Like many Americans, I have watched a few TV episodes of 19 and Counting (with the Duggar Family) and Counting On (the sequel following the eldest sisters). From the latter, I got to know Jinger, who became my favorite Duggar girl. She was spunky, fun, and seemed different than the rest of the sisters.
In the beginning chapter of her book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, she tells of her great love for big cities: the hustle and bustle, energy, and feeling of freedom. This didn’t mean she wanted to escape from her upbringing and experience the freedom to live differently, however. When she turned 18, there was a realization that she needed a different release: disentangling herself from the Christianity thought she knew.
This was in the first chapter, and honestly, my heart sank. I didn’t want this book to be about another Gen-Z who decided that after a very conservative and strict Christian upbringing, they had to “deconstruct” their faith. This is a popular Gen-Z and younger Millennial trend where many of these young people walk entirely away from Christ. Or they lean into a progressive Christianity that is loose, easy, and not based on the Bible.
I didn’t need to worry. On page 7, she says this:
“But first, I need to make something clear: I am not deconstructing my faith. Deconstruction is a popular word in Christian circles today. It represents a movement of young people who grew up in Christian homes but in adulthood have decided that much, if not all, of what they were taught as children is not for them. They’ve abandoned their religious beliefs. They tore them down and never rebuilt any kind of faith.” This is a perfect explanation of deconstruction.
Jinger knew she did not want to deconstruct herself from the basics of the gospel. Instead, she realized that she needed to look closely at and disentangle herself from false teachings she embraced that were not part of a true faith in Christ. To live in freedom wasn’t a deconstruction from the Christian faith or a to-do list that provided a false structure to life. As her book title says, it was to disentangle faith from fear. After she turned 18 and had conversations with her sister Jessa and Jessa’s fiancé Ben, she began to rethink what she thought she knew about faith. Later, in Bible study with her future husband, Jeremy, she learned more about what she was missing. At the time of her writing, it had been eight years since she started unthreading her faith and identifying the teachings which caused her to fear and live in bondage.
This book isn’t a tell-all. Instead, Jinger explains that her disentanglement from the “Bible” teachings of Bill Gothard.
As a teenager in the 1980s, I heard of Bill Gothard as a well-known Bible teacher. Reading Jinger’s explanation of how Gothard’s teachings were integrated into their family life, I realized that these same philosophies were integrated into my upbringing too. And they aren’t biblical.
Bill Gothard was the Christians’ answer to the degradation and revolutions of the 1960s. His Basic Life Principles, taught to large conference audiences, brought security to those who believed in the Bible and saw this as a scary, uncertain time. Following his seven principles in full would guarantee a victorious Christian life. If not, then there would be chastisement and suffering from the Lord. He gave strong designs on marriage and family, which resulted in many large families like the Duggars. Ironically, Gothard was never married or had children himself.
Jinger explains Gothard’s seven principles in the book and how she tried to live up to each of these ambitious standards as a teenager. These “principles” did not create a deeper love for the Lord but were a works-based faith. Jinger uses Scripture as the lens to prove Gothard’s principles were unbiblical, false teachings, causing fear and superstition.
Although I am much older than Jinger, after reading about these Gothard principles, I realized how many of these teachings were a part of my life growing up. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they were quietly present in my church and Christian high school. Instead of sharing God’s grace, Gothard’s rule-following concepts seemed to have bled over into Baptist and Bible churches and other areas of Christianity. It was legalism – and it was something that I also had to disentangle from.
This book is good reading for any believer, especially those surviving church hurt, and for Gen-Z and younger Millennials. Becoming Free Indeed successfully communicates that spiritual freedom is not by deconstructing our faith. Instead, it is doing the work to disentangle and rebuild that we will find the genuine faith we are meant to have.
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