Over the past several weeks, the news has been lit up with headlines about Bruce Jenner and the Duggar Family scandal (of the TV show 19 Kids and Counting). For those of you who may be unaware of these situations, I will offer a brief summary of my understanding of the events.
Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner
Bruce Jenner (former Olympian and part of the Kardashian extended family) announced several weeks ago that he has always felt like he was in the wrong body and is actually a female (on the inside if not the outside). He is transitioning to become Caitlyn Jenner. Vanity Fair magazine published its most recent issue with Caitlyn on the cover in women’s clothing and makeup. Caitlyn is being both praised as a hero and condemned as delusional fool.
Josh Duggar (the oldest of the Duggar children) has confessed to molesting some young girls (some of whom were his sisters) when he was fourteen years old. It is unclear to me exactly what happened following these events (Josh is now 27 years old, married and has children of his own). Some sources seem to indicate a cover-up, while others are saying the police were involved. Josh and the entire Duggar family, all devout Christians, are being condemned as hypocrites and pedophiles by some, but others are calling for forgiveness and letting the past stay in the past.
The Third Way
As with all the sensational media we are bombarded with daily, the truth of these situations is difficult if not impossible to discern. We can never understand what it has been like for Bruce Jenner living all these years feeling the way that he claims to have felt. We don’t know the circumstances or the follow-up that occurred within the Duggar family.
My purpose in writing about these stories is not to encourage people to choose a side, particularly the sides we are presented with. If we follow what seems to be the norm in our culture, we must either love or hate Caitlyn Jenner, and we must offer blanket forgiveness to Josh Duggar or treat him like pariah. We tend to forget that the “issues” we are discussing are the reality of people’s lives. As I have read articles and seen the various reactions that people have to these stories, I am reminded that we need to look for the “third way.”
Both Jenner and the Duggars have chosen to live their lives in a very public way as stars of their own reality TV shows. They have opened themselves to a type of visibility and criticism that most people will never experience. Some would argue that their willingness to live so publically is a problem by itself. Why would a reasonable, emotionally stable person ever choose to do such a thing? Regardless of the rationale behind their decisions, people are watching them. While most of us will never experience the public eye in the ways these have, many of us are facing similar issues.
God’s Love Not Judgments
Many sound off with opinions as if they are experts on every topic, as if opinion is fact. Thanks to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, there is an audience for the sorts of random thoughts and jokes that come to mind about any given situation. We should all consider our words more carefully, but as Christians we, in particular, are called to be more loving. An off the cuff remark about how “sick” Jenner must be makes one just another unsafe person to someone who may be silently struggling with gender or sexuality. An online argument about how Josh Duggar has been forgiven by God, so we should just forget about the abuse and move on, could very well invalidate one who has been abused and has never been able to admit it. It dishonors the victims’ stories and does a disservice to Josh himself. It is arrogant to pronounce someone’s forgiveness, when we are not the wronged party. Of course God offers forgiveness, but He also allows the consequences of actions to run their course.
I am not saying that it isn’t okay to have an opinion or to share it. I am suggesting that we do our best to place ourselves in the shoes of those people we encounter, both in real life and in the media, before we speak or comment. It is God’s love that will draw people to Christ, not our judgments. I ask that you consider, as I will, when and how to speak into situations such as these. I know that God loves Jenner and Duggar. He also loves us in the midst of our own messy stories.