Saturday, December 11, 2021

Why Anna Duggar Stays: The Bounded Choice of a Second Generation Adult in a Cultic Sect

This excellent, real-world description of the Bounded Choice of a Second Generation Adult (SGA) in a spiritually abusive or cultic church (what some call sects or cults) by LJ  (Melissa) Stewart on Tik-Tok may help me write my shortest definitions of these terms ever.  I find only one tiny flaw in her presentation.  (Read more about it HERE.)

She rightly states that Bill Gothard's Independent Baptist (IFB) derived-system teaches that Anna's sins are no worse than Josh's crimes.  

She neglects to note that the Duggars are also very personally connected to IFB family and marriage experts Ron Williams and SM Davis. Those men teach that Anna's marital sex with Josh and her submission to him as a wife held the power to cure and fix Josh, so any sexual sins or crimes he committed after their wedding night fall entirely on her shoulders

Bravo, Ms. Stewart!

Second  Generation Adults (Those Born Into a Sect)

Stewart describes the limitations of a Second Generation Adult (an SGA) in Gothard's system, noting that everyone she has known her whole life is a part of this religious system. If she leaves it, because of the Doctrine of Separation that they observe, she will be shunned by everyone she knows. She is lucky to have two exceptions: her sister-in-law Jill's nacient family and her brother Daniel Keller who left the religion and also experienced various degrees of shunning.  Jill Duggar Dillard has suffered a milder version of Limited Contact shunning (Jill is permitted contact with her adult siblings if Jim Bob Duggar is present), but they all may eventually suffer full No Contact shunning if the family and their church elders deem it necessary. 

Because the subculture in which they were carefully raised limits contact with lesser Christians and secular culture, most SGAs don't know anyone well enough who will take them in, educate them, and help them support and raise their children. Sadly, too many women who were raised in too many inadequate Christian homeschooling programs lack a good basic education and have few if any marketable job skills which will likely be domestic only. Daniel Keller has offered to pay for Anna to relocate in Texas near him after previous scandals and has affirmed the same in response to yesterday's verdict.

Stewart also points out the critical concern of the wellbeing of Josh and Anna's children. In the event that Anna may want to leave, as we've seen in Gwen Shamblin's sect, closed religious groups will fight at all costs to seize custody of the ex-member's children under the guise and belief that they are saving their eternal souls. I believe that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar would use whatever remaining political influence they have to seize custody of her children with Josh if she would decide to leave Gothardism and the IFB version of Christianity. She would lose her children to the very oversight (or lack thereof) that I believe contributed to Josh's problems. Tabloids currently claim that Anna is currently on good terms with her in-laws, and that, at least, is to their credit because their religious teachings do saddle her with fault for her part in Josh's ongoing issues.

Bounded Choice

Bounded Choice describes the appearance of choice to people outside the group, but the person in the system has no viable, functional means by which to make choices to leave and survive. 

It was first coined in the writings that followed WWII as the world pondered how anything as horrific as the Holocaust ever managed to take place. Like cultic sects today, programs of manipulation and control create the systems which restrict members' and citizens' freedoms and resources so stringently that their willful choices become unattainable.

Parents within this high-demand system must direct all significant decision-making to the discretion of their patriarch, so many adults who emerge from Gothard's system find that they lack good discernment and have little problem-solving experience in the real world. This is especially true for women, and the IFB in particular and many more mainstream Baptists teach that all women are easily deceived and require a male overseer for protection and guidance. 

Such groups also teach the spiritual and emotional blackmail that God punishes and destroys those who leave and their children, both in this life and in the afterlife because they refused to submit to their authorities. The Umbrella of Protection quickly becomes a guarantee of eternal damnation after a life of struggle if any rebel manages lives that long before God annihilates them

I was not raised to believe this, but when I was told that I would probably die and would become destitute for leaving my Gothard church without the elder's permission and blessing, the four years I'd spent at the church set me panicking. They were nonspecific death threats! Though I was a college-educated person, married, had a good-paying job, and grew up as an Evangelical who'd never heard such threats for leaving a church before, they held much lingering sway over me for years after that. Anna Duggar heard her true-believing family teach her these things from the cradle.

In fact, the idea of leaving often does not occur to people who were raised in such settings. One of the panel guests I interviewed in Overcoming the Baptist Myth of Family explained to a grand jury investigating Mack Ford's IFB Troubled Teen Home about her Bounded Choice experience. She grew up so far removed from society that she did not know that police could be phoned to intervene in violent domestic abuse disputes or that anything like Child Protective Services existed. 

She was asked why she did not phone for help when she could get access to a telephone to seek for someone to rescue her. If she had free access to the phone, even at age 18 when she graduated and left the program (where she'd asked to attend to escape domestic abuse at home), she had no knowledge that anyone would care and would not have the first clue about how to find help. People who do not grow up in such settings take their knowledge of the culture for granted and often fail to even imagine the degree of Bounded Choice of the SGA in a sect.

For a more thorough explanation of Bounded Choice and the factors that help to create such a system, please read more HERE, and consider reading Janja Lalich's book on the topic.