Jinger Duggar Gets Candid About Growing Up Around ‘Harmful’ Religious Teachings And How They Made Her ‘Terrified’ Of The World

With TLC having pulled the plug on the reality spinoff Counting On in 2021, the various members of the controversy-laden Duggar family have been largely absent from TV for the longest stretch since the first seasons of 19 Kids & Counting started airing in 2018. (Then as 17 Kids…) Jinger Duggar Vuolo is making new headlines beyond the small screen, as she’s set to debut her new memoir, titled Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear. The book will focus in part on the former reality star’s reflections on living in abject fear as a child due to the religious teachings that her famed parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have embraced.

For a while now, fans and followers of the Duggar clan have likely taken note of Jinger Duggar Vuolo’s approach to life and fashion pivoting away from the more restrictive views of her parents. (She went from all skirts and dresses to rocking pants and wearing shorts like it ain’t no thang.) Speaking to People ahead of her memoir’s January 31 publication date, Vuolo opened up about distancing herself from the Institute in Basic Life Principles movement that her family so devoutly followed, speaking to how afraid she was as a child of many everyday things and activities, assuming they may defy God’s will. In her words:

Fear was a huge part of my childhood. I thought I had to wear only skirts and dresses to please God. Music with drums, places I went or the wrong friendships could all bring harm. . . . I thought I could be killed in a car accident on the way, because I didn’t know if God wanted me to stay home and read my Bible instead.

As hyperbolic as those fears may sound completely out of context, some children do indeed suffer such daily apprehensions based largely on wanting to avoid any of God’s more smiteful reactions. The idea behind the movie Footloose certainly wasn’t pulled out of thin air, after all, and the IBLP organization teaches its followers that dancing, dating, and most modern entertainment should be avoided. Not to mention that wives should obey their husbands without question.

 Jinger Duggar Vuolo shared that family activities such as playing the sport “broomball” inspired fear of judgment from on high, and that it was only later that she came to realize how much of the movement’s teachings were built on driving up anxiety. Speaking about IBLP founder Bill Gothard, who was the head of the church until stepping down in 2014 after facing dozens of harassment and molestation accusations. (Jinger’s own brother Josh Duggar, who has faced molestation allegations himself, is currently in federal prison for child pornography charges, and will have to register as a sex offender when he’s released.)

She spoke negatively about Gothard’s ideology, and how she grew to back away from it starting in 2017. Here’s how she put it:

[Gothard’s] teachings in a nutshell are based on fear and superstition and leave you in a place where you feel like, ‘I don’t know what God expects of me.’ The fear kept me crippled with anxiety. I was terrified of the outside world. . . . His teachings were so harmful, and I’m seeing more of the effects of that in the lives of my friends and people who grew up in that community with me. There are a lot of cult-like tendencies.

Thankfully for her mental state, she was able to come around to a more positive place that allowed her to completely turn her back on the ILBP. To be sure, Vuolo remains a devout to the Christian faith, albeit in ways that aren’t so limiting (especially to women), and hopes to inspire others to follow suit.

Jinger Duggar Vuolo and husband Jeremy Vuolo have been open to sharing more about their lives in recent years, whether it was happening via Counting On, their respective social media pages, YouTube videos, or other places. The upcoming memoir was preceded by the 2021 release, The Hope We Hold: Finding Peace with the Promises of God, which the couple co-wrote about their relationship and their cross-country moves, as well as the birth of their first daughter Felicity and the misscarriage that followed. (Which itself was thankfully followed by Duggar Vuolo getting pregnant for daughter #2, Evangeline, who was born in November 2020.) 

Fans can pre-order Becoming Free Indeed (opens in new tab) now ahead of it hitting stories on January 31. While waiting for the book to go live, head to our 2023 TV premiere schedule to see what will be hitting the small screen in the year to come.