Jinger’s Journey

When I was four or five years old, I remember my dad talking about the son of a coworker having been in a bad accident of some sort. The son, I believe, was about nineteen, and the way my dad described it, he had to go to the hospital because he was “cut to pieces”.

In my mind’s eye, I imagined a person who had literally been cut to pieces. I imagined that this young man was now a heap of pieces, as though a blade had slashed him into slices, back and forth across him, from top to bottom. With one retelling of the story, when my dad added details which would mean that this young man, despite being “cut to pieces”, was still actually in one piece, I really did have a hard time reconciling the two.

fifth birthday
Five is fantastic!

Children have a tendency to take things very literally. They can’t help it, as in the beginning, they have no frame of reference to understand that “cut to pieces” didn’t actually mean “cut to pieces”.

I bring this up because Jinger Vuolo, formerly Jinger Duggar (of 19 Kids and Counting fame), has come out with a book entitled Becoming Free Indeed. In the run-up to its release, there were pieces that were written about it, including the UK Daily Mail’s ever-so-subtly titled piece “Jinger Duggar compares her ultra-religious family to a CULT: 29-year-old slams her parents’ ‘harmful’ beliefs – which left her ‘terrified’ and ‘crippled with anxiety’ – as she breaks silence on brother Josh’s child porn conviction.”

Now, for those who actually read the article, the substance of it isn’t quite so sensational. What it basically boils down to is that as she’s grown up, gotten married, and had more experiences outside of her immediate family, she’s come to the conclusion that she doesn’t agree with all of her parents’ religious practices. That being said, the book is about her journey finding her own faith.

That’s not a clickbait link, though. That’s probably not even interesting to the typical Daily Mail writer.

I really liked the show 19 Kids and Counting. Say what you will about them, but I think that they did some amazing things with the show – after all, they are probably one of the last “very” Christian families on television, and for as much as they were on television, Jim Bob and Michelle made sure that they didn’t include petty arguments among the kids or each other be part of the show, they had pretty strict limits about when there would be no filming, etc., all while raising 19 children!

I read two of the books that Jim Bob and Michelle wrote, and they come across as people who are extremely devout in their faith, and they credit that to buckling down and following God in all that they do. Jim Bob, especially, grew up in almost extreme poverty, and the two of them got married when they were 19 (Jim Bob) and 17 (Michelle). Michelle’ parents agreed to allowing her to marry so young because her family was moving to another state and she didn’t want to go, being serious about Jim Bob, but they couldn’t just leave her behind either.

Thus was the inauspicious beginning of this family.

The thing is, as the two of them got serious about their faith very early on, it certainly kept the two of them out of trouble. Work hard, stay away from trouble, hold fast to one another, etc. I think it’s no wonder that they picked a “denomination”, if you will, that has a lot of rules – no pork, skirts for women, no hugging, etc. Some people really thrive when there is a lot of structure like that.

That’s not to say that everything that they do in practice is right or even mainstream. However, it’s their choice, it’s what has worked well for them, and as parents, it’s the way that they chose to raise their children.

I remember watching the show when it was still running with new episodes and wondering what the kids would choose to do religion-wise, once they were grown up. I never thought that they would all apostatize from Christianity, but the denomination to which they belonged seemed a bit limiting, I guess.

Now that the oldest kids are in their 30s, we have some idea. It doesn’t seem like any of them has gone really wild, and most so far have gotten married fairly young and had kids pretty quickly after getting married.

However, it does seem that the three oldest girls who are married have all married men who are very serious about their faith, but who do not belong to the same denomination as the Duggar parents, and the girls (Jill, Jessa, and Jinger) have all settled into denominations that are not nearly as strict with “the rules” as what they grew up with.


Part of what the book seems to be about is Jinger’s understanding of what it meant to be a “good Christian” as a child and how that understanding has changed as she’s matured. Growing up in a denomination that stresses “the rules”, she seems to have really put a lot of pressure on herself to be perfect, as though perfection is what God expected of her. In the literal mind of a child, for example, the admonition to dress modestly easily becomes “God might hate me if I don’t wear a skirt or dress.”

That is not a healthy way to live Christianity, and it’s not a healthy way to encounter God. However, as a child, it is impossible to have the wisdom to discern that when we’re told to always be serious about God in our lives, it doesn’t mean that it’s a sin to hang out with a friend and watch ridiculous movies once in awhile just for the sake of having fun.

St. Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, NKJV) There are things that are precious about the way children think – that literalness, for example, can beget earnesty which may also help a child become serious in a way that many adults have forgotten – but, at the same time, if a child never develops a faith beyond that, chances are the child will leave Christianity completely, at least for a time.

Not all that long ago, Jinger’s story would be commonplace. However, these days, the expectation seems to be that if someone doesn’t like their Christian upbringing, the only “reasonable” thing is to renounce Christianity completely, drop out of society, start doing drugs, and find a “community” of more “tolerant” people in a city of at least half a million people. Okay, I’m half-joking there. But now is a time more than ever that it is important for young people to hear that they are allowed to challenge the things that they were brought up with, but that they don’t need to reject Christianity completely to find their own place in relationship with God.

dore canto 31 white rose

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