Shortly after Madilyn was born I heard about the wildly popular “John & Kate Plus Eight” Show. I loved watching and catching up on episodes as I played with my own baby and watched her grow. It seemed really cool to me that their twins Cara and Madelyn, were also close to our names (even Cara’s middle name is the same as mine: Nicole). I even thought about writing in to tell them about it. I got their Zondervan book for Christmas as a gift from my mom, and I shared it with my sister-in-law, who had watched the show. I liked their subtle Christian witness, and most of all, I just enjoyed watching those beautiful kids and seeing how their parents juggled the chaos.
Now, along with the rest of America, I’m aware of the controversy surrounding the show and its players. I’m saddened for what it’s become, and I’ve made a decision not to watch the show anymore. And it’s not because I’m too good, or that I think they’re bad. The fact is simply that the show is no longer what it once was. And it didn’t get that way overnight. I remember watching last season and feeling of uncomfortable. I should have been discerning enough to realize things were going downhill fast. My personality tends to avoid conflict, and as this family deals with their demons in front of all of America, I’m content with sticking to taped episodes of “Ace of Cakes” and cartoons on Noggin. I just don’t want to be part of the problem. Some of my friends are praying for this family, and I commend them for that.
But I am interested in reading some analysis of the show, as we can all learn from what’s happening there. As this ChristianityToday.com editorial by Christian ethics professor Julie Vermeer Elliott outlines, many Christians have much to learn about their blind acceptance of the couple and their hypocrisy-filled disdain now that their marriage is in shambles. Here’s an excerpt:
“It was not until the recent allegations of sexual impropriety arose that a significant number of Christians began to question whether Jon and Kate were indeed the examples of faithful living that we had imagined. Somehow most of us missed the long trajectory that was, day by day, moving them farther from a life of Christian virtue. Sexual immorality—whether actual or merely suspected—caught our attention, but the materialism, narcissism, and exploitation of children that preceded it was largely overlooked.”
The editorial starts at the beginning – with the couple going against nature to conceive – to the more recent estrangement of Jon and Kate’s family and friends (most notably Aunt Jodi and Beth) and outlines the family’s seemingly misplaced priorities. But most notably, this editorial deals with “the shortcomings of evangelical piety”: how many in Christian community make idols out of inspirations and rarely stop to ask the most important questions.
(Let me add a comment here after a friend emailed me with some concerns about this article and my reaction to it. Specifically: I don’t think “going against nature to conceive” is any different than taking a Tylenol. The risks and outcomes are just different. I have no doubt I’d do it myself. Generally: The writer of this editorial paints John & Kate’s story with broad strokes looking for the big picture of how things changed over time, and asked questions that I did not think to ask. A different perspective is always worth considering, even it it’s not the one you’ll ultimately share.)