You may hear a lot about Amazon Prime’s latest Duggar family docuseries, “Shiny Happy People,” over the next few weeks. The corporate media have already gleefully seized on the series’ content as evidence of why Christian values are incompatible with contemporary America and homeschooling is apparently rife with abuse and educational neglect.
The series follows the explosive drama surrounding the Duggar family, who were made famous by TLC’s hit show “19 Kids and Counting,” and the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the Christian organization the Duggars promote and belong to.
The IBLP espouses a distorted and damaging interpretation of Christianity. Full stop. The biggest example of this explored in the docuseries is its teachings on abuse. The IBLP both victim-blames people who have been sexually abused and glorifies their suffering. One ex-IBLP member in the documentary even said that the twisted teaching made her feel envious of friends who had been assaulted.
“Shiny Happy People” reasonably links these problematic teachings to the behavior of IBLP founder and former leader, Bill Gothard, who has been accused of sexual harassment and molestation by 34 women, some of whom were interviewed in “Shiny Happy People.” (Gothard denies the truth of the accusations.)
The documentary also interviews Jill Duggar, the fourth eldest of the 19 Duggars, and her husband, Derick Dillard. The couple blasts Jill’s parents for legitimate personal grievances, such as Jill’s father, Jim Bob, not fairly compensating them for their participation in the reality show. Jill also revealed that she felt “obligated” to help save her family’s TV series in 2015 by publicly defending her brother and now-convicted pedophile, Josh Duggar, who molested her and several other young girls in the early 2000s.
Hating on Big Families, Patrick Henry College, Christian Influencers, and Homeschooling
However, the Duggars and IBLP are secondary characters by the time the series reaches its conclusion. Indeed, the Duggars and IBLP are simply clickbait used by the series’ creators to vilify long-held Christian practices and values.
In the last episode, “Shiny Happy People” goes on a bizarre tangent, slamming all Christian social media influencers for their “fringe” opinions on modesty, the existence of unchangeable biological sex, and traditional gender roles. It doesn’t matter that the influencers are not members of the IBLP nor do they adhere to the same lifestyle as the Duggars. They’re Christian, so they are “fringe.”
“Crazy,” is how one extended Duggar family member in the documentary described the ancient biblical command to “be fruitful and multiply.” In the docuseries, “crazy” and “abusive” pretty much sums up “Shiny Happy People’s” take on big families, whether you have nine or 19 children.
“Just the sheer number of children, it is impossible to parent all of them,” claims interviewee Jennifer Sutphin, an anti-Christian YouTuber who describes herself as a “hate watcher” of Christian fundamentalism. What expertise Amazon thought she would bring to the table is unclear. “They usually have the older children — the daughters — take care of the younger kids,” added Sutphin.
To attest to the maltreatment of the eldest children in big families, the series interviews Eve Ettinger, a woman who now rejects that the Bible is God’s Word, comparing it instead to “glittery” literature. “I think my experience with parentification is like, still one of my biggest traumas from this world that I’m still working through,” said Ettinger. “I’m the oldest of nine. I helped raise approximately five of my younger siblings. I was my siblings’ surrogate mom.”
The idea that the children of large families are destined to be neglected and the eldest children are often exploited is false. As the eldest of nine children myself, I can tell you that my younger siblings were never “trauma”-inducing. Being part of a big family is character-building. There’s no room for self-entitlement or self-centeredness, and my siblings and I grew up better for it.
Homeschooling is arguably the most central theme in “Shiny Happy People.” The docuseries suggests homeschoolers are wildly uneducated and highly susceptible to abuse, and, to top it off, their homeschooling parents were motivated to pull them out of public school buildings because they are racist.
All of these allegations are untrue. “Homeschooling families are more mentally independent than those who dutifully attend their government-assigned ZIP-code school,” notes The Federalist’s Joy Pullmann. Moreover, homeschooling is “overwhelmingly popular with voters, especially black and Hispanic voters.”
The creators of “Shiny Happy People” aren’t worried about children falling behind educationally or being abused. If they were, they would investigate the failing public school system, which is facilitating “gender transitions” for minors. In the last episode, the documentarians make it abundantly clear what they’re really afraid of: Christian homeschoolers becoming politically engaged.
Excluding Christians From Government
“The real story behind the Duggars is a much bigger one,” says interviewee Alex Harris, a Harvard Law graduate and member of a very prominent homeschooling family. “The Joshua Generation is one of the most ambitious plots of modern evangelical history,” he continued, as ominous music plays in the background. “It’s a decades-long, multi-generational plan to raise up an elite striking force of Christian homeschool graduates to infiltrate the highest levels of government.”
Generation Joshua is a Christian youth organization that helps homeschooled children get involved in government by volunteering for conservative politicians. TeenPact, another organization “Shiny Happy People” warns us about, gets Christian youths involved in government via programs that teach kids about the political process. There is no connection between these two organizations and the IBLP.
“The goal was Christian homeschool graduates who would be U.S. senators, who would be U.S. presidents, and, most importantly, who would be U.S. Supreme Court justices, in order to bring America back to its rightful position as a truly Christian nation,” said Harris, as footage from the Heritage Foundation flashes onscreen. The docuseries then cites the overturning of Roe v. Wade as one of the most egregious effects of Christian homeschoolers’ “world domination” conquest.
The message is clear: Christians, particularly ones who have been educated outside of public schools, are too dangerous and radical to be part of the U.S. government or in any way involved in the political process (so much for inclusivity!). According to the docuseries, encouraging political engagement among Christian children is equivalent to an insidious “plot.” And heaven forbid one of these Christian homeschoolers gets elected — that’s an “infiltration.”
Innocent homeschooled children getting involved in politics pales in comparison to George Soros planting pro-crime district attorneys in American cities, but this documentary isn’t interested in real political plots and damaging infiltrations. It’s just interested in smearing any parents who agree with the Bible and want to educate their own kids, by connecting them to fringe movements with serious problems.
This has everything to do with ideology, not genuine concern for the well-being of children. That’s why the docuseries complains about Christian institutions of higher learning, specifically Patrick Henry College. Many of its conservative graduates have become involved in American government. It’s also why “Shiny Happy People” is concerned about Christian homeschooling “debate clubs,” where kids learn to “take on any liberal or atheist argument or statement and debunk it.”
When the documentarians accuse homeschooling of being a political move on the part of parents, they’re right. Homeschooling is a reaction to the left’s infiltration and politicization of public schools. Homeschooled children should be feared by the left because they were not sent to neo-Marxist reeducation camps for eight hours a day every day of their childhood. This is the reason the creators of “Shiny Happy People” suggested the government should start regulating homeschooling with “universal standards” in an interview about the documentary.
But what do things like Generation Joshua, Patrick Henry College, Christian influencers, and homeschooling have to do with the Duggars or the IBLP? The answer is nothing. “Shiny Happy People” is part of a much wider and concerted effort to label the Christian principles and values that our nation was founded on as extreme and dangerous.
The central takeaway from the failed Duggar doc is that the leftist documentarians’ standard of “normal” is not normal. In “Shiny Happy People,” big, Christian, homeschooling families are freak shows, and the despotic and irreligious worldview of the left is the norm.
The unfortunate truth for leftists is that if Christians keep having lots of babies and homeschooling them, the left’s cultural revolution will fail. That’s why the left is so committed to stigmatizing big families and reasserting influence over children’s minds. They’re so committed they’ll even produce an entire docuseries exploiting a troubled family’s drama to do it.