Longtime fans of the Duggars and the Seewalds have been stunned this week.
Jessica Seewald filed to divorce her husband after two years of marriage.
For many, hearing that Jessa Duggar’s sister-in-law made this filing isn’t just a surprise — it’s almost unthinkable.
In this mixed-up, upside-down world, divorce is anathema.
In late April, disgraced former reality star Josh Duggar was arrested. (Yes, this is relevant)
The disgusting, confessed sexual predator was reviled for many years before this.
He has now been charged with possessing photos and video depicting the sexual abuse of very young girls.
This is relevant to Jessica Seewald’s divorce because of Josh’s wife, Anna Duggar.
Anna has stuck by him, even bringing their young, innocent children to visit him under home confinement.
In fact, it has been reported that Anna believes that Josh was framed and is innocent of these heinous charges.
This is not the first time that Anna has been in a situation where even hardcore conservative evangelicals encouraged her to seek a divorce.
In 2015, the world was rocked when they learned of Josh’s crimes as a teenager.
He had molested five young girls, including four of his own sisters. His despicable parents had covered it up.
Anna could have sought a divorce at that time.
Jim Bob and Josh might have blamed her, so there could have been fallout there.
But even famous ultraconservative families like the Robertsons publicly encouraged her to leave her child-molester husband.
Then there was the Ashley Madison leak, which revealed that Josh had a profile on the site.
Josh had apparently used the dating site (designed specifically for cheaters looking to have affairs) to cheat on Anna.
Again, she could have left him then and there … but she did not, because of the rigid beliefs of the family, church, and cult.
In our broader, plural society of many beliefs, marriage is a formalization of a relationship and it comes with specific legal benefits.
This is why the fight for marriage equality is — and in many ways, remains — so important.
People had private and religious ceremonies celebrating their unions for many decades before legal recognition.
However, within various religious contexts, marriage is deeply sacred to many people of faith.
Whether performed in a Christian Church or a Temple of Hera or under a chuppah, these are religious unions.
Most faith groups, however, have an understanding that not all marriages can last a lifetime.
In fundamentalism, however, all beliefs are taken to their wildest extremes.
To hardcore fundamentalists, marriage isn’t just divinely blessed, but a sacred and unbreakable covenant with God.
Anna likely believes that to divorce Josh under any circumstances would be to betray her oath to God.
It’s not as though IBLP, the cult to which the Duggars belong, has not pushed this notion before.
For example, survivors of the cult who got out have described its policies on situations where a fathr is discovered to be a sexual predator.
Wives are instructed to testify against their husbands, but also bring their children — even if they are victims — to visit him in prison. Grim stuff.
Anna was not raised by the Duggars. Ben Seewald was not raised by Jim Bob, either.
But the Duggar children are not permitted to marry anyone who does not meet Jim Bob’s approval.
Again, as with other beliefs, everything is taken to toxic extremes with them — and Jim Bob believes that his children are effectively his property.
The Seewalds are no exception.
At least, Ben Seewald isn’t.
His sister Jessica, on the other hand, has done what is basically taboo in their corner of the universe.
Jessica filed to divorce Dwight Phillips Lester after two years of marriage.
The two married in May of 2019.
Jessica’s search for a wedding dress was featured on Say Yes To The Dress.
In fact, Jessica had a bit of tension with her sister-in-law, Jess, during that dress hunt.
Jessica at one point looked into a dress that Jessa felt was "a little low" in the front.
"I think we may have some slightly different convictions as far as what women should wear and what they shouldn’t wear," Jessica diplomatically replied.
Clearly, she was not wrong.
Jessa has only recently developed a habit of wearing pants at home.
Meanwhile, Jessica wears normal human clothing and even (gasp) works outside of the home; she is a police officer.
Jessica’s divorce filing has not shared many details yet.
However, her reasons cited for the divorce may include accusations of hate, abuse, and neglect.
Legally speaking, these alarming concepts fall under the legal definition of "indignities" when it comes to divorce.
But it is difficult to imagine that even if Dwight is accused of domestic violence, the Duggars or Seewalds would endorse a divorce.
After all, they hold beliefs where ideas like "consent" do not factor into marriage — where the wife must serve the husband.
In a world where wives must submit to their husband’s desires, it is only logical that physical violence would be seen as a lack of temperment instead of an evil act.
Fans have openly guessed that Jim Bob’s "solution" to domestic battery would be how he has responded to Josh’s past wrongdoings.
He would simply opt to send the perpetrator for religious "counseling."
Needless to say, that doesn’t seem to have done any good for Josh.
Fortunately, what happens to Jessica and her (former) marriage is not up to Jim Bob or anyone else.
Jessica has gone her own way on a number of topics over the years.
Now, she is getting a divorce from her husband. It’s as simple as that.