They say God is kind. And just. And, in the face of all empirical evidence, merciful beyond compare. Any random chapter of world history would contradict such foolish naďveté, of course, but the belief persists as if indispensible to the human experience, much as an opposable thumb or the procreative drive. Why, in the 20th century alone, such omnipresence has stood achingly silent in the face of two world wars, several rounds of genocide, the atomic bomb, and more cases of starvation and neglect than one cares to count. Worst of all, the skies have stiffened with indifference while Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — the former one of creation’s dimmest bulbs and obsessive consumers of ozone-depleting hair care products, the latter the cheeriest of glassy-eyed soldiers for Christ – have produced nothing but hearty, healthy, and all-too-vigorous progeny. From seduction, to cheerless mounting, to apple-cheeked delivery at the TLC network’s expense, the Duggar pair has never faced the burden of heartache, difficulty, or extended hospital stays.
Without a hit-or-miss in sight, the Duggar family has grown to a staggering eighteen children, all of whom are home schooled, deprived of friends, and told to practice humility, which for the Duggars means (if a recent episode of their show is to be believed) that even when running a charity marathon in the Arkansas heat, men must wear jeans and the women ankle-length denim dresses, all so the world can be spared a glimpse of sinful flesh. And dancing? The devil’s work, apparently, and one step from unmarried sexual indulgence. While the Duggars rot the minds of youth with the idea that the earth is 5,000 years old, or that man rode dinosaurs like prize thoroughbreds, or that an unemployed, uneducated housewife is best equipped to steer her children through brief lectures and on-line propaganda, God has refused to step in. If a mansion must be built, the money arrives as if dropped by an angel. Nothing interferes with the unending joy, no voices are raised, and Jim Bob can skate along the frozen pond of righteousness without a job, prospect of a job, or even children who see the need to work themselves. Even when the oldest son gets married, or revoltingly impregnates his own docile spouse, no one is expected to enter the real world of risk, danger, and circumstance. Sure, the Duggars are insanely cheap (no one has received a new article of clothing, well, ever), but they manage to keep the 20-man operation running like an Army barracks without a sunken cheek or growling stomach in sight.
Now, at long last, God has seen fit to make His presence known. He is, in fact, a loving deity, and has a biting wit to boot. The 19th Duggar child, named Josie Brooklyn to continue with the family’s fanatical devotion to the letter J, was born months early, being plucked from Michelle’s belly at a mere 1 pound, 6 ounces. As we speak, it is clinging to life. Barely hanging on. Touch – and dare we say – go. There is joy in Mudville, and for the first time, the Duggar family is about to taste life as it is lived, though the sting will be somehow less fulfilling, as no doubt husband and wife have already crafted a message indicating God’s need for Josie in the afterlife, for who else to spread Christ’s love than a half-formed fetus weighing less than a Big Mac? Still, let that be the public face of grief: lemonade from newborn lemons, cheerful acceptance, and a respecting of God’s greater plan. But in the shadows, when the cameras are tucked away for the night, let there be pain. And sorrow. And a gnashing of teeth so profound it rocks the very faith that keeps the Duggar brood in the darkness of forced ignorance. Let them bond with the owl pellet of a daughter; kissing it, cradling it in a warm saucer, only to lose it at the perceived moment of triumph. Let Western medicine promise hope, only to strip it away in favor of divine judgment.
This was the one. The miracle baby at an age when most women give up the ghost or settle for a Downie. This was to be a hope amidst darkness; a sweet lamb for a cynical age of terror and Negro socialism. But God has other plans. Not this time. Not on His watch. No more, He cries, planting down firmly his righteous fist of fury. You’re done, Michelle, and Jim Bob, if you can hear Me, put that thing away at long last. The line must be drawn here. God let so many go by, breeding arrogance, only to pull the rug out when it seemed to have never been possible. And when Josie’s heart stops, as it must, and is buried with full Duggar honors in the backyard, under that somber spruce planted so many summers ago, let this be a lesson to devotees everywhere. God is in charge. And pissed. And sick of the madness.