You've read all the media hoopla about Josh Duggar, I'm sure. Just in case you missed it, or don't understand exactly what went down, this reality TV "celebrity" admitted to molesting his sisters when he was a teenager. His parents covered it up.
The details are available just about anywhere online, so I won't bother with links just yet, and besides he is only an example. Please let me repeat that for emphasis, while I write about this case, it is only an example.
It's making more news than it otherwise would because of that fact that this family are famous Christians. Not just any old Christian, but extremists. So the hypocrisy angle has been noted, because this family are loud in their anti-gay opinions, and openly accuse homosexuals of being pedophiles.
That's not the only reason their religion became a big issue here, and it's where my emphasis is.
According to supporters of the family, Duggar has been punished and forgiven. As far as they are concerned, that's the end of it. Now isn't that interesting?
What is this obsession with punishment?
Humans have been punishing one another since before we could write, and who knows how long before that. If it worked, we'd all be good. We're not. Punishment doesn't work as a solution or as a deterrent. In countries that still have the death penalty, even that is not enough of a deterrent. In fact crimes rates are HIGHER where there is a risk of execution. Go check for yourself. This is a fact, it's not a secret, and yet it continues.
Are people "cured" by punishment? No. You've all heard the story (maybe it was you) - "the child was repeatedly beaten for transgressions", "I was forever being sent to the headmaster to be caned", "He's in and out of prison". My son spent most of Grade 3 in the principal's office. It doesn't matter what the punishment is, is doesn't solve anything.
And yet we keep on doing it. This is madness.
I hear some of you say "But we can't let it go unpunished! We need justice".
Have you ever actually "felt" justice? What does it feel like? Does it feel good? That's not justice my friend, that's vengeance. When we see the bad guy get his come uppance in the movie we cheer. We love that stuff. Does it turn back history? Does it bring back the dead? Does it unburn the village? Does it unrape the women? That delicious feeling of vengeance is short-lived, because the damge remains done.
Justice works quite well with monetary fines. He stole $10,000? He's pays back $10,000. So long as nobody was hurt in the process, that's good enough.
But with violence and loss, hanging a man serves no purpose.
In the example I began with Duggar did some "hard labour". Rubbish. He did some construction work. That's not hard labour. Breaking rocks in the hot sun, dum dum de dum, that's hard labour. Still, it bears no relation to what happened. That's not justice either. That's plain ridiculous. And if he had been given real hard labour, how would that help the victims? How would that cure him? How would that solve anything.
We are so used to hearing how X treatment is punishment, that we've lost track of the bigger picture.
Without realising it, the pro-punishment contingent know that he caused harm, and they think that causing harm to him balances things out. It does not.
Please understand, I'm not opposed to hard labour as a way of making a statement. I think we should do it more, but that's not justice. It is, at best, a way of saying "look, you are doing something useful now". Trust me, I've done it. My boys have found themselves digging trenches more than once. But this is for "crimes" that make hard labour logical. If one of mine molested their sister the only trench they'd need would be the one their brothers laid them in. We don't tolerate that sort of thing in this family.
Ah, you say. Melanie isn't as soft as she makes out to be, she's suggesting the Duggars kill Josh.
No. Actually. That was hyperbole. But I'm very surprised his brothers didn't at least rough him up a bit. I'd have had to step in and hold my family back. What is wrong with that mother? Where's her anger?
She has no power. Her husband has all the power, and so he arranged this "punishment". He also arranged some counselling. That's a laugh too. Perhaps you've seen it. It disgusted me. But we'll come back to that, let's look at this forgiveness.
It's no secret that I'm not big on forgiveness, and it's quite possible that I don't actually understand what it is. But it's a major part of the Christian belief system and so it is very important in this case.
Because western culture has a lot of of Christian influence, the whole idea of forgiveness it deeply ingrained in our minds and social norms, but I think that's a terrible mistake. I think we are going about this wholly the wrong way.
This may be a new idea to you, so bear with me.
To need forgiveness, first you have to commit a transgression. We'll use that word, because the idea of sin is too complex. And not a crime because something is only a crime if it's first of all deemed to be one. A transgression. Something done that another person believes you shouldn't have done. May be illegal, may not. It's a transgression to them. Their feelings may even be really silly. Let's look at a silly example. This is a true story.
Let's say you went to a wedding, and the bridge got upset at your choice of attire. As a guest there was no guide given as to what should be worn, so you went with fashion and what is currently considered appropriate for the occasion. You selected something you thought suitable, it looked nice on you, and you wore it. On the day, the bride looked at you as if you just crawled out of an apple, and later you heard on the grapevine that she was very disapproving of what you wore.
Well, that was me. The guest, not the bride. What I wore was too "bright". I believe the word garish was used, but don't quote me on that, it was a long time ago. Anyway, it was mentioned afterwards, long afterwards, because it messed up her photos, doncha know.
We still speak, and it hasn't been mentioned recently. Maybe she's over it. Maybe she's forgotten. As I said, it was a LONG time ago. But I betcha, if we discussed it today, she wouldn't be amused.
But she wouldn't have had to forgive me if she hadn't got so bent out of shape over it.
OK, let's look at this the other way around. Was I hurt by her attack on my dress? No. Did I need to forgive her for this pettiness? No. I thought it was funny.
Why have I remembered? I remember everything. It's not intentional. It's not to store grudges. I write a lot and I can dredge up all sorts of examples at will, great filing system my brain has.
So, maybe she's forgotten, but I bet she hasn't forgiven me.
I haven't forgotten, but I didn't need to forgive her, because I wasn't damaged in the first place. It would be too silly.
But people DO take umbrage for things like that.
So, first lesson, forgiving and forgetting are two very different things.
Before I met my husband I had a boyfriend who cheated on me, and took one of my friends to a dance. We weren't engaged or anything, but we were an item, and I thought it was a pretty dirty trick. And that was the end of that relationship. He thought we could still be friends afterwards, what a goof. Shortly after, I met my husband and never looked back. Did I ever forgive that goof? No. Does it matter? That was a long time ago, almost four decades ago. Changes nothing. He did a bad thing. What possible purpose could there be in saying "I forgive you"? So, when he requested my friending him on Facebook he got X'd.
Seems a bit harsh? It has saved me so much heartache over the years. One transgression and we are done. I won't hurt you, I won't suffer myself as a result, but that's your lot.
Was I harmed by his transgression? No. Did me a favour really. But he still doesn't deserve forgiveness. To forgive is to say that the behaviour is not such a big deal.
But what if he HAD harmed me? What if instead of cheating on me, he had stolen from me, or hit me, or sexually assaulted me? I think you know the answer. If I don't forgive a breach of trust, I'm certainly not going to forgive actual harm.
As I understand it, the Duggar family have forgiven Josh, because their religion teaches them to. I think that's wrong. They say "God forgives", OK fine. You know, I am very fond of that saying "And may God forgive you, because we won't". This same God they refer to apparently thinks that consensual loving homosexual relationships can't be forgiven, but pedophilia can. I'm jolly glad I don't worship their God. Their God is an arsehole.
But of course, there's more to it than just erroneous forgiveness, and meaningless punishment. There's something much darker. I don't think we've heard the end of this case.
I'm going to leave you with thoughts from someone who knows far more about this than any of us. This may help explain it.
Vyckie Garrison is a former adherent of the Quiverfull movement. She tells her story at her blog, “No Longer Quivering,” and has created the Spiritual Abuse Survivior Blog Network