In May, it will be five years since the world first learned that Josh Duggar molested five young girls, four of whom were his sisters.
At the time, it looked as though the scandal would bring about the end of the media empire his parents had worked so hard to create.
After all, the Duggar family business was founded on a carefully-crafted facade of wholesomeness and strict adherence to the tenets of Christian fundamentalism.
Surely, the family’s critics reasoned, even the Duggars’ most ardent defenders would not be able to overlook the fact that Josh’s parents helped him to avoid prosecution and keep his crimes hidden from view for over a decade.
When TLC canceled 19 Kids and Counting in the wake of the first Josh scandal (further allegations of misconduct would follow) the move was widely regarded as the final blow to the Duggars’ careers as public figures.
Astonishingly, however, Jim Bob, Michelle, and company were able to repair their battered reputations and return to television — without Josh, of course.
The second iteration of the Duggars’ reality show — originally titled Jill and Jessa: Counting On — premiered in December of 2015.
These days, Jill no longer appears on the show, and the series has been re-titled simply Counting On to reflect the involvement of the entire family.
The shift in focus is reflective of Jim Bob’s larger strategy:
He hopes fans will eventually forget about the Josh scandals entirely and return their attention to the more virtuous aspects of life inside an evangelical fertility cult.
One would think that the best means of accomplishing this would be to cut ties with Josh entirely, or at least distance him from the family’s public ventures as much as possible.
But Jim Bob has no intention of doing that.
In fact, insiders say he believes securing the public’s forgiveness for his disgraced son’s misdeeds remains Jim Bob’s ultimate goal.
Though he’s never worked in that capacity in any official way, Jim Bob thinks of himself as a preacher.
He’s stated that he thinks of Counting On as a means of "spreading [his] ministry" first and foremost, and a television show second.
It’s largely for that reason that the rehabilitation of Josh’s image remains Jim Bob’s number one goal.
For one thing, a child molester son is a black mark that Jim Bob feels his legacy may not be able to endure.
On top of that, he’s reportedly drawn to the challenge of restoring Josh’s good name.
Jim Bob thinks of Duggar fans as his flock, and he believes that if he’s able to herd them in the direction of forgiving his son, he’ll have proven his talent as America’s foremost shepherd (read: manipulator of the masses).
This explains the Josh Duggar apology tour and other family-wide efforts to convince the world that Josh is a godly family man and a pillar of his community.
Unfortunately for Jim Bob, the task of finding forgiveness for Josh might be considerably more difficult than he realizes.
Ever since news of the scandal went public, the possibility of forgiving Josh has been a common topic of discussion in Duggar-based online communities.
A Duggar-focused Reddit group recently deleted a subreddit on the subject, but one idea that was expressed therein has since gained traction elsewhere.
Basically, fans who want to forgive Josh believe they could only do so if he were to suffer some sort of legal consequences for his crime.
Of course, due to statute of limitations laws, this is an impossibility.
So we guess, for now at least, Josh will remain unforgiven — and Jim Bob’s life’s ambition will remain unfulfilled.