If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. (Colossians 2:20-22)
You know, sometimes, I think I’m doing really well in my “recovery” from ATI (Advanced Training Institute). I know grace can’t be earned, I understand the danger of making everything in the Bible a principle, I work really hard not to judge people according to how they look. And then something happens that makes my chest tighten up, and I want to hide in my room and realize that maybe it all affected me more than I thought.
That happened recently. I interacted with an ATI mom. When she found out I had an ATI background and have 4 children, it was amazing how much she presumed to know about me. She stated the ATI plan for families: “Children are such a blessing. I really think that the world is watching large families in a special way. It’s so important that they be well trained so they can be a blessing to everyone. Don’t you want your children to be a blessing to everyone?”
And though some of that is certainly true – children are a blessing and all children need to be taught how to live – it started the whole “way of life” pressure that is too familiar.
When I stop and think of how much of life is dictated in ATI, I realize why I feel like I can’t breathe. So, for those who aren’t familiar with the level of legislation and the far-reaching effects of the “non-optional principles,” I thought I’d try to summarize it for you.
Pretty much every area of life has a pre-established “way” in ATI.
Children are a blessing. God opens and closes the womb. Birth control is bad, and you will have as many children as is physically possible, even if pregnancy or birth threatens your life.[i]
Those children are to be trained from the womb to instantly obey the voice of their parents from the womb.[ii] If you do it right, babies in the womb will kick on command and flip to the right position to be born. Infants will know to sleep when you tell them to. All skill training (like potty training) is as simple as teaching obedience.
Children will not be in any age-segregated classes[iii] (like Sunday School). They will be homeschooled[iv]. Their day will start with Wisdom Search (now called Rhema search).[v] They will not read the NIV even if their parents bought it for them (we were actually told that at a counseling seminar).
All natural boy/girl attraction will be nipped in the bud. Anyone who asks your small children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend is to be quickly reprimanded and avoided. They are encouraging evil.
Children will be protected from everyone who does not agree with everything the parents teach. If that means you must home church, so be it. Home church is probably the best way to avoid the evil influences of rock music anyway[vi] (Rock Music: any music not found in a hymn book).
Those children will grow up to court the person their parents approve.[vii] They will also have as many children as possible[viii], whom they will homeschool.
And that’s just the expectation for raising children. It goes much further than that. Here is a summary:
Finding a job – No unions, strict guidelines for hiring a woman secretary,[ix] nothing with humanistic influence (medical profession),[x] preferably self-employed,[xi] avoid partnerships.[xii] (And remember that if a woman is in a position of authority over a man at work, the company is disobeying God’s order.) Mothers should not work outside the home.[xiii]
Home management – Clutter is demonic. Everything must have a place and be in its place. Everything must look appealing. Attractiveness is part of a good testimony, and a lack of upkeep means you are slothful (no room for lack of finances to paint your house or replace your carpet).[xiv]
Health care – You do not vaccinate, do circumcise[xv], do use natural remedies whenever possible,[xvi] do get health care advice from your church leadership (that’s the *real* meaning behind the verse that says to call for the elders of the church and be anointed with oil when you are sick [James 5:14-16])[xvii], do not use most alternative health care (it’s new age), do be suspicious of traditional medicine (it’s humanistic),[xviii] do avoid a C-section at almost any cost,[xix] do use a midwife,[xx] do remember that male OB’s are probably perverts,[xxi] do remember that there are *hidden* principles in the OT law that are there for your health benefit (who knew that God made a rule about not wearing clothing made out of mixed fibers because He didn’t want your magnetic field to be messed up?).
Picking out a spouse – Husband must be the older one in the couple,[xxii] neither can be divorced[xxiii] and it’s best if their parents were also never divorced,[xxiv] must not be of a “different” race (I’m being gracious – I think they only ever told us girls not to marry black men), all parents must completely approve of the potential partner,[xxv]siblings should like him/her, and it’s very important that you know the person is God’s will for you to marry before you develop any feelings for that person.[xxvi]
There are rules (I mean, principles) for when to have sex,[xxvii] how to know whether or not to adopt (the answer is not to adopt),[xxviii] how to manage your weight,[xxix] how to pick food off a menu (if you start by looking at the name of the entrée rather than the price, you are unwise),[xxx] even specific ways to pray to get the most out of humbling yourself and crying out to God. (There’s a form for how to get through all the positions of prayer during your morning prayer time and specific step-by-step instructions on how to “cry out to God” when you have a serious need.)
Families were given schedules on how to order their mornings. (Get up 1.5 hours before dad goes to work. Spend ½ hour getting ready, ½ hour on breakfast, ½ hour on Wisdom Search.[xxxi]) Young ladies were given instruction on how to fix their hair [xxxii]and wear makeup [xxxiii]. In the midwifery program, we were told not to show up at a birth with our hair in a braid or wearing wool socks.
The list goes on and on. You should fast Sundays,[xxxiv] never buy a Cabbage Patch doll,[xxxv] find the meaning of your name,[xxxvi] quote Scripture while going to sleep,[xxxvii] never drink alcohol,[xxxviii] avoid denim, stay out of debt,[xxxix] don’t eat meat and dairy in the same meal.
Almost every area of life can be completely governed by these “principles.” There is little room for doing it differently because the principle is somehow connected to a Bible verse. Your personal walk with God is made unnecessary because you just have to obey the principles. And for me, I was left with a joyless, empty, man-centered version of Christianity.
A pastor friend said it well when he said, “I don’t envy you. A life governed by principles destroys your prayer life.” You have no need to walk in the Spirit because the principles already make every decision for you.
But the Bible doesn’t teach us to live by rules; it tells us to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). It says that where the Spirit of God is there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). It tells us not to give up our freedom (Gal. 5:1).
I am so grateful for the freedom I’ve found in Jesus and that I don’t have to live by all those suffocating “principles” anymore.
[i] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 179-182
[ii] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 28-29
[iii] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 351-352
[iv] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 343-353
[v] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 23-25
[vi]Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 133-138
[viii] Advanced Seminar Textbook, p. 145
[ix] Advanced Seminar Textbook, p. 219
[x] Basic Care Bulletin 3
[xi] http://iblp.org/questions/why-did-god-allow-me-lose-my-job – Recommends starting your own business.
[xii] Men’s Manual, Volume 2, p. 206ff
[xiii] Advanced Seminar Textbook, p. 107
[xiv] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 39-43
[xv] Basic Care Bulletin 11
[xvi] Basic Care Bulletin 6
[xvii] Basic Care Bulletin 3
[xviii] Basic Care Bulletin 1
[xix] Basic Care Bulletin 7
[xx] Emphasized by establishing midwifery program
[xxi] Taught during midwifery program
[xxii] Vow asked of young women in apprenticeship sessions at Knoxville and Sacramento at least 1993-2007.
[xxiii]http://billgothard.com/teaching/courtship – “If one party has been married and divorced, and the previous partner is still living, it would not be God’s will for that individual to marry another person.”
[xxiv] Vow asked of young women in apprenticeship sessions at Knoxville.
[xxv]http://billgothard.com/teaching/courtship – “It is impossible for a couple—regardless of their age—to keep this commandment if they refuse to listen to the counsel and cautions of their parents on the matter of marriage.”
[xxvi]http://billgothard.com/teaching/courtship – “One of the valuable rewards of courtship is the protection of emotions that are stirred up by physical and emotional interaction, until the time when it is clearly God’s will to proceed into marriage.”
[xxvii] Advanced Seminar Textbook, pp. 179-182
[xxviii] Basic Care Bulletin 5
[xxix] Taught during apprenticeship sessions and programs, including EXCEL
[xxx] http://iblp.org/questions/how-can-i-get-best-buy – “Look at the price before you look at the product.” Discussed and applied during Financial Freedom Seminar.
[xxxi]Advanced Seminar Textbook, p. 239
[xxxii] Biblical Principles of Hair Length for Single Ladies
[xxxiii] Taught at EXCEL
[xxxiv] Taught and enforced at all training centers
[xxxv] Letter sent to families in 1986
[xxxvi] Wisdom Booklet 17, Preliminary Edition, pp. 719-730
[xxxvii] Basic Seminar Follow-up Course, “How to Begin and Maintain Meditation,” p. 1
[xxxviii] Advanced Seminar Textbook, p. 31
[xxxix] Men’s Manual, Volume 2, p. 48ff