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Dear Mom and Dad,
I do not write this out of vindictiveness or anger; rather, I write it out of an inquiring and puzzled mind. I do not fault you for putting our family into the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) program. You wanted the best for our family, and I believe you sincerely thought you were doing the right thing.
It puzzles and saddens me, however, to see you abandon many of the things you taught us in order to excuse your defense of Bill Gothard and ATI.
You taught us early on that when the Bible and a human disagreed, the Bible’s authority always reigned supreme, because it was infallible. Yet when I mention the numerous Bible scholars and professors who find legitimate fault with Bill, you dismiss them as “having an agenda,” “untrustworthy,” or “giving a bad report.” You always tried to find a way to fit the Bible with Bill’s teachings—something that, in any other context, you consistently taught us was wrong.
When I bring up Scriptural inaccuracies in Mr. Gothard’s teaching, such as his definition of grace, you excuse it. You once agreed with Bill that grace is merited in some cases, a concept which you incessantly taught me as a child was false—that we cannot earn God’s grace. When I talk about the legalism present in Mr. Gothard’s teaching, you attempt to redefine the term or you make excuses to legitimize his adding to Scripture.
As children, we were constantly shown the immense importance of listening to and obeying our authorities, be they religious, civil, or parental. Yet, where is your concern over the fact that Bill Gothard broke the law by not reporting abuse cases to the civil authorities?
When I was younger and was alone with older guys on various occasions, you often took me aside afterwards to ask me if they had ever inappropriately touched me. You made clear that if that had happened, you wouldn’t punish or shame me, that it was not my fault. I had confidence that I could have shared an instance of that with you were it to occur, and that you would believe me. Yet, when many girls have testified that Bill was sexually inappropriate with them, you dismiss them as liars and “having an axe to grind against such a godly man.”
You ask why, if this happened, Bill never faced consequences, but you fail to consider some important factors as to why Bill never has suffered serious consequences. For instance, you haven’t considered the fact that the girls he harassed or touched inappropriately were taught that Bill was their authority, a godly man who only wanted the best for them. Also, many of these girls had no idea of the concept of sexual harassment. Thus I ask, how could they know that what he was doing was wrong? They were told to ignore their feelings because they were taught Bill was a godly man who was above all reproach. Why do you not believe these girls (some of whom are friends of mine) as you would have believed me? Why do you fail to consider that these young women, many of whom don’t know each other, all have the same story? Why, even in light of Bill’s admitting to at least some of these actions, are you not expressing disgust at what he did, which you’d be more likely to do in the case of someone else?
You taught me that children should always listen to the cautions of their parents, because their parents are older and wiser than they are. Yet when your parents made statements indicating their reservations about Bill, you shrugged them off. Why would you teach me differently than your actions communicated?
It puzzles me when you attend a church where your pastor has no qualms about criticizing public Christian figures such as John Piper or Chuck Swindoll openly from the pulpit. However, you take great offense if I criticize Bill Gothard on Biblical grounds. You claim that we who are against ATI must take the “Matthew 18” approach with Bill. Yet, over and over, that has been tried, and Bill always silences those who have tried to hold him accountable.
You taught us as children that sin isn’t something to be taken lightly. You taught us well the verses, “Be sure your sin will find you out” and “Whatever is done in secret will be shouted from the housetops.” You had no problem with denouncing those you deemed false teachers, yet because I consider Bill Gothard a false teacher, I am told to hush up? I’m not saying that you must agree with me, but perhaps we could discuss it without dismissing it.
Why is it that when a politician whom you intensely dislike is caught in a sex scandal, you crow gleefully about his ideology going down the drain and will quickly air his dirty laundry and grind an axe against him, yet when a self-professed Christian (who is held to a higher standard, nonetheless) is outed by multiple women on accounts of sexual harassment or molestation, you dismiss it as “unbelievable,” complain that “it needs to be handled privately,” or that “people sharing this stuff just have an axe to grind.”
Why do you continue to defend Bill when he fired a good friend of yours because your friend stood up to his bullying tactics? When a relative of yours was abused by his father, you had a heart for him. However, when I bring you testimony of my personal friends horrifically abused by their parents, and blamed for their plight by Bill Gothard, why do you refuse to listen?
I fear that you idolize. I fear that Bill is a product of your hero worship. You treat him with such awe, as if he is completely above reproach. You feel that, because he has done some good things, it outweighs the evil he has done. But why did you unceasingly teach me that “all our good deeds never outweigh our bad deeds before God?” Why are you making an exception for Bill? Will a judge overlook a murder committed because the criminal did “many good things in his life”?
Realizing that a man you put so much trust in, and whose ministry was a central pillar of our lives, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing is not an easy conclusion to reach. I understand that acknowledging this possibility is very difficult to swallow. Yes, it means renouncing what you believed in, much like Hindus coming to Christ and renouncing their caste system. Yes, it is hard, but didn’t you teach us as children that following God was the most important thing in life? Didn’t you believe that God would give one grace to do what was hard?
I pray that you will learn the value of asking questions concerning what you were and are taught. I hope to see you realize what a real relationship with God looks like—not one of fear, but of love. And finally, may you believe the words of John: “The truth will set you free.”
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