What is the Duggars’ religion? Obviously the family is Christian, but you undoubtedly know Christians who don’t have ten-plus kids, forbid women from wearing pants, and require their kids to get their dad’s permission to enter into a relationship with the opposite sex. So what’s their deal?
They’re Baptists – But That’s Not Saying Much
According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, the Duggar family are devout Baptists. However, the term “Baptist” is an umbrella term that covers hundreds, if not thousands or even tens of thousands, of different sub-groups, conventions, committees, and even individual congregations. The Baptist Church across the street from you may preach one doctrine and be accountable to a “headquarters” in Nashville; while the Baptist Church across town from you may preach an entirely different doctrine and be accountable to a “headquarters” in Tuscaloosa.
And since the term “Baptist” carries no legal weight, anybody can open up a church, call it “XYZ Baptist Church,” and have zero connection to any other congregation, committee, or convention. For example, there’s a certain church in Topeka that carries the name “Baptist Church” that most Baptists would rather not be associated with.
— Joe Justice (@JoeJusticeMCM) May 1, 2017
In other words, while the Duggars consider themselves “devout Baptists,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s an official doctrine you can look up online somewhere that lays out everything they believe; nor does it mean that their lifestyles and doctrine are in accordance with any other Baptist church.
The Quiverfull Connection
The Duggars’ brand of Christianity that forbids birth control and encourages parents to have as many children as possible bears striking similarities to the Quiverfull Movement, an anti-feminist, pro-family belief system that began gaining steam in the U.S. in the late 1970’s, according to Huffington Post.
“Doug Phillips, the former president of Vision Forum Ministries who is frequently described as a leader of the Quiverfull movement, has preached a message of ‘biblical patriarchy,’ according to Religion News Service, stating that a man should ‘rule over his household’ and ‘the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household.'”
While that sounds almost exactly like the Duggars’ belief system, family patriarch Jim Bob Duggar insists that the family is not associated with the Quiverfull Movement.
“Even though Wikipedia and some Internet blogs report that we are part of a QuiverFull movement, we are not. We are simply Bible-believing Christians who desire to follow God’s Word and apply it to our lives. God says children are a gift and a blessing, and we believe it.”
— Aadita Jaan (@Aaditajaan1) March 22, 2017
Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles
If any one bit of written text informs the Duggars’ lifestyle (beyond their interpretation of the Bible, that is), its not a Baptist doctrine or a book from a Quiverfull author. It’s a body of work that includes books, seminars, instruction materials, overseen by Bill Gothard, all under the umbrella of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. According to Gawker, the Duggars are some of the Institute’s biggest adherents.
As Gawker notes, the IBLP is an almost whole-person approach to living life according to Gothard’s views on Christianity. It informs not only how you dress (modesty above all else, and no pants on women), how you educate your children (home schooling is preferable to anything else), and even how you eat (eat healthy).
It’s also been compared to a cult, so there’s that.
Christianity And The Freedom To Make It Your Own
A feature (or bug, depending on your point of view) of Christianity is that there’s enough room under the umbrella of “Christianity” for a wide variety of lifestyles and interpretations. How a Christian in Rome lives may differ from how a Christian in Tokyo or Minsk or Little Rock lives – and that’s OK. The Duggars’ religion, though it’s ostensibly Christian, is different from that of many (we daresay, most) Christians, but it is their own. It may not be right for you or for me, but it’s right for the Duggars, and it works for them.
[Featured Image by April L. Brown/AP]