Gracenotes: Recovering Grace mentioned in Hartford newspaper

6 November 2011, 16:56



Greetings Recovering Grace Readers,

We wanted to let you all know about a news article in the online edition of the Hartford Courant on Sunday, November 7, 2011 (and in the print edition on November 8). This article is a discussion of the effects of Bill Gothard’s teachings as it relates to the murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who was convicted of 17 charges in the gruesome murder, arson, and rapes committed against the family of Dr. William Petit.

Featured in the article is John Cornish, one of our writers. John is a worship pastor and professional musician who lives in Grand Prairie, TX. His story, “My Childhood in ATI,” was one of the first articles released by Recovering Grace back in July, and continues to be one of our most-read personal stories.

In addition to sharing this article with you, we wanted to make a few points of our own regarding not only this article, but the Komisarjevsky case in general.

First and foremost, we would like to comment that we do not believe that Bill Gothard or his teachings are directly responsible for these horrific crimes. There were a number of factors at play, not the least of which was Joshua’s involvement with drugs and with his co-defendant Steven Hayes. That being said, we do believe that Gothard’s teachings may very well have exacerbated Joshua’s existing problems, and likely influenced his parents not to pursue the psychiatric care that Joshua seemingly needed as a teenager.

Bill Gothard has been insistent throughout the years that there are no true mental illnesses and that all mental illness is ultimately a matter of personal irresponsibility. There is a short clip from the Basic Seminar available on YouTube which has him making this claim under the guise of sharing authoritative research into the subject. In addition, the Courant news article shares the following from Gothard:

He is also not a fan of professional psychological or psychiatric treatment. "We are counseling thousands and many of them have already been counseled by a psychiatrist," Gothard said, "and they've gotten worse."

He said psychiatry and psychology don't deal with the spiritual factor, which his programs do, he said. "We get down to the root of the cause and find out why they are having a problem."

It is also worth noting that Gothard’s stance on adoption and the “sins of the forefathers” are made perfectly clear in the article:

"When a child is adopted, the parents have to understand what is passed on to that child through the [biological] parents' lifestyle and their ways of thinking," Gothard said. "There definitely is a connection. Most parents have no idea that's there. They assume there won't be a problem.

"The iniquities of the parents are visited on the third and fourth generations," he said. "It doesn't mean they are controlled by that, but if the parents were drunkards, they will pass on a low threshold."

Finally, it is worth noting that Gothard’s usage of playing the piano as an illustration for how children grow spiritually very clearly illustrates the reason his teachings are so dangerous:

Critics who call his program "too legalistic" don't understand the purpose for which these standards were designed, he [Gothard] said.

Gothard likens the situation to a young person who may want to learn to play the piano. If that person wants to play for his own enjoyment, he might only practice an hour a day. If he wants to play for others, it might be a couple of hours a day.

"If they want to be a concert pianist, then it's eight hours a day," Gothard said. "Sometimes these parents see our young people as outstanding, they put on them the standards to be outstanding, but the kids don't want that."

After a long interview with The Courant, Gothard called back. He had checked his records. He said the Komisarjevsky family was in the program for three years, from 1993 to 1996. "They were only in the program for three years. …The parents weren't really understanding the program or how it worked, so I think that says a lot."

The piano illustration clearly demonstrates how those in ATI are thrust into a “performance trap.” Much as one has to practice intensely to become a concert pianist, Gothard is saying that one has to work through intensely to achieve a level of spirituality that is pleasing to God. Notice that Gothard proceeded to throw Joshua’s parents under the bus by stating that they didn’t really understand the program or how it worked. Blaming someone (usually the parents…the “umbrella of protection”) is a typical Gothard response to any problem.

In closing, let us reiterate that we don’t blame Bill Gothard for what happened. Nor do we think Joshua Komisarjevsky needs to be spared the consequences of his actions because of his childhood. We simply wanted to share this article with you in order to (a) point out the dangers of Gothard’s perspective on mental illness, and (b) show you how clearly this article typifies Gothard’s response to tragedy: blame and guilt.

In Christ,

The RG leadership team

All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.


  1. lori November 6, 2011 Reply

    wow, what a thing to happen. now we are recognized by the media!!! exciting times to be in. i hope that we can further this with each new article and day. we are not just helping people that have come out of atia but we are helping those who come in contact with people that were in atia. it is a noble trust that is born by those who make this site so needed!!!!! GOD bless all the contributors!!!

  2. "Hannah" November 6, 2011 Reply

    If "the Program" was not at fault, but rather all of our parents, then why have so many of us "survivors" had to work through similar problems, vs a host of random and unrelated problems? Why is there a consensus that a common background caused a lot of these problems, vs we all just happened to have the exact same type of evil parents, and oh, coincidently, we were raised in this program, no correlation, though? I am verily sick of a man who preaches so much about accepting personal responsibility, continue to emphatically insist, "Not my fault! Look at the parents!" Mr. Gothard, the evidence is mounting against you, and the numbers are too high for mere coincidence.

  3. Jaime November 7, 2011 Reply

    Hannah, you are spot-on. My family was never even in the program. Only I was, but I have all the same performance issues. No one else in my family suffers from those. Of course, Mr. G woulf probably blame the fact that my parents WEREN'T in the program. It's also always bothered me how he discourages adoption, even though the Bible is clear that we are to love orphans and widows and protect them. As a result of his teaching, I know several families who are actually against adoption. Funny. The Bible refers to all of us as being adopted by God.

  4. Dave November 7, 2011 Reply

    Gothard's comment is classic formula spirituality. The teacher is wise, the formula works, therefore any failure must be attributed to the user. If the parents had done it right, it would have worked. Counselors call this "projection." The fault or failure of the system or teacher is projected onto the user/victim.

    Of course there are other factors besides ATI, but most of them boil down to the philosophy ATI teaches and supports. It must be shouted: THE FORMULAS DON'T WORK!

    I offer this article:

  5. [...] November 6, 2011, Recovering Grace blogged about a news article on Joshua Komisarjevsky’s family and their involvement with Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI). This is my take on [...]

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