Jon and Kate Plus 8 Minus God

I know this is going to sound crazy, but I’ve been trying to get in touch with Jon and Kate Gosselin from the Jon and Kate plus Eight program on TLC.  I have never written so much as a fan letter to anyone although I have interviewed a few celebrities in my magazine writing days. This has absolutely nothing to do with fan mail or interviewing them.  I have a strong desire to contact them and say:  WAKE UP!

Background

I rarely watch television.  My 13-year-old daughter liked this program because she loves babies and young children.  The children are adorable and the episodes usually had some sort of fun or challenging activity going on while the parents interacted with each other and the kids.  I found it only moderately interesting, but I sometimes joined my daughter to watch.

For those who may not watch any television or haven’t noticed all the front cover magazine stories on the way to the check out stands, let me update you.

Jon & Kate Plus 8 is a reality television show about Jon and Kate and their eight children: a pair of fraternal twins and sextuplets. The cameras are in their home and focus on the challenges of raising multiple children. The show is currently one of the highest rated programs on TLC and the fifth season premiere was seen by a record 9.8 million viewers, the most watched show of that evening including broadcast television, twice as many viewers as the show’s previous series high.

Jon and Kate’s different personalities were readily apparent.  Yet, husbands and wives are often very different, thereby presenting the usual marital challenges.  They seemed no different from many couples.  There were seemingly minor squabbles but they would come together at the end of each show and talk about it all.

The show suddenly grabbed my interest when I heard things were falling apart in a big way.  Reports of marriage infidelity and the two living very separate lives made headlines.  On June 22, 2009, legal proceedings were initiated in Pennsylvania to dissolve the ten-year marriage of Jon and Kate.  The episode announcing their separation became the most watched episode of the series, with 10.6 million viewers.

The Way of the World

The reason for my newfound interest in Jon and Kate is from my Catholic perspective as an author of a book on saved marriages and also as a wife and mother.  Mark and I have had our own ups and downs.  We know the stress of raising a large brood.  But we also have grown together in our faith in God and faithfulness to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  If the odds makers had taken bets on our marriage, they might have given us ten to one odds in favor of us splitting up.  And the “one” would have been thought possible due to the children and Catholic teaching against divorce.  There was a time when that was the glue that kept us together.  But let me tell you, although those are two good reasons, to live an authentic Catholic life, you need more.  You need love.  And the only true love is the love that comes from God.  Only then is there love enough to spread throughout the family and weather the storms.  It is the love that never ends.  You don’t get it from your spouse, you get it from God.  You become filled with that love and then it spreads from there.

Mark and I have not always been the poster children of happy couples, but by golly, though hell and high water, our marriage is stronger than ever now.  Our secret?  Prayer and filling ourselves up with God’s love.  This is something we’ve chosen to do.  It did not just happen.  I once heard Fr. Corapi state, “Remember, love is not a feeling it is a choice.”  Since love comes from God, it means asking for it and wanting it above all else.

Recently, when I expressed regret to my oldest son, Aaron, that Mark and I used to argue in front of the kids, Aaron remarked that even if he and his siblings got mad at each other over something, within minutes, they were always talking and friends again.  No one holds grudges in our family.  That made me realize that in the midst of our bad example we had also provided a good example.  You see, we had no money to take off on separate vacations or set up separate residences.  Instead, for good or for bad, we were stuck with each other.  Given that we were both striving to be good Catholics, the response to our marital discord was to turn to God and ask for the love we needed.  Even if I was furious with Mark, I knew neither of us was going anywhere so the only thing to do was apologize to God and spouse for any bad behavior on my part and ask for the love we needed to go on.

Just the other day, I went to a talk given by Fr. Tom Richter who spoke on the love of God.  He stated that Jesus filled Himself up with the love of the Father.  Nothing stood in the way of this for there is nothing of greater value.

Fr. Tom made a powerful point when he said that when he ministers to men in prison, he tells them that the most valuable thing they can have in this world, they can have in prison—to fill themselves up with God.  So many people that live supposedly free lives deny themselves this most important thing.  Jobs, money, prestige and social life are all things that people often seek at the exclusion of God.  Even though we know mentally that God should be our all and be at the center of our existence, we push Him out in favor of lesser things. To fill ourselves with the love of God is to be complete and to be in union with the greatest good.  But people often instead choose worldly things that will rust and corrode, leaving little or no room for God.

What does any of this have to do with Jon and Kate?  Everything.  I’ve watched as they’ve made more and more money. Re-runs attest that their home and lives, although complicated by a large family was once simple in other ways.  There was not a lot of money or luxuries.  The couple was a team.  As Kate went to have her tummy tuck, (a charitable donation by a plastic surgeon) the couple hugged and kissed before Kate went into surgery.  Jon valued his wife and expressed that he could not imagine trying to raise their children without her.  She, in turn, expressed her love for Jon.

High ratings turned this show into a regular weekly program.  Before the eyes of many, Jon and Kate began to live the American dream.  Nicer clothes, vacations, a bigger home and all the luxuries money could buy slipped into their lives.  Yes, the two personalities sometimes clashed and having a camera in their home must have created stress, but something much uglier began to happen: money corrupted this family.  Jon and Kate can both buy whatever they want and go wherever they want now, with or without the kids.  This, they do.

All the while, Jon and Kate continually look straight into the cameras and say, “The children come first. I’ll do anything for my children.”  Anything?  How about Retrouvaille, a serious marriage program to work on saving their family?  How about marriage counseling?  How about turning the cameras off and walking away from the money and publicity?  The money and all that the show has given them is supposedly for the children according to Jon and Kate.  The house belongs to the children so Jon and Kate will take turns living in it during their time of custody.

But what do the children want?  There’s no abuse forcing one to flee this relationship.  The example they are setting is horrible.  Jon and Kate cut each other loose so quickly, without any indication that counseling and/or God had been brought into the problem.

God Centered

My other daughter, Mary, likes to watch another reality T.V. show, Eighteen Kids and Counting.  This is about the Duggar family, which consists of parents Jim Bob and Michelle and their 18 children.  This family has a camera in their home too.  But the lifestyles are very different.  The biggest difference is that God is continually brought into the center of things.  They family still maintains a relatively simple lifestyle and it would appear at least from what the camera captures, the love of God is at the heart of this family and the material world of fame and fortune does not infringe on that.  One reality T.V. family is still thriving, the other falling apart.  One family is centered on God, the other seemingly not.

So, on the surface, it appears that the Gosselins have attained everything but on a spiritual level, they have nothing.  The family is splitting apart before ten million viewers.  It’s the American way and there lies the tragedy.  This couple and so many in our society are blind to the fact that without God in the center, things eventually spin out of control.

Filling oneself up with God—not money—is the way to love and happiness.  Studies have shown that big-time lottery winners typically become less happy than before their win.  Have you ever met a person filled with the love of God that was unhappy?  Do you know of people with lots of money who are unhappy?

Volumes of research in recent decades have shown that more money produces virtually no increase in life satisfaction.  Instead, the studies indicate that dramatic increases in one’s wealth creates only short-term happiness that lasts until people get used to their newfound status.

The Journal of Science reported in June of 2006, “The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory.”  One study concluded, “People with above-average income… are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities.”

It is true that even poor people divorce.  But a God-centered couple does not.  Even if their personalities are very different, it’s all about love.  We all know couples that are as different as night and day and yet they have love.  And just as the Beatles once sang, “Money can’t buy me love.”  No, God’s love is not for sale.  He gives it freely but we need to desire it — above all else.

The Gosselins are not really living the American dream; they are living the American tragedy.  I know some will tell me not to be so simplistic, that their troubles are about more than money.  I would agree.  My contention is that the troubles are actually about only one thing — God, or rather the lack thereof.  God centered marriages might still have their struggles but they don’t fall apart.

Patti Maguire Armstrong

By

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country.  Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It are both available now. To read more, visit Patti’s Catholic News and Inspiration site. Follow her on Facebook at Big Hearted Families and Dear God Books.

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  • angelmama

    I’ve noticed the very thing you talk about in this article regarding Jon and Kate. I noticed the season before last though, that slowly, as new episodes aired, they looked less and less happy. The older twin girls, if anyone else has noticed, have looked unhappy and downright depressed for awhile now too. My heart is breaking over all of their lives being sold to the highest bidder. I’m angry that they have allowed money and fame to take their family down.

    I know you said you didn’t watch the show much,Patti, but in most of the earlier episodes Jon and Kate did actually portray themselves as Christians. They would have Bible verses up in the kitchen and around the house, Jon even started wearing t-shirts with scripture verses. They, at one point, said that their faith was important to them.

    Then something happened. The show stopped being a look into the lives of family that had overcome great odds and prevailed. It became about the next vacation or trip, new nannies, cleaning ladies, big new house, clothes, money… more, more more. Something had to give. So the smoke is clearing now and as you put it so well, it was their faith that didn’t make it out alive.

  • Claire

    Angelmama, you hit the nail on the head. It’s so tragic how their priorities changed. I was especially disappointed to hear Jon say that he’s excited to begin this new chapter in his life (divorce) because he’s only 32 and has his whole life ahead of him. It’s clear that he no longer wants to be tied down to marriage. He should have thought about that before he brought 8 kids into the world. To put his desires ahead of their needs is inexcusable. But I think you’re absolutely right that the materialism was the biggest source of their breakdown.

  • stutmann9

    I once had an experience with the Blessed Mother that I’d like to share, as it relates to love and my marriage. We had been struggling with an issue, and there was a time when I suspected something and thought the struggle was still apparent. In short, I was tempted to be angry and blow things out of proportion and overreact. As I climbed the stairs and fought with myself about how to handle things, I heard a feminine voice say gently to me, “Let love triumph.”
    Those words caused a chain of thoughts in me that led to my praying to Our Blessed Mother for help. I said, “oh Dear Mother, I am afraid of my own weakness. I WANT to be mad and confront, but your words challenge me. I have run out of wine, please help me.” “Do whatever He tells you,” came to mind, when Mary was interceding with Jesus for the couple’s need of wine at the Wedding at Cana. I know what the Lord tells me to do. “Forgive seventy times seven times. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Right at that moment, the iciness in me melted and I was filled with warmth and love for my husband. I took a deep breath, went downstairs and asked my husband if we could talk. Of course we did and the matter was not in fact at all as I percieved it! We embraced and sat on the couch together holding hands and I was able to fall asleep resting on his shoulder and at peace..I shudder to think what would have happened if I had just let the matter escalate, accusing wrongly. I thanked the Blessed Mother for her intervention and intercession. My favorite Luminous mystery now is the Wedding at Cana! This incident happened years ago, but each time I pray the Luminous Mysteries, I am filled with gratitude and rely on Mary’s intercession to help me with marital issues. Of course I pray too for the grace to live my wedding vows faithfully. The key to all: “Let LOVE triumph in your hearts!”

  • mabr

    I just read your article this morning. It must have been a godsend. I’m sure it was. I wallow…. Way too much and for far too long. I was raised Catholic and thought my spiritual growth was at its peak during my early twenties when I was trying to find out His will for me. Little did I realize that that was only the beginning. It never ends especially for someone who is way too emotional for her own good and who fantasizes about leaving her marriage when things go wrong. We have no children so I suppose I think about “leaving” very easily. But then something or Someone pulls me back. And I know it’s Him as well as him, my husband. As I grow older these days, I realize that God comes first. I think Catholics and Christians know that but to really know it is something else. That has been my experience anyway. Didn’t want to make this too long but wanted to thank you. Even after almost 18 years of marriage – and no children – I am still finding out His will for me. Sometimes I wish He weren’t so silent. But I think maybe He just spoke through you this morning. I would like to think so. Thank you.

  • vickiejirak

    Please keep trying to get in touch with the Goselins. My son and I love the show but we haven’t been watching as much since this all came out. Been praying for them.

  • Warren Jewell

    It never ceases to amaze and confuse my old head that part of the ‘everything’ those lost to materialism would have is divorce!?!?

    My daughter, bless her Mom’s prayers in heaven, rebels against a lot of the materialism that she has permitted into her life by deciding to have more children. She and her husband now realize that they love all the world by loving their children – and having more childen to love into the world.

    This guy Jon seems to think that he has had nine burdens rather than nine loves. Such pathetic immaturity is a great measure of the materialist undermining of our spirits unto most-true loss that we suffer to make material gain. With our diminishment of our spirits, we also undermine parenthood, motherhood and fatherhood; we undermine Matrimony and marriage and the power family brings to the Sacrament of Matrimony. And, even as I have no children with me any longer, I make every child I meet mine with a smile and taking notice, and they offer what they can to some old coot Grandpa of a stranger. I even make their Mommies (and/or Dads) mine by telling these babes “now you take care of your Mom/Dad – you only get one, you know”. Being Grandpa extends my family beyond all bounds, as long as I have children to encounter with love with every shopping trip and outing. They may not seem like ‘mine’, but as they are God’s, they are indeed mine.

    This poor TV family, as they have turned out to be, needs our prayers. But, the world also needs the love we share with our children as evidence that God loves even more perfectly and is so lovable in our return of His love. God has given us a world awash with His children of His love for our love.

  • Mary

    May God bless you Patti, in your endeavor to get in touch with the Gosselins. I’ve had the same idea and it has been plaguing me for weeks! Hopefully, someone will be able to get through to them before it is too late. They just need to put God back into their lives and make their marriage a priority. How easy it is from the outside looking in. I’ll be praying for them.

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  • SeanReynoldsNZ

    I haven’t seen either show: They are not broadcast here in Australia. But then again, I do have some thoughts to share here about God and money:

    (1) I have this idea that money doesn’t make you who you are, just having it will help to reveal who you are. If you are a generous person and make a fortune then that fortune will help you to be even more generous. If you are a jerk and make a fortune then you will become a bigger jerk.

    (2) I find it interesting that the apostles abandoned Jesus during His crucifixion, including the first Pope. They loved our Lord and eventually came back to Him, except for the one who sold Him because he wanted to make a few bucks. But the people who took a real public stand for Our Lord at His Passion were a couple of rich Pharisees. They were prepared to part with their fortune to honour Our Lord.

    (3) I know what it is like to be broke. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I couldn’t afford to buy my wife her engagement ring because I was a long way in the hole. That was under two years ago. Since then I’ve filled that grave of debt in, and since we moved from New Zealand to Australia, my wife has not had to have a job. (Of course, I wouldn’t stop her from working outside the home if she wanted to, but why would she want to do that when we’re about to have a baby and pay someone else to raise our future children?). I’m hoping and praying to keep it that way, but I’m currently looking for a new job as I was made redundant a little over a week ago by the consultancy I was working for. But here’s the kicker: If I hadn’t married her, I wouldn’t have done the work necessary to fix things up in my life. I wouldn’t have gone out and looked for the work that I needed to be able to support my family on my own efforts. I would have stayed in my comfort zone. I’m glad that she found the electric cattle prodder that the my Bishop told her that she would need to deal with me!

  • Claire

    Another really sad thing is that they just had an elaborate wedding ceremony last August renewing their vows, with their children as the wedding party. And 10 months later they’re filing for divorce. What a terrible message to send their kids about marriage.

  • amw728

    Jon and Kate are in our prayers. We pray that its not to late and that they can prove to the world that divorce is not the answer. It would be an AMAZING testimony of God’s love (if they were to desire it)! I hope thier church is reaching out to them too.

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