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Rebecca Davis of Here’s the Joy has written about the IBLP Basic Seminar’s teachings on “taking up an offense” and “yielding rights,” the way these concepts have permeated both her own experience and broader American Evangelical culture, and the teachings’ practical effects in culture. Links to and excerpts from Davis’s posts follow below.
I loved the Bill Gothard seminars. I attended the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (or Life Principles, depending on which year it was) many times. I even asked my husband in 1993 if we could be one of the early ATI families. He said, “I don’t want some other man telling me how to lead my family in devotions.” …It’s obvious that along with some helpful teachings, there were some very destructive teachings. But today I’m singling out only one: the concept of “not taking up offenses.”
Back in 2012 when I first got started taking up offenses for sexual abuse victims… I researched that term to try to understand it, because Bill Gothard’s words were ringing in my ears.
I didn’t know, back when I passively accepted some of these false teachings—it didn’t even occur to me what the grim outworking, the rotten fruit, would be. But now… I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in the lives of people I love.
After about forty or fifty years of this teaching in our churches, we can draw conclusions with a reasonable level of certainty regarding the way this teaching works out in practice. In theory you teach that Christians have no rights. But in practice, the no-rights teachings applies only to obeying certain earthly authorities (usually the authority in the family or church or ministry structure). It doesn’t apply to other rights violations such as murder or large-scale theft or especially rights violations by the government. I doubt that anyone can imagine refraining from reporting a murder of a Christian to the police on the basis of the notion that that Christian had no rights. Or if a car was stolen? I’ve never heard of someone simply accepting that—nor should they. Finding and bringing to justice those who commit crimes is a vital aspect of living in a free society. When Christians live in a society where the government is repressive and will not come to their aid—or are criminals themselves—then we determine not to take vengeance into our own hands but instead cry out to God the Just Judge and trust Him to do right. But in the society of the United States, with the Bill of Rights? Ones who claim that Christians have no rights will, I believe, still cite the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and other important freedoms that are guaranteed protection in this society according to the government established by our founders.
There appears to be a double standard.
Again, in theory, you teach that Christians have no rights. But in practice, vulnerable Christians are the ones who have no rights. Powerful Christians always retain them.
I mentioned that I believe that Bill Gothard was the founder of this false teaching, which has filtered through many branches of Christianity… Gothard, who taught the no-rights idea so vehemently, made it clear to his staff through word and deed that this concept didn’t apply to him. He had many rights, including the right to silence dissenters through threats and firings, claiming that “the ministry” was more important than they were.
This is what we’ve seen. And we’ve seen it again and again, not just in Gothardism, but in other branches of Christianity. The man with the big name abuses someone. Others with big names gather to protect him. They use many tactics on the victim, and one of them is this one. You really have no rights. Christians have no rights.
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