I am currently reading Jill Duggar Dillard’s memoir Counting the Cost about her life growing up in the 19 Kids and Counting Duggar family, and it is both riveting and heartbreaking.
One of the more heartbreaking aspects is the way Jill says her father used scripture to keep his children under his control. One specific example she cites is that they were “constantly reminded not to ‘stir up contention among the brethren,'” which comes from Proverbs 6:18-19. This verse, along with Matthew 18, has sadly been used to encourage abuse victims of all kinds not to report abuse or any problem within their church organization or family, citing talking about it at all as “gossip.” In the Duggar family, Jill says, “It was a way for our parents to keep us siblings from talking badly about each other, or putting anyone down, but over time it became something else — something more sinister. By preventing us from discussing anything controversial or sensitive with each other, the instruction not to ‘stir up contention among the brethren’ became a tool for silence, for control, for guilt.”
Knowing what we now know about Jill Duggar’s sexual abuse at the hands of her brother Josh, this use of scripture seems especially tragic.
But one of the other things Jill says was toxic about her ultra-fundamentalist family is that when she and her husband Derick began to disagree with her father over the filming schedule and lack of compensation for their TLC reality TV shows, he sent her siblings to intimidate her into agreeing with him.
She describes what happened after talks with her dad Jim Bob broke down: “Then came the next wave, a consolidated effort from several of my siblings. They hit the phones, sending voicemails and texts all day long, each one pleading with us to get this resolved. When that didn’t work, some of my siblings started visiting. They’d want to spend hours talking it through, trying to figure out what our problem was and why we weren’t doing what Pops wanted,” she says.