On Feeling Betrayed, Validated, and Brave

3 April 2014, 06:00



Editor's Note: This article was written by a former Advanced Training Institute (ATI) student and Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) Headquarters staff member shortly after Meg's story was published on Recovering Grace. Many former students, staff, families and volunteers identify with the author's feelings as they hear and read stories that they know are true, but don't want to believe.

ATI Counseling Seminar photographed in Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta ATI Counseling Seminar, photographed in Omni Coliseum

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good, 
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Say what you want to say
And let the words fall out
I want to see you be brave
Show me how big your brave is

—Sara Bareilles, “Brave”

Watching the Grammys was a last-minute decision. We’d kissed the kids goodnight but knew our congested sinuses wouldn’t let us sleep yet. So we turned on the TV and I’m so glad we did!

I had never heard of Sara Bareilles—no, I really don’t keep up with popular music—but I recognized Carole King right away. I sat absolutely enthralled with their amazing duet performance, only to be surpassed by their comments of mutual admiration afterward. Somehow the three minutes of interaction between those women affected me deeply. I have watched the segment again and again and replayed it in my head countless times.

Carole King’s words, her music, the emotions she shared with Sara and all of us in the audience, along with Sara’s passion and her song, felt like a gift with miraculous powers to repair some damage done to my heart long ago. I feel like a more complete person than I was before hearing them sing. The rest of the show was fun and amazing in its own way, but that one piece represented to me the magic of Art: sharing a gift with enriching powers of its own.

Perhaps “Brave” struck me the way it did because the last week has been so emotionally turbulent. Not in a bad way, but still…

Last week a shocking new series of revelations appeared on the Internet, exposing Bill Gothard, our cult leader of days long past, for the pathological fraud he was (and is). Reading the story as it dribbles out in serial form has been surreal. With each installment, I can picture my bedroom in Oak Brook, picture window facing Gothard’s office across the driveway.

I learned while working on Gothard’s staff that he was not what he appeared to be. Not what many of his followers took him for. Not who my parents thought he was. While we his brainwashed army of second-generation devotees mentally flogged ourselves for every potential breach of the cult protocol, Gothard did not adhere to his own “non-optional, universal life principles”.

My husband and I each slipped away from IBLP quietly. I was sent away by Gothard in the summer of ’99, Chris left on his own six months later. From that point, we set about freeing ourselves from the legalism and reprogramming our poisoned minds. We weren’t aware of the poison at first, though. We were still nostalgic about our years at the Institute. It was where our relationship began, after all. We’d go back to visit friends occasionally, or just drive around the grounds reliving the good memories. Over time the locations lost their pull on us. We had dreams—sometimes nightmares—about going back to work there.

Judging Gothard’s teaching by its “fruit,” we concluded that many of his ideas were downright toxic. It was hard to speak out, though. So many of our friends, family members, and even new acquaintances were Gothard supporters, or had been exposed to his seminars in their youth and didn’t see anything dangerous in them. We just sounded “bitter,” the strongest pejorative in Gothardom.

When we felt safe we could sometimes talk about how “inconsistent” Gothard was in practice. Even this made some uncomfortable. People feel defensive when you question the authenticity of someone they trust, or trusted once upon a time. The more distance we put between ourselves and the past, the more clearly we could see that Gothard was just another manipulative cult leader. Sadly for us, he was a slick fellow who convinced our parents he had the answers.

I started a blog partly as a safe place to question the Gothard narrative and to recount my experiences and the “bad fruit” it produced. I tried to maintain an even, journalistic tone, even as I personally came to regard William Gothard as a sham and a predator hiding under a guise of exceptional holiness.

Reading the firsthand account of Gothard’s former secretary over the last week, and watching others come out to corroborate her story, has been tremendously validating to me. While her tale might not seem all that offensive on the surface, it is damning when read in light of Gothard’s own teaching and strict standards for others. He made generous allowances for himself, while tolerating nothing less than perfection and submission from his subordinates. He patently violated his own rules, which he marketed as the very wisdom of God. Nothing I have ever said about my former employer was as harsh as he deserves.

As satisfying as it feels to be validated and to watch Gothard’s house of cards collapse, it is exquisitely painful at the same time. I rejoice to see his empire fall, much as a former prisoner would applaud the demolition of the walls of his captivity. And yet, that empire was built of my blood, sweat, and tears. Thousands of us can point to pieces of our selves that we sacrificed to advance that sick man’s vision. We lost much of irreplaceable value.

And that is why tears rolled down my face this week as I stood in my kitchen spreading cheese on lasagna noodles, listening to “Brave” and the rest of Sara Bareilles’ album The Blessed Unrest. They were tears to memorialize the things I was encouraged to “yield” in favor of Gothard’s ideal, for God’s sake. These things died before drawing breath, miscarriages I never knew in an adolescence I never had: my first date, holding hands, a boyfriend, my first curious kiss in a quiet corner, even talking to male peers without feeling queasy, pulling on an old pair of jeans, experimenting with makeup, realizing I was a free adult in the eyes of the law, choosing a college major, getting a degree, a high school graduation for that matter, a prom dress, high school pictures, a wedding dance with my dad, my favorite artists in concert, feeling sexy as I became a woman, feeling the sun on my legs, getting tan lines before stretch marks, years when I could have been earning money or college credits…

   And the pain of steeling myself to believe in “God’s will”! Against my emotions. Against what my body was sensing. Of giving myself fortifying speeches in the corner every time I felt my heart would come out of my chest, reminding myself that my heart was deceitful and wicked and not to be trusted. The times I cried myself to sleep, or pounded out my frustration on the piano in the dining room because the rest of Christendom wouldn’t see “the truth.”

My friends and I made these sacrifices and others to serve our God by working for his “servant” Bill Gothard. Now, I want Gothard’s empire to collapse, for the good of humanity. I am more than willing to help bring it down. At the same time, I recognize that each brick I tear out represents a child’s education, a man’s career, an abused child, a couple’s budding relationship—all burned on the IBLP altar in the belief that God would be pleased.

But Bill was a fraud and his empire was built on lies. And we are all breaking the silence. So after I cried over my lasagna, I danced in my kitchen. Because bravery is a beautiful thing.

Jeri Lofland’s parents enrolled in ATIA in 1987. Jeri worked, studied, and taught at numerous IBLP venues before being fired from Gothard’s Headquarters at 11 p.m. on a midsummer’s night in 1999, after which she began to slowly reexamine everything. Jeri lives, and blogs, in the Midwest with her husband of twelve years and their three children, whom she is teaching to challenge inequality and to question everything.
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. greg r April 3, 2014 Reply

    Nothing I have ever said about my former employer was as harsh as he deserves.

    wow.... this, at first blush, doesn't sound very 'graceful'...and then I remember Paul in Galations.... this is the only right response when confronted with a false gospel. Brave indeed.

  2. JC April 3, 2014 Reply

    This makes me sad. The point I'm getting from this article was how great it is to finally break away from a cult in order to wear jeans, kiss boyfriends, and feel sexy. I don't follow Gothard anymore either, but I do follow God and He did say to "fee youthful lusts" and "love not the world". If being "free" means none of that matters anymore, I greave for Jeri and her family. After all, the opposite of a lie is another lie and in avoiding one set of lies, she's believing others. Where in Scripture are we told to teach are kids to challenge inequality and to question everything?

    • JC April 3, 2014 Reply

      Even "under grace", this New Testament Scripture must still apply to our lives:
      "What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
      “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
      Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
      And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
      Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." (from 2 Cor. 6 & 7)

      • J Baker April 3, 2014 Reply

        To me, the point of that part of the author's article was to underscore the freedom and joy that can come from living life outside of Bill G's legalism. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us discern what is permissible and what is not; when we live by that and not the legalistic ideals of a flawed man, we are much better off and closer to living the way God intends for us to live (in my opinion).

        There are so many gifts given to us by God that Bill G. tried to suppress (e.g. different types of music, sexuality, education) and to get to experience them after not being able to for so long must be bliss.

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          very well said, J Baker.. Bill's teaching on music was/is particularly death producing: joylessness on a stick..

      • Jeremy Richardson April 3, 2014 Reply


        How often to you stay up at night worrying that maybe Allah is the true God and Islam is the correct religion? I am guessing you don't do that very much. You are very sure that your interpretation is correct, so you don't worry about going to Muslim hell.

        I respectfully ask you to consider that an atheist is no more concerned with what your scriptures command than you are concerned with what the scriptures of another religion do.

        I read the Bible just like I would read any other book, I pick and choose certain parts which are better (only in my personal opinion) than other parts. I understand that you read the Bible in a different way.

        So if I can respect your religion, do you think you can find it within yourself to respect my lack of religion. And not assume that I secretly agree with you and everything I do is out of guilt and fear?

        All it would take for me to change my mind is credible evidence. Mene, mene, tekel, uparshin so to speak, however, when it comes to the Bible, so there is nothing you say quote from that book that I haven't already heard a thousand times.

        Do you have any thoughts of your own on the matter?

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          All it would take for me to change my mind is credible evidence....

          very well said: hey, has anyone seen any Jesus-like sacrificial UNCONDITIONAL love anywhere around here ?? like helping with the plumbing..drywall.. daycare.. literacy..

        • Ryan Sapp April 3, 2014


          Thats a bombshell. I agree though and I personally track right with you. I think I have a different perspective on evangelical christianity because I am so surrounded by Mormons in Utah. Did you know there are more Evangelicals in Muslim countries on a percentage of population than in Utah? Mormons are just as devout, sincere and they believe in Christ as their Savior. (Let's not debate Mormonism here, please). Mormons base their beliefs of the same exact bible.

          We are a product of our environment and the information we are exposed to. EVERYONE does interpret the scriptures a little differently, hence so many denominations represented here. That's why I am much more into relationships at this point in my life than what religion people believe.(in full disclosure I have a very hard time with Mormonism because it is so similar to the religion I was raised with)

          I think one of the best things about RG is that I can be on the far left and Alfred on the far right and hopefully learn that there is nothing to fear about the other persons beliefs.

      • JH April 15, 2014 Reply

        Yes, it is EXTREMELY sad that reacting to wrong doctrine/living by a ministry and its leader has actually turned this writer into an atheist! How tragic. We ARE to test ALL things---remember the Bereans? They were more "noble" than the Thessalonians BECAUSE they searched the Scriptures DAILY to see if what was said was so. It is heartbreaking that many dear Christians/families followed Mr. Gothard "to a tee", to the place that WHATEVER he said was so. THEN, down the road, some have even strayed from the faith......The writer of this article and her family were close friends of ours many years ago, and we are saddened beyond words at where she has drifted. You are loved, Jerusha!

    • Ryan Sapp April 3, 2014 Reply

      I am not the most qualified to answer you question. I will leave the finer points to others. Her points about jeans, kissing and all those things she missed out on as a teenager aren't in the bible. They were a mans interpretation to how a youth should live his/her life based on how he interpreted the bible. Actually they were a "new" approach to life. There is nothing new in the Bible. I also think her point is the man that made those rules didn't live by them as evidenced by her personal experiences from living next door.

      I can understand how it is hard to find a balance based on biblical principles every day living. I think the beauty of our human condition is we all have a different balance that is ours. I hope you continue to search and define yours.

    • greg r April 3, 2014 Reply

      Yes "all of that matters" but definetly not the way Bill taught it, and I'm not sure how close your approach is to his. You seem pretty convinced, based on one article , that the author has aligned herself to Belial.... was it all three..the jeans, the kissing, the feeling sexy ?? You are also certain , having never met her, that her application of those three is 'pusuing youthful lusts'... no other way to interpret her actions there .

      Your quick rush to judgment makes me sad.

    • Mosessister April 3, 2014 Reply

      @JC Good gracious, are you really classifying wearing jeans, kissing a boyfriend, and feeling sexy as wickedness? That is messed up. These are all normal developmental steps for teenagers to go through, on their way to becoming mature adults, on their way to becoming mature spiritually. Teenagers are youths! OF COURSE we should put these things away when we become adults, that was Paul's point! OF COURSE teens should always behave within the boundaries of Biblical moral guidelines, like not engaging in premarital sex. But wearing jeans? Kissing a boyfriend? Feeling sexy? Really? It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

      So many of us have been robbed of normal developmental experiences as teenagers, with destructive results as adults. I wept when I read this article, both for my own lost teenage years, and for everyone else who survived similar oppressive experiences.

      Kyrie Eleison.

    • esbee April 3, 2014 Reply

      The point of this article is that this person can finally enjoy life and the culture she was born into. Had she been born in Nigeria, being free would mean having more than enough to eat or living in a solidly constructed hut safe from lion attacks.

      We are here in the USA. Our culture (though certainly devolved) offers many wonderful things in the way of music, art, sports and other experiences. Any decent parent would teach their kids what to avoid. But teaching any kid right from wrong involves the kid knowing how to deal with any situations that life brings to them without mom and dad being right there.

      Legalism is taking what is not sin and declaring it as sin. Our culture has had kissing, hand-holding and even necking as part of the dating scene. That people have taken it to one-night stands and shacking up does not make holding hands the sin. Eve was fooled into thinking that she should not even "touch" the fruit of the forbidden tree, when it was only commanded not to eat it.

      God uses the experiences of life where we live to help heal.

      • DF April 3, 2014 Reply

        Actually legalism is adding the law to salvation.

        • "Hannah" April 3, 2014

          Esbee is correct. Both definitions are aspects of legalism. believe it or not, one can be legalistic without obeying Jewish Law for salvation. Legal = law, legalistic = an excess or undue focus on law, any law, for any reason.

      • JC April 3, 2014 Reply

        Ephesians 5:3 says that among Christians "there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity." When people think their teenage years were robbed from them because they were encouraged not to display these hints, what makes them think they're Christians? Okay, so that's judgmental. Folks, the Bible is judgmental! I'm grateful I was raised among Christians learned that my emotions and my body will betray me, but Jesus never will. He will show me how to live ABOVE them!

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          @JC: at this point, we are probably talking WAY past each other, but there are only multiple millions of believers...well, they SAY they are believers... who have a difficult time conjoining ALL rock n roll, wearing denim, and feeling sexy (which sounds refreshingly human to me, even for an unmarried person) with making some kind of pact with the devil.
          It is difficult for me to take your stance @ face value and not start laughing (which would be unchristian of me , probably) At this rate , one of the Wyan bros, or several of them, are going to spoof your position in a movie...maybe they already have :)

        • Steve240 April 4, 2014

          Talking about "hint" it is a shame that Bill Gothard apparently never followed that command. If Gothard had he wouldn't have been in situations alone with all these young women. Gothard would have seen the situations and appearance he was showing was just that.

        • DF April 4, 2014

          @ Hannah:
          "Esbee is correct. Both definitions are aspects of legalism. believe it or not, one can be legalistic without obeying Jewish Law for salvation. Legal = law, legalistic = an excess or undue focus on law, any law, for any reason. "

          In your definition of legalistic what is really meant is "command/rule" not “law.” The only law of the Bible is the OT law.

          There is a big difference in following the commands/rules of the Bible vs following the OT law. The NT is chuck full of rules for a Christian to follow. To name a few:

          “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Eph 4:32
          “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” Col 3:12
          “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” Ja 1:5-7

          It is not legalistic to follow the above commands/rules. Or the hundreds of others throughout the NT. It is not legalistic to say they are rules.

        • "Hannah" April 4, 2014

          You say tomahto, I say tomato. The secular dictionary definition does not even take into account the OT law. Therefore the meaning of the word can't only ever be as in reference to OT law.

        • Mosessister April 4, 2014

          @JC I heartily affirm we should not have any appearance of evil or impurity. I don't agree with how you are defining "hints of immorality," and there's no Biblical basic to support how you are defining it. You've provided a lot of really good Scripture that supports the general principle. But the Bible leaves the application to individual consciences, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. Sure, the Bible is judgmental. But the Author has perfect knowledge and the Sovereign right to do so. We do not.

    • Shannon Wehr April 3, 2014 Reply

      JC, I want to voice support as I just commented similarly on a different article and was duly taken to the wood shed. However, just because all of us former ATI students would have had a different set of experiences without ATI and Gothard, doesn't mean that our life would have been so much better, we would have made all good decisions, believed only truth and had no heartaches or even less heartaches. Maybe, but maybe not. Life is learning and just because Gothard's teachings were man-centered and formula-based doesn't mean that we should swing to the other extreme. As you said, "After all, the opposite of a lie is another lie and in avoiding one set of lies, she's believing others." The Christian life is not freedom to do what we want, but the grace of God and the new creation we have become striving to gain the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. It involves discipline, struggles, suffering and sacrifice. Maybe you and I are misunderstanding what Jeri said, but the real lesson of all this scandal and false teaching should not be to throw rules and discipline to the wind, but to realign our sites to what God commands in the Scriptures of us His children. Conformity to a set of man's rules- legalism, if we want to call it that- is, in reality, much easier for man to measure up to than the righteousness of Christ and inward holiness. But that righteousness and holiness will be manifest outwardly in our decisions and how we conduct ourselves.

      • Shannon Wehr April 3, 2014 Reply

        This is not to say there is no joy in the Christian life, but that true joy is the fruit of sacrifice and discipline. It is not pleasure for a season, often it is pain for a season, but in the end it yields the richest rewards. My pleasures as a Christian should consist of pleasing Him and waiting on Him to provide the blessings He deems best, whether in this life or the life to come.

      • Shane April 3, 2014 Reply

        @Shannon you said: "It involves discipline, struggles, suffering and sacrifice. Maybe you and I are misunderstanding what Jeri said, but the real lesson of all this scandal and false teaching should not be to throw rules and discipline to the wind, but to realign our sites to what God commands in the Scriptures of us His children. Conformity to a set of man's rules- legalism, if we want to call it that- is, in reality, much easier for man to measure up to than the righteousness of Christ and inward holiness. But that righteousness and holiness will be manifest outwardly in our decisions and how we conduct ourselves."

        I agree largely with this if not totally. What I read in Jeri's post was that because of Gothard's stifling legalism (I don't think she used that word but it fits) she missed out on the beauties of human longing and adolescence angst. She din't say she wished she'd spent her youth bedding a bunch of men. The problem with Gothard's gnostic asceticism is that it crushes real God given human longing. Human longing is certainly not all there is, but it's not to be discarded. We all were made in the image of God and that image remains and shines through the ruins of our brokenness and sin. Christians of all people should be able to understand the longing.

        No I am NOT denying that sin is real. I believe one of the reasons it is so destructive is because it actually short-circuits and counterfeits fulfillment of those longings. No not completely maybe not even mostly. I take Jeremy Richardson at his word that he doesn't sweat this stuff and that he has love and joy and peace (my words). He and I would disagree about the sufficiency of those, but I would not tell him he doesn't have them. I believe he does and that they are good gifts of God.

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          Shane wrote:
          Theproblem with Gothard's gnostic asceticism is that it crushes real God given human longing. Human longing is certainly not all there is, but it's not to be discarded. We all were made in the image of God and that image remains and shines through the ruins of our brokenness and sin. Christians of all people should be able to understand the longing.

          wow...when is your book coming out..that's the best quote of the week for me: Christians should be able to hear that song of longing, even celebrate it, in nonchristians, because it reflects desires and needs that are GOD given, even if they are met in ways that are not redemptive.
          It's been said here @ RG a few times that nonchristian music is often more honest than christian music... Leonard Cohen, Over the Rhine, Townes Van Zandt, Van morrison...ok, this list won't stop..Emmy Lou Harris (couldn't sleep tonight if I skipped EmmyLou lol..)

          Christians should be able to discern, listen and appreciate all that is true and beautiful in others, christian or not. Much of that truth is about the human condition, the good and the bad, the right and the broken.
          Sorry for the long ramble..

      • Ryan Sapp April 3, 2014 Reply


        I admit all my ranting aside that because of my upbringing which included Gothard I feel like I have some very good qualities that were instilled into me. Not sure where the line should be drawn as to whether they were from Gothard, my parents or genes, possibly all those options.

      • Joe April 5, 2014 Reply

        Where do you get that understanding?

      • dreamer April 6, 2014 Reply

        >>After all, the opposite of a lie is another lie and in avoiding one set of lies, she's believing others.">>

        No, the opposite of a lie is the truth.

    • Leanne Russell April 7, 2014 Reply

      Are you seriously kidding, JC? The Bible may not directly say that, but it definitely talks about liberty and not living under bondage. If we don't challenge inequality that means the bullies and predators get free rein!!! If you aren't taught to question you pretty much turn into a mindless robot believing something just because you were told to. It stops you from having a real relationship with God because you are so stuck on fear of what would happen if you don't just "believe" everything you are taught. You have no opportunity to really KNOW God in a personal and loving way. You teach your children that because the world is going to later on if you don't.

  3. Ryan Sapp April 3, 2014 Reply

    What I am realizing for all/most/many/some/me:) of us raised in ATIA. We learned a real balance in life due to the fact we were so out of balance growing up. We'll be damned if we do the same things to our kids. We have wounds but we learned from them.
    Teaching your children acceptance (inequality) and to think (question everything) will serve them very well. Thank you Jeri.

  4. K April 3, 2014 Reply

    THANK YOU for writing your experience! I can so identify with the emotional struggle and sense of relief when you finally realize you weren't the one who was wrong all those years!

    Your choice of words from Sara Bareilles is beautiful, I've loved her music for years. When I was listening to 'Eden' from the Blessed Unrest album I thought, "Wow, was this girl in ATI at some point?!"

    "Walking in the garden was a serpent-shaped heart and he told me

    What is broken cannot show, and less than beautiful is worse than unholy. Idolized my innocence, Stole it from me in the end
    Now I'm wide awakened and still paying for the poison they sold me.

    Looking back from the outside in
 I think I was choking on the air in Eden."

    Yes. We were choking on this lie of perfection. Sold to us by a con man.

    • Jeri April 3, 2014 Reply

      K, "Eden" was the next Sara Bareilles song I fell in love with. I listened to those two over and over in my car for a while. :)

  5. DF April 3, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for your comments, JC.

  6. Shane Boone April 3, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Your thoughts are very clear and unfortunately have a ring of famiarity to most of us. I can finally wear jeans and a tank top as my blue and white and still have a clear conscience.

  7. Jeff Gill April 3, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Jeri. There have been so many good articles on Recovering Grace. I think this is about the best.

  8. Chris Myers April 3, 2014 Reply

    Very well written and expressed article on your experiences! I agree with Jeff, certainly one of the best on this site!! Thank you for sharing it with all of us. On the other hand those that commmented that did not "get it" probably never will, so don't let it bother you.

  9. newajb April 3, 2014 Reply

    Totally different spirit than Robin's post.

  10. Catherine April 3, 2014 Reply

    Just because Bill Gothard is a hypocrite and false teacher doesn't mean that what the world considers normal behaviors are good or freeing.
    I experienced young adulthood during the 60's and 70's without much supervision. The innocent kissing in the corner in jr high became not so innocent by high school. The smoking of cigarettes at age 12 soon gave way to other substances. At that time, basically, if it felt good, we did it.
    Now as then, sowing to the flesh will inevitably bring forth corruption. At this late hour it is more important than ever that we know how to posses our vessels in sanctification and honor. (I Thes 4:4).

    • Catherine April 3, 2014 Reply

      Just looked up the lyrics to Sara Bareilles' album "Blessed Unrest." They are extremely occult. You realize we do have a real enemy and deceiver who exists at this very moment in the spirit realm, or 4th dimension? He is seeking access to your soul.

    • J Baker April 3, 2014 Reply

      There is a big difference between "doing whatever feels good" and not being suppressed by legalism.

      • phyllis April 3, 2014 Reply

        It is called balance. Thank you Catherine, I grew up in the 60's too, and with little supervision. Knowing what he Bible teaches is a precious gift. People who distort it and put heavy burdens on others are robbing God's Word of its message. Trying to teach "principles" in place of precepts is a fool's errand if it is devoid of the Spirit of God, especially if their end game is success, as Gothard teaches.

    • DF April 3, 2014 Reply

      Which is why many of our parents chose to join ATI. They had been there. They knew we would follow and perhaps do worse than they as each generation is want to do. Many parents chose to protect us from the world. Was it perfect? No way. Should BG be brought to account for his wrong actions. Absolutely!

      However, BG wasn't the last first or last false teacher you will ever follow. You might even be following one now. Over emphasizing a characteristic of God's is as bad as under emphasizing. In the haste to want grace, many here do not give it. Not to posters they disagree with.

      The comments on this website are hurting it. Many sound like angry 20-somethings who didn't get their way. So you didn't get to experience fill-in-the-blank. Maybe you were saved from something worse. You don't know. But commenting as is done is turning many anti-BG people away.

      I don't support BG. I almost don't want to support RG. Legalism is adding the law to salvation. It's not having a standard, conviction, or proclaiming a different way. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Please.

      • phyllis April 3, 2014 Reply

        Thank you DF for this balanced approach.

      • "Hannah" April 3, 2014 Reply

        1) God's grace cannot be over-emphasized. It is the essence of who he is and the only avenue of his relationship to man.

        2) Grace is God's unmerited favor.

        3) Another human cannot extend God's unmerited favor to you.

        I am sorry that not all of our comments are always gracious. <-- but realize that the name, "Recovering Grace", is not a reference to human kindness or graciousness, as desirable as that is. It is a reference to God's unmerited favor.

        That in no way excuses unkindness, I'm just saying it's not the same meaning of the word. It's not the same person extending it, it's not the same qualities. Overall, I believe we strive for a balance of graciousness with truth. Not sacrificing one for the other.

        We work at it ;) Also bear in mind that anyone may comment, and the comments are not necessarily a reflection of RG.

        • DF April 4, 2014

          @ Hannah:

          1) It can be overemphasized if we forget about His other attributes. Grace means nothing to us if we don't accept salvation. It means nothing to us if we throw out how we are told to live as Christians in the NT.

          2) Agreed.

          3) True. But since we are to mimic Christ we are to extend grace to others. :)

        • "Hannah" April 4, 2014

          Since grace is God's unmerited favor, both for salvation and sanctification, no, this message cannot be over-emphasized. It is THE message.

          As to your second point, God's grace is bestowed regardless of my shortcomings. All that is required is that one accept it. We could get into an hours-long debate about the meaning of repentance and lordship-salvation vs "cheap grace", so suffice it to say I will have to agree to disagree with you on that point, since I believe grace to be lavish, excessive, extravagant, and free... But never cheap.

          If The very excessiveness and overwhelmingness of grace, is what causes me to hesitate to equate it with human graciousness. It's really much bigger than anything a human can do in a casual relationship in an online comments section. There really is not a human concept to compare to it. The closest example that comes to mind is adoption, and even that falls short.

        • "Hannah" April 4, 2014

          Edit: remove "If" at the beginning of the last paragraph.

        • greg r April 4, 2014

          @DF hannah wrote: 1) God's grace cannot be over-emphasized. It is the essence of who he is and the only avenue of his relationship to man.

          We'll just agree to disagree on this one. God's grace, HIS irrational, out of proportion (to us), no-holds-barred generosity simply cannot be overempahsized. And I see no need to bring our responses (as important, independently, as they are) into the definition of who GOD is.

        • Shane April 4, 2014

          Hannah, greg r, and DF- the counterintuitive aspect of grace is that the moment you begin to qualify it for fear of losing the effects of grace you begin to lose the effects of grace. Grace declared in all it's freeness, expansiveness, far-reachedness, lavishness, beauty, free freeness, unmeritedness, etc. is what actually transforms down to the bones the heart. It's what produces joyful obedience rather than mere external conformity to some rigid set of principles. It's what leads us to love God for God not what we get for being the dutiful son. It's grace that enables the younger brother's the long walk of shame to end in a party, not a bunch of self-loathing second guessing. It it was raucous party. JESUS tells the story as a picture of the Father's prodigal grace. The legalists HATED it.

          Yes grace changes things. So we should let it run. Free. Unfettered to do it's work. We should stop qualifying it because of fear that it can't actually accomplish what God's says he does by grace alone. In other words, I'm agreeing it can't be overemphasized. Grace is what justifies AND grace is what sanctifies.

        • greg r April 4, 2014

          @Shane: with R.Capon's passing (I think it was this yr.), you can take up the baton. Well written. Put simply, we have such a hard time getting our heads around grace (without SOME kind of qualifier) because it is outside our normal experience, we have ZERO reference point, everything esle we do and see has some kind of qualifier/quid pro quo attached to it.

  11. Lonnie April 3, 2014 Reply

    Is this type of article really necessary from someone who is "proudly" atheist and seems to be anti-everything except to "question everything?"

    • AmandaH April 3, 2014 Reply

      Multitudes were raised under BG's teachings. Multitudes of *individuals* who are now on their own paths toward healing. Each one's journey is just as individual - and our journeys are far from over.

    • Ryan Sapp April 3, 2014 Reply

      Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

      • greg r April 3, 2014 Reply

        lets shoot some pool, drink something cold, and listen to U2 @ high volume....no shame on ANYBODY, thank you Jesus

        • Sarah L April 3, 2014

          As long as we. could mix some Coldplay with your U2. Deal?

        • Shane April 3, 2014

          I'm in! But I'd like to have some say in the playlist. Oh, and the beer list. I'm kind of a music and beer snob.. But hey, I'll drink a macro-brew when necessary. I try to be "all things to all people" as a minister of the gospel.

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          @Sara L.: can we start with Sudden Rush of Blood to the Head ?? I might die for that CD...

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          @Shane and Sara L: OK: we play 'cutthroat' (some call it 'poison', which is PERFECT for three...winner gets to break, choose low/middle/ or high...AND the next song or two..or maybe four... sometimes my 'poison' game is like a snickers commercial (not going anywhere..???)

        • Sarah L April 3, 2014

          @greg r; I can so hook you up with that cd. The condition? We replace your initial choice for "paradise".

          Let the games begin!

        • Sarah L April 3, 2014

          Oh, and dying over the cd might be a tad extreme.

    • esbee April 3, 2014 Reply

      Kudos to RG for allowing all who suffered under legalism from the still very devout, the confused, those not sure and even gay and atheists to tell their stories here. When we stand before the Lord on judgement day, do you think only those who walked perfectly in this life and never sinned will be standing there. If so, it would be a crowd of only One.

    • Sarah L April 3, 2014 Reply

      @Lonnie: The answer is a resounding yes!! It is commensurate with what many feel after squelching their feelings and emotions for so many years. In my opinion the author has beautifully expressed God given emotions, without a cargo harness (it is holy to feel this way; anything outside of "holy" is to be run through the cider press) to smash and confuse them. Smashed. Ground. Pulverized. Missapplied.

    • Shane April 3, 2014 Reply

      Hey- at least she's not a Calvinist.

    • Krista April 3, 2014 Reply

      Yes, Lonnie, it is desperately important. A person's value is not determined by their belief system. Jerusha and her experiences are important because she is a precious and valuable human being. For you to discount her like this shows a shocking lack of kindness and consideration.

    • dreamer April 7, 2014 Reply

      I think it's pretty profound if someone was literally driven to atheism by the teachings of "godly" Bill Gothard. Part of this site's purpose is to show the damaging effect of his teachings. And sadly, there are some who were raised under these teachings who have lost the faith altogether. I do not know if the author of this article is one of those people- nothing in her words made me think she was an atheist- but whether she is or not, her point of view seems entirely valid to me. Let her tell her story. What are you afraid of? That some of her unbelief might rub off on you or corrupt you somehow?

  12. Karen Hall April 3, 2014 Reply

    Jeri, thank you so much for your honesty and transparency. It is so refreshing. We too, also have raised our children to "question" everything to make sure it lines up with the Word of God and is not just something that someone thinks sounds good. After being in the program for 6 years, it became too suffocating and demanding for our household. It turned into a list of "do-s and don'ts", instead of enjoying the relationship that Christ had offered us. God bless you abundantly!!!

    • Lori April 3, 2014 Reply

      Sadly, Karen, I don't think the author is teaching her children to "'question' everything to make sure it lines up with the Word of God." Please see this article from her blog entitled "Raising Atheist Kids in the Bible Belt": http://heresyintheheartland.blogspot.com/2013/07/atheist-kids-in-bible-belt.html

      • Catherine April 3, 2014 Reply

        The link explains a lot. Guess we don't have an enemy of our souls after all... good to know!

        • Krista April 3, 2014

          I find that the enemies of my soul often take human form, Catherine. The devil is given the blame for a great deal of cruelty that comes from human beings intent on judging and condemning others without a hint of empathy or an attempt to understand. Jerusha is an amazingly kind and thoughtful woman, and the opinions you've shared about her today are unkind and inaccurate.

      • Krista April 3, 2014 Reply

        Lori, I know Jerusha well and she is teaching her children to question everything, EVERYTHING, including traditional faith, atheism, everything, so they can make informed choices. This is respectful and wise parenting. A far cry from the brainwashing found in many Christian homes where children are given no choice in what to believe and how to live. I find it interesting that such brainwashing is lauded as something to be embraced while encouraging children to think, question, and make their own decisions is derided.

        • Nancy2 April 3, 2014

          It is sad to see how many children go through the motions of accepting Jesus as their Savior when they have no real comprehension of who they are let alone who God is. Parents point out things they have done wrong and tell them they are a sinner. They don't wait for the child to become old enough to feel their own struggles and ask questions that will bring understanding that we are born with a fallen nature.

          Parents are so busy trying to impress other parents they often times neglect to sit down and listen to their children's thoughts. They substitute the joy of discovery for burdensome tasks.

          I'm sure Jerusha is a very loving mother.

  13. Luke April 3, 2014 Reply


    "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9

    That's where scripture teaches us to fight inequality.

    • JC April 3, 2014 Reply

      Defending the poor and defending those promoting sin are two different things. Unfortunately fighting for inequality today usually means throwing away Biblical correctness for pop-culture correctness. The verse you mentioned is the reason Christians should support pro-life ministries: "Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die." (Proverbs 31:8 NKJV) If we're fighting for those appointed to die unjustly, than yes, the Bible supports that.

      • "Hannah" April 3, 2014 Reply

        I missed the part where the author promotes sin... The blue jeans? The worldly music? Dancing in her kitchen?!

      • dreamer April 6, 2014 Reply

        What sin is the author promoting, JC?

  14. Lori April 3, 2014 Reply

    Wait - am I misunderstanding or is the author of this piece one of the moderators for Recovering Grace?

    • Jeri April 3, 2014 Reply

      No, ma'am, I'm not.

  15. mslejt April 3, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Jeri for being brave and writing honestly where you are at in your personal journey. We are all at a different place in our healing and in our lives. I cringed as I read some responses above because they speak from a position of having arrived (spiritual superiority) and seem without the grace they should exhibit for having "arrived". Their superior tone is hardly better than the 'spiritual' tone we exhibited in ATI. Meekness and honesty are always, ALWAYS, the path to take. Anything else suppresses honesty and we have had too much of that in our lives. I honor you for being honest with where you are at and with your feelings and emotions.
    May we all be so brave and not parrot that which would stifle conversation. May God continue to work deeply in each of our hearts to reveal who He truly is and who He made us to be.

    • Catherine April 3, 2014 Reply

      There are many false prophets gone out into the world in these last days but God has given us His sure word of prophecy as an anchor for our faith. The Lord said His words are spirit and they are life. Walking away away from God's revealed word leads to death. Proclaiming His truth according to His word shows a love for others, not "superiority."
      I'm not a Gothardite and never as much as mentioned his name to my children. But I am a firm believer in the authorized (KJ) Bible and am willing to die for it. However this conviction is not of myself. It is the gift of God. Praise Him!

      • Shane April 3, 2014 Reply

        Am I understanding you correctly; you're willing to die for the King James Bible?

        • Shane April 4, 2014

          I'm still unsure whether I understand you correctly. I really don't want to understand you as saying something you're not so please forgive me if I'm wrong.

          What I read you as saying is that you're willing to die for the KIng James Bible, the Authorized Version. So it seems like you're saying the KJV is the only translation Christians should use and your willing to die for it; I understand you probably mean the truth it contains.

          But If you're saying the KJV is the only faithful (authorized) translation of the word of God: that's goofy. I know people believe this, and I know isome might consider it unkind to call it goofy. But there is NO WAY to defend this on biblical, historical, theological, rational, or spiritual grounds. It would be a very spiritually unhealthy position to hold.

          To prefer it is one thing; I'd argue it's not peferable. But to argue it's the only "authorized" version is a soul killing way of thinking. Again, if I've misunderstood you please forgive me. And if you hold the position I've called goofy I say that with all the hopes that you'll reconsider that position and find some grace in your understanding of The Bible and the Incarnate Word. You in turn my think I'm destined for hell:)

      • greg r April 3, 2014 Reply

        you are willing to die for an 'it' ??? tell me I'm not reading this correctly (and yes, I love the bible, all 18 different translations/paraphrases ... I hoard a little :)

        • Catherine April 3, 2014

          God is in His word. It is living and powerful. And yes, I am willing to die for the testimony of Jesus Christ

          For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and [in his] Father's, and of the holy angels.
          Luke 9:26

          God's word is really all we have, and all we need for life and godliness.

          Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
          John 5:24

        • "Hannah" April 3, 2014

          Dear Catherine:

          Jesus is the Word. Jesus is living and powerful. I think you may have gotten your entities confused.

      • Joe April 7, 2014 Reply

        Catherine I would love an answer to this... are you seriously willing to die for the KJV bible? I wouldn't die for any version, nor should the bible have even in its original language be taken literally or overly seriously. Yes, I'm a former gothardite who has seen the light, studied the ways the bible was put together and it's really...fabricated. That's not to say that Jesus didn't live and die on the cross. It's to say that the Bible shouldn't be worshipped the way God is, and sadly that's where most christians are today.

        • Catherine April 8, 2014

          I had determined not to post again but if you are really asking me then, yes, I believe in a God who promised to preserve His word and has done so. He took the three ancient languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and guided the translation of those languages into English. There is much material about the manuscripts, methods, etc, that went into the Bible we refer to as the "King James." I have come to rest my faith on it thoroughly and God has blessed.

          Right now I'm listening to Scourby's reading of it while driving and each day I discover more wonderful truths and especially descriptions of things to come that I didn't know were there. God's word is like a treasure hidden in a field and He is a rewarder those who seek it out.
          His word is my sure foundation.

          Some say they will not give up their guns without a fight. I choose to say the same for the word of God.

          Please don't read read into this something I haven't said. I don't presume to say that a person cannot be saved by using other versions. However, I choose to rest my faith on words which I believe come from an uncorrupted source, and in a God who is able to preserve them without criticism from me.

          If you think this is naive and goofy, fine. However, I challenge you to just pretend to think the KJ may be God's word for today for a period of say three months and see if you don't learn more about Him in that time than you ever have before.

          I never intended my remarks as a personal attack on anyone. I do believe, however, that we are entering a period in world history when all of our faiths and professions are going to be tried and tested. May all those who call themselves by His name be able to stand for Him in the days ahead.

          Blessings in Christ.

  16. Lori April 3, 2014 Reply

    Re: the song "Brave":

    "Writing the song...Bareilles says she was inspired by a close friend who was having trouble coming out about being gay." "The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine, called it 'destined to become an LGBT anthem for the ages.'"

    Source: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/04/26/with-sara-bareilless-brave-lgbt-themes-become-even-more-a-pop-norm

    'Just thought some readers would like to know this.

    • J Baker April 3, 2014 Reply

      If you want to assault the messenger and not the message, I would say I know of at least one public figure deserving of that treatment...

    • AmandaH April 3, 2014 Reply

      I've heard the song many times. It's beautiful and inspiring. I also got to see the duet Jeri mentioned. Those moments were touching and filled with such joy. Maybe you just had to see it.

      I had never heard the background of the song. I don't think it has to take away from the inspiring theme to be brave, speak out, be yourself! God can be seen in everything, he can speak through any means. It is up to us to look for it, listen to the message of love. . . . To shut out something - or worse, someone - because they don't embrace all of your beliefs is sad and truly unfortunate. You are missing out.

  17. David Moore April 3, 2014 Reply

    Jeri, thank you for putting so well what many of us have been feeling. God bless you and RG
    I wanted to put the initials of those who are still in denial of the depth of perversion that has been going on and allowed by so many in the know. Where is it in the Bible to challenge hypocrisy? That sounds so sad. "Am I my brothers keeper ?" Bill and Board members are running scared instead of coming clean, fearing man instead of God. Please hear the cries of so many "Flee!" Jesus wants you to follow Him, not a organization .
    David Moore

    RG would you please edit on my behalf as I was public educated poorly
    :))) love and prayers David Moore

  18. Loren April 3, 2014 Reply

    Good for you Jeri! Some people here need to give it a rest.....not all of us see anything as "true" anymore. Pardon us for having our trust destroyed by our "god given authority" SMH.....some of you are missing the point of her article.....

  19. Shane April 3, 2014 Reply

    Firstly, I want to thank Jeri for your post. It is very well said and another helpful piece of the story of the havoc wreaked by Gothardism.

    Secondly, dismissing what someone says based on some affiliation or lack thereof is some of the most small minded and unkind engagement I have seen on this site, in our politics, in our churches, in Gothardism, in my own heart/life! Please, out of some sense of the kindness and compassion of Jesus, deal with the merits of her article. Feel free to disagree. Push back. Defend Gothard. I'd ask that you back your disagreement with something. It helps further the discussion.

    But it is WRONG to attack the person and thereby dismiss what they have to say. What does whether this person is an atheist matter? Can you learn from an atheist? Can an atheist intelligently identify a cult? Can an atheist operate on you cancer?

  20. Catherine April 3, 2014 Reply

    "All they that hate me love death." Prov 8:36. It is out of a concern for souls that I have posted today.

    • Shane April 3, 2014 Reply

      @Catherine- I absolutely do not doubt that is your desire. The question is whether we care well or poorly. The tactic I am addressing is a poor care for souls.

    • "Hannah" April 3, 2014 Reply

      You may have posted out of concern that we would consider the state of our souls. But your attitude of greater holiness and dismissiveness of our pain, has the opposite effect.

      I'm a Christian, and I'm turned off. Can't imagine how my atheist friends feel.

    • greg r April 4, 2014 Reply

      @Catherine: I very sure you intend well, but.... what hannah said here: to your own Master, you stand or fall, not to me, but you might want to ask yourself WHY anyone would 'want' your Jesus..

      Hannah wrote: I'm a Christian, and I'm turned off. Can't imagine how my atheist friends feel.

      Mercy AND truth, joined together in Christ... If you think this is off base, then ask some atheists/nonbelievers how you come across (intentionally, or unintentionally...)

  21. MatthewS April 3, 2014 Reply

    In my mind, it speaks well of RG and of RG's readers if they are able to listen, and listen well, to everyone's story who has been harmed by all this. We all benefit from doing so. There are many former ATI students who at one time were very sincere about their Christian faith, who were harmed and disillusioned by the abuses of Gothard and ATI/IBLP; some of them have found a fresh expression of the Christian faith (almost always involving a new discovery of grace), and some have gone on other paths.

    I wonder if Jesus only loves the those who have been hurt so long as they stay in the faith and remain "good Christians"? What if part of the task of "love your neighbor as yourself" is listening to the stories of those who have been hurt, disappointed, confused, disillusioned - both those who have remained in the faith and those who haven't? What if the only people who take the time to listen and to care are those who are not in the faith?

    • AmandaH April 4, 2014 Reply

      "Listening." Yes. Letting others know that they are being heard, sympathizing.

      Very thoughtful post/comment, Matthew. So much truth in it.

  22. Will Hunsucker April 3, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Jeri. Beautiful account of what life was like in Gothardom and finding the freedom to be yourself and enjoy life.

    I would encourage anyone with criticism to consider how many times Jesus rebuked the 'sinners' around him - and how many times he rebuked the 'righteous.'

    The point of this article is not whether Jeri is an orthodox evangelical Christian or not - but simply the cry of a heart that was deeply affect by very un-christian behaviour in a 'SuperChristian' leader and his organization.

    Beware lest you follow in his footsteps.

    • Catherine April 3, 2014 Reply

      Not a question of whether Jesus loves sinners, but whether they love Him.

      • william harper April 3, 2014 Reply

        @catherine If you truly want to be "Christlike" I do not believe you would be focused so much on people's love of Jesus. Unconditional love means without condition. Jesus was the one who said "forgive them for they know not what they do". Apparently He was concerned with loving people no matter their reaction to him. When they came to arrest Him Peter was the one rebuked for hacking the dudes ear off. He could have rebuked anyone else and high five ed Peter. Christians seem to still be confused about this. It seems we still have a lot of Peters trying to hack people's ears off.

        • greg r April 3, 2014

          @W.harper: only wicked ears...and only with a sword that has been properly blessed for this kind of thing, and while uttering the correct 'Smiter's Prayer" (in King James English)

        • Catherine April 4, 2014

          Sorry I was maybe not clear. What I meant to say is that of course Jesus loves sinners. He came to save sinners. We are all sinners. That is a given. The question is, who will hear His voice and follow Him? Our help is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He is our strength and our salvation.

          My original point in this conversation is that there are many evils in this world to avoid, not just the teachings of Bill Gothard. And it is possible to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

      • esbee April 3, 2014 Reply

        in my case it is a question of Jesus loving me because I can only say I do not love Him in the way I should. My relationship with Him is based on His power to keep me and not me hang on to Him as all my efforts and works are butt dust.

        to Jeri who wrote this, I understand the need to drop all those beliefs, thoughts and ways of having to act, dress, talk, walk, etc. My husband and I have not attended church in years due to some gothardist people and rules in our church and how they put the screws to us in our walk. And we were not out there doing anything the bible considered sin, just those little things like watching tv, liking star trek, rescuing and keeping pets, lousy housekeeping, wearing jeans and riding horses, but if someone had a need we wanted to be there to help. It came to a point that our minds and hearts were hurting so bad that I heard God say that I did not even have to pray at that point. My heart, mind and emotions got some much needed rest from the battle.

        • Shane April 3, 2014

          "butt dust"-If I'm doing the math correctly that is unwholesome speech!

          On another note:
          "but dust"? Yikes! I think this is an example of the attempt at avoiding unwholesome speech is worse than than good ole cuss word. But "Butt dust" is funny!

        • esbee April 3, 2014

          That butt dust comment comes from this joke--

          -------A toddler and his mom were at church and the preacher said in his sermon--- "God knows that we are but dust."

          and the little boy asks his mom " Mommy, what is butt dust?"-----------

          To me, that little joke put the whole perspective of who I am and how deep HIS grace is to clean me into His image...

          As to my sense of humor (which Vulcans consider a "difficult concept") is also a very difficult concept to many gothardists, i.e. you have to be vewwy, vewwy careful on what you try to humorously say as it might mistaken for something from the gentle humorous remark it was meant to be.

          God has given me a sense of humor that is a difficult concept for most any Christian to understand. Like my brother once said in the middle of one of those worship services where people are going into those almost trancelike singing and humming........ "When I want my free holies I will go to a taco joint." Right in the middle of the service !!!!!!!!!...I thought God would surely strike us with a bolt. Too bad he later became a very legalistic 7th day Adventist because he was much more likeable as an unreligious person.

        • Shane April 4, 2014

          @esbee- love the joke, but it may trip me up next time those words are a part of a service I'm leading.

          You're comments about humor and the church brought these thoughts:

          1) Related to Jeri's article and your comments: I am appaled at how I treated my wife early in our marriage because she was so honest about the fact that her father was/is on his third marriage. Decent people didn't get divorced, marry children of divorced parents, and certainly didn't talk about it openly, that is, honestly without some visible demonstration of shame. I would get so anxious with how freely she talked about her messed up past. I tried to stifle the freedom she had, because she had not grown up with the butt dust :) of my church/Gothard experience. Fortunately, she understood grace enough to love me out of that pit.

          2) I often talk about the tyranny of nice that exists in the Christian world. Often Christians are very nice people, and that's not bad. Alfred (if you read this, I mean it with the utmost sincerity and as a compliment) is someone I suspect is genuinely a nice and affable guy. That's great. But in Christian world we often equate niceness with holiness, and it becomes tyrannical to people who are rougher by personality, temperament, and gifting. The reason is niceness is culturally defined, but holiness is something different altogether. Anyways, I read your posts and Brumby's and others here, and I give thanks that I've come to see and believe there's a place for Christians who will probably never be known as the nice guy/gal.

          3) All that was a setup to share this video that rightly makes fun of the Christian ghetto that you talk about. I figure you'll enjoy it. http://youtu.be/7Dxo0Yjno3I

        • Catherine April 4, 2014

          On a personal note, I wear jeans and ride horses too. It is my passion.

        • greg r April 4, 2014

          We can tolerate horses and denim...john Calvin on the other hand..

        • Elly April 4, 2014

          @Catherine, I don't understand. If you wear jeans, why did you make a case that Jeri was aligned with the devil because she feels sad that this innocent pleasure was labeled as evil and denied her? One minute you say Jeri is going to hell for doing it and the next minute you casually announce that you are doing the same. If you are persisting in so heinous a sin, how can you know for sure that you are numbered with the redeemed?

        • Ryan Sapp April 4, 2014


          I can count on you for at least one good laugh a day. Video was sweet!

        • kevin April 4, 2014

          "On a personal note, I wear jeans and ride horses too. It is my passion"

          We'll pray for you Catherine.

  23. Nancy2 April 3, 2014 Reply

    Jeri, I went to you blog and read several of the things you have written. I went to your article about food "A Talmud of Our Own" and "On Growing Up Modest". I must say if I went from a warm loving free family to living the restrictions of Gothard's teachings I would have a very difficult time believing that God and His love is real. It sounds like you were always longing for the joy you once knew. It must be even harder when the joy you knew was seen as ungodly. This breaks my heart. It was such a horrible lie.

    I feel after reading your thoughts, it isn't about wanting to sin as some of the other's have insinuated. It is about longing to once again enjoy the goodness that was destroyed by IBLP/ATI rules written by a man making them up as he went. He used his unhealthy focus on sin to destroy the joy God wanted you to know.

    By the way, the Bleu Cheese Broccoli Casserole sounded heavenly. You will have to post the recipe in your blog comments.

    It sounds like now that you are free your joy in life is increasing. I pray it continue to increase in every way.

  24. Krista April 3, 2014 Reply

    This is exquisitely beautiful. XO I resonate deeply with everything you shared here, and am so thankful to be free of the shame and guilt and fear and anxiety of that horrible world, that horrible belief system. I'm staggered by some the responses here, the arrogant, judgmental, silly comments condemning you for grieving the loss of your childhood, for wishing to have had the experiences you were denied that are so essential to us becoming the very best versions of Us. You are amazing, Jerusha. I have loved watching your journey these last few years and you are an inspiration to me in every way. You are brave and wise and precious and I'm honored to call you friend. These people don't know you, don't know your heart, and should be ashamed of themselves for making such brazen assumptions, for imposing their personal ideals and beliefs on you as if they have that right. They don't. You live in love and truth and light and I admire you tremendously. Keep dancing, luv!! XO

    • 'Megan' April 3, 2014 Reply

      Even my mom, who is VERY pro-ATI, grieves for her own lost childhood, albeit in different ways. I do not condemn grieving for the loss of innocence, because in a way, that is what Jeri is doing. She should have been allowed to enjoy all the fun milestones in life, without having unnecessary guilt attached. Exploring feelings and emotions as you transition from childhood to adolescence, to adulthood, is a necessary part of growing up. If you don't do it then, you'll either be emotionally stunted for the rest of your life (can I get an AMEN?) or you'll learn it later, which will make you look like a fool in front of God and everybody. (Can I get another AMEN?)

      I know Christian parents who allow their children all those fun milestones, because they've given good counsel and guidelines, and had open, positive relationships with their children. They've had a genuinely good foundation, based on grace rather than fear. Their kids are fabulous young people, very impressive, and while yes one or two of them could end up making bad choices, odds are they're safer from making bad choices because their parents aren't going to treat them like lust laden criminals for struggling with a natural desire. The parents are a real safety net, and really, a picture of true Grace. I love this family dearly.

      • SusannaG April 5, 2014 Reply

        "She should have been allowed to enjoy all the fun milestones in life, without having unnecessary guilt attached." From where I sit, this is what Jeri's little "list was all about - not about wanting to live in sin, but wanting to live without false guilt at just being human.

  25. Matt Olson April 3, 2014 Reply

    This was great. I understand what it was like to create part of the world that others were sucked into. It was like feeding a black hole that would just keep getting larger and sucking more people into it. I'm glad you're free. And I understand how you feel. To know that you can talk with someone from the other sex without feeling like you are letting your father down. To feel good about who you are and the body that you have. And just to dance and love. I cried as I read your post. I know that I would have gotten into some real trouble if I was raised outside of IBLP. LOL But I still wish I could have lived more than I did. My childhood was full of guilt and hating myself for what I would feel. Growing up while being left in the dark. There is a difference between freedom, opportunity, temptation, and sin. I'll never forget the first time I swam with my shirt off. As a man in my family it wasn't allowed. We are all educated. Everyone on this site has the power to tare apart everything that I've said and everything that you've said, because we have been molded to possess that talent. We can rip apart anything and say why it doesn't follow what the Bible and God has said. Enjoy the sun on your legs... dance... stand at the door and knock.

  26. John April 3, 2014 Reply

    It is very sad about the author. She has gone from one bondage to another. She is an atheist who chooses to believe that she will not one day stand before Jesus. She may have "freedom" but she will have an eternity of torment. God gives us tremendous freedom but we must choose to follow Christ or we will be slaves to sin. If a person no matter how bad their past chooses to reject God then God will resist them in their pride. (James 4:6) Life is a balance of freedom and limits. When we choose to jump over the fences God has placed in our lives, we will experience pain and guilt. My only hope and prayer that she like the prodigal son will return to God and repent of sin and accept Jesus as Savior before it is too late.

    • Shane April 3, 2014 Reply

      John- you know she can hear you, right?

      I'm sorry, I don't understand how this is helpful or kind or caring or compassionate. You don't know her. You are not treating her with respect by actually engaging what she's written here. I gotta say that your statement of concern is undermined by your stating of your concern.

      • John April 5, 2014 Reply

        Yes Shane I know she can hear me. There must be tremendous pain and feel like you got a really deal in life. Whether I like it or not God's sinlessness must go with God's love. I know growing in a KJV family I saw an OT God of wrath and mercy. What radically changed my view is when I began using the New American Standard Bible and saw that many times the word mercy was translated lovingkindness. It changed my view of God totally. Not that I lost sight of God's anger and wrath but that God is kind even when it appears He is not. I am a single guy in my 40' living by myself in an apartment. Does it get lonely yes? Do I have tremendous freedom? Yes. I realize though that I would not be able to make if I did not believe in God as a sovereign wise loving Father and and Jesus as God in human flesh who died for me and rose again. I long for the day when sin is finally eradicated. Are there times when I have questioned my Christian faith? Yes. I just know that atheism has know appeal. I believe that a man named Saul who hated Christians and hunted them down was struck down with blindness and had a radical transformation to preaching the Gospel he onced tried to destroy. I Cor 15 is all the proof I need that Christianity is real. Why do so many people around world suffer to believe in Jesus willing to possibly give up their lives leaving their former religion? The resurrection is a glorious historical event that did occur. In order to be a true atheist you have to say that the people who have invented the historical timeline are off. Why do we have BC and AD. Before Christ and in the year of our Lord. All of history centers around Jesus. My mom as a little girl used to hate Christianity so much to the point that her parents asked a young Billy Graham to pray for her salvation. She came to the point that one time she said Jesus, if you are really real, come into my heart. He did and it has changed my mom ever since. I have experience both the legalism and the license in my life and realize I am free to live my life today however I please. I desire to love God and Jesus more and follow them. That is not to toot my own horn. I have a long way to go to get to spiritual maturity. I just know I am grateful that I can talk with Someone who I cannot see and is in control of the Universe and Someone has paid the penalty for sins I have committed. I hope this link will give the other side. It is about a country music star that died in 2006 in a car accident but was a born again believer in Christ http://www.billywalker.com/sing.html

        • Ryan Sapp April 5, 2014

          John I think it is presumptuous to just assume she is an Atheist because she has tremendous pain. I have met two kinds if Atheist in my life. The ones who were raised atheist or who never knew religion. They actually have a fairly favorable view of "religious" people. They've never been entrenched in a religious mindset so they see them as just another belief system. Obviously they believe differently but they accept religious people. The other Atheist/Agnostic is a person who was raised religious and left. That can happen for many reasons, not just pain or not because of pain at all. My journey away from religion had nothing to do with pain although as I started on my journey I realized there was plenty if it there.

          I think it is rather naive to think that whoever doesn't live their life like you leads a miserable existence.

        • Shane April 5, 2014

          Thanks John. 1) I really appreciate your openness in telling your story and it resonates with much of mine. 2) I too believe that my only hope in life and in death is that I belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus who was raised up for my justification and my spiritual and bodily resurrection. 3) I agree that to understand Jesus is to understand justice and mercy sin and grace 4) My point was:
          I think it is unkind to an author to dismiss what they've said in front of you because of some affiliation or lack thereof with which you don't agree. Or for that matter to agree with them because they share your affiliation. I don't know if you followed it, but it happened in the previous article on grace and then it happened very quickly in response to this article.

          I don't believe it is Christilike to ignore what she has said and talk about her. I don't even know that she is an atheist (that is not what her article is about) and in this little narrow slice of time that she is giving her experience about Gothard I don't care whether she is or not. I care about hearing her. Giving her the respect to engage the ideas she's put forward. To challenge her ideas if I were to disagree. That was my challenge to us; to be kind to the author and not make an attack on her person or in some attempt at concern for her soul IGNORE HER and what she is offering to the discussion.

    • William Harper April 4, 2014 Reply

      Did you hear about John? He apparently wanted to post some opinions about how he believes people should believe. It is sad he's a Christian who chooses to publicly "mourn" but not actually personally engage someone he claims to feel sorry for.If a person no matter how good their belief system chooses to treat others without love they are nothing (1COR 13). My only hope is that he realizes that he can hide behind his religious walls all he wants to but the world is on the outside and if he really ever wants to make a difference he will have to get out from behind those walls.

      • John April 4, 2014 Reply

        Thank you William for your rebuke. I totally hear what you are saying. I realized what I said was not in love and I apologize for that. I have many shortcomings. All I know is that legalism will get one into bondage but so will license. Righteousness and Holiness and Truth must come with Love. Can I act self-righteous? Yes and that is wrong. It is only the grace and mercy of God that keeps me from being cast into the Lake of Fire. So I will take your point. The wrath of God is just as real as the Love of God. We can either have God as Abba Father or someone who it is fearful thing to fall into His hands. If we love God then good occurs in our lives but if we rebel against Him then we set ourselves up for His sovereign to work against us in order to get us to repent. So the focal point is not on me but on God who has set up the system of faith and love. If we reject His word, then we will suffer eternal consequences.

        • esbee April 4, 2014

          At this point in time Jeri and others like her need a break from the rigorous mind-control they have been mis-taught was grace.

          And I have always wondered about the scripture where God says he has "other children".

        • Ryan Sapp April 4, 2014


          I appreciate your sincere comment to William.

          Following comments not directed at John:
          In my personal life I will say I have done a few things I was sure that God was going to strike me with lightning right then and there. Hasn't happened yet, I guess my time is coming.

          Funny story:
          Last week I had a note on my door as did all the neighbors that the local Mormon ward was having a "fireside" about what the Mormon 's believe regarding creation. In 14 years I had never been in a Mormon church so out of curiosity I decided to be neighborly, so I went. I took a friend of mine and through a series of events she had stuffed our empty wine bottle in her purse. I will guarantee you it was the first time an open/empty alcoholic beverage had ever been in that building. God did not strike me down and that's how I know......God loves wine!!!

          It was liberating. ha

  27. "Hannah" April 3, 2014 Reply

    Jeri, I found your original blog post very poignant; an inside look into the heart and minds of the survivors and the conflicted emotions we feel as the Gothard empire comes tumbling down. On one hand, rejoicing for the truth being exposed and the ways in which justice is being served. On the other hand, grief at the vacuum of feeling that everything we worked for as young people, the empire that was built on our backs, never had any real substance. It has all suddenly gone up in smoke.

    Thank you for the validation, for putting that confusing gamut of emotions into words.

    • AmandaH April 4, 2014 Reply

      ". . . On the other hand, grief at the vacuum of feeling that everything we worked for as young people, the empire that was built on our backs, never had any real substance. It has all suddenly gone up in smoke. . . . Validation." Yes.

  28. Faith R April 4, 2014 Reply

    Jeri, I love this! Thank you for saying what I have wanted to say for a long time! I feel like I will never "fit in" in this culture. I don't have any of the same points of reference that my peers have and the thing that really sucks is that there's not much I can do about it. When my friends reminisce about their childhoods I have nothing in common with them. I too grieve for the childhood I never had.

    • Ryan Sapp April 4, 2014 Reply

      Haven't seen the movies, songs or any other things that accompanied that time in life. If you had any idea how many times I've heard " you haven't seen or heard __________?

      • Faith R April 6, 2014 Reply

        Exactly Ryan. And I don't have that much time to play catch up on everything I missed out on for the first 18 years.

  29. Paul April 4, 2014 Reply

    @JC "Where in scripture are we told to teach kids... to question everything?" In light of Doug Phillips, and now Bill Gothard, and with all the other false teaching out there, it seems wise. As a pastor I'm challenging all in my church to question everything they're taught, even by me. Paul commended the Bereans as noble minded for checking new teachings against scripture. With young children, wise parents will make sure that they enjoy the freedom to express questions and even doubts in a warm, accepting (i.e. gracious) environment.

    • esbee April 4, 2014 Reply

      How about the scripture to be gentle as doves but wise as foxes?

      To me that seems to say not to hurt or cheat others but be careful that there are those out there that would cheat, defraud and hurt you. So to question others' motives or what people say is right is not a bad thing. Even to question what others say what the bible says is not a bad thing either. If more people did that there would be no need for RG.

  30. greg r April 4, 2014 Reply

    @Jeri: my how we've digressed...and I'm probably 'King Digressor'.
    instead of talking about your wonderful article, we've wandered into KJV only... that's really a shame. Your words were sad but true, thank for sharing us your deepest self, and your hurts. You've helped many mourn, may you find laughter in the morning..

  31. Ryan Sapp April 4, 2014 Reply

    Did any one see Jimmy Fallon's opening bit on April2 where he plays the courtship proposal from the Duggars new show? (You have to google it, I can't figure out how to share the link. It's the last minute of the monologue btw)For those of you on this thread who see a problem with kids being kids and what they may do (kissing in the corner) this is an exact portrayal of how gothard would have your children live their dating life.

    Watch the video.
    Is that normal? No way!!! Do those kids have a chance of making their marriage work....only if they stay in the back woods. For those of you that think Jeri just wanted to be a carnal teenager watch the video. That's how we/she were raised to think about relationships. Courtship is basically engagement, they sealed it with a side hug....how sweet.

    I'm sorry but gothards principles when followed to a T basically create a freak show. If you don't feel sympathy for what Jeri missed out on as a teenager them you weren't raised gothard.

    • horse April 4, 2014 Reply


      It starts at 5:35.

      • Shane April 4, 2014 Reply

        That is freaking funny and oh so painful to watch. One example of why the world hear's Christians as the teacher on Charlie Brown (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss2hULhXf04).

        "go ahead and give her a side hug"

        Kevin- should the Satan Box get renamed with the move to flat screens?

        • Ryan Sapp April 4, 2014

          Believe it or not I didn't watch Charlie Brown growing up. Watched the video clip. That was my second belly LOL from you today!!!

      • Nancy2 April 4, 2014 Reply

        I think it is time for a those posting on RG to have a group hug. Everyone circle your chairs, sit down, cross your legs, and side hug the person on your right really hard.

        Even those on The Jimmy Fallon show can see how there is an endless need to add to the never ending How-To-Do-Life-Right List. The embarrassment they felt for the Duggar's daughter says it all.

        Everyone have a blessed weekend. Jeri, especially you and your family. Keep celebrating life!

        • kevin April 4, 2014

          "cross your legs, and side hug the person on your right really hard."

          You have to love the side hug. lol I'm curious. Did Bill Gothard invent the side hug? It's popular in home school circles. I guess it's the way that people can show that they care, without causing each other to stumble?
          In my family, people said hello and goodbye with a warm hug - it's hard to imagine a hug as something that would be sexual, but I guess everyone is different and if you get a reaction when you hug, better to avoid it.
          In my social experience, it always seemed that there were huggers and non-huggers. But, in my social circle today, it would be more accurate to say there are huggers, non-huggers and side huggers. It can make the hellos and good buys kind of awkward.

        • Shane April 4, 2014

          kevin- not exactly to your point, but I remember being very struck by the lament offered by a woman (maybe Eve's Revenge by Lilian Barger) who noticed that her father began to hug her differently (from full embrace loving natural hugs to side-hugs, no hugs) when she began to develop breasts (it's in the Bible people:)). It affected her deeply in feeling that she as a woman was dangerous, and that her body was a barrier to relationships. I think this is the beauty and importance of Jeri's statement about holding hands, first kisses, and feeling sexy. So much of the Gothard and evangelical views on boy girl interactions corrupts our relationships, and it is it's own form of sexualizing a person.

          The history of side-hugs I do not know. But I do know hugs release endorphins and I like endorphins:)

        • kevin April 5, 2014

          That's a sad story. I think that it is important for daughters to have loving contact with their parents, such as a hug. To me, it seems so essential to showing our children, boys and girls, that we love them. It clearly hurt that woman, when her father started treating her differently and not embracing her anymore. We need human contact, love and affection from the time we are newborns. I don't think that we grow out of that need. Sadly, I would expect that if many young women are not feeling that loving contact from their family, that they might be more likely to seek it elsewhere, with possible serious consequences.

          "But I do know hugs release endorphins and I like endorphins:)"

          I'll pray for you.:)

        • honour April 5, 2014

          Side-hugs are reserved for a certain sphere of friends. My physical contact naturally occurs in concentric rings of social encountering:
          Outer Ring: No contact, no eye contact, no verbal acknowledgement of your presence. (Usually those relegated to this circle are dead or have the initials B.G.)
          Next Ring: handshakes and fleeting gaze....
          Crap. I've got to go to Zumba class and I don't have time to work out all my levels of physical contact. Maybe I'll mental up a diagram during my hip grinding workout.

        • Kevin April 5, 2014

          @honou oh no, the dreaded concentric rings! Zumba and hip grinding? Oh my, we will definitely be praying for you.

    • Kevin April 4, 2014 Reply

      Haha! That was hilarious. We use to watch every episode of the Duggers. None of our homeschool friends had TV, but recorded episodes of the were acceptable to watch, even though they came from the Satan Box.
      Some even felt that watching Tim Tebow play football was ok, as long as someone manned the remote and was careful to fast forward anytime the camera panned to the cheerleaders. Others were visibly shaken when some of the men would watch or talk of Tim Tebow, which is especially sinful to do on a Sunday.

    • Ajh April 8, 2014 Reply

      That was quite possibly the most awkward hour of television I have ever watched!! I feel so sorry for those kids.

  32. Sarah April 4, 2014 Reply

    I wrote a comment and then erased it because I could see how negative some of the others comments were. But I'm going to try again and say "thank you" for this article. I grew up in ATI, went on various trips and to various seminars, worked at HQ, and have spent the last almost 20 years lurching between legalism and license, trying to figure out who I am. My faith has survived, but just barely, and only because I left fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and Protestantism all together. Too many spiritual head injuries! And sadly, I was so determined to have some of those experiences you mention that I learned how to sneak around, to lie, to live with a dissonance between my public life and my private life. But, given the existence of this website, it seems I earned from the best.

    I am still trying to find true freedom. It makes raising kids so hard - I want them to be free, but I have these knee-jerk reactions to things that aren't a big deal. Or are they? Sometimes I just don't know. But I did finally start letting my kids drink milk when they eat beef - baby steps (and if you know what that's about, you were definitely in deep!). :) Thanks again for the article!

    • Ryan Sapp April 5, 2014 Reply

      How in the world did we let him form our opinions on everything? I'm glad Al Gore invented the internet. I remember the milk and steak thing for sure.

      As for your Christianity I know it was very freeing when I could live my whole life congruent to my beliefs and not be two different people. I had hard conversations with my parents but they accepted me. Many here struggle with their family accepting them, to you I'm sorry, I know that must be so hard. I decided I wanted to be myself all the time, have nothing to hide and if I lost friends, family members so be it. I wanted people in my life who loved me for me not because I believed like them which is a conditional love.

      Recognizing you have knee jerk reactions and then thinking through why and where that came from is a positive step. It's a continual process but you're on the right track. Having a connection and relationship with you kids is much more powerful in their life than any rule will ever be.

  33. Ajh April 4, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for this article. I feel the same way, exactly. So much was stolen from me. So much that I can never get back. Experiences and opportunities that won't come around again. It's a sad and slightly hopeless feeling to deal with.

  34. John Hordyk April 4, 2014 Reply

    There is a non-religious support group for former ATI students.

    Anyone is welcome to join, even if they are still religious.

    Search for ATI Apostates and Friends on Facebook,

    It's not for everyone, that's for sure, but I've found an amazing community there.

  35. Nancy April 5, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for writing this article, Jeri. Funny how some of us read your list of the experiences you missed as a youth as just being normal and human and others read them as dangerous and possibly even sinful. I grew up in a conservative Christian church and was taught to examine every thought I had and every action I made for possible sinfulness. It was exhausting and drained the joy out of even the most innocent pleasures in life. I truly do not think this is the way God meant for us to live our lives. God Bless you and your family, Jeri.

  36. nmgirl April 5, 2014 Reply

    Catherine and John. pat yourselves on your sanctimonious backs and I thank you for reminding why i detest some so-called Christians. To Jeri, I am so sorry that your life was damaged by these evil people and your piece was beautiful. Every now and then a song comes along that speaks to me on a very deep level and Brave is one of them.

    • Angela April 5, 2014 Reply

      I'd hate to see Recovering Grace become a place where posters are allowed to engage in name calling.

      • 'Megan' April 5, 2014 Reply

        Agreed. Speak your mind, by all means, but be courteous where possible.

    • Sarah L April 5, 2014 Reply

      @greg r; cue up Incubus "Drive" right about now?

      • Sarah L April 5, 2014 Reply

        Blast! That was for the post from nmgirl. Carry on....

        • greg r April 5, 2014

          Now my curiosity is up ..will check that out

    • John April 7, 2014 Reply


      I will pat myself on the back. Here is the problem. I don't pretend to be one that is living as a model Christian. I fail and fail. No, the deal is God is holy and righteous as well as love. Mercy and grace are the only things that matter. Without them, no one and I mean one has any chance at heaven. I am a dirty rotten sinner apart from the blood of Christ. Only God justifying me through the work of Christ gives me any possibility of heaven. There is only one way for humans to get to heaven. So if that makes me sanctimonious I stand guilty as charged.

  37. LynnCD April 5, 2014 Reply

    Jeri, thank you for telling your story. I have to admit, out of curiosity I went to your blog to see if I could find out what happened at the end of your time at IBLP, and read that you needed some space before you wrote about that (at least, I think that was what you meant).

    I'm not asking you to share what happened, but just to say, you appear to be an energetic, determined individual, a mother who is very involved in her children's lives and who cares about them greatly, and at the same time you are still processing through pain. If my perception is true, I'm sorry for all the pain you went through. "They'll know we are Christians by our love" (which is what Jesus taught) should be changed at IBLP to "They'll know we are legalists by our endless rule keeping."

    • Jeri April 6, 2014 Reply

      Thank you for the kind words, Lynn. That describes where I'm at pretty well!

  38. Ryan Sapp April 5, 2014 Reply

    My thoughts on some of the discussion above about questioning everything. A base to Christianity is faith and to accept things you don't understand. I get that and I'm not discounting the need or existence of faith. Personally my favorite line is, I don't know.

    In our everyday life all we do is question everything and put it through our personal filter. It can be I need to go to costco because the items I buy are cheaper there. I'm going to the next corner to buy gas because it's cheaper. Where are we going for dinner, I don't know do we want to spend $100 or $50. Should I buy a new car? No I'll keep driving mine it's paid off and I don't want a payment. But a new car has less maintenance costs...Turn the lights off, turn the heat down, we don't want to waste money and power. Should I do these dishes by hand or put them in the dishwasher. Should I take the trash out or do it in the morning and risk missing the garbage man. You get the point, there are hundreds, maybe thousands a day. To give kids a list of do's and dont's does not teach them the reasoning skills needed to survive. If these skills are not developed as adolescence they are developed as adults...they need to develop sometime. Actually not everyone develops them but that's another story.

    Fostering my kids brains, decision making abilities, freedom to follow their passions and personal development are important priorities to me. I have a thirty year case study that I have personally seen unfold so I know the other way of "principles", abstaining from everything and shutting out reality doesn't equip children to survive in today's world. My parenting philosophy may be whacked, time will tell. With the reasoning skills I've developed I have decided It's a risk I'm willing to take.

    • 'Megan' April 5, 2014 Reply

      Very, very well put! To sum up, while we may not yet know whether your current parenting decisions are the best possible ones (time will tell), we do at least know for sure that the 'principled' way set forth by ATI was a disaster waiting to happen!

      I love where you said, 'To give kids a list of do's and dont's does not teach them the reasoning skills needed to survive.'

      I would add, 'To give kids a mile long, detailed list of hundreds or thousands of do's and don'ts, will not teach them the reasoning skills needed to survive.'

      For proof, I offer part of Ruth's story. Where she would collapse in the grocery store because the pressure of making a decision overpowered her, because she didn't know HOW to make a decision. I absolutely relate to that. It took me an entire year of marriage to be able to decide which brand and how much milk to buy, much less shopping by myself! I felt like such a fool, such a failure. Some 'helpmeet' I was.. I'm much better now, thank God!

  39. connie bennett April 5, 2014 Reply

    "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

    Let me tell you that in our day and age (and for the last however long) being alive is not a piece of cake. There's a whole lot of grieving and hurt going on.

    I have worked as a social worker and the number of child and young people (both sexes) molestations is horrendous. The numbers of alcoholic and drug addicted is horrendous. This world is a mess so when you're running away from legalism let me tell you that the grass isn't greener out there and to take care that you don't fall off the edge of the world. That probably scared your parents and churches and why your families were a set up for a cult. My comments are not intended to let BG off the hook in any way. Just don't wallow in a cess pool and jump into another one.

    • Ryan Sapp April 7, 2014 Reply

      First off its impossible to sum up parenting in a few paragraphs but I'm willing to put myself out there, ie the post above.
      For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Legalism is out of balance but so is the other side of the equation. I agree.

      On a different note I know it's in the bible but I'm not sure I agree with that verse.
      1. If your children grow up to not believe like you, you failed to train them up right???
      2. You can have two kids close in age and they end up on totally different ends of the spectrum with the same childhood. One follows your training, one does not. You trained them both in the way they should go...what happened???
      3. If you have a child that doesn't follow your teachings I think there is a mindset in Christianity that you must have done something "wrong". I don't feel that's the case. We are all individuals and that's the way it goes sometimes. Most of the parents I know in ATIA had to struggle with feeling like they failed as a parent because I don't know ONE family where every kid grew up and believed like the parents.
      4. My parents have 8 kids. We are all over the map, 8 different people with different beliefs, not carbon copies at all. All 8 are kind, sincere and honest. I feel my parents were successful.

      What Bill did see was that character was so important. He wasn't totally off base. Character is much different than beliefs and in my opinion more valuable. Somewhere along the line the priorities got messed up. Not sure creating clones is a healthy endeavor.

      • Ryan Sapp April 7, 2014 Reply

        Beliefs may not have been the right word....you can substitute you own word.

      • Nancy2 April 7, 2014 Reply

        Ryan said, "My parents have 8 kids. We are all over the map, 8 different people with different beliefs, not carbon copies at all. All 8 are kind, sincere and honest. I feel my parents were successful. "

        That sounds successful to me.

        A few years ago I wrote a Bible Study on parenting that got mixed reviews. The study was more focused on the parent as opposed to rules to direct your child to follow. One of the problems I was trying to address was romanticism within Christian circles. So often Christians do not see their response to their children are not grounded in a Christlike character, but instead have a romantic image within their own minds they hope to achieve. Fear of this fallen world motivate their actions when addressing their children's curiosity. They forget not all discipline has to be harsh.

        Anyway for those who wanted a "How To" study it was disappointing in it's approach. For those who wanted to develop their relationship with God, their child and the world around them it inspired questions. For myself anything that inspires honest healthy questions, exploration, and discovery is good.

        I would say Character is much different than blind obedience to a parents belief system. Obedience should never trump a child's need to understand love, truth, priorities, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, justice, their own fallen nature, anger vs righteous indignation, etc...the list could go on forever.

        I remember how sad I felt when one of the parent's who was disappointed in the study's direction said "Delayed obedience is disobedience." and left. Maybe delayed obedience is confusion from a lack of understanding. Maybe, depending on the circumstances, a delay is what is needed.

        Parenting is not for the fearful.

        1 John 4:18
        New American Standard Bible (NASB)
        18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

        • Shane April 7, 2014

          Nancy2- a great post. The whole first time obedience right away all the way is so often more about the parent than the child. I can think of a host of passages where God doesn't demand first time obedience or bring swift punishment (maybe at all) for lack thereof. It's because God actually responds for the sake of maturity and relationship not simply conformity. When obedience is reduced to conformity then it's is oppressive and often uncaring.

          This goes to the passage about training up a child in the way he should go. Too many misunderstand that passage as a PROVERB. It is not a PROMISE. This was one of Gothard's huge hermeneutical gaffs. Yes generally speaking in a proverbial kind of way if you work hard and plow your field and plant your seeds in season you eat at harvest time. But we all know it's not always true. Read Psalm 73. Parenting on the assumption that if I do everything rightly my kids are going to turn out X is not what that passage is communicating. Nor is it keeping with humility or wisdom.

          The other issue I see with Christian parents is an equation of their own sense of wisdom with law and therefore obedience. (I'm thinking especially of my time in college ministry.) I would often have students whose parents had offered some counsel on a major or dating, etc. and if the child did not conform to the counsel it was seen as disobedience and rebellion. While from my side I was watching the person grow in the gospel, seek wise counsel from a multitude of counselors, and prayerfully seeking to live in faith and wisdom. But because the direction they were heading did not conform to the parent's hopes and dreams for the child it was seen as rebellion. I had the conversation on a number of occasions where I had to tell the parents that their child was not abandoning his/her dreams but the parent's dreams.

  40. Shane April 5, 2014 Reply

    I came across this in my sermon prep for Acts 4. Very timely, I think.

    “If we are true believers, we share a fundamental unity in the core of our being...This does not mean these believers saw everything eye to eye. It is wrong to suppose, as some sadly do, that when believers dwell in unity they will carry the same Bible, read the same books, promote the same styles, educate their children the same way, have the same likes and dislikes—that they will become Christian clones. The fact is, the insistence that others be just like us is one of the most disunifying mind-sets a church can have because it instills a judgmental inflexibility that hurls people away from the church with lethal force. One of the wonders of Christ is that he honors our individuality while bringing us into unity.” (Kent Hughes, Acts, Kindle Edition)

  41. AJ April 6, 2014 Reply

    Love your article! Yes, bravery is a beautiful thing. So glad you can dance!

  42. MarkL April 7, 2014 Reply

    "People feel defensive when you question the authenticity of someone they trust, or trusted once upon a time."

    This is so true, on just about every level! I see many of the same attributes of the hero worship of Bill Gothard in today's celebrity pastor culture, especially within the "New Calvinist" movement. I made the comment to a couple of people that John Piper wasn't the be all end all, and it was like I had cussed their mother or something. Seriously...it's not like Piper gave his only son for them or died on a cross, so I cannot fathom why people hero worship him or anyone else. People will follow Mark Driscoll off a cliff, regardless of alleged plagiarism, abuse of power, vulgarity, and dishonesty.

    And all of this conference culture...T4G and all the others is just a show at how much people idolize celebrity pastors. It stinks of the same idea of the IBLP seminars. I "need" to travel across the country to have my hero fix all of my problems instead of picking up a Bible, reading it, and getting the answers from God.

    • MarkL April 7, 2014 Reply

      And as was the case with Gothard, I believe we will, over time, find that many of the guys who fill the dockets of these conferences weren't what they appeared to be. A big sign for me is how few of them refuse the hero worship. Angels refused to be worshipped in Scripture. Paul refused the adoration. But our celebrity pastors seem to crave it and suck up the chance for for thunderous applause and to have their book on the best seller list.

      • Daniel April 7, 2014 Reply

        Mark, how dare you question Piper. That's almost like saying the translators of the KJV might have done better in some areas. :-)

      • Shane April 7, 2014 Reply

        MarkL your cautions about the celebrity pastor culture is valid, but 1) it is age-old and not necessarily a sign of idolatry on the part of the pastor nor those following the pastor. Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Francis Chan, Doanld Miller, John and Staci Eldredge, Beth Moore, Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Charles Swindoll, Charlkes Spurgeon, John Wesley, George Whitfield, etc. etc. There's a line that would extend all the way back to the Apostles. 2) You've assumed you know the hearts of these men/women and their followers. It's risky. 3) Leaders fall all the time, whether their ministries are big or small; the idol of "celebrity" is often at play. I seriously doubt there is a strong correlation to ministry size or prominence. Coverage of those falls, yes.

        I have my own disagreements with the particular men you've mentioned, but I don't think it right to paint them into the same corner as Gothard because you don't like their teachings. Driscoll for one did something recently that Gothard has never done. He apologized. Publicly. For real sin. Whether it's sincere or not. Who knows. But if all he were doing was protecting his "celebrity" status, I imagine he'd have gone a different route.

        The thing I appreciate about RG is the deliberate manner in which they've gone about exposing the sin and corruption in Gothardism. They have refused to insinuate and throw things against the wall to see what sticks.

        • greg r April 7, 2014

          I kind of agree with both of you (shane and markl) Prominence might just be a product of doing your job/ministry very well, with such excellence that you are noticed and called out. I think it is the response to the attention that tells us about the man or woman. Beth Moorte seems to shrug off excessive praise, and can quickly tell jokes or stories that show us she is human. I was priveliged to hear N.T.Wright last week and he told several good jokes on himself during the two events where he spoke.
          To me, over time, it's obvious he is drinking in the hero song, and who will have none of it. As you said, Shane, just being prominent doesn't mean much by itself.

        • MarkL April 7, 2014

          An apology isn't repentance. Mars Hill immediately followed up that apology with a move to destroy all electronic documents over 90 days. That doesn't sound like coming clean to me, but that is neither here nor there to my comment.

          I am not trying to paint any teacher in the corner of Gothard, although I do find some serious error doctrinally with much of the New Calvinism movement (a topic for another time and place). The correlation I made is with the followers, as a direct response to a quote made in relation to this article.

          The main problem is not the teacher, it is the idolatrous hearts of the people who follow them. A man can be 100% correct in his teachings and still be worshipped by his followers, which is sin. And yes, it becomes very obvious when this is the heart of the matter. That has nothing to do with judging a heart. It is recognizing the ungodliness of an action. The defensiveness of the follower when questioned is a sign of a unhealthy reverence towards a simple, sinful man. In the case of Piper, I have just noticed that many who follow him get very defensive if someone takes issue with something he says or does, as many did in the aftermath of John Macarthur's criticism of him during the Strange Fire Conference.

          No doubt many of the people so highly revered will eventually fall. Some will not, and that is great!! Praise The Lord! But shame on anyone, with a large platform or a small one, who doesn't recognize when they are being glorified instead of God and doesn't try to put an end to it. Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes. Yet it is it in our nature to be so defensive of our own favorite teachers, and it is not in their nature to point people to glorify Christ.

          It is easy to see on the outside, but when the criticism gets pointed in our direction, we get defensive. I have been guilty, too!

        • Shane April 8, 2014

          "The main problem is not the teacher, it is the idolatrous hearts of the people who follow them. A man can be 100% correct in his teachings and still be worshipped by his followers, which is sin." I agree with this, except that I think we'd agree that sometimes the problem is the teacher.

          So my point is why do you take Piper to task or any one particular person. You say: "in the case of Piper..." but go on to talk about how you disagree with reactions of Piper's followers. In your first post and then again in this one you turn the issue of Piper's followers onto Piper and others in T4G; you said, "And as was the case with Gothard, I believe we will, over time, find that many of the guys who fill the dockets of these conferences weren't what they appeared to be. A big sign for me is how few of them refuse the hero worship." This statement bothers me.

          Maybe you know Piper better than I (I'm aware but don't really follow his ministry), but I have no idea whether and/or how Piper deals with the risks of celebrity of which you speak. Maybe he does maybe he doesn't. I don't know. I think it's wrong to paint him with the brush you did on suspicion; a suspicion born from what you've observed in some of his followers. His ministry is very public. He's certainly open to criticism based on what he teaches and how he behaves; not based on insinuation.

          I don't know Driscol nor follow his ministry, though I can't help be aware. I don't know whether his apology is true repentance nor I suspect do you. Maybe what you seem suspicious of is true. I don't know. It appeared as an unnecessary swipe based on your special concern for Neo Calvinism. I don't find any more evidence of "celebrity" among this movement over others. I've listed a few names that came to my mind, but we could expand it to all movements in the church throughout history.

          Again, I'm all for theological debate and disagreement and challenge. But calling into question the potential character flaws of people because you see some special "celebrity" culture among a certain segment of the church is risky, and I'd say untenable. Lot's of church movements have conferences where people travel to hear and participate. There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about this. I have no clue why you've singled out one except you seem to have a particular axe to grind with that group. Again, I read that as risking slandering someone's character based on insinuation. Not good.

          Please forgive me if I misread your post, but when I read the portions I quoted above it concerned me for the reasons I've stated.

        • MarkL April 8, 2014

          I want to briefly clarify a point without making this fine Recovering Grace piece about John Piper. I had to go back and read my comments to find the source of confusion.

          Firstly, the only reason I mentioned Piper at all is because, to some personal acquaintenances, I have made a couple comments disagreeing with some of his positions, and it seemed the people were very defensive of me questioning him at all. That is a verdict against people with a tendency to hero worship, but not Piper.

          Driscoll is another story. I personally believe the scriptural truth of knowing them by their fruits applies here, and don't feel it would be slanderous to say so simply because of all of the very public issues over the years. And it saddens me when people fail to see big red flags about their teachers.

          Finally, I don't find it to be simply suspicion or insinuation to make the statement that very few of these men (celebrity pastors in general), refuse hero worship. I believe that is a valid biblically based observation stemming from the fact that the angels and the apostles expressly communicated that they were not to be worshipped. With the very public ministries of these folks, it is very hard to find strongly worded condemnation of hero worship. (Worship is often dismissed as admiration, imitation, or emulation, when it is more than that.) When it is clear that it is happening over a prolonged period of years, and it is not properly addressed, then silence on the matter speaks volumes. Piper, to his credit, has at least published something on the topic to attempt to address the concerns.

          I did intentionally leave the prediction vague that many will turn out not to be what we thought,for the specific reason that, yes, notoriety doesn't mean they are all bad. (There is a baby in the bath water who I don't want to toss out by association.) And I'm not willing to easily make a pronouncement that someone is a wolf. In other words, please don't read between the lines that I was talking about Piper on this particular point. But if he, or anyone else, turned out to be a fake, it concerns me that some put have put their blinders with regards to their favorite teacher. That makes it hard to discern bad teaching later.

          I hope that clarifies a few things. My point was not to pick on Piper, but that people need to more carefully discern who they trust and follow and don't be so blinded by loyalty that they fail to see bad fruit and false teaching when it does come. I'm sure Gothard has legitimately helped some over the years, thus why he gained notoriety. But as we see from this site, hero worship put blinders on many people and kept them from seeing abuse and error that developed.

        • MarkL April 8, 2014

          And please forgive me for not carefully wording my thoughts.

        • Shane April 8, 2014

          Thanks MarkL. I apologize if I read something that wasn't there. And I do agree with you that it is troubling that to critique the teachings of some prominent leader in the church is often seen as tantamount to declaring hatred for puppies and kittens, or maybe given the trend here at RG; horses. That is a problem for followers and should be worked against by the leaders. Fear of man and people pleasing is a problem for pastors across the board and no matter the size of their ministry.

          I have my own critiques of the men you've mentioned; ones that do relate to some issues detailed here at RG. For one, their elevation of Western cultural views of gender to the status of "biblical" manhood and womanhood. I think there's a valid and important critique to be offered there.

          My request was for charity and caution. Thanks for showing it by engaging my thoughts.

        • Ryan Sapp April 10, 2014


          Shane is our celebrity pastor so thank you for clearing things up with him.

        • Shane April 10, 2014

          Ryan- that's funny! Despite the fact that I can relate to the idol of approval MarkL describes, one of my life goals is to fly below the radar. I could not be trusted with celebrity, and I like hanging out with my family too much to do all the work it requires.

          I'll have to take all my RG published works as resume padding.

  43. greg r April 8, 2014 Reply

    @markl and shane: mark, I see your point here, and mostly agree. Interesting that scripture talks about people drawing false teachers to themselves, according to what they want to hear. I think it is a shared responsibility, in some ways, but more efficient to call out the teacher.
    Shane , you mentioned Johnny Mac, hmmmmm, try questioning him about anything @his blog (youngearth/ old earth....are charismatics believers...) and you will not be welcomed in, or at least I found that air very chilly. I think this is almost a parallel relationship: my teachers stuff is the best take on the bible and the mind of GOD, therefore any questioning of John/Driscoll/Piper is the same thing as questioning the bible (and GOD) himself.
    If you want to see this topic treated well , I think, recently online go to Adam Palmer's "seeing the bible through sean Hannity's eyes"
    Rushed post, talk with you guys later.

    • greg r April 8, 2014 Reply

      I did not say so explicitly, but to be clear, I do NOT consider Macarthur,Driscoll, or Piper to be a 'false teacher'. Piper has done a good job, IMO, in deflecting attention, and in working with those of differing theologies. His followers are not always as careful.

    • Shane April 8, 2014 Reply

      Oops! greg r, no I didn't mention John Macarthur, and thanks but I prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of his blog ramblings:)

      "my teachers stuff is the best take on the bible and the mind of GOD, therefore any questioning of John/Driscoll/Piper is the same thing as questioning the bible (and GOD) himself. "

      I'm with you and MarkL on this.

      • greg r April 8, 2014 Reply

        to repeat (I think it was your point): that attitude of 'my teacher is the bomb...' can be attached to ANY teacher, so humble teachers/leaders look for ways to defuse this, and not let it gain traction . From what I saw, N.T. Wright was very good at this (thank GOD), even though with a world wide following well beyond his 'circle' (anglican/episcopal), he could expect that kind of attention.

  44. Rachel April 8, 2014 Reply

    As someone who grew up in ATI, but escaped the absolute horror stories that some have, I relate perfectly to this story. I missed pieces of normal life, of growing up, of feeling free to feel. I killed so many feelings and thoughts that sometimes I felt like I spent more time killing off pieces of who I was than living.

  45. John April 8, 2014 Reply

    I throw this out how do some delineate between Bill Gothard and Independent Baptist Schools and Churches? Are they a cult? How schools were girls could only where gauchos or culottes for gym or do not have your car door open or they might search for tapes or CD's that did not fit school standards. Or dating parlors? Make sure that you were the required amount of inches away from the girl on a date or you might get demerits.

  46. Nancy2 April 8, 2014 Reply

    John, I personally do not like throwing the 'cult' word around. I prefer just calling both unhealthy. I only know a little about IBLP/ATI from one seminar and family members/friends involved. My son spent two years at BJU. They are very similar. BJU has been influenced quite a bit by Bill Gothard, although some might disagree. I have spoken extensively with Dr. Wood and feel very comfortable in stating the like mindedness of the two groups, right down to their double standards.

  47. Gracie Shepherd April 10, 2014 Reply

    Were you eavesdropping on the past months of my monologues in the car? Because this resonates on an unreal level. Thank you.

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