Former reality star Jinger Duggar Vuolo is sharing her story of realizing that the teachings from her strict religious upbringing did not line up with the Bible.
Vuolo, 29, was born to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and has 18 siblings. Her whole family was showcased on the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting from 2008-2015. Growing up, she learned the strict teachings of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), an organization founded by Christian minister Bill Gothard in 1961.
Such teachings ranged from avoiding music with a "worldly beat" or wearing band T-shirts to dictating how finances and the family should be structured. The teachings also include the prosperity gospel promise that following these rules will allow you to be "richly blessed by God."
"In the teachings I grew up with, everything's black and white: If you live a certain way, you'll be blessed by God, Himself," she told The Christian Post in an interview. "In one of [Gothard's] seminars, I remember him saying, 'Life is a very delicate cause and effect sequence. So if you live by my principles' — which he would say were biblical principles — 'your life will be a success, and God will make you prosper in everything that you do. And if you don't, your life will be one disaster after another.'"
"But that's how I lived my life. I thought how God operated was based on these principles."
Throughout her 20s, however, Vuolo's brother-in-law, Ben Seewald, and her now-husband, Jeremy Vuolo, led her to question those teachings. She later realized that Gothard's teachings were unbiblical and ultimately left IBLP altogether.
Vuolo began to think about how she could share her story in 2017 after she realized how many people were following the same principles she was.
Six years later, she is now sharing her story in her book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear.
Vuolo told The Christian Post that she is disentangling herself from her childhood teachings by turning to the Gospel.
"Deconstructing is pulling apart everything and tearing it all down to the studs, never to build it up again. And that's just not what I'm doing, and that's not my story," she explained.
"Mine has been one of disentangling, which is pulling apart. It's a slow process, pulling out the error and examining everything according to the Word of God," Vuolo continued. "It's much harder to do, I'm sure, than deconstructing, because people who deconstruct just throw it all out there, like, 'I'm done. I'm going to live my life how I want to.' But that's not true freedom. True freedom is not found in throwing off all the strings, all rules. It is found in knowing the person Jesus Christ and coming to the Word of God."
TLC canceled 19 Kids and Counting in 2015 after it was revealed that her oldest brother Josh Duggar molested girls as a teenager, including two of his sisters. He was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison in May 2022 after he was found guilty of possessing child pornography.
Meanwhile, Gothard stepped down from his church in 2014 when more than 30 women claimed he sexually harassed them.
Vuolo explained in her book that the disgraced minister would surround himself with young girls, including minors, in the name of service to God.
"I don't want to describe all the awful things they accused him of … But even if half of what these ladies say is true, Gothard should be permanently disqualified from ministry," she wrote.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.