Jinger Duggar Vuolo, wife, mother and author, grew up with ultraconservative values, but in recent years the TV daughter says she’s disentangled her faith while still holding on to her belief in Jesus.
She chronicles this journey in her new book, “Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear.”
Vuolo grew up in the spotlight. When she was 10 years old, a documentary, “14 Children and Pregnant Again” was filmed about her family, the Duggars.
This was followed by more specials before the weekly TV show “19 Kids and Counting” began airing in 2008. The show ran for 10 seasons and was followed by “Counting On” about some of the older children, including Vuolo, and their lives after getting married.
Raised in a household that emphasized large families, homeschooling, aversion to debt and other conservative values, Vuolo started asking questions during her 20s. The book explores her spiritual and emotional growth. The book is not a tell-all of the Duggar family — it’s purely an account of how she grew in her faith independent from her famous family.
Vuolo said it is painful to go through this process. She noted it is “hard and you think, ‘Man, maybe I’m gonna lose friendships … but realizing … you come out on the other side stronger with a greater view of who God is, a greater view of His love for His children,” Vuolo explained.
Living in fear
Though her childhood included a lot of fun activities such as racing unicycles and amazing experiences like traveling to Ireland and Scotland with her large family, she lived in fear. This fear stemmed from trying to live by the rules her family set combined with her intense desire to please God.
She was constantly worried about the consequences of breaking a rule in a discipline system that emphasized consequences rather than grace.
In “Becoming Free Indeed,” Vuolo shared how her family played a game called broomball. Though she loved playing the game with her siblings, she was afraid she should be praying and reading the Bible instead.
This also led to a judgmental attitude, both of herself and those around her.
Vuolo remembered, “I would view my friends who decided to do something different in their lives … and say, ‘You’re bringing disaster on yourself.’ Because my friend started wearing pants, I thought, ‘Oh no. … What’s going to happen to her?’”
What changed Vuolo was personal Bible study.
“Scripture speaks about modesty, but what is modesty? It’s an issue of the heart,” she realized.
Vuolo wrote “Becoming Free Indeed” to combat what she came to see as the false teachings she and some of her sisters had encouraged in their earlier book “Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships.” She felt a responsibility to speak, she said, to “correct” what she had publicly advocated for as a younger woman.
Through all this disentangling, Vuolo hasn’t given up on Christianity or the church. Even in the brokenness and confusion she has experienced, Vuolo is convinced God established the local church.
She admitted, “[Going to church] can be so tough for someone like you, for someone like me. We have to realize, ‘Okay. People will fail us, even within the church, sadly.’ But that does not discount the Word of God. That does not discount the importance of being in a local body of believers who can help us and encourage us on this journey of faith and through the ups and downs of life.”
“Yes, it was challenging. Yes, I walked through these hardships. But where else could I turn? God has all the answers in Scripture. I want to run to Him and not trust in any teacher, in any man, but to entrust myself fully to my loving heavenly Father’s care,” Vuolo asserted.
“No matter what I want to do, I want to get in the Word of God. Whether I’m doing something or not doing something, it’s gonna be because the Bible says so.”
“Becoming Free Indeed” is available wherever books are sold.