As you may have noticed, the Duggar family has been in the news more than ever over the course of the past year.
There was a time — not all that long ago, in fact — when Jim Bob and company would have considered that a good thing.
After all, not every reality TV family is able to make headlines in mainstream media outlets for several months in a row.
But this wasn’t the sort of publicity that Jim Bob had in mind when he set out to make his family famous so many years ago.
No, this was more like something from one of the patriarch’s nightmares.
After all, this was a man who built an empire by presenting himself as an authority on asexual wholesomeness.
The thought that his eldest child would turn out to be a sexual predator of the worst kind probably would have been the sort of thing that kept him up nights, had it not — for Jim Bob, at least — seemed so implausible.
Insiders claim global fame was Jim Bob’s goal from the very beginning.
He says he saw his family’s reality shows as a sort of televised ministry — proof to other evangelicals that a family could achieve success and happiness while remaining true to the principles of a certain type of fundamentalist Christianity.
Those who know him best, however, have whispered that the father of 19 was more interested in the wealth that such an opportunity might offer, as well as the opportunity for reviving his stagnant political career.
Jim Bob found the notoriety he was looking for, of course, but it came with the sort of twist that’s characteristic of a bargain with the devil.
These days, Josh Duggar is facing 20 years in prison, while Jana Duggar is awaiting trial on child endangerment charges.
Adding insult to injury, Jim Bob lost his race for a seat in the Arkansas State Senate on Tuesday, a fact that anyone around him — or anyone who knew anything about his situation, for that matter — could have easily predicted.
This rapid fall from grace drives home the fact that Jim Bob and his family were beloved by their audience and their neighbors not for their charm or decency, but because they represented a very specific type of religious thought.
And those who share their belief system feel that the world can only be saved by spreading it far and wide.
The Duggars are Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB), and if you thought they seem like the type who would be willing to break bread with any fellow Christians, then you’re quite mistaken.
Anyone who’s ever heard Ben Seewald rant against Catholicism knows that the Duggars do not believe that all Christians are created equal.
And if you’re not a Christian of any stripe, rest assured that Jim Bob and company believe your future torment in the fires of hell is well-deserved.
Members of the IFB denomination practice a stricter form of Christianity than First or Southern Baptists.
The faith is shrouded in secrecy, as all members are considered priests, and in addition to their public services in local churches, they hold clandestine worship meetings at the homes of individual congregants.
So we may never know exactly what the Duggars’ belief system consists of, but we know that their goal is nothing less than global domination.
In addition to their membership in the IFB Church, the Duggars are adherents of the Quiverfull movement, which teaches that it’s the duty of all conservative Christians to have as many children as possible.
“In the Quiverfull movement, your kids are blessings from God and they are also weapons in the culture war,” USC assistant professor of religion Cavan Concannon once explained to People magazine.
“Some people in the movement would say that part of having a lot of kids is an attempt to birth more conservative Christians in a world that doesn’t have enough of them.”
So if you’ve ever wondered if Jim Bob and Michelle blame themselves for the Josh situation — if they feel guilty for having more kids than they could properly look after — the answer is no.
Jim Bob and Michelle believe they were fulfilling their sacred duty, and the fact that Josh molested five of his sisters before growing up and victimizing other children is just an unfortunate bit of collateral damage.
We say all of this not to condemn religion in general, or even faith of the fundamentalist variety practiced by the Duggars.
Rather, our goal is to remind you that extremist ideals have historically been used to justify some truly barbaric behavior, and from the outside, it can often be difficult to make the distinction between a congregation and a cult.