Allie Beth Stuckey, Christian life, Deconstructing the faith, Deconstruction vs. Disentangling, faith, faithfulness, growing up Christian, growing up in the church, Jinger Duggar Vuolo, Keeping the faith
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Last night I watched Allie Beth Stuckey interview Jinger Duggar Vuolo about her new book, Becoming Free Indeed, in which she details how she was raised under the legalistic teachings of Bill Gothard and how she has come to be free from them by a more thorough and biblical understanding of the gospel and the nature of God Himself.
I’m sharing the interview here (at the end of article) because I think that this conversation is important for a few reasons:
One. Deconstruction and ex-vangelicalism is a fad these days. It’s “cool” to talk about all the bad things you experienced or were taught and then to throw under the bus anyone or any belief system that still holds to anything remotely resembling those things.
Were you pressured to conform to extra-biblical man-made standards of modesty? You can now be suspect of anyone that promotes modesty at all.
Were you taught a perverted version of male headship that left you with no strength of will and perhaps subjected you to mistreatment? You can now be sure that the bible has absolutely nothing different to say to men and women ever. Consider it your mission to rescue women from any and all discussions of biblical manhood and womanhood–those categories, whether defined biblically or not, just aren’t ok anymore.
Were you hurt by judgmental people in the church? You can now vent your bitterness, expose the hypocrisy, and throw church away altogether because of it. They’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway.
Was Jesus and His word used to manipulate you for someone else’s advantage? You can now be free by abandoning the biblical Jesus altogether, either by becoming agnostic or following your favorite liberal/progressive Christian influencer who will tell you that Jesus agrees with everything that is currently politically correct.
Oh, and don’t forget that any appeal to the Scriptures now qualifies as “spiritual manipulation.” The bible is only allowed to make you feel good about yourself, not to convict you of sin–anything but that.
If you listen to the voices promoting this kind of deconstruction, you’ll be following a pendulum swing from legalism and spiritual abuse on the one end to license and its spiritual abuses on the other. Be warned: Self-righteousness can puff you up whether you’re proud of what you condemn or proud of what you accept.
Legalism and spiritual manipulation are real problems (just listen to Jinger). But they’re wrong and wind up hurting people precisely because they violate what God has said in His word; they’re not a reason to explain away “politically incorrect” passages or abandon the Bible altogether.
Misusing a tool doesn’t make the tool bad. It just means you need to learn to use it properly.
Two. I’ve seen first hand the fall-out from the teachings of Bill Gothard and other groups or leaders who elevate personality, tribalism, and fads of supposed holiness over wise, humble faithfulness to God’s word and teaching that refuses to take the Scriptures out of context.
Jinger explains toward the end of the interview the difference between deconstruction (like I illustrated above) and the kind of careful work it takes to disentangle your faith from false teaching. She used a helpful illustration of having “putty” in your hair.
Do you just chop it all off or do you carefully take it out bit by bit so that you can preserve what is good–in this case, your hair?
There is something worth holding onto, worth preserving. Disentangling seeks to keep the good, to keep the faith, while detaching it from the bad, that is, the false teaching or misguided ideas. Deconstructing, on the other hand, pulls it all down together, without necessarily having a view to building anything back up again.
I have a lot of homeschooled friends now in their 30s and 40s. I’ve watched as some of them have had to process these things. Some do it well, like Jinger has apparently done. But some have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are now given over to worldliness (having completely or nearly completely deconstructed). It’s my prayer that this interview might help those who are still sorting things out. And that it might call out to those who have sorted things out poorly: come back to Christ.
Three. Jinger doesn’t exhibit any of the negative attitudes you’ll see from some of the other whistle-blowers out there. Praise be to God, she speaks graciously of her parents even while exposing the teaching that they had unfortunately latched onto and promoted to their children. With the help of her husband and solid teaching, Jinger has been able to evaluate what she was taught by reading the Scriptures in context. From what I can tell, she’s not pendulum swinging nor holding onto or promoting bitterness. This makes her an example of how to sort things out in the fruit of the Spirit–something painfully missing from a lot of critiques today.
Four. It’s good to be reminded that cult-like following of one man’s teaching isn’t healthy. I don’t care if it’s Bill Gothard (problematic), Joel Osteen (problematic), or even John MacArthur (a faithful teacher). No one-man show is going to have the corner on all biblical truth. The body of Christ is full of believers with different gifts and different experiences in order that we might edify one another. This is true at the local level and it is also true when it comes to public teachers and writers, both contemporary and from church history.
We benefit from wide reading within Christian orthodoxy.
Sometimes in our efforts to be “safe” we fall prey to the sins that we weren’t watching out for. Falling in lock-step with one teacher and his tribe will likely keep you from seeing a host of blind spots.
Finally, this brings me to a couple important points I’d like to make (and then I’ll share that interview, I promise!).
If no one-man show has the corner on all biblical truth (no matter how well credentialed), I think it’s safe to say that no parents are going to get it all just right in raising their kids. Not the Duggars, not your parents, not mine.
We can choose to give the benefit of the doubt to those who loved us enough to take our raising seriously, being thankful for the good and being wary of the bad or misleading. If we have good parents, this is what they desire for their children anyway–to learn not just from what they taught us but also from their mistakes. To do better than they did but without thinking too highly of ourselves and spurning them in the process.
While Jinger and many others are picking up the pieces after having had some actual bad teaching in their growing up years, some people are abandoning ship because of their own misunderstandings and misapplications–perhaps because the teaching they received was a mix of good and bad or because it was good but it wasn’t complete.
The mind of a child or young adult may not put the pieces together just right. This does, of course, raise the bar for us as parents to do the best we can to help them, but it also should humble the child who thinks all of their problems came only from their parents or teachers.
Shocker: we can’t blame everyone else for all of our problems.
We bring to the teaching we receive our own personality quirks, experiences, and fallible attempts to make sense of the world, not to mention our own amount of faith or lack thereof. Not only are our teachers fallible in their teaching, we are fallible in our understanding. This should bring us to a place where we rely so much more on the grace of God in Christ for all of our shortcomings and sins, and on the Holy Spirit to guide us in Truth as we interact with God’s word and His people–with humility and grace.
Growing up and keeping the faith takes processing the past (because we all have one) with careful consideration, prayer, study of the Scriptures, and fellowship with godly believers who are willing to discuss all of these things with humble care for one another and humble reverence for Christ. No matter how you were raised, commit yourself to these things, connect yourself with these kinds of people in a local church.
And may you hold fast to Christ and to what is good.
Here’s the interview: