Consent, Theonomists and Josh Duggar

The reaction of some of Josh Duggar’s defenders point to the larger, deeper problem of glossing over abuses of power because “all sins are equal in the sight of God.” Defenders ask, “Who of us didn’t make mistakes? Who of us didn’t sin as teenagers?” But the scandal is not about “sin,” in that it’s not about some normal teenage indiscretion like making out in the basement with your crush after taking a few hits off the first joint you’ve ever rolled. The scandal, as many scandals before it, is about criminal activity that got covered up and brushed under the rug. It’s about a male who molested minors while they slept, and the fact that he was 14 at the times does not make this legal. Him saying “I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” doesn’t make it legal either.

There is an interesting dynamic here, though, and that is that the Duggars and many of their followers tend towards the belief that Old Testament law is, in many cases, still binding. The Duggars were followers of Bill Gothard, and according to Gothard’s Advanced Seminar handout titled “Appendix on the Place of Old Testament Law in the Life of New Testament Believers,” “[Old Testament] Law is God’s infinitely wise and masterful ‘blueprint’ for success in personal living, financial decisions, marriage, family, health and community life.”

This is very similar to the ideas of Reconstructionist Theonomists, who believe US law should be based on Biblical law, specifically Old Testament law. Doug Phillips regularly featured the Duggars in his Reconstructionist Vision Forum conferences, products and marketing materials.

Here’s where it relates back to molestation: As Reconstructionist Theonomists themselves will point out, according to Old Testament law, rape isn’t really any more wrong for a man than fornication. Molesting your sister and having consensual sex with your girlfriend have the same consequences: in the case of an unmarried, unbetrothed female, the bride price is paid and the couple is required (in the case of rape) and allowed (in the case of fornication) to get married to fix the situation (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:16-17).

According to anyone who is taking the Old Testament literally, if women don’t “cry out” when they’re being molested around other people (and none of the Duggar girls did at the time) then it’s treated as if it’s consensual. And neither are raped women really having anything that bad done to them. “Women are not property, like tractors, but neither should they be exercising independent control over their sexuality. God has established whether a sexual act is sinful or not. The woman’s consent to it does not determine whether or not it is sinful,” one commenter on the Reconstructionist Theonomists rape discussion group stated. “God’s justice is restorative. The remedies we see in the Law are designed to restore the person, as much as possible for the damage which was done. In the case of the married or betrothed woman who has sexual intercourse forced upon her, what is her damage? We don’t see anywhere in Scriptures that sex is a harmful act, per se. So her damage isn’t that she had sex. The damage is that she now has a death penalty placed upon her for adultery. The remedy then, is to remove the death penalty from her because she was forced. In the case of a virgin who has sexual intercourse forced upon her, what is her damage? It is an economic damage, she is not longer able to command the bride price of a virgin. So the remedy is economic. In the case of an unmarried, non-virgin who is forced into sexual intercourse, what is her damage? She is not damaged. The sex act is not harmful. She already lost her ability to command the bride price of virgin. She is no worse off than she was before. Therefore there is no remedy in the law for her.”

The Old Testament case of Tamar, which Gothard drew some lessons on molestation from, bears some resemblance to the Duggar situation and the Old Testament laws mentioned above. In this story, Tamar tells her brother, who has just raped her, that sending her away instead of marrying her is worse than the initial rape. It should really not come as a surprise, then, that Duggar apologists are acting as if the situation is basically the same as Josh getting to second base with his girlfriend — because if consent is not the deciding factor, then any extra-marital sexual activity is equally wrong, if you are a man. This is a big reason why certain articles penned by Muslims, such as this one, claim that the Bible is morally repugnant and horrifically backwards, more backwards than the Koran. Christians often attempt fantastic mental and verbal contortions to explain away the bad stuff in the Old Testament, but why hang on to laws that are so clearly terrible? Why not just admit they’re terrible and move on?

Theonomists emphasize that women need to take any and all precautions, given these laws, to make sure they’re never raped. I think taking precautions to avoid being raped is a good idea, which is why, given the track record and beliefs of Theonomists and their ilk, I avoid hanging out one-on-one with them (or comatose with them) at all costs. Because, you know, merely by being an unmarried non-virgin female, I’m clearly asking for it, and everyone sins occasionally.

15 thoughts on “Consent, Theonomists and Josh Duggar

  1. You’ve knocked it out of the ballpark again as usual, Katie. These situations involving rape and molestation are not incidental to these “cloistered Christian patriarchy” groups, but are actually expressions of their beliefs about sexuality, gender, and power. It’s nauseating to realize that so many people can buy into it.

  2. Hit the nail on the head, Katie. Unfortunately, I remember reading about these particular statutes in the Gothard doctrine as a young girl. I wanted to ask my mom how could it ever be the girl’s fault? I’m thankful my family never really embraced the doctrine, but even that limited exposure via our church has had a lasting effect on me.

  3. In the second to last paragraph, are you saying that people’s interpretations are clearly terrible, or that the OT law is clearly terrible?

    1. I think any law that requires a woman to marry her rapist is a terrible law, no matter where it appears. People try to dodge this by saying this is just an “interpretation,” but let’s face it: that’s the law. It’s extremely clear. And it’s backed up by multiple passages elsewhere in the Old Testament, like the Tamar one. Let’s stop trying to explain laws like this away or pretending like the text is saying something other than what it’s actually saying.

      1. I would agree, however, you have misquoted the law, Katie. And your theonomist friend quoted below seems to have missed the spirit of the law, too. First of all, all of the laws in those chapters are about protecting the victim, and protecting the rights of women not to be raped. Second, the Exodus version of the law makes it explicit that it was the woman’s father who could force the rapist to marry her, not vice versa. It was presumed her father was acting on her behalf, in the same way that if a woman under 18 were raped today, her parents would stand for her in court. The Deuteronomy law is saying the same thing, but doesn’t rehash the details, being a summary of the Exodus law. You automatically assume this is about some stranger, but it covers situations that range from a stranger, to a young man and woman consensually making out and she gets pregnant. There are cases in which the victim might want the perpetrator to marry her, and the law merely gives the father the right to make him do so if that’s what *she* wants. The law does not at all imply that a man can rape a woman and then she has to marry him. That is perverse.

      2. It seems, Ken, that you’re reading a lot into something that is otherwise straightforward. “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” Of course this doesn’t have to be about a stranger. What difference does that make? And what woman would want to marry her rapist? Oh, yeah, one whose value was tied entirely up in her status as virgin or non-virgin. And you’re right, it’s perverse.

  4. Obviously the theonomist commenter you quoted has never loved a rape victim. Quite possibly, he has never lived any woman. I can’t imagine any man so callous that he would tell his wife, were she to be raped, “Dry your tears. You have not been damaged. Sex is not harmful. You need not worry about the death penalty!” Would he really look into the weeping eyes of his young daughter and tell her, “The only damage to you is that I won’t be able to get as high a bride price for you. Stop crying.”

    This was not at all God’s intent in these passages. The same God who protects widows and orphans, and judges their oppressors, cares for all girls and women. The tears of ours that He collects in a bottle are not just the male tears. He knows the damage that was done to my heart and soul. It is His love love that brought me healing.

  5. Katie, you have mis-stated the law. It doesn’t force a victimized woman to do anything. It allows her to force the rapist/seducer to marry her, not vice versa. That implies that her family is acting on her wishes in the case in an era where the father must stand before the court to represent his daughter.

    Today, if a man rapes a young woman, she has the same recourse at law. She can sue him for monetary damages, and/or bring a criminal case to have him put in prison. But if she is a minor, then her parents will stand before the court on her behalf in the same way as this bible verse you’ve misquoted.

    It really is not fair to construct a straw-man argument like this and then lay it on theonomists, as if they endorse the twisted paradigm you’ve created.

    1. Ken, where does the woman’s choice come in? There is none for her presented. Her choices are decided by others… her father, most obviously. So I have not misstated the law. The woman may be forced to marry her rapist by her father, by the law or by her rapist… the outcome is still the same. I realize there are other texts that contradict this passage, but, again, they are based on the decisions of her father, not on her own choices.

      1. In the USA today, if a woman under 18 were victimized by an adult, statutory or otherwise, her wishes would be represented to the court by her parent or legal guardian. It is possible that her parent or guardian could choose an action she doesn’t agree with. As you’ve stated in cases of statutory rape, a minor cannot consent. So you have the same situation in that case law, with the exception that forcing the rapist to marry in addition to paying monetary damage, was part of the possible range of sentences, contingent on her father’s consent, who is standing in for her as a minor.

        I know of a case where a 14 year old girl was seduced by her 21 year old boyfriend and had a sexual relationship with him for three years. Like other cases you’ve mentioned here, she met him in church, but he was not abusive in the other ways. They had broken up by the time her father eventually learned of it, and the dad reluctantly decided not to prosecute him.

        However, what if the minor wanted him to marry her? How is there anyway in the law to give her that option, without it seeming to you like it also gives her father the power to force her to marry a stranger rapist? You are reading the worst possible intent into a law intended to protect the victim of the crime by giving her the broadest options in sentencing her abuser.

      2. Ken… this isn’t about statutory rape where the girl is on board. In the OT, that would be called fornication, since there was no age of consent. I’m sure you’re aware that the laws of the OT time period are carried out in the current-day middle east, this one in particular. They’re barbaric. Women are forced to marry their rapists. Sorry, you just can’t decide these laws are actually nice because you’d like them to be. And of course they were about protection… that’s almost the worst part. They were about protecting a woman whose value was based on her virginity, and who would have been damned to the single, unsupported life by virtue of being raped (unless there was some other way for her to get money, hence the exception elsewhere).

  6. If you hate the Bible, Katie, because you find it to be twisted and barbaric, then why do you profess to be a Christian? Why not be done with it? You cannot use the Bible to judge others and then reject the parts you dislike. The Bible is patriarchal and “sexist” according to the definition of sexism. If you reject that, you reject Christianity. So, why not come clean and just outright reject Christianity?

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