Jinger Duggar Vuolo on breaking free from 'harmful' religious beliefs – USA TODAY

Jinger Duggar Vuolo isn’t afraid to face the demons of her past.
Vuolo, who starred on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” and “Counting On” with her large Christian family the Duggars, opened up about the damaging aftereffects of her family’s strict Christian faith in an interview with People magazine published Wednesday discussing her upcoming memoir, “Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith From Fear” (Thomas Nelson, 240 pp., out Jan. 31).
“Fear was a huge part of my childhood,” Vuolo said. “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.”
Vuolo was raised on the teachings of minister Bill Gothard, who founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a Christian organization “dedicated to giving clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture,” according to its official website. Gothard resigned from IBLP in 2014 amid a series of sexual harassment allegations.
“(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,’ ” Vuolo explained, adding that the teachings were “so harmful.” “The fear kept me crippled with anxiety. I was terrified of the outside world.”
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Vuolo talks about the role her husband, former pro soccer player Jeremy Vuolo, played in reexamining her faith in her new book. She said Jeremy encouraged her “to examine Scripture, think for myself and come to my own conclusions.”
“I know that by rejecting the teaching of the community that raised me, I may lose influence. I may not be invited to events and into homes,” Vuolo wrote. “Some may not appreciate that I’m speaking out on this topic. Others could assume the worst of my motives, or they will say that my husband, Jeremy, is to blame.
“They’ll say I should never have married an outsider, a man who, though a Christian and a pastor, didn’t believe all the same things I grew up believing. They will assume he convinced me to change my beliefs.”
Vuolo also writes in her book of her brother Josh Duggar, who in May 2022 was sentenced to over 12 years in prison for downloading and possessing child pornography. At the time of his conviction in December 2021, Vuolo said in an Instagram post that she was “thankful to God for exposing Josh’s actions and to a legal system committed to protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty in this case.”
“The backlash against his actions has been, correctly, severe. Even if he wasn’t a public figure, he would still be in prison for his actions,” Vuolo wrote. “But because millions know who Josh is, his sin gives Christ a bad name. Those who oppose Christianity can point to Josh as evidence that anyone who claims to walk with Jesus is a phony.”
Vuolo told People she hopes she can share the liberation she’s found in her own healing process with others.
“That’s the beauty of this journey,” Vuolo said. “The teaching I grew up under was harmful, it was damaging and there are lasting effects. But I know other people are struggling and people who are still stuck. I want to share my story, and maybe it will help even just one person to be freed.”
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