Ten Things Reality TV Tells Us About Ourselves

I’ve not invested so much as five seconds in the television reality show 19 Kids and Counting. I’m no better than the habitual voyeur into the affairs of the Duggar Family; Jim Bob and Michelle chose to put themselves out there.  I simply choose to waste my fleeting days on earth watching grown men throw balls at each other or into some little net, or in some cases ignore the ball entirely while attempting to separate an opponent’s head from the rest of his body. But apparently 19 Kids and Counting is a really compelling show because it’s about a husband and wife who are Christians, obviously adverse to birth control, and impose strict rules upon their kids’ dating experiences.

Really? The NBA playoffs are on. Who cares?

Nonetheless, like many others I find the latest tale of woe originating from Duggar-ville intriguing. Apparently in every group of 21 people on the planet there really is at least one who will do something immoral and, worse yet, that visits shame upon his family. This means the doctrine of original sin, which until recently orthodox Christians pretty much took for granted, is at least partially true. If you’re not convinced as I am that we are all incapable of morally perfect lives, it should now be clear that at least 4.76190476190 percent of us are incapable of moral perfection. Here are some other lessons we can learn from “reality TV”:

1.       We handle reality quite poorly. It is interesting how “reality shows” sail along until suddenly interrupted by…reality. Dad publicly condemns homosexuality (Duck Dynasty). Mom dates a child molester (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo). Son confesses to “molesting underage girls” as a teenager. Public opinion turns and corporations pull ads because, while we love reality TV, we weren’t bargaining for that much reality!

2.       Our favorite pastime is comparing ourselves to others. Part of the fun of these shows, just like part of the fun of professional sports, is gauging how we measure up. Sometimes we marvel at the skill with which people perform. Other times we relish the fact that “celebrities” or professional athletes screw things up just as much or even worse than we would. We marvel at others’ success and take pleasure in others’ failures.

3.       We covet the feeling of moral superiority. When famous peoples’ failures do occur, particularly famous Christian peoples’ failures, and they publicly go down in flames it is virtually a matter of seconds before great hordes feel the need to pile on via social media and so forth. After all, we always knew they weren’t any better than us. Now there’s proof!

4.       It’s really easy to forgive offenses that weren't committed against us. On the other side of the coin are those who immediately, without knowing even half of the reality behind the story, proclaim forgiveness. That’s fine I guess. Being a Christian does after all compel me to forgive others when they offend me. So, Josh Duggar, I forgive you for making Christianity appear shallow, silly, and hypocritical. However, I’m not able to forgive Josh Duggar for his offenses against those girls simply because I am not one of those girls, nor am I their brother, parent, or relative. For me to forgive him for molesting them is not by business.

5.       It’s even easier to tell people who have been offended to forgive their offenders. I believe they should, mostly for their own mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. However… How. Ever. Don’t say, “Well, the Duggars have done a lot of good…they’re such a great family…and they dealt with this…so really, those girls and everyone else just need to let it go.” No. A thousand times, NO. As far as most of us know, the Duggars are a great family. But that’s the point. We don’t know. We really don’t know how this was dealt with. Frankly, we really don’t need to know.

6.       We thrive on taking offense. By the same token it’s a bit disingenuous to be offended by an offense that was not intended to offend, nor did it ever offend, you…until you found out about it years after the fact because now the guy is mildly famous. Get over yourselves.

7.       Forgiveness drives us nuts. People who are not Christians will be driven up the wall by Christians who are willing to forgive Josh Duggar for his apparent hypocrisy. Should any of Josh Duggar’s victims publicly forgive him, look out. Public backlash will likely be furious. People don’t want forgiveness. People want retribution.

8.       Many people who are not Christians are disgusted by those who are. They will say that Christianity is morally bankrupt because so many Christians are simply and humbly stating the truth: “Yes…this is reality. We Christians are at times a hypocritical, perverted, and offensive mess. Sorry.” (See also: #1-3.)

9.       We could stand to be a little quieter. Given the spectacular manner in which Christian celebrities tend to fall out of public favor, perhaps more should heed the Apostle Paul’s instructions “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (I Thessalonians 4:11). Get off TV and get a real job.

10.   It’s okay. I forgive you. But if you are the Duggars and you’ve been exposed as hypocritical, insofar as you’ve offended me personally (which isn’t very far compared to how you’ve offended some others), I forgive you. Hopefully the people involved, particularly the victims, have gotten the help they need like you say and can all go on with their lives. But I don’t want to hear about it. I haven’t watched a second and I’m still tired of you. If you get booted off TV, so be it. I’m sure there’s a game on somewhere.