I know this blog steers clear of rant, but when I saw headlines applauding Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s announcement that they are pregnant with #20, I did want to pound some keys here and rant. I have calmed down, and land with these thoughts…
On one hand, I realize their religious faith drives why they keep having babies. They adhere to Quiverfull principles of family planning, which essentially is no “planning” per se–no birth control, not even NFP, or natural family planning, because as Nancy Campbell, a Quiverfull leader says, “even natural family planning may be a selfish attempt to thwart the sovereignty of God.” When they use birth control and “refuse to have children,” “no woman can legitimately claim to love the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, if she withholds her womb from His service.”
Now to me, this kind of thinking sounds just plain crazy. However, I respect everyone’s right to religious freedom so on one level I respect their beliefs even though are far from my own.
Where I begin to have the problem is when those beliefs impact others and our world. Let’s start with the carbon footprint of every one of their children. According to Datablog at Guardian.uk, each person in the U.S. has an 18 tonne carbon emissions rate. A tonne is a metric ton, and equivalent to about 2200 pounds. So in standard tons we use in the U.S. that is almost 40,000 pounds of carbon emissions per person. So with 20 kids, that’s almost 800,000 pounds of carbon footprint.
When it comes to the impact of their reproductive actions, how can a religion promote such a level of irresponsible parenthood? The Catholics seem to get it—take how Pope Paul VI defines responsible parenthood in his 1968 encyclical Humane Vitae:
“In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.” Ok maybe that just means it is alright to use NFP, although we all know many Catholics use other (more effective) means of birth control.
Beyond saying it is “God’s will,” the Duggars are an appalling example of making babies a business and media enterprise. How can they afford all those kids? They say on The Today Show segment it’s that they stay out of debt. But where does their income come from, the source of their livelihood? Reproduction.
The media empire they have created is fueled by how many children they can possibly have. They have to have a baby factory to stay famous, to keep their reality show, to afford to pay for all of those children–Ironically to continue to afford their kids they have to have more of them!
It may be their religion with serious blind spots in today’s world, but it also seems being a baby factory celebrity enterprise is their other needed “creed.”
On Salon.com Mary Elizabeth Williams argues in her article “Stop Judging the Duggars,” that “A family of 20 is just another side of reproductive choice.” I say it is so much more than that. It is a sad and disturbing religious and capitalist “baby as commodity” commentary that indeed deserves to be judged.
What are your reactions to the Duggars at 20?