Do you believe in God? Do you go to church? If so, what do you think about when you hear those two topics come up? Led by Jill Duggar Dillon of 19 Kids and Counting fame, a shocking tale of pornography, abuse, molestation and a litany of other deplorable acts are all detailed in Amazon Prime’s new 4-part miniseries “Shiny Happy People”.
Shiny Happy People
Filmed in interview format, Shiny Happy People documents the history and acts of The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) as experienced and told by several ex-members. According to those interviewed, the IBLP used the Bible to indoctrinate a generation of adults into having as many children as possible (The Quiverfull of Arrows belief, which is an anti-birth control teaching). Furthermore the IBLP taught these adults members authoritarian tactics under the guise of homeschooling in order to raise their quiverfull of children in environment that promotes abject obedience through abuse and fear.
Shiny Happy Duggars
The documentary focuses primarily on the Duggar family and how they brought the principles of IBLP and Bill Gothard to popular mainstream culture through their family’s long standing relationship with TLC, producing the reality TV shows 17, 18 and ultimately 19 Kids and Counting. In the show, a camera crew follows the lives of Jim Bob and Mary Duggar as their raise their 17-19 kids on the foundation of IBLP. The show was a huge success and a hit not just with the religious fundamentalist community but also mainstream secular audiences who found themselves enthralled by these people who, despite being on a major reality TV show, didn’t even own a single TV themselves. A lifestyle where the women and girls obediently cooked and cleaned for the household while the boys were allowed and expected to be boys.
In 2015 the oldest Duggar boy, Josh, came out and publicly apologized for molesting two of his sisters when they were younger. This caused TLC to cancel the show and caused audiences as well as fellow IBLP members to look more closely at the Duggar family. We they really the Shiny Happy People that the TV show portrayed?
Inside the ILBP
The answer is no. The 2015 confession unveiled the shocking truth about the imperfections of the Duggar family. It caused a spotlight to be shown on the ILBP, which the Duggar family were members of and the rampant abuse and sexual misconduct that permeated the foundation led by Bill Gothard. It exposes how Gothard would behave inappropriately with the young female members of his organization while at the same time establishing himself, unwed and without children, as the all-knowing source on how marriage should be handled and how children should be raised.
The testimonies from the ex-ILBP members that were interviewed in this documentary mirrored those of Jill Duggar. Every ex-member, young and old, all spoke of extreme abuse in the household and even more extreme abuse at the hands of the organization itself during conventions and retreats.
The Fall of Gothard, The Rise of Others
While Bill Gothard was eventually ousted from heading the organization, more have come forward in an attempt to replace the man whose organization’s assets were estimated to be $90 million. Most notably was Jim Bob, who began teaching the principles of the ILBP in individuals homes.
Another spinoff of the ILBP is the Joshua Generation. With spotlight members like Madison Cawthorn, the Joshua Generation focuses on the youth by making Christian Fundamentalism look cool and trendy mainly through the use of social media. The goal of the Joshua Generation is simple: take your quiverfull family and raise them to go out in the world and attain the highest ranking powers in society, focusing mainly on politics. The goal being, essentially world domination as the principles of ILBP are modernized and spread across the globe.
Where Are They Now?
Overall I found the documentary to be eye opening and very much worth watching regardless of ones beliefs. Josh Duggar was eventually discovered to have posession of child pornography and now faces a sentence of 151 months in prison. TLC tried a spinoff series with Jill and Jess Duggar “Counting On” which followed the two women into adulthood and their own foray in parenthood but ultimately was canceled after Josh’s arrest. The documentary also exposed how Jim Duggar pocketed an estimated $850K per season of 19 Kids and Counting without so much as a penny going to any of the children or their families.