Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Eight - a few thoughts.

I've been watching - and I'll admit, reading - a lot about Jon & Kate Plus Eight, along with the rest of the world.

In many ways, it's like watching a car or train wreck happening, and doing nothing about it.

In private, I've expressed frustration with the evangelical church for sitting back and watching this happen to a family that until very recently, the same "church" has been actively promoting as an example of today's Christian parent.

I've wondered out loud if the same churches that invited Jon and Kate to talk about their family and their faith (and helped promote their book) are offering a lifeline to the couple as they struggle in their marriage.

Right or wrong, regardless of choices made, and regardless of their "celebrity" status, this is a family in crisis.

Christians - again, I toss myself into the mix - are good at being there when things go right (or even moderately wrong), but when something like divorce or separation is mentioned, people are often quick to assign blame and even quicker to say, well, they just should have had a deeper faith.

Because the Gosselins live very public lives - and thanks in part to social networking like Facebook and blogs - millions of people are weighing in on their situation.

The comments left on the show's Facebook page and in response to numerous articles are pretty brutal. Somehow the anonymity provided by screen names allows people to leave hateful and hurtful messages. At best, it's like getting passed an anonymous note in junior high. At worst, it's something you would find on a bathroom wall.

Going through a crisis like this in the public arena is heart wrenching. But often, instead of offering comfort and care to people like Jon & Kate, Christians seem to turn their collective backs just when the people hurting need them the most. (Just ask Amy Grant what happens when you "fall from grace"or at least off the "Christian pedestal" - but that is a different story.)

Instead of criticizing Jon & Kate - and reading gossip and speculation - I'd rather spend my time praying for them. Hopefully others, who are within their circle of influence, will reach out and help them in tangible ways.

I keep being reminded of this year's mission trip theme - based around Matthew 25:35-40.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

I'm praying that someone will reach out and offer the Gosselins what they need most, during this crisis.

* * * * *
Note: I love the blog, written by Diane Butler Bass, originally published this week on I've excepted it below. I think she sums up several things about the plight of an evangelical family in 2009. You can read the entire blog by clicking on the link above.

In Jon and Kate's case, evangelical gender expectations seem to be the root of their troubles: they reversed the parental roles. After a couple of seasons, Jon decided to stay at home and Kate went on the road to promote the show and their books. The choice made Jon increasingly sullen and Kate happier and began to wear at their relationship.

For evangelicals, this is an unusual arrangement that leaves the husband open to charges of "feminization" and the wife of being difficult. The Gosselin's tensions demonstrate how unsuccessfully conservative religious groups have been dealing with gender--and how when a woman like Kate Gosselin breaks with tradition in order to pursue what she loves--even when her business is family and motherhood--she gets both blamed and punished for problems in her relationships.

Kate kept saying, "it is so complex; it is so difficult," unable to stop her tears. In a way, she embodies many evangelical women who struggle between the role of homemaker that their churches assign them and of finding interesting and creative work in the world. Kate, despite all her pretensions to tradition, is actually a very contemporary woman with feminist inclinations--one who is figuring out that her theology is at odds with the way life works out.

She often violates the mores of a nice evangelical mom (which I think is part of the appeal; she is, in many ways, an evangelical fantasy mother). She clearly likes travel, Oprah interviews, and book signings. Staying at home with eight kids can be a drag, so she left her husband with them only to find out that there may have been a girlfriend, too. Success, good children, happy marriage--are they all possible within her theological framework? "I have a lot of anger," she said on Monday's program. I bet.

How dreary it is to watch a relationship implode on national television. In some measure, the failure is theirs. But the conservative evangelical community shares some of that failure, too. The religious world to which Jon and Kate belong never successfully navigated the gender changes of the last three decades, insisting that happiness can still be found in hierarchical roles of male superiority and female submission.

Having rejected feminist theology, evangelicals can't really navigate contemporary marriage issues like those facing Jon and Kate. They made celebrities of the Gosselins for being traditionalists, yet that success eroded the very basis of the traditionalism on which their family was based. Now, the woman is criticized for that same success by an increasingly cruel media and tabloid press. I just wonder if all those church people will turn on you next.

1 comment:

  1. You are so wise ~ as I read your response to this all I can say is Amen and thank God we have people like you courageously speaking up! You go gal! I am proud of you! Love and Blessings,


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