May 27, 2021

13: Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, and the Engine of Abuse

How Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles built a culture of obedience, silence, and sexual confusion that protects predators and puts children at risk.

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Kristin Rawls and Jeff Eaton unpack the history of Christian Fundamentalism in America. Learn how it shaped pop music and politics, how its culture came to be, and how its ideas contributed to America’s emerging authoritarian crisis.
Episode details

First: a content warning for Christian Rightcast listeners. This episode directly addresses child sexual abuse, religious abuse, and specific techniques used by the Duggar family and Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles to protect child sexual predators.

Last month, our series on Christian Reconstructionism was hitting its stride. Then news broke that Josh Duggar, made famous by his Christian family’s 19 Kids and Counting television series on TLC, had been arrested for possession of child sexual abuse materials. A number of Christian Rightcast listeners reached out, asking about context for the events, and we considered the best approach.

The story has clear connections to the reconstructionist themes Kristin’s research has focused on: the Duggars have long been advocates of fundamentalist homeschooling, evangelical purity culture, Quiverfull ideology, and the reconstructionism-influenced teaching of Bill Gothard. Given the seriousness of the story, though, we felt a dedicated set of episodes focusing on the issue was justified and necessary.

In this episode, we attempt to explain the context and the ideology of Bill Gothard’s popular and influential Institute in Basic Life Principles; how its focus on authoritarian discipline and sexual purity provided cover for sexual abusers including Gothard himself; how the group’s teachings shielded Josh Duggar from both consequences and treatment; and finally how its manuals for dealing with sexual abuse blamed Josh’s victims for his actions.

If you’d like to better understand the broader ideology of “Purity Culture” that contributes to these issues, but don’t want to tackle the material in this episode, our usual context-building work will be tackled next episode. If you have questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter or drop us a line here in the comments.

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