Big family, big values

One of the more popular shows on the cable channel TLC is “19 Kids and Counting,” a reality show about a very large, devout Christian family living in Arkansas.

The show highlights the ups and downs of raising 19 children, and the plot has very pleasantly thickened recently as several members of the 19-and-counting clan have gotten married and started to have families of their own. The Duggars’ very hectic but happy homelife has caught the attention of millions of TV viewers who have grown to truly admire the family. Some say it is the mere size of the household that has more people tuning in each week. No doubt, that is probably part of the attraction, because even among the most pro-life families, 19 children are rare.

But I also think the attraction has to do with so many longing for what the Duggars have: a true love for God and for each other. They stick together no matter how many challenges they face, and they keep God front-and-center in the middle of the pots, pans, parties, weddings and, as you can imagine, piles and piles of dirty laundry. That kind of commitment is hard to come by in our culture where divorced and fatherless households are much more commonplace, and in a world that tends to serve me, myself and I rather than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If a recent petition to keep them on the air is any indication, the Duggars have a very long list of extended relatives. As of early December, some 210,000 people signed a petition launched by LifeSiteNews.com. The petition was in response to another petition posted on Change.org that looked to banish “19 Kids and Counting” from the TLC lineup. That petition claimed mom Michelle Duggar was, among other things, guilty of discrimination and major homophobia because she openly and actively supported the repeal of a local transgender law that if upheld would have given men who dress as women the right to use not only women’s restrooms but locker rooms, showers and other female-only facilities in their hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, according to LifeSiteNews.com.

Her concern over the measure made it into one of the recent episodes. Of course, the petition on Change.org used all the tired clichés that are so often applied to strong Christians. The word “extreme” kept popping up in the attacks on the Duggars, even though survey after survey reveal the Duggars’ traditional family values are supported by most Americans. The petition to have them banned backfired big time, not only in the number of petition signatures gathered supporting the Duggars, but also in terms of the publicity that led to the law being repealed in December. The Duggars unabashedly also made a $10,000 contribution to the campaign fighting the measure.

Executives at TLC have yet to comment on the dueling petitions. But in this case, their actions are definitely speaking louder than any statement they may put out as the Duggars are still on the air at the cable network. Maybe TLC is taking its cues from the A&E cable network, which received a huge backlash after tampering with another famous TV family in “Duck Dynasty.”

For now, it looks like the Duggars, thank the Lord, are staying put. Their program is one of the few wholesome shows still out there — especially in the reality TV genre. It’s good news for viewers looking for a program that exemplifies traditional values, including commitment and self-sacrifice. It’s also good news for the Duggars, whose family is a lot bigger than they ever realized: 19 and counting and then some.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.