I'll just say it: I'm inclined to criticize the Duggars.

Yes, a part of me wants to respect their right to have "as many children as God gives" them. But I also have real concerns about their choices. I'm concerned that their view of God's "control" over fertility is problematic on theological and pragmatic levels. While I'd affirm with them that children are a gift and a blessing, I also think that there are many good reasons to welcome fewer children than one could physically conceive in a lifetime. I worry about the daughters who are raised up as junior mothers, for the sons who are pressed into a model of patriarchal responsibility (with an emphasis on financial independence) beginning at a young age. And I worry about Michelle and mothers like her, whose bodies may not be able to withstand near-continuous pregnancy for decades.

I finished the Duggars' newest book, A Love That Multiplies, days before the news of Michelle's miscarriage broke. As I read the book, which tells the agonizing, touch-and-go story of Josie's early emergency C-section and rough start as a baby born 16 weeks too soon, I felt for the Duggars. Hearing their story in their own words humanized them in a way that tabloids never could. Despite discomfort with some of the ways they've worked out their understanding of Christianity, I couldn't help seeing them as fellow believers who love every one of their 19 children as ferociously as I love my 2. And so, while I can more easily imagine running for President than having even half their number of children, I felt deeply sad for them at the loss of the daughter they've named Jubilee Shalom, whose brief life the family will remember with a memorial service Wednesday at their Arkansas church, where they handed ...

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