The Dangers of Putting Up Fences: an Open Letter Regarding the Josh Duggar Controversy

I don’t normally write about controversial topics here but my mom wrote this poignant piece and I couldn’t help but share it with all of you. I’m sure you’ll see where I got my writing ability from. 😉

Written by: Kristy McTaggart (aka Retro Modern Mom’s Mom)

The Dangers of Putting up fences: an open letter regarding the Josh Duggar ControversyI’m going to be honest – as an evangelical Christian, when someone of “our stripe” is exposed having committed gross sexual sin, I cringe and want to change the subject. When I first heard about Josh Duggar and watched the Megyn Kelly interview of his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, I chalked it up to a biased media pouncing on a small problem and blowing it up beyond what the acts deserved. A teenage boy was curious about his sisters’ plumbing and touched them while they were sleeping. Big deal! How often does that happen in families and nothing is ever disclosed? And it was twelve years ago for pete’s sake! The parents addressed it with the boy and even with law enforcement and sent him to a “center” for awhile to get his head on straight and reinforce the rule, you don’t do that. Then twelve years later, after the kid grows up, marries and has children, a retiring judge decides to make a sealed record public, probably illegally. Sounded like a witch hunt to me.

But then additional revelations appeared. Josh was unfaithful to his pregnant wife. A porn star disclosed that he met with her in a strip club and paid for “rough sex”. Getting uglier, it seems this guy has a real problem.

I watched the horrified, bewildered expression on his mother’s face as she appeared for yet another interview. I am sure the parents have been searching their hearts: where did we go wrong with this boy? How could this happen?

I think I know.

We all want to insulate our kids from the corruption of this world. Some families build a wall around them, cloistering them to keep from mixing with the bad influences of peers raised with relativistic values and teachers hostile to the Gospel, and restricting their friendships to the children of parents who are doing the same thing. Is that bad?

No, it is not bad. It is we who are bad. Every one of us.

When we circle the wagons to keep the kids inside, it is easy to develop an “us vs. them” mentality, and forget that sin isn’t just in the world. It is in our hearts. It appears like weeds in the lawn from seeds borne on the breeze. We are sinners, and our kids are sinners. When we tighten the boundaries of their (and our) environment to try to keep sin out, we succeed – partially. We might be able, by great and strenuous vigilance, to keep them from seeing pornographic images or hearing cuss words. But we cannot fence them off from their own lurid imaginations. And probably, that’s where Josh began. In restrictive environments where sinful lusts are forbidden, they grow like a hothouse flower. Listen to the anguished cry of a man who devoted his life to religion yet struggled with this very thing: “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 18-19, 24). That was the Apostle Paul!

What hope do we have, then?

You can’t keep kids from getting dirty, but you sure can make them get in the tub. We can create a culture in our homes fashioned around the glorious truth that Paul came to about his sin: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We can be honest with our kids about the sins we struggled with at their age. We can throw open the curtains on sin and talk about it in the context of faith in Christ – openly and without shame, for it is our common condition.

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:7-9

Christians – even Christian leaders – fall with disturbing regularity. The world’s media will be right there to pounce when they do. Those who do not follow Jesus Christ seem to be able to sniff out hypocrisy from across town. But humility and transparency are powerfully attractive. And the blood of Jesus Christ, not isolation or the strength of human will or ideas, is the only cure for the sin that afflicts us.

All of us.


  1. Awesome article, Kristy! You are on target! Thanks for sharing it Kate.
    I have a few friends who have raised their kids inside the walls of the church and homeschooling. Shockingly, all of them have taken the wrong roads! I think parents tend to expect too much and lean too hard on the safety of the walls they build to insulate their children so that they can grow up without corruption creeping into their little lives. It’s kinda like a rabbit’s foot for them.
    With caution, I have enjoyed watching the Dugger’s loving, squeaky clean family show, but something just kept gnawing at me. Something just wasn’t spiritually and emotionally balanced. Extreme behaviors, no matter how well intended, always produce counterbalancing behaviors. Even if it is unconscious, human nature is compelled to swing the pendulum in the opposite extreme direction.
    In the big picture, they are a nice family, trying to do what’s right and follow Christ, but they are not perfect and neither are we. Our pastor made a poignant mention of Josh Dugger on Sunday. He said that out of all the 32 million subscribers on the Ashley Madison site the only person who has been called out and is reviled around the world is someone from a Christian family. Why just him? What or who is really at the center of this lynch mob mentality in our society?
    “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.” (John 8:7) May God heal and bless this family, and protect them from those people and enemy who wants to destroy them.

  2. Grace Davis says:

    Preach it! And yes, that is some good writing.

  3. Loud and Clear says:

    I totally understand where your mom is coming from. I thought the same things she did at first, but from a different angle. My brother did that stuff too as a kid. It went further than what Josh Duggar did though. He’s over the age of 30 and within the past few years it’s been brought to his attention that he has a sex addiction. He’s getting help for it now but still struggles. His wife keeps a lock on everything that has internet on it so that he isn’t “falling off the wagon” while she’s not home. It’s sad that he has to be treated like that, it’s sad that he has that sin in his heart. Talking to his wife about it, she said that he feels like he’s bipolar because when he gets “in the zone”, if you will, he doesn’t think about anything else. He knows that he needs to control it but he can’t help it. He said what has really helped him is that he had to stand up in his counseling class in front of all the other addicts and confess everything that he’s done.
    Addiction is a terrible thing and it sounds like that’s what Josh has also. So I feel for Josh as a Christian and as a sister of a fellow addict…

    • Thank you so much for sharing. Shining the light on sin and not allowing the devil to isolate is one way to really bring that sin to the cross.

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