Duggarmania, Stripped of Religion

I don’t usually watch the Today Show, but I happened to catch a segment that aired this morning about the 20th Duggar child. The news was about reaction to last week’s announcement of Michelle Duggar’s pregnancy on the Today show: why did it “strike such a nerve?”

Remarkably, the segment said nothing about the Duggars’ rather extreme brand of religion, or for that matter, how they have become the poster children for political movements that would have every other American adopt that religion. The reaction to the story (which, according to the report, almost crashed the “TODAYMoms” section of the program’s website, due to the volume of comments) mostly had to do with whether another pregnancy was healthy for mother or child, and whether people are capable of actually parenting 20 children.

The Duggars, though, are just (in their mind) following God’s will. That’s their choice, obviously, but activist right-wing Christian organizations hold them up as paragons of not just Christian virtue, but of Christian parenthood, and (most crucially) Christian motherhood.

As Julie Ingersoll reported last year, the biblical patriarchy group Vision Forum named Michelle Duggar Mother of the Year. And at the 2010 Values Voters Summit, the Duggars were honored with the Pro-Family Entertainment Award because they are using their reality television show on TLC “to make Christ known and make others see that the Bible is the owner’s manual for life.”

Using the Duggars to exemplify good clean Christian living is hardly divorced from politics, either. Just as the Republican Party was gearing up for a full-on assault on Planned Parenthood (which is not just about abortion, but about contraception), Michelle Duggar was describing how being on the Pill early in her marriage led her to adopt the motto “obey first, understand later.” That is, in the Duggars’ telling, the Pill caused her to miscarry, so after that they left conception in God’s hands; all questions reserved for a later time. Following the teachings of Bill Gothard, their kids don’t date, and Jim Bob considers himself Michelle’s “spiritual leader.”

How is this not relevant to a discussion of a 45 year-old reality television star’s pregnancy with her 20th child?