"Harmful" and "cult-like." That's how Jinger Duggar Vuolo now describes her family's strict religious teachings.
Having grown up in the Duggar family, which came to fame on TLC's "19 Kids & Counting" and "Counting On," Jinger was raised as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, a very rigid form of Christianity based on the teachings of Bill Gothard. In 2017, though, she began questioning the "unhealthy ideology" and transitioned away from her parents' teachings. She's now happier than ever.
"Fear was a huge part of my childhood," Jinger, 29, told People magazine in a story published on Jan. 18. "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."
While promoting her upcoming book, "Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear" — which will be released on Jan. 31 — Jinger said, "There are a lot of cult-like tendencies" within her family and in the IFB religion.
"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," she said.
In IFB, women are thought to be inferior to men and are encouraged to be subservient to them. Alcohol, dancing and makeup are prohibited, as are high heels and anything shorter than ankle-length dresses.
"[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,'" Jinger said. "The fear kept me crippled with anxiety. I was terrified of the outside world."
Jinger, who married pastor Jeremy Vuolo in 2016, maintains that she's still Christian but has different beliefs than her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.
"That's the beauty of this journey," she says. "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."