The oppressive atmosphere of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) continued to have a profound impact on the Duggar family, as revealed in Amazon’s “Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets.”
The series delves deeper into the twisted dynamics and damaging teachings that governed the household and explores the long-lasting consequences for the Duggar children.
Jill Duggar, who was the only one of the 19 Duggar kids to participate in the series, opens up about the control and fear instilled by IBLP. She shares her struggles with feeling obligated to obey her parents and its damaging effects on her sense of self-worth. “I felt like if I said no, I am not obeying my parents, and bad things are gonna happen to me,” Jill reveals. She describes IBLP as a system that draws in people like her father, Jim Bob, who seek control, ultimately fostering a cult-like environment.
The series features testimonials from former IBLP members who shed light on the role of church founder Bill Gothard in leading his followers down a path of isolation, repression, and unattainable expectations. The former members point to Gothard as the driving force behind the strict rules and the cult-like atmosphere that the Duggar family embraced.
However, in a statement on their website, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar dismiss the documentary as ill-intended and sensationalized. They express their love for every member of their family and emphasize their commitment to repairing damaged relationships. They maintain that the best way to achieve reconciliation is through love in a private setting. The Duggars’ longtime representative declined to comment on specific claims made in the series, and Bill Gothard also chose not to participate.
The series highlights how the Duggars’ reality TV show, “19 Kids and Counting,” unwittingly put the teachings of IBLP on display, with viewers buying into the sanitized image presented by the family. The former IBLP faithful featured in the series express their astonishment at how the Duggars’ extreme beliefs were packaged as entertainment while the darker reality remained hidden.
The revelations in the series also delve into the family’s handling of Josh Duggar’s history of sexual abuse. In 2015, it was revealed that Josh had molested five underage girls, including his sisters, as a teenager. The family initially sought guidance within their church and did not report the incidents to authorities for over a year. The series exposes the extent of the cover-up and raises questions about the Duggars’ motivations for keeping the abuse hidden.
Jim Bob and Michelle’s decision to withhold the information about Josh’s actions from the Holt family, whose daughter was Josh’s first girlfriend, is particularly disturbing. Jim Bob admits to using his daughter as a “carrot” to encourage Josh to behave appropriately. The manipulation and disregard for the well-being of their own children and others involved in the situation are deeply troubling.
Furthermore, the series explores the inadequate response of law enforcement at the time. The 2003 police report indicated that the Duggars did not disclose the full extent of Josh’s actions to the officer, who happened to have a personal friendship with Jim Bob. The officer gave Josh a warning and did not take further action. This raises concerns about the role of personal connections and the failure of authorities to investigate the abuse thoroughly.
The series also sheds light on the extreme beliefs and practices imposed by IBLP, including the demonization of popular culture. Cabbage Patch Kids were deemed demonic, and Disney was considered indecent. The Duggars were prohibited from watching TV and were taught to burn everything associated with “worldly” influences. These strict rules and the emphasis on maintaining a youthful and innocent appearance served to isolate the Duggar children from the outside world.
As the series comes to a close, it becomes clear that the Duggar family’s secrets and the repercussions of their association with IBLP are far from resolved. The testimonies and revelations presented underscore the importance of addressing the harm caused by harmful belief systems and the need for accountability and healing within the Duggar family and beyond.