Twelve Characteristics of Fundamentalist Societies that Shelter Sexual Abuse

30 April 2014, 09:00



stephanieHow could he have fooled so many people, so thoroughly?

How did the abuse go on for so many years, unacknowledged?

Whenever a leader at this level is ousted or steps down, questions like these come to mind. In the wake of revelations of sexual harassment and abuse pouring in from survivors of Bill Gothard’s ministry, many of us are asking ourselves, “How could I not have seen this sooner?”

Though I was homeschooled, I personally was only ever on the fringe of the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) and the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). I had close friends who wore the long skirts and collared shirts, and for whom “quiverfull” and “courtship” were an engrained way of life. Fast forward through my studies at a small private Christian college, and my training as a professional counselor to the year in which I found work at a local rape crisis center and began to specialize in survivors of sexual trauma. I hadn’t thought of Bill Gothard or his ministry in years, until a Facebook post from Recovering Grace came up in my feed.

Though I hadn’t ever subscribed to Gothard’s message, it was still a shock to me that he was alleged to be guilty of sexual harassment. My parents had spoken with me about some of the things that were “off” about Gothard’s message, most notably that a single man had so much to say on marriage and child-rearing. But sexual abuse? That had never crossed my mind. But once I began to consider the issue in light of my experience working with survivors of sexual abuse, it all began to make a great deal of sense. The reality is that the essential nature of a fundamentalist society like “Gothardism” functions to shelter and sometimes even perpetuate sexual abuse. Characteristics that are basic to its existence are exactly the right breeding ground for sexual predators to thrive.

So why didn’t any of us see it sooner? The simple fact is that almost everything about the way the organization was structured kept abuses from coming to light.

Black and White Thinking

In Bill Gothard’s world, nothing is gray. A thing is either all good or all bad, from God or from Satan. There is no room for learning discernment and discrimination. In this world, a kiss before marriage is nearly the same level of sin as having multiple sexual partners, and a woman working outside the home cannot possibly also be a good mother.

In psychology, this phenomenon is called “splitting” and is a hallmark of borderline personality disorder. The typical borderline patient may come into her doctor or therapist’s office praising them and calling them a gift from heaven one day, and the next day may hate them completely and refuse to even speak to them. When I see all-or-nothing thinking in my counseling office, it’s one of the first things I make it a point to address, because it is extremely difficult for the person who thinks only in absolutes to achieve the recovery they seek.

The black and white thinker is constantly afraid of recrimination, or given to condemnation of self. Their goals are unrealistic and unachievable; they are set up for failure. When black and white thinkers are in leadership, all under them are subject to this roller coaster ride. The person who takes a position of even slightly questioning—such as reporting sexual misconduct—must be opposed and blacklisted immediately. In this kind of environment, few hear from those who have experienced abuse. Instead, these dissenters are silently edged out of the group before anyone has the chance to consider the truth of their position.

Surrender of Decision-Making

The famous “umbrella of protection” provides an effective example of the way of life approved by Gothard and his followers. You are not supposed to be making your own choices; that is up to the person in charge of you. Gothard is famous for the totalitarian level of prescriptive control he exerts over his followers. There are prescriptions for proper marital abstinence, the way to apply cosmetics, how to run the household, and how to create a grocery list. There is almost no situation in which you are not specifically instructed to use a Gothard-style teaching as opposed to your own individual decision-making process.

This creates a situation in which people are literally programmed to respond with conformity, especially young people, who may have never been taught how to think for themselves. Inappropriate behavior by Bill Gothard or Gothard leadership? There isn’t anything in the Wisdom Booklets about that. So what can a young woman do? When your only resource is leadership, and the leadership is at fault, where can you turn?

Subjective “Evidence”

Many more learned than I have better explained the many hermeneutic problems with Bill Gothard’s teachings. But if I can attempt to summarize, one of the major problems is a tendency to use unrelated facts as the “proof” needed to unequivocally pass judgment.

A great example of this is in the Recovering Grace blog article, Judging 101. ATI students were instructed, as part of their educational curriculum, to write down assumptions they could make about individuals they saw exiting a grocery store, based on those individuals’ outward appearances. Apparently, we are supposed to judge a book by its cover.

Anecdotal evidence is as good as any other in this system, as long as it conforms to the party line. When critical thinking is discarded in favor of how well a position agrees with an idealized standard, anyone who doesn’t fit in with that mentality will not be given credence. Who’s going to listen to the person reporting wrong behavior when anyone can simply declare that he or she has malicious intent? Without an objective standard, it just becomes your word against theirs.

False Projection of Objectivity

The fact that Bill Gothard’s teachings are subjective is made doubly destructive by the fact that, though they are based on one man’s opinions, they are presented as being taken straight from the Bible. The IBLP “What We Do” page states, “The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) was established for the purpose of introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ, and is dedicated to giving individuals, families, churches, schools, communities, governments, and businesses clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture.” [Emphasis mine.] The lack of objectivity in Gothard’s teachings is hidden by the overt declaration of Scriptural basis.

To illustrate further, let me give a potential contrast. Though this article written today is in an IBLP-like 12-point format, it is based on my opinion and experience working with sexual assault survivors. I do not pretend to be objective in any way. In contrast, Mr. Gothard’s explanation of the 49 character qualities is presented as fact, when in reality, it is an interpretation of Scripture based on Mr. Gothard’s own lens. Some of these interpretations might be good, but they are not objective fact.

I am a mental health therapist and my husband is studying to be a medical doctor. It is important to both of us that our patients always understand we are fallible human beings who have joined professions in which we share our experience and training so that the individual can make their most informed decision. When people in leadership, like doctors, therapists, and pastors, do not practice this kind of self-disclosure, people are apt to defer to their opinions at their own peril.

It’s called the authority bias, and it’s one of many cognitive biases that our brains use as shortcuts to help sort through the many, many decisions we’re asked to make on a daily basis. If they’re wearing a white coat, a police uniform, or standing behind a pulpit, our brain automatically wants to trust them, because we’re taught that those in authority have our best interests at heart. When that is not the case, many people end up doubting the non-authority in favor of the authority. For the survivor of abuse, that means that he or she suffers from being on the wrong end of the authority bias.

Cultural Isolation

The message of Bill Gothard could be characterized as, the world is full of sin and therefore a good Christian must separate from it. The emphasis on the evils of rock music, television, and higher education are just a few examples of potentially innocuous cultural realities that are wholeheartedly rejected by those who follow his teachings.

But when a group cuts itself off from the culture around them, they lose perspective and potentially helpful outside resources. As a result, no one trusts outside support services like Child Protective Services, the police, and state-sponsored sexual assault response centers. The only people they have to go to are those who are aligned with the abuser.

Borrowed Responsibility

Sadly, every female who has been even loosely involved with a fundamentalist society understands immediately what I mean if I say the words, “eye trap,” or talk about “causing a brother to stumble.” From a young age, conservative Christian women have been taught that it is mostly our fault if a man lusts after us.

It has been just this year, after almost five years of marriage, that my husband has looked over my outfit and said, “That looks like a shirt with a normal neckline. You would have never worn that a few years ago.” To my shock, I realized he was right. Due to one incident in my homeschool group when I was 14 or 15, I had been ashamed and self-conscious of my body throughout my teenage years and into young adulthood. I still remember the pretty, striped, square-neck sweater I was wearing when our group leader pulled me aside and said that I was causing boys to think inappropriate thoughts by what I was wearing. I felt so ashamed that day as I buttoned up my coat to my neck despite the heat. I was grateful for it. If I hadn’t had my coat with me, I would have been required to wear a giant baggy t-shirt they had on hand for just this purpose, effectively branding me as a rule-breaker and temptress to the rest of my classmates.

Again, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood that, at that age, boys are going to think about that topic all the time. It wasn’t until I was practicing as a therapist that I realized why the concept of personal responsibility was so important. When you blame one person for another’s actions, you are effectively setting them up to fail. There’s no way to control another person’s choices. It can’t be done. So the shame spiral in the person blamed never ceases, and the person being “caused” to sin blissfully goes on, absolved of the consequences of their choices.

Now, in my case, I have no doubt that those teenage boys in my homeschool group had no idea of how I was supposedly tempting them. They were used to shame me into conformity without their knowledge, because honestly, their knowledge wasn’t needed. When the concept of borrowed responsibility is introduced to a sensitive personality, no additional push is needed. The self-blame will perpetuate on its own.

Sexual abuse survivors are, as a group, one of the most susceptible to blaming themselves for the choices of another. I still remember when a client of mine, who was sexually abused by her biological father, confessed that she blamed herself for being a pretty child, as if a four- or five-year-old was capable of seductive behavior. In my work with survivors, I’ve found that survivors come in all shapes and sizes, all levels of attractiveness, and all ages, from infants to the elderly. There is no characteristic about a survivor that is to blame for sexual abuse being perpetrated upon them. But if you take that tendency to self-blame in survivors and add it to a milieu of borrowed responsibility like Gothard’s ministry? You have a recipe for shame, self-recrimination, and hiding the truth. Gothard’s leadership functioned to shelter ongoing sexual abuse because those who were victimized knew they could potentially be blamed for another’s wrong behavior.

Purity as a Behavioral Concept

Is purity something you inwardly have, or something you attain by external characteristics? Though I have no doubt Gothard would claim the former, I would argue that his actions and the actions of those under his authority lead to the latter conclusion. The emphasis in his teachings on courtship demonstrate a legalistic bent that is not a shock to any graduate of his programs. If you flip on TLC at any time this month, you will see the awkward promos for 19 Kids and Counting on the subject of Jessa Duggar’s courtship with Ben Seewald. Most cringe-worthy is when father Jim Bob point-blank asks the young couple where they draw the physical lines. Is it kissing? Holding hands? Side-hugs? While actions give us clues to our inward thoughts, they are not exact manifestations of our inner state. For example, in this culture, kissing before marriage is practically a kind of prostitution, “giving pieces of your heart away.” But it’s simply not that simple to link behavior with your inner state.

For example, one common way to deal with past sexual violence for women is to seek out further sexual partners or participate in dangerous sexual behavior. Yet to call that action to “promiscuity” would be extremely reductionistic. In reality, sexual violence survivors may take on unsafe sexual behavior as a way to try to control past abuse memories by making new ones, or to feel in power because they are haunted by past feelings of extreme powerlessness. This is usually not healthy behavior, but it is not the same as simply being “promiscuous.”

When purity is a matter of body parts rather than a matter of the heart, those who have been sexually victimized will want to hide or minimize what they went through because to admit it is to immediately be soiled. In a world where you cannot hold hands with the one you might even marry because it invites sexual thoughts, how can you begin to share with others your experience of a spiritual leader putting his hands on you?


Fundamentalist societies tend emphasize hierarchy of authority, with the older or male person serving as the authority over the younger or female person. The “umbrella of protection” is Gothard’s illustration of this hierarchy. Violating this principle is compared to being “worldly” and inviting disaster into your life. The umbrella of protection, however, ends up protecting abusers better than it protects those vulnerable to abuse. In the article “When Asking “Why” Does Not Bring Answers,” Lisa shares how her fear of being disobedient kept her from telling her mother about her grandfather’s abuse.

All who participated in ATI & IBLP-affiliated programs were aware of the taboo of violating the chain-of-command. The chain-of-command dictates a worldview in which leadership is not earned, but given by divine right. This means if the leadership errs, you are not to correct him or her, or get yourself to safety, but to continue to submit in order that your leaders see the error of their ways and correct themselves.

Let me make an entirely subjective statement from experience: Sexual abusers do not self-correct. While they may make changes to their lives given correction and accountability, I have never heard of an abuser that chose for themselves to change until acted on by an outside force. That being the case from my perspective, I see chain-of-command as a scenario in which people already hurt by abuse continue to be abused, while one man at the top continues to hold power without accountability. That is yet another way that fundamentalist societies, despite their intention to protect, can shelter sexual abuse.

Worship of Tradition

When I was younger, I found it simply annoying that so many homeschooled folks seemed to feel that anything that was older was necessarily better. It was odd to me that things like old movies, old books, old ways of dressing, and traditional hymns rather than modern music seemed to take precedence over anything developed since 1960. With the perspective of adulthood, I find it dangerous to dismiss wholesale the developments of a modern age in favor of something from a bygone era. It is assumed in most fundamentalist societies, and certainly in Bill Gothard’s, that the old ways are better.

The problem with elevating tradition is a combination of black and white thinking and cultural isolation. When you ignore anything newly developed, you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater and protecting yourself from a potentially helpful development. I understand and respect those who wish to be in charge of their own children’s sexual education. I do too, when the time comes. But there are quality educational materials out there that don’t teach “sex ed” per se, but teach how to protect yourself from sexual predators. The “Good Touch, Bad Touch,” curriculum is one such program, teaching young children in age-appropriate ways how to distinguish a hug or a pat on the back from someone touching them in inappropriate places.

While I will never support any interpretation of abuse that blames the victim, it has become clear to me that if more young children and teens knew the words for what was happening to them and how to approach an adult with this information, more abuse could be avoided. I doubt that this kind of curriculum would even be encountered in Bill Gothard’s world, because of the cultural isolation of living in the past. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this account, but so far in my research on Gothard’s teachings I have seen only omission or unhealthy information related to sexual abuse.

The perception of the past is that “things like this just didn’t happen then,” which is part of the rationale for living in that era. But it’s not true that abuse didn’t happen, it just wasn’t talked about, which is exactly what happened during the abuses that allegedly occurred at the hands of Bill Gothard. It happened. But nobody talked about it. That’s the danger of elevating the past without thoughtful discrimination.

Special Language

Rhema. Courtship. Defrauding. Wisdom searches.

Each society, to some degree, develops its own language. These languages develop for a purpose: to bond a group and to better communicate within the group. This can be harmless, or used with the purpose to obfuscate a true meaning and disempower individuals. Proverbs 17:9 [AMP] states, “He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.” Under the special language of Gothardism, this passage comes to mean that “slander” is redefined as “Telling the truth with a design to hurt.”  As anyone with a passing amount of legal knowledge can assert (and my knowledge is merely passing, I assure you) a charge of slander can only be pursued if the statement is known to be a lie. This twisting of the definition produces the disgusting result of someone who expresses abuse allegations being transformed into a slanderer with malicious intent. There’s no allowance for the other meanings of reporting abuse: desire to protect others, desire to help the abuser correct his or her behavior. It’s simply slandering, or “false report.” I could have overlooked it, but at least from my research I’ve never seen a word in the Gothard special language for “telling the truth in love.”

Special language, like all language, is designed to aid communication. But when necessary words are deliberately left out, the result is that communication is shut down, hiding the truth. In this case, that is another characteristic that ends up sheltering sexual abuse.

Denial of the Individual

In fundamentalist societies, the corporate body is both preferred and promoted. Selflessness (perhaps because of black and white thinking) is something that must be practiced at all costs, even when it perpetuates abuse. When the individual asserts his or her own needs, it’s not considered standing up for themselves, it’s considered selfishness. This is how women continue to feel the need to bear more children after a doctor or multiple miscarriages clearly indicate that it is time for some kind of sensible end to childbearing. It can result in scenarios in which older children in large broods of kids lose any desire to raise children on their own, having already been worn out by raising their brothers and sisters.

And of course most pertinent to this discussion is the result of extreme selflessness as it relates to sexual abuse. In this scenario, one’s own needs for justice or personal safety do not seem anywhere near as important as protecting the image of the community as a whole. And in some cases, abusers can use the perspective of subjugating oneself as justification for enacting their own perverted “needs.” Outside of a fundamentalist group, my clients have reported that their abusers whispered in their ear that if they didn’t submit to the abuse, the abuser might be “forced” to prey on a beloved sibling or friend. The individual that is victimized is thereby convinced that their sacrifice protects another. While selflessness if practiced in moderation is an extremely worthwhile value, when not balanced by protecting basic needs of safety, it can easily be used to shelter abusers.

Formulaic Response to All Problems

In Gothard’s world, there is a numbered solution to every problem, and it is presented as full and complete. To contrast once again, my 12 characteristics today are not in any way meant to be construed as a complete set of characteristics. For all I know there could be 13 characteristics or 37! And I’m okay with that, because I don’t think I have all the answers.

However, Gothard’s position couldn’t be more clearly opposed to that. He writes on his website about the seven basic life principles: “Every problem in life can be traced to seven non-optional principles found in the Bible. Every person, regardless of culture, background, religion, education, or social status, must either follow these principles or experience the consequences of violating them.” [Editor’s note: the quoted language was recently removed from the current Seven Basic Life Principles page on, but the archived version can still be viewed here.] On page 13 of the One Accord Manual, it states that you should recruit members to your team with the question, “If you could receive training that would guarantee success in your life, family and finances, would you be committed to learning it?”

Here’s the problem with living life by a formula: you’re deceived into thinking that by doing so, you are safe from all problems. I have seen—repeatedly—how people can literally do everything “right” and still be hurt by life. The Recovering Grace article “How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships,” explains how it is taught “1 + 1= 2. Emotional purity + Biblical courtship = Godly marriage. But life doesn’t work that way. ” And in the series “Courtship Promised to Protect Me,” Joy shares her heartbreaking story of how the rule of courtship failed to protect her from hurt.

This false feeling of safety is one of the worst perpetuators of sexual abuse and harassment, because it assumes that “it can’t happen here.” The reality is that you can be doing everything according to the ATI or IBLP formula and still suffer sexual abuse. But no one will know, or no one will believe, because if you’re living by the rules, how could such a thing happen?

What to Take Away

I wrote this article for two reasons, though only one was clear to me from the beginning. The first reason is to help survivors free themselves from self-blame based on their responses to the abuse. Individual sexual predators routinely demonstrate “grooming” behaviors towards their intended child victims. These are actions designed to break down the intended victim’s defenses and resistance, such as isolating them from their families, giving them gifts, making them feel special, testing their ability to “keep secrets.” The characteristics I have described here today are simply an example of grooming at a higher level.

You would not blame a lonely child for responding to grooming behaviors; it is natural for those behaviors to mislead. Yet most sexual abuse survivors, and certainly many within the Gothard community, will blame themselves for not seeing what was happening to them sooner or for somehow acting in a way that allowed the abuse to continue. This article was written to encourage you to set yourself free from that kind of self-blame.

No matter what you or anyone else did or said, only the abuser and those who deliberately overlooked the abuse are at fault. As a member of Bill Gothard’s organization, you were involved in an environment that provided a shelter for abuse. I don’t assume that that was the intention, but that was how it ended up. You could not have seen it coming.

Whether you reported and were not believed, did not report and/or hid the abuse, felt that you in some way participated in the abuse, or blamed yourself for any other reason, you need to know this: You were not at fault, and you did nothing to deserve this.

My second reason, which I didn’t realize until my second pass through the article draft, was to encourage fundamentalist thinkers to set up protection for survivors within their societies. Whether you are a church or homeschool leader, mother or father, or even still operating within the Gothard community, you can take a stand to protect children and others from sexual predators.

I have absolutely no doubt that the majority of IBLP and ATI leadership did not want to shelter abusers in any way. They got into fundamentalism for the same reason as many others, in a search for the right way of life for themselves and their families. But through simple ignorance of the methods abusers use, they may have sheltered abuse by accident.

No one is born knowing how to protect yourself from sexual abuse, or how to protect your children. But you can learn. Here are some simple suggestions to help anyone involved in a fundamentalist society group protect their members from sexual predators.

  • Educate your children from a young age to understand that their body is their own, and no one else is allowed to touch them in a way that makes them feel dirty or bad. If you do not feel that outside material on safe touching is appropriate for them to read, create your own.
  • Create a safe line of communication with children and young people you shepherd, letting them know that if they ever come to you with a story about abusive behaviors, you will believe them and investigate what they told you.
  • Teach yourselves and your children that there is a difference in purity of heart and someone else violating your body. Children at least up until the age of 13 or so only understand morality in black and white terms and may not understand that someone else’s choices are not their responsibility.
  • Create a special language of your own for positive concepts like “telling the truth to protect.”
  • Take the opportunity to educate those in your group and your family about “special situations” in which the rules don’t apply the way they normally do.
  • Mothers especially, model a balance of humility and self-respect for your children. Even something as simple as taking time for something you need for your emotional health could plant the seed in your daughters that it is okay to meet your own needs.
  • Consciously educate on the topic of personal responsibility, and don’t make your children apologize for something that they aren’t responsible for.

Above all, practice grace! Even if you have very high standards for lifestyles that you find appropriate, there is never a need to shame another person. Never. Correcting behavior is far different than shaming the soul. There is hope and there is healing. If you were hurt by a group structure that sheltered abuse, you can change the future and become a part of the solution.

Stephanie Adams, MA, LPC, was homeschooled until attending a small private college and graduate school. She counsels out of her office in Dallas, TX, and her virtual online counseling office, specializing in sexual trauma recovery, anxiety, and working with teenagers. She is married to a wonderful public-schooler who is now studying to become an M.D. To read her blog, Survivor is A Verb: Letters of Hope & Healing for Survivors of Sexual Assault, go to
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. Brumby April 30, 2014 Reply

    For me, this is the single most helpful article that I have read so far on RG. Thanks, Stephanie, for taking the time to organize your thoughts and area of expertise to share with the former/current ATI community. This article reiterates what I've been thinking and saying, and gives me the words to verbalize the feelings/hunches that were still "fuzzy" and undefined in my mind.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Brumby, your comment makes me very grateful. I hoped to provide validation for survivors and "secondary survivors," which are the family and close friends of those who were abused that this DID happen and it was wrong. Thanks for sharing your feedback.

  2. BeautyforAshes April 30, 2014 Reply

    Great article --- THANK YOU!
    "It can result in scenarios in which older children in large broods of kids lose any desire to raise children on their own, having already been worn out by raising their brothers and sisters." YES, this is me. My mother was exhausted from having baby after baby in her forties and we older children were put in charge of raising, caring for, teaching and even disciplining the younger ones. By my twenties, I didn't want my own children. God had other plans and my husband and I were surprised by our first pregnancy...I really had to work through the reality of becoming a mother. We're blessed with 3 now and I love it - but sometimes I still feel tired and do you know what I feel like? Like these are my grandkids! IN MY THIRTIES! I feel like I already raised a set of kids and this set of my own are my grandkids, in a sense, that they are the second set of kids I'm raising. It doesn't always feel like that, but sometimes! But I can't complain, I'm really happy now, being a mom.

    "When purity is a matter of body parts rather than a matter of the heart, those who have been sexually victimized will want to hide or minimize what they went through because to admit it is to immediately be soiled." That was exactly my mental viewpoint. The first time my husband kissed me (totally surprised me, I didn't see it coming) when we were dating, I had a panic attack. Yep. I couldn't breathe and I thought I was going to die. I had now been officially kissed, and I was soiled. It literally hurts my heart when I think about it, what should have been a meaningful, special, exciting moment was destroyed by fierce, ugly fear and shame.

    In the portion about Individuality, I would also like to make this point: My siblings and I were not allowed Individuality, because in a sense it would create (from my dad's view) a "rebellious" or "independent spirit." We all dressed alike. Played the same instruments. Learned the same "skills." Same hair, same makeup, etc. No individual interests or bents or passions. What has resulted, which is taking me years to figure out, is a fierce competitiveness in our adulthood, as we try to have individuality. There is a huge sensitivity to anything that seems like a sibling is doing something similar, or copying something unique of another's --- because we are desperately protective of anything that somewhat sets us apart as individuals!!! It's really confusing and causes a lot of stress in our adult relationships now. We were raised as cookie cutter kids and it was damaging. All for image and control.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      BeautyforAshes, I really wish I could hug you. I am so glad the article reached you and validated what you went through. I have a really good friend who came from a family of six and has repeatedly told me she never wanted children, and she reacted very strongly to that statement as well. It was encouraging to her to realize there was a solid reason why this was not what she wanted in her life, so I wanted to make sure it was stated here as well for others like her...and you!

      Shame is the soul-destroyer. I am sorry that you lost the special moment of your first kiss from having shame over something that I would guess was very innocent. I hope that you have found or will find a way to reclaim that memory in a better context.

      The Duggars are a complex representation of fundamentalist culture I haven't quite figured out how to feel about yet, but one thing that hurts my heart whenever I watch the show IS seeing this cookie-cutter mentality of 19 kids with the same expectations of them, divided by gender. I believe the parents believe that they are allowing individual expression, but the girls are all expected to marry well, have & homeschool children, and perhaps do mission work or midwifery. The boys also to marry and procreate, but also start their own businesses or enter politics. The beauty of 19 individual personalities to me is the 19 interesting futures they could all have, in addition to marriage and children if they chose! But the expectations on them all seems to be the same. What are we missing in these 19 intelligent people that they could be expressing, but aren't encouraged to? That's another discussion, but I wish for you and your siblings to find your own callings and practice them in harmony with one another, despite the past challenges.

      Thanks for sharing, it really does touch my heart!

      • LynnCD April 30, 2014 Reply

        Thank you for this article!

        Regarding the Duggars, it appears that what they are doing is working for them as a family, and that they all seem to be in lock step with the cultural expectations on them.

        I disapprove of having a family constantly on TV like that, the operative word is constantly, or continually, year after year. They have to be on camera a *lot* in order to have so many shows, year after year after year. My opinion is this is very unhealthy. They would say they are doing it for a testimony for the Lord. That is fine, but a few seasons should be enough. The home should be a private, sacred place, not a place broadcast to the world. I try to put myself in this position as a child. It's hard, but I think I would be doing a lot of play acting in order to get and keep approval. Again, this is just my considered opinion, as one who registers as an INTJ on the type indicator test. While the last three letters are somewhat squishy, the I is solid. I need my alone time to recharge.

  3. BeautyforAshes April 30, 2014 Reply

    Thanks, Stephanie! :) YES, to clarify, my first kiss was innocent and beautiful and I was just writing about my immediate response to it of panic, fear and shame, which had been programmed into me, as a kiss before marriage was immoral, sinful, "soiling."

    I agree with the observation over the Duggars - I don't react well to watching them because of what you've described. The cookie cutter, expectations -- all of it.

    God bless you and thanks again!

    • 'Megan' April 30, 2014 Reply

      I think that is why most of us have a nervous tic when it comes to the Duggars, because of the long term harm that they are most likely causing for their children, NOT because anyone has any sort of hatred for the family itself. Many of us ache for all of the children, knowing that one day they will probably wake up and mourn for the things we mourn for. And they may not be able to do it privately. That hurts most of all, for me.

      • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

        The Duggar family is genuinely likeable and do seem to care for each and every child BUT they seem unaware of the dangerous consequences of some of their restrictions now. That is my summary of the complex feelings I have towards them...I like how you put it as 'nervous tic' Megan. Well said. It shows, to me, how well-meaning people (probably) can cause harm by getting sucked into strict, legalistic systems instead of grace-based wisdom.

        • Jeanne Owens May 1, 2014

          My nervous tics began at age 12 (even though the age to begin attending the IBLP conference was 13 at the time - the 70's) when I sat in my first huge conference center with 15,000 other people - all balancing our red three ring binders on our laps, taking notes furiously. Something did not feel right deep inside of me, but I was not free to trust that inner feeling and question what was being said and believed. Although my family never homeschooled, we attended IBLP year after year, sometimes traveling to a second or third conference each year.

          It was years after leaving the program (on my own, not with my family) before I was able to begin aligning those "tics" with IBLP. I might feel them while listening to a sermon at church - tic. Or maybe watching a movie in which people were manipulated - tic. Teaching senior English in the public school system my classes read and studied 1984 by George Orwell - tic. Actually, as a middle school teacher, reading any young adult fiction that is set in a dystopian society (The Giver, Among the Hidden, The Hunger Games - all wonderful books) - tic. Teaching The Giver by Lois Lowry for several years happened to be the book that align all these gut feelings I had, all those tics - to IBLP. It was a part of my healing - along with 6 years of hard therapy - that opened my eyes and heart and entire body in a way that I finally began to see what the teachings of IBLP had done to me - even when I didn't buy into them from the beginning. They planted themselves in me - and they grew - and they crept into my life in ways that were very hard to identify. Hmmmm . . . much like a perpetrator moves in on the victim.

          I have found grace, and a God of love, and I have been happy and free for some time now. Still, the recent events that have happened - thank you Recovering Grace - they still trigger feelings that must be faced down and revealed for what they are - the collateral damage of IBLP and Bill Gothard's teachings.

          It is hard to step out of something you don't really remember ever stepping into.

        • Shane May 1, 2014

          Jeanne- "It is hard to step out of something you don't really remember ever stepping into."

          Wow- that says a ton!

        • Anya August 8, 2014

          Just stumbled over this article...I wasn't raised ATI, but I was raised in a group with many, many similarities. It's funny that you mentioned "The Giver", Jeanne...I read it 8 years ago and I found it very tic-inducing. I, like you, always felt like something was 'not quite right', but I guess some of that could be hindsight since I've "left the group". :) Anyway, dunno if you'll even see this comment, but just wanted to share. Blessings to you all, with the hope that you're reading this with a new perspective of grace and know, the actual kind. :)

      • Brumby April 30, 2014 Reply

        @Megan: I can agree. While I cannot waver on my belief that ATI is fundamentally a cult, I find some relief and comfort in observing that the Duggar family has a lot of love. As a casual observer and grapevine listener, I feel I can safely trust in my gut feeling that the Duggar family has a foundation of love and caring. I hope that they begin trusting themselves more, now that BG has been implicated and exposed. Forget BG, forget the Pearls, do your own thing! I wish they as well as other former ATIers could simply trust their own gut feelings, their own goodwill, practice their own abilities to make decisions and life choices.

        • nmgirl April 30, 2014

          How do you know the Duggars have 'a lot of love'? It's a TV show that is staged and edited to present a certain image. It is no more real than "Big Brother"

        • Renea April 30, 2014

          I'm just concerned that the Duggar kids HAVE to smile all the time (bright countenance) , can't say anything negative ( a bad report) , and can't express a different opinion ( rebellion).

        • Brumby April 30, 2014

          @nmgirl: I'm speaking from my opinion, and my opinion and belief is that the Duggar family passes around a lot of love. I don't "know" it, as you speak, but it is my opinion. And I believe in my own observations, opinions, gut feelings. I'm comfortable enough to be able to say it's my opinion, and not a known fact.

        • 'Megan' April 30, 2014

          I make no conjecture on what is the true state of the Duggar family's domestic happiness, but I will say this: as someone who works in the entertainment industry, ALL reality tv is heavily, heavily edited. (Not always a bad or dishonest thing, obviously some of it is practical, but...)

          So with that in mind, given how familiar all of us are with ATI's unspoken mantra of always looking perfect/keeping up spiritual appearances, there is enough cause for many people to be uneasy about their family. I wish them well, and hope they are the exception to the general rule of ATI families.

        • Brumby May 1, 2014

          et all: I just wanted to share a positive observation that I've felt I've made about that family, especially since they receive so much criticism on this site. I see that what I've done was actually open them up to even more criticism. Note to self.

  4. Shane Boone April 30, 2014 Reply

    Thank you so much for your article Stephanie! The points are very clear and most (if not all) of us wish our parents had the clarity of vision to see the emotinal manipulation that took place by B.G. Hindsight is 20/20 and hopefully everyone that is hurting can gain some perspective from the points that you shared.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Thank you Shane! I hope so too! I have enjoyed reading your comments on various blog posts here before, and I'm glad to hear feedback on my article from you.

  5. 'Megan' April 30, 2014 Reply

    I agree with the assessment regarding older children raising the younger ones. While I didn't have it nearly as extensive as others, I also find myself a bit worn out and not particularly excited about having kids, although I DO want them someday.

    • Daniel April 30, 2014 Reply

      Megan, the beautiful thing is that kids normally come one at a time. :-) I honestly wasn't focusing on having children when I married several years back. It's kind of scary and overwhelming. Parents spend a lot of time whining about all the work, stress, mess, noise, and dirty diapers. That stuff is easy to talk about.

      I can't even communicate the deep, spiritual, and holy feeling that comes from looking down at a sleeping baby with your own features copied in miniature form. You realize at that moment that something really, really big just happened. When you hear that child call you "Mommy" with absolute trust and love it strikes a chord that makes the cost totally insignificant. Kids do wear you out, but they have a wellspring of life that gushes out all over the family. It's really fabulous. :-) Not trying to say "have a million kids." Even one is pretty awesome. :-)

      • BeautyforAshes April 30, 2014 Reply

        I completely, wholeheartedly agree, Daniel! Megan, there is nothing that can compare to your OWN kids. It is not the same as having to raise siblings. There is an inner connection, satisfaction, joy, awe --- like the above comment, something about seeing yours and your spouses features in miniature form is just so cool!!! They win your heart in a totally different way. The "work" is totally worth it and do-able. Having a little soul in your charge that has so much love and will always surprise you and win your heart even in the midst of the biggest mess -- is just amazing. I would not trade being a mother for anything or wish to imagine my life without them. It's just so much better than raising siblings! Haha! They are YOURS. ;) You may not be ready now, don't put pressure on yourself, but try to remember that they aren't little siblings - it's a completely different experience, thankfully!

        • Stephanie April 30, 2014

          You guys are making me excited to be a mom someday! Thanks for your encouragements!

        • Lynne' May 5, 2014

          I agree! It's totally different from having your own kids. My experience wasn't traumatic like many have gone through since I only had one little brother when I was 18, but I was quite nervous about having my own after seeing what my Mom went through and how she felt about it. I'd never liked baby sitting or holding babies. I wasn't "that" sort of person to begin with, but I love love love having a newborn! Never thought I'd feel like that! I have three girls now and might want a fourth except that my husband is very done now, but it really is quite different and much better to hold your own precious baby that looks only to you for nourishment and comfort! :)

      • Christy Bell May 4, 2014 Reply

        Amen!! As a mom of six, with 12 years between no.l and no. 2, you've nailed the experience of motherhood-in-the LOrd. Motherhood is not the invention of Gothard (boo!) but a gift from the Good Lord!! Blessings to y'all in the Great Adventure of Motherhood!!

    • Brumby April 30, 2014 Reply

      I recently realized that I have created my own stigma to stay-at-home-momness, based on the expectations and regulations ingrained in me from ATI. At 20, I left ATI with a lot of goals and plans, one of which was that I would be a female in the workforce until the day I died. It was only until recently that I realized I'd created my own prison, locking myself out of the joy of raising my own kids myself in my own home. Of course I won't allow ATI to take such a sacred role away from me, just because I can't heal from the indoctrination. At this point, I can appreciate working and raising kids, or staying at home and raising kids, and embrace either role. Since I left ATI, I've been running fast (figuratively and literally) for 8 years now. The recent validation of my experience in ATI (through RG and other outlets) has prompted me to stop running and catch my breath. Realizing the cell I'd locked myself into is just one example of the figurative shackles from which I've begun being freed. I hope that other moms or moms-to-be who read this can contemplate and be able to embrace their choice to work or not work, have kids or not have kids.

  6. Jordan April 30, 2014 Reply

    Excellent! I appreciate your personal and professional insight. And as a mom of four, I take to heart your suggestions at the end. Thank you!

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Jordan! Your kids are lucky to have a mom who is thinking about these kinds of things.

  7. Jim K. April 30, 2014 Reply

    Stunning.... Absolutely stunning. The most comprehensive, lucid and eloquent treatise that I have read to date about the damage path that the Bill Gothard teachings and lifestyle leaves. The section on black and white thinking alone was an eye opener for me. Thank you, Stephanie. I think that this article will help a lot of people.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Jim, your comments are humbling. I am glad it was helpful and I appreciate your feedback.

      • Brumby April 30, 2014 Reply

        @Stephanie: I'm sure there is more where this came from. Feel free to write more articles. :)

    • Brumby April 30, 2014 Reply

      @Jim K.: In therapy, when I was challenged to begin viewing the world in shades of gray versus black and white for the first time, my mental and emotional health changed for the better. That was the single most valuable concept that the therapist I had at the time introduced to me. It's a priceless tool in the belt of healing.

      • Jim K. April 30, 2014 Reply

        There is a type of photographic process called lithography in which the film is, quite literally, black and white. There is no grey. As you might imagine, it was not intended to represent a startling vista, a fine portrait or an intricate landscape. All of the various hues and subtle tones that give even a black-and-white photograph its beauty are lost in lithography. A photograph done with this process looks incomplete, harsh, a mere shadow of what it ought to be. But this is what black-and-white thinking (with no grey scale) does - it presents a false either-or dichotomy in which there are only two states - right and wrong, good and bad, scriptural and unscriptural.

        Now - to be sure, as a Christian, I believe in right and wrong and that God has defined what that is; however, I do not believe that every choice in life falls under that banner. Some things are neutral. In other words, there is not a scriptural and unscriptural pair of shoes, or tie, or belt buckle, or automobile, or loaf of bread, or method of schooling, or method of childbirth - you get the idea. However, in the all black or all white world, there is only right and wrong. In other words, if I spilled milk on the table, I didn't just make an easily correctable mistake, I FAILED. I was BAD. I was not GOOD. It is very easy to see, in these terms, how badly this all or nothing view of life can mess with a person and how heavy the burden is that he/she would carry.

        Jim K.

        • Guy Cooksey April 30, 2014

          Jim K , you captured in a nut shell the very essence of legalism that so dogs BG's ministry. Thanks for the great insight.

        • Stephanie April 30, 2014

          I agree. Great job, and great visual example.

        • Eliza May 2, 2014

          Always love hearing your thoughts, Jim K.

          And Stephanie, this article puts it all in one place for me. All the pieces that explain the mind control and its effects. Thank you.

  8. The Quiet One April 30, 2014 Reply

    There are a lot of good points in this article. One I'd like to expand upon is the 'Worship of Tradition'. Saying that, to take a common example, the Victorian era was more moral than our day produces the sense of being under siege. The feeling that society is crumbling around us, that our very continuance is threatened by the outside world produces a protective reflex to draw inward. Families with children are the most vulnerable to this manipulation through nostalgia for the past, as they are naturally concerned about the future of their descendants.

    One thing that helped clear the air for me was my love for reading first hand accounts of events and eras in history. I began to realize that not even such paragons of history as the Victorian era were above the influence of evil. There have been and are societies which have stricter moral laws and codes than our own, but scratch beneath the surface and you will find that evil people always do evil things. Too often the stricter codes only serve to increase the silence of the victims, for fear of retribution. I saw this first hand in the traditional society in which I lived. In the words of the Preacher, "Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this." (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

  9. 'Emee' April 30, 2014 Reply

    Very good article--thanks for writing/publishing it!

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      You're welcome! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  10. Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

    Great insight, The Quiet One! I love the Bible verse you pulled out there. You really captured the emotion of many parents today about feeling like the world is crumbling around us. It sounds like you have a balanced perspective on pulling what is helpful from the past, but not accepting it as a mythical era of peace and prosperity of the family.

  11. Guy Cooksey April 30, 2014 Reply

    Thanks, Stephanie for your great article. I wish BG could read it. I do have mixed feelings about all of this because my wife and I were genuinely helped by the BG ministry early on in our 28 years of marriage (1989 was our first IBLP seminar). Yet, being a seminary trained pastor for the past 25 years, I saw right away some problems with BG's ministry and could not quite put my finger on it. Having attended both the basic and advanced seminars multiple times and gaining new knowledge, we were still turned off by the almost cult-like status that we saw in BG's followers, and we definitely were alarmed by the ATI and knew "even we" could never "measure up to such "standards." Just recently through this website I sadly discovered the sexual harassment cases that are now piling up against BG, and somehow I am not surprised. In fact, I had to cancel a basic and advanced seminar scheduled for this summer at our church because of these sad cases. I can never support this ministry again. My wife and I have 8 children (4 of which may never have been born had it not been for BG) and so you see why my feelings are "mixed." I think your first point of "Black and White" is the most powerful point in raising the alarm of cult-like ministries. Very few areas in life are truly black and white. That is why grace is so crucial to us all, and I think it is this grace that is so lacking in BG's ministry. Your article really put things in perspective for me and I thank you. Just as a last note; we also watch the Duggars and are entertained by it all, yet, we also see the trappings of BG everywhere (especially in the girls' jean skirts--for me--yuck!). I thank God for my "higher education" from college and seminary that somehow gave me the critical thinking skills to glean from BG and throw out the rest. Although we do homeschool, my children are healthy, balanced, and happy. My 2 oldest (girls) have graduated from college and are teaching music and my 3rd (boy) is in college, studying to be a civil engineer. Perhaps the biggest danger in the BG ministry is in just NOT thinking, but having your thinking done for you. I encourage my people to check out the word when I preach/teach and make sure I deliver the whole counsel of God's word. My church loves me and my talented family because of this, and the fact that we do not preach our convictions, just the word in context and in love.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Guy, thanks for your honesty. Just like black-and-white thinking can be destructive for Gothard followers, being black and white about our experiences with him, and rejecting EVERYthing he offered without discretion would be just as harmful. You and your wife gained some wonderful things out of it, the best of all being your extra children. Homeschooling, likewise, can be a prison for one and a freedom for another. I absolutely loved being homeschooled, and I credit it with many good things that have come to me professionally and personally. Yet I know some who were incredibly held back by it. I appreciate your feedback and your wisdom to look at the whole situation with your pastoral background. I appreciate now that my pastor does a wonderful job showing us in his messages how he came to spiritual conclusions, and encouraging us to read for ourselves on a regular basis. I am sure your congregation appreciates you in the same way.

      • Matt Arnott January 8, 2016 Reply

        Lol..."extra children" !
        I know exactly what you intended to's all good :-)

    • esbee May 1, 2014 Reply

      "My wife and I have 8 children (4 of which may never have been born had it not been for BG) and so you see why my feelings are "mixed"

      it is just God standing at the apex of history and making into good those things that were bad just like Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, that God used it to later save the family from famine.

    • Ryan May 1, 2014 Reply

      Good points Guy and I understand where you are coming from. Five of my younger siblings are a result of Bill's teaching and there are many great things from my childhood so I understand when you say you have mixed feelings. At least you're smart enough to not try and measure up to Bill's standards. We tried, hard:)

  12. Jeff Gill April 30, 2014 Reply

    Really good article, Stephanie. Thank you.

    And thank you RG team for publishing this and yesterday's 'Readings on Acknowledging and Healing from Sexual Abuse' – quality, positive stuff. We must remember to point to articles like these when RG gets called a cauldron of raging satanic bitterness (or the equivalent).

    • greg r April 30, 2014 Reply

      a cauldron of raging satanic bitterness

      thought that was a microbrew out of salem , Mass.

      • Jeff Gill April 30, 2014 Reply

        Yeah, it's a bit dry and overly hoppy for my tastes. Although having said that, I once really enjoyed a pint of it on a hot day at The Rusty Umbrella. It's much nicer on tap than bottled.

        • Stephanie April 30, 2014

          I will add my thanks to RG for welcoming my input though I was not a direct ATI/IBLP grad and helping me craft a helpful message. And Jeff & greg r - you guys made me laugh out loud.

  13. Linn April 30, 2014 Reply

    Although not currently involved in ATI or homeschooling (and, thankfully, spiritually discerning enough to flee Gothard and all things related after attending my first seminar), the descriptions and suggestions in the article are a big help for educators like me who come in contact with extremely "separated" homeschooling families. Although not part of an established network, these families (at least the ones in my church) often take their cues from a variety of books published by sources that push patriarchy, extreme authoritarianism, etc. Your descriptions are excellent, and your action steps useful.

    Last year I had an obviously exhausted home-schooling mother in my small group. Her kids ranged from upper-elementary to high school, and she didn't know how to do the balancing act anymore. I'm a classroom teacher, and I gave her my thoughts. This year, all the kids are in regular school and thriving. She no longer looks exhausted. The suggestions in the article will help the next time someone asks me a question.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Linn! Your friend is so lucky to have you. I'm so glad the suggestions will help. So many people in fundamentalist societies are not looking for control, they're just looking for the best answers for their family. Not being too isolated, and leaning on friends that are dealing with some of the same things in their parenting, marriage, etc., can provide that needed balance.

  14. LynnCD April 30, 2014 Reply

    This list explains why so many people keep defending Bill Gothard and the false teachings of IBLP, even when obvious Scripture twisting is going on.

    As an example of Scripture twisting, I well remember Bill comparing wives who work outside the home to the harlot in Proverbs, whose "feet never stay at home." THAT is an example of a horrific insult to many good, honest women. But you try to reason with people about it and you get totally illogical rambling that turns into an eventual attack -- the chief one among Gothard followers is that if you don't agree with them it is because you are "bitter." The "shopping mall" exercise explains why many think they have superior spiritual insight over others - judging merely on the appearance of matters. They cannot use their minds, many of them, so they resort to attacking the character of others.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      LynnCD thanks for your comment. The sad part is that some who are too entrenched in this mindset now will view it as a badge of honor not to give into the world's "lies" or be "fooled." But they need a supernatural intervention. ;) This list is to validate and support people like you and to provide resources when ready minds are in a state to listen.
      I had not heard the comparison between women who work outside the home and the role of the harlot. That has to hurt for those women that have to work to support their families yet believe that doing so means they are violating God's role for their life.

      • LynnCD April 30, 2014 Reply

        Stephanie, you have a way of communicating which is very clear, and you do it in a gracious and irenic way. I am praying that you be used to build many bridges of understanding with people who are still entrenched with all the rule keeping. One online friend who has passed on to glory, who dealt a lot with people in IBLP, once told me that people would not listen to him, for the most part, until they felt an emotional harm from the teachings, or the people in ATI, or in their children's lives, and many times that is what it would take for them to realize the errors of IBLP teaching. So I believe you when you say it is a supernatural leading of the Holy Spirit for people to come to see what is going on.

        • Stephanie May 1, 2014

          Thank you for your kind words. It really is a matter of openness to hearing. I hate it when emotional pain seems to be the main thing that leads into this openness but sometimes that's the only thing that breaks the hold. I think we all must have compassion for those people struggling to appreciate what we have to say under a hierarchical and black and white leadership.
          Sounds like your friend really got that.

      • LynnCD April 30, 2014 Reply

        I went back to the Yahoo Gothard list archives, and the teaching which compares working wives to harlots is from the Advanced Seminar Textbook, page 107 (this posting was made back in 2003).

        [Begin quote] Reject the Concept of a "Working Mother"

        "When the Scriptural functions of the home are restored, there will not be the time or the desire for the mother to work for someone else outside the home. God designed a wife to find her fulfillment by being a helpmeet to
        her husband. (See Gen. 2:18).

        "Some of the consequences of a mother working outside the home are as follows:

        * She blasphemes Scripture (Titus 2:5)
        * She brings reproach to God (1 Timothy 5: 14)
        * She fails the test of virtue (Prov. 7: 11)
        * She endangers her marriage (Matt. 6: 24)" [End quote]

        All these verses, and the reasoning, are problematic. It is Proverbs 7:11 which compares a working mother to a harlot. When people get this kind of teaching set in their minds, they become very judgmental against others, because what Gothard has effectively done is put words in God's mouth, words God never said, or ever intended to be taken that way, so people who swallow this kind of teaching make false and untrue judgments against people who violate these kinds of unscriptural rules.

        • 'Megan' April 30, 2014

          Fails the test of virtue.. Facepalm. Reminds me of a pamphlet a fundie friend sent me once (very sweet, well meaning woman), where she listed multiple reasons why a wife should stay at home. One of them included how a wife's loyalty is no longer to her husband, but to her boss. It occurred to me years later, if that is true for the wife, logically it must be true for the husband, so he shouldn't be working outside the home either. (Obviously I don't believe that, but I wish people would think things through.)

        • Stephanie May 1, 2014

          Lynn thanks for looking that up! I will have to read those verses but I have no doubt they will not read to me the way they were represented in the textbook! Megan good point. You have to consider all the implications of the argument!

    • Heidi May 13, 2014 Reply

      Did BG's sister not work for him as a secretary and did she not also have children? I know, just another double standard

  15. Foot Soldier April 30, 2014 Reply

    Stephanie - I see you are reading these comments, so I hope you will see this and comment. I think you are right on with what you wrote about formulaic response to all problems giving the false illusion that one will have no problems, e.g., "follow these ten steps and your kids will be perfect!" The one comment I would add is that Bill Gothard's teachings did not really emphasize the reality of indwelling sin - so that people who were following all of the right rules could still do sinful things. Sin is not just "out there" in the world, but is also in each of our hearts. Many of us have come to a deeper walk with Christ by an erratic, alinear way.

    Also, there are people who victimize others with sexual abuse or harassment, and they are not involved at all with religion or a religious system. Your insights above are very interesting, but how do you account for the bigger picture, that sexual abuse occurs in non-religious and non-fundamentalist settings?

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      Foot Soldier, thanks for your question! You've asked a pretty big question. Of course I hope it's clear that while I point to these characteristics of sheltering sexual abuse within fundamental societies, I don't mean to suggest that it doesn't happen elsewhere. I don't think that's what you're saying, but I want to make sure that's clear!

      I don't know if I have any particular insight into why sexual abuse occurs. I do know it's about control and dominance, and that those who abuse are likely to have been abused themselves (though the reverse is not true, being abused does NOT automatically make you more likely to abuse.) I suppose I'd just have to say I think it's unfortunately common, and it happens a great deal, so you'd be likely to see it in every society to some degree. The reason I think it's perhaps more important to talk about it in this context, though that is subjective, is largely because this society, believes it doesn't happen here. All groups have the same problems, but some may be better at acknowledging and policing themselves.

      I don't know if this answers your question, but I'd love to keep talking about it! I do try to stay on top of the comments as much as possible - if you guys are thoughtful enough to give me your thoughts, I want to take the time to write back!

      • Foot Soldier April 30, 2014 Reply

        You have a great insight in that people just assume it is unthinkable for sexual abuse to take place in a religious institution promoting purity,so they let their guard down there, and they may be more on the alert in a non-religious setting. The key I think is that indwelling sin can tempt people to sin in any context, but a legalistic environment that emphasizes looking good with outward appearances makes it easier to hide sin because people just assume evil things can't be happening inside the "holy citadel."

    • greg r May 1, 2014 Reply

      @foot soldier;you wrote
      . Many of us have come to a deeper walk with Christ by an erratic, alinear way.

      Well said, foot soldier, I would say that's really all of us. the Lutherans have an expression that says "simultanieously saint and sinner" I know there are verses that SEEM to make that only saint, but a better view of scripture seems to point to both (for now) when we see sin as 'out there', then we are set up to not deal with the sin that is 'in here'. so much more so if we are leaders, or someone in a position where we 'dare not have that problem'

      • Stephanie May 1, 2014 Reply

        This makes me think of the idea that in order to understand happiness you have to understand pain. To understand true purity we perhaps have to really examine perversity, not as the specter on the street but in our own backyard. Thanks Greg.

  16. Shane April 30, 2014 Reply

    Great article Stephanie. All the high praise is certainly deserved. I've been walking with some young women who've been abused that I will be sending to your blog site at minimum. Thanks!

    To your statement: "Mothers especially, model a balance of humility and self-respect for your children. Even something as simple as taking time for something you need for your emotional health could plant the seed in your daughters that it is okay to meet your own needs."

    I'd like to add:

    Fathers/husbands if headship means ANYTHING it means that you stoop the lowest in your family to serve. To serve the needs and develop the gifts of your wife and daughters (and sons). To be an active agent in bringing about their gospel wholeness and flourishing. To be one who doggedly encourages them to be who God made them to be and to use their giftedness for his Kingdom. And to be clear this includes WAY more than domestic categories.

    • Lori April 30, 2014 Reply

      Excellent points, Shane. Thank you.

    • Stephanie April 30, 2014 Reply

      GREAT comment, Shane, and thanks for the support. I am married to a man that was taught that way and I appreciate it so much. Very helpful addition!

  17. Dancer April 30, 2014 Reply

    I have never written before but have followed all the stories on Recovering Grace for months now. I am so proud of the courage of the victims of the evil B Gothard is. A victim of abuse myself I know how hard it is to speak up and/or to leave. When you are continuely taught that you have little worth, that if sin is committed , you are to blame. I am speaking from a woman's viewpoint. Abuse no matter if it is verbal, physical, spiritual, damages your soul. When you do leave to earn a living,to try and fit into a alien world is so hard. You have not been given the skills to do this.
    The discussion on the Duggar women; I wonder if they even are aware of what has happened? I know Mr. Keller the father of Priscilla Waller and Anna Duggar, asked their husbands to guard against them going on the internet. Isolation, another feature of abuse. Recently Mr. Jim Bob Duggar was asked about Bill Gothard' scandal he replied "We follow Jesus not a man". Then they are down in Big Sandy Texas speaking at an ATI conference. I wonder if Bill Gothard made his usual appearance there?
    Thank you for each and every article here and the gracious comments that are sent in. Please keep up the good and unfortunately necessary work.

    • Stephanie May 1, 2014 Reply

      So glad you did decide to write today! I believe it's highly possible that the female duggars are not being exposed to this due to shielding, though the concept of a grown woman being sheltered from the internet makes me a little sick. A woman like that has almost no way out.
      I appreciate the courage it took to write today but I'm glad you did. It will encourage other survivors of abuse and validate the total control an abuser tries to take and how hard it is to break that. I will bet that someone today needed to hear that.

  18. Gracie April 30, 2014 Reply

    You are such a ballin truth teller. I would love to sneak-print this article and the ones like it into the bindings of books like the 7 Root Causes of All Physical Ailments and The Power of Crying Out Loud or whatever those handouts Gothard wrote...sell them on ebay to devotees who are stocking up in fear of Gothard never publishing again. Propaganda for good!

    • Stephanie May 1, 2014 Reply

      Before today my most awesome compliment was when a client told me, "seriously, you are the s@$&." Now that client has some real competition. :) thanks and totally love the idea. Don't think you could really get away w it but feel free to print the article and share, seriously! Just leave on my bio and RG info so that anyone who needs more support has someone the talk to. Open invitation.

  19. Elsa April 30, 2014 Reply


  20. Amy April 30, 2014 Reply

    Yes, I too find myself thinking about the Duggars. Personally, I would have never even heard of Bill Gothard had it not been for 19 kids and Counting. They have a beautiful family... on TV their lifestyle seems to be working so wonderfully.

    I was even seduced for a time... to the point where I considered making fundamental changes in my theology and lifestyle. I have wrestled with guilt and confusion... Am I rejecting God's best for my children because I'm not homeschooling them? Am I missing out on His blessings by not welcoming as many children as he sees fit to provide? Why am I so reluctant to surrender every area of my life to the Lord? Why do I cling to worldly things and on and on... It was not pretty. And I have never even attended a seminar or laid hands on a wisdom booklet! But I still found plenty of information out there, mostly through the Internet, as I tried to sift through it all.

    Then I came across RG. This was well before the abuse stories began to come out. I have been following every post and have read nearly every comment on this website. Once I worked through the shame of feeling so "duped," I began having healing discussions with my husband and my pastor. I began to see the fallacy of BG's teaching, and I read about some of the painful "fruit" from growing up Gothard. And finally I lost all respect for him as a person to put it mildly.

    I'm grateful that Recovering Grace has refrained from naming specific Gothard families (even in the comment sections). I get this... freedom from the bondage of spiritual abuse is a process and every family (and each member of each family) is at a different stage of the process. When the wool begins to slip from one's eyes, the light of day can be very confusing and disorienting for quite a while! And I was never even fully immersed in the culture (which is why breaking free was so much simpler and easier). RG's goal is to help and heal, not point fingers or attack.

    But the Duggars have placed themselves squarely in the public eye. They are very open about their connections to ATI and IBLP, even adding links and plugs for ALERT, ATI, Verity, etc. to their website. Embassy Institute is listed as their #1 recommended resource for families. They have been quoted as saying many times that they view their show as a ministry to "encourage other families." They are the most high-profile of all the Gothard families... certainly to the outside world. I know of two families who have joined ATI as a result of the Duggars' public "testimony."

    I don't know the Duggars, but it seems likely to me that they genuinely desire to put Christ at the center of their lives and do the best they can for their children. I'm guessing that was the driving motivation behind joining ATI in the first place. My heart kind of breaks for them.

    So my question is... has RG reached out to them specifically? In their love-filled, truth-filled, grace-filled way? Because of all families, the Duggars would be in such a unique position to influence both current ATI families and potential ones. They have a powerful voice, and seem to be people of great character and integrity (sorry for the choice of words :) )

    I also apologize for hijacking the thread and making it about the Duggars. I think it was Stephanie who first mentioned them. It is relevant a little bit to a conversation about the isolation of fundamentalist culture. We have discussed it from the perspective of being on the inside looking out. I'm offering a perspective of being on the outside looking in... and it can look appealing! That may sound surprising or strange, but there are still new families being drawn into the web! The most recent generation probably doesn't get hooked at a seminar, but from a homeschooling blog, or a pro-life rally, or an episode of 19 kids and counting! Although, I think the good work RG is doing here may begin to have a dramatic impact on all that!

    Thank you so much Stephanie for your article, and thank you once again to RG. I may have jumped off the sinking in ship well before I got really wet, but somehow I feel committed to seeing this tragedy through to the end. I think the survivors will need a lot of lifeboats and a lot of love.

    • esbee May 1, 2014 Reply

      "Am I rejecting God's best for my children because I'm not homeschooling them? Am I missing out on His blessings by not welcoming as many children as he sees fit to provide? Why am I so reluctant to surrender every area of my life to the Lord? Why do I cling to worldly things and on and on........"

      Gen 3-3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say?..."

      What does God really say about all those things that BG pushes and why are those things SO important to the Christian life?

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      I at least don't see you as hijacking the thread! Like you said the Duggars have put themselves in the public eye and as arguably the most public Gothard-ites their example is relevant. They often speak of the reason of their convictions therefore it seems to me they are open to discussion. I don't know if anyone at RG has reached out to the Duggars. My guess is that even if so they would not respond. Though they are very diplomatic and I think could add a great perspective, my guess is that they wouldn't be comfortable doing that. Ultimately it doesn't seem that they're open to questioning their views, which is of course their right. But that would be my take on it.

  21. Mary April 30, 2014 Reply

    I learned so much from reading this article. Thanks so much for publishing it!

  22. kevin May 1, 2014 Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. You put a lot of time into this and it is very well put together. Excellent points all throughout.

    "In contrast, Mr. Gothard’s explanation of the 49 character qualities is presented as fact, when in reality, it is an interpretation of Scripture based on Mr. Gothard’s own lens."

    I'm very glad you made this point. This is one of the fundamental problems with Gothard's approach. He was teaching his subjective opinions and interpretations, but he teaches them as though they are facts coming from God. When people start using "Thus saith the Lord.." to deliver their own unique views, people need to steer clear. I think this point can not be emphasized too much. It amplifies the problem that Gothard exhibits the poorest biblical hermeneutics imaginable, as noted by Dr. Ron Allen and other highly respected biblical scholars. Very nice how you contrast the way you approach the delivery of your subjective views against Gothard's approach. It really brings the point home.

    It is also clear that you have a deep care for the girls who have been victimized by Bill Gothard and women in general who have been abused. I am so grateful that you have this heart and that you shared with us your knowledge and personal experiences. This is a keeper.

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      Thank you. I appreciate your feedback and I really hope it will encourage men and women who feel trapped and don't understand why.

  23. Rachel (Bruzas) Foster May 1, 2014 Reply

    Excellent article-- one of the best yet on RG. There have been SO many articles to which my family and I can relate, but this is amazing in how it helps to explain and show so clearly the "why" and "how."
    Thank you, Stephanie and RG Moderators!

    • Stephanie May 5, 2014 Reply

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  24. greg r May 1, 2014 Reply

    Stephanie: great job with the article. When I first read "worship of tradition" , I was a little confused, then I read further and see where you are coming from. Bill seemed to be undiscerningly nostalgic for the past. I think that's what you mean by 'tradition'. I bring this up because in some ways , Bill was no friend to tradition, as in a healthy respect for the ways and history of the church, and a time tested way of approaching scripture itself. Many of his theological ideas are either novelties, or false ideas that go against tried and true ways of doing church. That's a different use of the word 'tradition', though, as far as i can see.

    Great work, definitely thought provoking.

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      Yep, you read it right. I meant it more in the "fiddler on the roof" sense than in the respected biblical history sense. I'm glad you took the time to share in case it was confusing to others too!

  25. Ryan May 1, 2014 Reply

    Fantastic article Stephanie. I feel you have hit on many of the major tenants of IBLP that were imparted on Bill's followers as mindsets, mostly unbeknown to them.

    I highly doubt there is an ATI family in the state of Utah but I am surrounded by a culture that is so similar to IBLP it's almost spooky at times. Their views on family, works and sexual purity before marriage rival IBLP's. Because the culture is so similar I am reminded of the way I was raised, daily. Interesting enough in my Facebook feed yesterday was a story on Elizabeth Smart. I think her view on why her abductors were able to hold her hostage ties right into the same mindset that IBLP fosters in young girls.

    It took me decades of life experiences, trial and error and pondering to come to the conclusions you just outlined in 12 points. Where were you 20 years ago!!!! The sad thing is the characteristics don't only allow for sexual abuse they infiltrate every area of your life. It really is a formula for disaster.

    To judge the success of any product, program or service you only have to look at renewals or retention. Do you keep the clients you already have? I grew up with hundreds of ATI students who I keep in contact with through FB. I was raised in Seattle where ATI was very prevalent. There is not ONE student who I grew up with that is involved in ATI with their own children. NOT ONE. I went a step further and put it out to a private ATI student group I belong to with people much more connected than I. Only came up with two families out of thousands of students.

    My point. Outlined above is why a program like IBLP which is based in fear will have the appearance of working in the short term but when exposed to the back checking model of life it breaks down every time. The model of IBLP is severely flawed.

    Thank you for the time you invested into this article. It's a work of art.

    • Eliza May 2, 2014 Reply

      There are currently 45 "second generation" ATI families. Out of more than 60,000 students.

      • Shane May 2, 2014 Reply

        Eliza- where do you get that statistic? If true that is VERY telling!

      • Ryan May 2, 2014 Reply

        I can see how that is an accurate number. If that's true, the re-enrollment for "second gen" is .00075%. So I was right that if I was connected to two thousand students and only knew of 2 (1 per 1,333) that is an accurate sampling.
        That is why RG's motto of "A Gothard generation shines light on the teachings of Ati/IBLP" is so accurate and needed. Alfred and others like him can argue Bill's innocence and hermeneutics all day on RG. What Stephanie has outlined above is 12 precise steps of why IBLP does not work and not only that the potentially damaging circumstances children will be exposed to. I think her article is one of the most powerful and substantive that I have seen on RG.

        That's why the generation that has gone through ATI is speaking out and saying "no more".

        • P.L. May 2, 2014

          It seems like IBLP/ATI were a gigantic experiment in child-rearing. We now have the data to know that it failed.

      • Eliza May 2, 2014 Reply

        The 60,000 students (up until that time) figure was correct as of 2008. All I will say as to my source is that I know for sure it is accurate. At that time, I believe there were about 23 "second generation" ATI families.

        The 45 "second generation" families figure is current. I do not know for sure if it is totally accurate, but I believe is has to be close because of where I heard it. The number of total accumulated students now would be a bit higher, I would assume, but I have no figures on that.

        Either way, the return rate is far, far less than 1%. Do keep in mind, however, that a lot of those students are just now of marriageable age, and many are still below marriageable age. But there are an awful lot of former students that are old enough, married, have children, and still have chosen to not use ATI.

        • greg r May 2, 2014

          Agent (Alfred) Smith is NOT going to like your secret sources... prepare for sneak attack..

        • Brumby May 2, 2014

          I recall at age 11 stating to my siblings and mom that while I would consider homeschooling my own children someday, I definitely would not be utilizing ATI. Oh, the facial expressions that I observed after I let such an independent, non-conformist remark escape my lips. Haha! That was actually a pivotal point in my upbringing in which I realized I could no longer share from my heart and speak freely. At any rate, I must be in the 99% mentioned above. :)

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      High praise, Ryan, thank you. And that arrive just increases my respect for Elizabeth Smart. "Sex educators can’t equip children to escape horrific crimes like the ones committed against Elizabeth Smart. But they can help build a society that refuses to compound the psychological effects of those crimes by shaming victims before the abductor even breaks in." So, so true!
      You have presented a very germane point here in pointing out how few ATI families reenlist so to speak. I like how the others have picked up that conversation point in talking about this as an experiment...I often felt the most legalistic families I knew were doing this out of a sense of helping their children avoid painful missteps they had made but it was all essentially an experiment. And experiments don't always work.

      • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

        *article..sorry out of town so working with my phone!

      • Suzi May 4, 2014 Reply

        And experiments shouldn't be conducted on living, breathing human beings, I think- especially innocent children. Interestingly enough, ATI was referred to by BG as and "experiment" at the prayer of dedication at the end of Bloomington Training Conference, 1985 or the year after!
        Thank you for this excellent reached my aching heart as a recovering ATI parent. You have remarkable insight, and deep compassion.

  26. DAVID PIGG May 1, 2014 Reply

    Stephanie :A lot of hard work,and research, concentrating on essential reasons that can not be refuted.GREAT ARTICLE.Your calling to minister to girls from fundamentalist backgrounds desperately needed in a secreted world of dysfunctional brutality.Jesus came that we may have life and have it more abundantly.Whatever "traditions" caused this victimization of women,it was not the Holy Spirit,bearing the light and heart of Christ.No amount of political posturing from agents,and figureheads,can offset the true nature of a discredited man and his heretical kingdom .Thank you,and thank you Recovering Grace.

  27. Anonymous May 2, 2014 Reply

    Regarding the "Worship of Tradition"... some thoughts to add: I believe, with many, that we live in a "post Christian" culture here in our country, which seems to be true because sin is so openly tolerated and promoted compared to the past, which influences people to easily become desensitized to sin and consequently, often don't see their need for a Savior. That is why a well-known and well-respected Christian speaker said (at a talk he gave in our area) that it is important to reach kids for Christ at a younger age than in the past, because they (generally) become desensitized and hardened as they grow older (he particularly mentioned the influences of sexual immorality and violence in our culture).

    Some additional thoughts that I hope relate enough, which have been brought to mind through this article: It is so important to take everything to Scripture itself and to base our convictions on the Word of God. Surrendering our wills to our Lord (including surrendering to those He has placed in authority over us -- surrendering in a biblical/healthy manner!), prayer, teaching and counsel and input from others (that we take to the Word of God, as led by the Holy Spirit, to verify), waiting and watching God's sovereign working of circumstances...these all play a part in discerning His will in how we are live out our lives -- not to make choices based on tradition/culture, but to discern what is truly His will for us..."working out our salvation with fear and trembling" is not to be lived like following a recipe, but in honestly, earnestly, sincerely, diligently, and humbly drawing near to our Lord to know Him and live for His purposes -- ultimately living for His glory, not our own. We need to put "first things first", the "big marbles in the jar first", which should be His priorities for our lives discerned through Scripture (not any other person's interpretations). His priorities are all about 1) our relationship with Him / living surrendered and worshipful lives unto Him (--which will cause us to be most blessed in the truest sense of the word) and living out His purposes revealed through Scripture...and 2) our relationships with others...allowing Him to live through us to strengthen His church and add to it, through the intimate indwelling, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. When we do these things, and we all "have not arrived" but can choose to persevere... life goes well, we experience His shalom... even though we have many trials and hardships, etc., we have incredible peace and fulfillment knowing we are living in Him and for Him, His will for our lives...our lives are making an eternal impact for His glory...

  28. Diana S. May 2, 2014 Reply

    The discussion of tradition reminded me of a well-known quote by theologian Jaroslav Pelikan. In an interview about his book, The Vindication of Tradition, published in US News & World Report, July 26, 1989, he said, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition." On page 65 of the actual book, he said, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name." Tradition carries things of value into the present and future. In harking back to whatever golden age they choose, such as the Colonial era, the Victorian era, or the 1950's to name a few, the traditionalists blindly idolize the trappings of those ages. There is no sifting and weighing them against our current knowledge and experience. Traditionalism is another way organizations keep people from thinking for themselves.

    • greg r May 2, 2014 Reply

      Diana S.: thank you and your friend Jaroslav for doing some heavy lifting for us. To whit: tradition is not a bad thing, blindly accepting some (any) stage of history/tradition calcifies into traditionalism and what WAS a good thing becomes something different. Every church and person carries with them some tradition, some mixture of culture/experience/interpretive liscence of scripture . This is not bad, in fact it is unavoidable: see the Internetmonk classic on Icebergs and Onions, I think it is todays or yesterdays post there. We are ALL complicated people. The wise ones know it. Gotta run, maybe more later: Bill was into traditionalism, big time, hope that doesn't spoil the right use of tradition for the rest of us.

    • Amy May 2, 2014 Reply

      Vision Forum is (or WAS) a prime example of a fundamentalist culture "worshipping tradition" to a dangerous and nonsensical extreme!

    • dreamer May 2, 2014 Reply

      Jesus told the Pharisees that they made the Word of God to no effect with their traditions. He came to set us free from religious traditions that are done by rote and do not have the spirit of God in them. Blindly following traditions or doing something religious because "the church" says we should is not following God; it's following man.

  29. Chris Jones May 2, 2014 Reply

    Thanks so much for this article. I think it really nails many reasons why so may ATI students have been reluctant to tell their stories and why so many of Gothard's actions were able to continue for so long. I would add that focus and emphasis on the "deceitfulness" and "wickedness" of the human heart within ATI and fundamentalist culture can also protect abusers and confuse young victims into silence.

    The "deceitful" and "wicked" condition of the human "heart" is certainly a Biblical concept, but ATI and fundamentalist culture place a strong overemphasis on these verses. The Bible verses that discuss this are talking generally about fallen and sinful human condition, but the ATI and fundamentalist culture teach that many specific emotions and responses to external conditions need to be questioned and that every thought should be "taken captive" to determine whether the response is right or wrong. While there is some truth to this, it also needs to be seen in balance, which often is not emphasized as it should be. Like physical pain, God created our emotions to respond to relational situations to warn us that something is hurtful and wrong.

    To a young victim in this culture, where anger and disobedience to authority are so strongly condemned and where suffering is taught to be something that is welcomed, it becomes very easy for the inexperienced victim to confuse and suppress proper anger, hurt, and discomfort to an abusive situation because they are questioning whether their response is in fact sinful since their emotions cannot be trusted.

  30. JustTruthPlease May 2, 2014 Reply

    Not sure if this is where this should go. All this discussion on sexual abuse and trusting God has left me really struggling. In the past when under the Gothard teaching that if you are under authority and obedient, God will keep you safe, I felt safe, even though it was a false security. If something happened to some one else, well, they must not have done something right. Haertless, and blind thinking, I know, but that is what I thought.
    Now, I realize all that is not true. But how can I draw close to and openly love and trust a God who loves me but may or may not protect me or my children from evil. And if He doesn't, then I need to realize it was for my good? I keep tripping up on the fact that He CAN protect or prevent, but might chose not to.
    What kind of father would stand by while their child screams and say, "I could stop this, but not this time?"
    I don't mean to sound agnostic, but this is really hard to understand. It feels just the same as the other way around: do what I say or else, or trust Me no matter what and call Me good even if you don't like it.
    I know none of us are good, or righteous, or deserve mercy. So if something evil comes to my life, I am to accept that really, this isn't half of what I deserve?
    But the hardest thing for me is to know that it would have been ALLOWED.
    Would any of those who have experienced this care to share how you still love God, even though He stood by let it happen?

    • MatthewS May 2, 2014 Reply

      I feel your words. It feels like stone-cold abandonment if God arbitrarily decides not to help when he could.

      Yancey's book "Where is God when it hurts?" has been a big help to me in thinking about it.

      There is more to it, but just to mention one thing - It is instructive to me to try to figure out the world that "should be." Should God make rocks so that they are hard only when I'm stepping on them but not when I fall on them, for example? Maybe rocks could all turn into foam rubber when they make forceful contact with skin. But how does that world really work?

      Perhaps all the brokenness of this world feeds our longing for the new heavens and new earth as "creation itself groans..."

      • greg r May 2, 2014 Reply

        @JustTruthPlease: I know your biggest needs are NOT more books, but I'll add to the list C.S. Lewis "A Grief Observed" Alvin Plantinga's "God, Freedom, and Evil" and John Stakhouse "Can God be Trusted" I would have added Yancey, but someone got there first.... Plantiga is very much on the academic\weighty side.

        In a nutshell: GOD COULD prevent a lot of stuff, but chooses to let the universe choose to love (or not). Of course there are other, more calvanist explanations (turn your head, there, Alfred).

    • Ellen May 2, 2014 Reply

      I know of some people who have been greatly helped by Kay Arthur's study, "Lord, Heal My Hurts".

      • JustTruthPlease May 3, 2014 Reply

        thanks, all above, for sharing and for the book suggestions,maybe I can check a few out from the library.

    • Amy May 2, 2014 Reply

      Yes, I can so relate to your struggle, JustTruthPlease!

      Certainly, I am no theologian! But I think about God's original plan for us, and the world as he created it. There was no suffering, no abuse, no pain, no death in the garden. But God wanted us to love him and obey him because we chose to, so he granted us free will. So he ALLOWED us to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Maybe because love has to involve a choice, or it really isn't genuine love at all, right? By definition we can not FORCE someone to love us... that wouldn't be love! So he allowed free will and we sinned, and now we live in a fallen world where we are still suffering the consequences of Sin (with the a capital S, the sin of humanity).

      But his love didn't end there, as we know! He sent his Son to die, and so the suffering of this world is just a temporary condition!! It DOES grieve him! Sin breaks his heart, and angers him, and he never leaves us there alone for an instant, suffering in the consequences of our sin ( whether our own or someone else's). A Christian counselor once told me that when I feel like this world has it all wrong and life is really hard, that is not surprising or invalid. We don't belong in this world, it is not our real home... but we can rejoice in the biblical hope (meaning CERTAIN EXPECTATION not just WISHFUL THINKING) of what it to come!

      None of that negates the pain of this world, but it gives us a constant to hold on to.

      • Kay May 2, 2014 Reply

        The perfect Son of God was sentenced to death. That is the biggest injustice ever. Yet the Just Heavenly Father did this to His Son. It was His plan. He did it on our behalf. Our sins nailed Him to the cross. There is no greater love.

        I have to reflect on this whenever I see suffering and injustice. I know that God will eventually make everything right - in eternity, if not on earth. It hurts and I do not understand why God allows such pain, but I know that He has a purpose and I know He understand amidst the grief, because He suffered in our place on the cross. There is no simple answer or explanation, but we can completely trust in God because His character has been revealed to us in His Word.

      • JustTruthPlease May 3, 2014 Reply

        Thanks for relating. I know others have wrestled with this too, and that helps me know that I'm not really wierd or something. I just seem to have hit this wall, and can't get past it. I know in my head that I'm suppose to trust God even with faced with evil from another, but that seems kinda hard to do when He makes no promises to protect, just comfort.

        • anonymous May 5, 2014

          This is a very difficult thing, I agree. And my prayer is that God will lovingly hold you close in spite of what has happened. Thankfully, the current freedom granted the enemy to wound and destroy is temporary, and our stories are not finished yet..but this is hard to deal with when we have been deeply hurt and wounded and wonder where God was when it all happened. After being ultra careful with my children, who are now grown, I discovered three years ago that my son had been horrifically abused in a group setting when we left him with someone in an emergency situation for about 6 hours. He was only two. All these years we never knew until 3 years ago...I have asked all the questions, believe me and wondered why and felt like something just wasn't fair about it all, but I have watched my son walk through this and he is healing, and using all that happened to him to help others who have experienced abuse. It is still very sad, and like you, I have had thoughts and questions about God that I never dreamed would come into my life. And yet, I love Him, because I know that it isn't the end and He is just and has even used the horror to do all kinds of amazing things in all of our lives. I remember hearing a message once about bad things happening and how God has temporarily granted permission for satan to be the prince of this world because when it is all over, and He reigns and judges the just and the unjust, he doesn't want a repeat performance of questions as to whether He is fit to rule...and everyone will be able to look backwards and see that satan was NOT fit to rule, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. In a sense that isn't a comfort to know that we suffer as a kind of illustration of what sin does, but I also believe that He will wipe away all those tears we have shed and there will be NO more pain and suffering...that will be worth it all at that point in time, but for the present, sometimes it has to be a step of faith to continue to believe that God is a God of love and protection. I believe He is although sometimes it is difficult to continue on. Time does bring healing. I am not inferring that God wants abuse as an "illustration"...I don't believe He wants it at all, but somehow, in light of eternity, it is all used, and He will vindicate. Thank you for does help to know there are others out there who share doubts and questions we face.

    • Shane May 2, 2014 Reply

      JustTruthPlease- I too feel the weight of your questions, and I don't think there are easy answers. Here's a couple of thoughts I retrace as I ask similar questions. One is that for God to deal really with injustice is to simultaneously remove all possibility of mercy. His slowness to vindicate is not an issue of can or willingness, but a messy clash of His commitment to rescue sinners and to put to right ALL injustice. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,* not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

      The second thought is “Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21 ESV). I'm so fascinated that Jesus was late to his friends side and so he died, and therefore those who love Lazarus felt the pain of his death. Jesus tells his disciples ahead of time that he is going there to "awaken" the dead Lazarus. He knows he is going to raise him from the dead from the get go. And yet he weeps at Lazarus' death. He weeps at the tomb of his friend. He weeps for the sorrow felt by Mary and Martha.

      I draw great comfort in knowing that God in Christ doesn't pass over the pain and sorrow of humanity; injustice, brokenness, and death. He. having the greatest assurance of the future resurrection of any human that ever lived, still feels deep sorrow over the reality of the broken things. He weeps. He sympathizes. He empathizes. He feels. And he vindicates the cause of the abused and oppressed. This is demonstrated first in the cross. It will be completed in his coming again to finally put the injustice done to you to right. To vindicate YOUR cause.

      Your question of "what kind of father...", made me think of the image of a father who would keep his family out in the raging storm in harms way to rescue his child lost in the storm. It doesn't in any way negate the real tragedy of your suffering, but it may help to make sense of how the two things could be true at once; God does love you deeply and is grieved over your suffering and yet allowed it.

      Lastly, allowing it in the short term does not in any way mean that is is acceptable to God. He is committed to the cause of Justice and the oppresses. I think this quote and Volf's book "Exclusion and Embrace" are very helpful:
      My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance...My thesis will be unpopular w/ many in the West....But imagine speaking to people (as I have) whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit...Your point to them--we should not retaliate? Why not? I say--the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from god...Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that god refuses to take the sword...It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land--soaked in the blood of the innocent, the idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind...if God were NOT angry at injustice and deception and did NOT make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship. (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace)

      I pray God gives you peace and comfort in the midst of your sorrow and questions.

      • P.L. May 2, 2014 Reply

        Beautiful words, Shane. I have been meditating lately on the fact that God's longsuffering should not be misread as his acceptance.

      • JustTruthPlease May 3, 2014 Reply

        @ Shane;
        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wondered about the nonviolent part. Are you saying that if attacked one should not try to fight back or defend the one being attacked? Not sure if that is what you meant or not, but that is what we would have been taught. (nonresistance)We were taught that if evil comes to pray, but not to try to defend yourself or family (Love your enemies) But still I wondered, aren't we suppose to love our children too? I always kinda thought that if push came to shove, I'd do what ever it took to stop the attacker, and if he survived, visit him in prison and bake him some cookies or something:) Probably not truely loving your enemy, I know.

        And here again, I know Jesus cares about what happens to us, but to have to accept that He might allow some evil to come seems as heartless as me standing by while some attacker harms my child and saying, "I'm here honey, trust me."

        How do you take all those verse about God being a refuge, fortress, shepherd, shelter, etc? Are they only meaning that God will be with you when something happens? Why would you pray if something did happen? What good would it do when He is allowing it to happen? How do you teach faith and trust to children, when there is this You can trust God/ but bad things still happen thought going through their minds?
        Sorry, didn't mean to run you down with questions. And neither do I want to hijack this thread. Perhaps the moderators will take this elsewhere.

        • Shane May 3, 2014

          JustTruth- A brief response: Yes. Please defend yourself or another against harm. The quote by Volf was offered more as a reminder that God is absolutely committed to justice. Volf's nonviolence is directed at the constant cycle of retribution that is perpetuated in that (Croatia) and other regions of the world. Were someone to harm my child I would absolutely defend them and do teach them to fight back. The only thing that would keep me from acting on murderous thoughts of retribution is a belief that God cares even more about justice than I, and that he will bring it about.

        • The Quiet One May 3, 2014

          Just Truth, I have read your comments and I understand where you are coming from. However, you may not realize it, and I say this lovingly, but your view of God, as expressed in your comments, is still being affected by ATI's principles for success. You are still limiting God to a benefactor for our personal well being.

          As Joy said at the end of her article, it is not about me. It is not about any of us; it is not about what God can do for us. It simply is about Him. You can trust God, for He is God and He is good, but His ways are far above our ways and His thought above ours (Isaiah 55:9).

          So, my recommendation is that you read what the Bible has to say about God, without the blinders of ATI. Read about Job, who did everything right, and still suffered terrible tragedy; and read how God replied to Job's questions with no answer but that He was God and in control. Read about Jeremiah, who was called to serve God, yet he suffered for that calling his entire life without any hope of it ever getting better for himself. Read to learn that God is and that He is faithful.

          I do not say this glibly. As a young child, I was molested by a playmate (it had no connection to ATI, so I have not brought it up before); then, in the years in which I was maturing and coming to terms with what happened to me as a child, I was brought under the false teaching of ATI. The mental and emotional scars of the wounds I received from those two things, I will carry for the rest of my life and the pain still galls me at times. Since coming out of the ATI program, I have lived alone in an inner city and traveled alone across continents in complete safety. I have known not only the Lord's comfort, but also His protection, even when I became deathly ill far from my family and modern medical care.

          I do not attribute His care to the fact that I was serving Him, but to what Jeremiah said about God:
          'Remember my affliction and roaming,
          The wormwood and the gall.
          My soul still remembers
          And sinks within me.

          This I recall to my mind,
          Therefore I have hope.
          Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
          Because His compassions fail not.
          They are new every morning;
          Great is Your faithfulness.
          “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
          “Therefore I hope in Him!”' (Lamentations 3:19-24)

          I trust God to take care of me; but even if the worst happens, I know that God is good and I can say with Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). Please note, I am not saying you should not question God. Job did. But, be prepared for some unusual answers.

        • Ellen May 3, 2014

          @QuietOne...this is so good...thank you.

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      The others have done an absolutely beautiful job with resources and, empathy and explanation. We are all here for you, you are not alone as you struggle with these difficult questions. Please keep letting us know how we can help. Maybe it would help you to talk it out with someone? A counselor or trusted pastor might really help. You can get through this either way, of course, but if that will help, maybe it's worth considering?

      • JustTruthPlease May 3, 2014 Reply

        @ Stephanie;
        Thanks for your kind words and caring heart. And I really appreciate your article as well. I am sorry if I am distracting from the intent of your message. I just have been watching, reading and hoping that sometime an article would come up that deals with those like me who trusted in Gothard teachings, but now have to figure out if they can trust in God alone or not.

        • Stephanie May 5, 2014

          You are simply sharing something that has come to mind as a result of the article's message, and it's a very valid question. I hope you find the answers that are right to you. I've been thinking on it, and I will be posting if there is anything else I can think of to help you in this.

  31. Betty May 2, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Stephanie. Not only is your article Truth that we need to hear, but in all the responses your heartfelt empathy connects to all of us.

    My heart is full of emotion that I am not free to release, yet. At this point, still caged. Complicated situation. ATI mom for over a decade. Multiple, dedicated views of Basic/Advanced Seminar. Committed to ATI mindset, although my husband's and my background in other evangelical ministries, before ATI, kept us from drinking too deeply.

    Now, we are immersed completely--for now--and I must say the view here is truly,as you say: "Surrender Decision making."
    Yes, it was the Holy Spirit intervening for my husband and I to see the deception going on. When we have tried to lovingly share our concern "here" we are given a blank stare! Yes, completely and from all: A BLANK STARE. Then, after a while, they will confess that to believe the Truth (RG) is BITTERNESS. This is current events, mind you.

    They have: surrendered decision making. They do what they are told, w/o thinking for themselves. To think beyond this is to-date labeled, 'bitterness.'

    So we (as defined by them) are "bitter." (Our children are already grown and free to make own choices.) Because I was totally committed to BG for my whole adult life (1975-present), Mom (me) seems to be suffering the most.

    The second concern I have that cooincides with the above is: Chain of Command. (Again, this principle is only a slight bother to us because of earlier influences, before IBLP/ATI.)

    When you put unadulterated 'Chain of Command' with 'Surrendered Decision Making' you have the makings of tyranical power. From what I have read, T-Power becomes evil, just because they recognize they are 'unstoppable.'

    The only One who can handle that kind of power is God Almighty. And that is the way it was meant from the beginning.

    And my concern now is:

    If lime-lighted BG families gain POWER through media coverage and Surrendered Decision Making through saturated BG Teaching, what decisions might they make--for themselves and their 'followers?'

    And that concern must be 'rolled over' to my LORD.

    I guess understanding the why/how of humanity's mind in regard to sexual/spiritual abuse/abusers helps to calm us down a bit when we SEE OTHERS HURTING FROM ABUSE.

    But, the grieving process still must take its natural course, AND the SOVEREINTY OF GOD (including in that understanding: His Unwavering, Never-parting, Unconditional LOVE) will always/only be the Grand Finale.

    And so I come to the same conclusion, with again more confidence because of Stephanie and GR, that I must wait on Him and continue to pray for Justice, Mercy, and Humility.

    Standing with you--the many hurting from BG/IBLP abuse.

    • dreamer May 2, 2014 Reply

      Hugs to you, Betty. You are absolutely right about going through a grieving process. It is so difficult when everything you thought you knew gets turned on its head. I've been will get through it and will grow into deeper truth and knowledge of God. I also know what it is like to see those around you push you aside or cast you out for being "bitter" or somehow not as holy as they are. Cling to God and to what is true, and pray for the blinders to fall off their eyes just like they fell off yours.

    • LynnCD May 2, 2014 Reply

      Betty, thank you for sharing what you are thinking and feeling about all this. I understand the bitterness accusation, not because I've had it leveled at me, nor because I accused anyone of being bitter because he or she disagreed with me.

      It was on the Gothard discussion list where I witnessed it going on. It was very eye opening to see people defending Gothard and his teachings, not by giving Scriptural reasoning, but by attacking the people they were conversing with, or else going for the jugular, so to speak, against Don Veinot and Ron Henzel, who wrote the book on Gothard some 12 years ago. Yes, some tried to reason with Scripture, and were kind, but the line, " . . . are you all just bitter people looking for someone to pick on?" (or something like that) still rings in my head, from one commenter.

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      I so admire your honesty and integrity in the midst of a trying situation. I think you are in a unique position to be a resource when the scales fall off the eyes of those that now blindly think it is just bitterness. Thanks for your story.

  32. Lori May 2, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for writing this article! I think this is the best article on RG so far. I have felt guilty for allowing myself to be abused. Shouldn't I have been able to see what was happening and fight back? Thank you for explaining how the whole system was "grooming" me to accept the abuse. Now I understand how to prevent myself from falling victim to this again.

    • Stephanie May 2, 2014 Reply

      Lori, you and those like you are why I wanted to write this. I am beyond GLAD you have accepted that you are not to blame. Hold onto that, don't let anything else creep in! Grooming happens because it WORKS. If it didn't abusers wouldn't have their power. That's why it's essential to share for freedom and empowerment. Much love to you Lori.

  33. Aila H May 2, 2014 Reply

    Shane, I thought you wrote wait on purpose, because so many times we must wait with our questions until we fully understand God's purpose, or until we are able to trust Him while we wait. Your comment is excellent. I enjoy reading your posts.

  34. Leslie May 2, 2014 Reply

    The last time I checked Scripture "bitterness" was not one of the 7 deadly sins. So I did a word search on bitterness. Here are several definitions.
    1. Anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly
    2. Hard to bear, grievous, distressful
    3. Resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish or disappointment.

    I grieve for the many of you who have been accused instead of comforted while experiencing bitterness. I pray that this ugly movement which has enslaved so many will be brought to it's knees.

  35. BeautyforAshes May 2, 2014 Reply

    An interesting thought along the lines of bitterness and the Bible. Naomi labeled herself as "Bitter" and even changed her name to mean that, after she went through tremendous heartache, loss and grief. I don't see anyone of her friends or counselors or family demanding that she NOT be bitter. Or rejecting her in utter disgust and horror after she said she was bitter. It's simply stated that it was a real feeling that she was expressing. She was stating an element of her humanity. Maybe there is a time and season to experience bitterness - the bitter waters of something terrible, so as to recognize it for what it is. And then, what we can look forward to is that God will bring that "beauty for ashes." The sunshine after the storm. At some point! She was able to let go of the bitterness and fully embrace the joys and blessings that the new season of her life brought. Maybe that's the key - after some time, after we've faced the darkness, grieved, acknowledged the hurt and felt the bitterness - we can be willing and ready to embrace new beginnings when blessings and happiness come around the corner!
    I'm not a scholar, just a thought that popped into my head after reading some of the charges that we are "bitter" for expressing grief and an unwillingness to stand with teachings and systems that are blatantly wrong.

    • Stephanie May 5, 2014 Reply

      I think these are great thoughts. We really cannot control feelings, only what we do with them. That's why it's a losing game to try to tell someone not to feel the way they feel. They WILL feel the way they feel, no matter if they want it to be otherwise. What we can do is encourage them to see their feelings for what I believe they are, messages about what we need and want in our life. Perhaps a "bitterness" means there is something to address in your own life, holding onto anger, but perhaps a bitterness is a message just as much that you have been wronged and have to take the time to grieve.
      You're "not a scholar," but I couldn't tell the difference. Wonderful insight.

  36. Leslie May 2, 2014 Reply

    Naomi said "call me Mara"' which means bitterness. Her daughter - in -law Ruth stuck with her and better days were ahead. My husband taught many years ago about Ruth being a type of the Holy Spirit. He got shot down big time in the Christian circle we were in at the time

    • Sharon May 3, 2014 Reply

      Thank you for mentioning the Holy Spirit. It's amazing how seldom I hear references to Him in the context of BG's teaching, even on this website. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the "desire and power to do God's will." It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates Scripture to us and enables us to apply it wisely. It is the Holy Spirit who leads and guides - and may lead and guide us differently than he does other people - and vice versa!

      One of the most grace-filled and freeing statements somebody made to me was, "You have the Holy Spirit living in YOU, too!" which gave me peace about trusting a decision I had made contrary to the advice/encouragement of my dad. (No, I'm not from an ATI family, but having attended some of BG's seminars maybe I was influenced more than I realized!)

      Where the Spirit of the Lord, there is freedom. Controlling, tyrannical religious movements can never talk much about the Holy Spirit because to do so is to relinquish control to Him. If they can't ignore Him altogether, they like to make the Holy Spirit a force or mechanism rather than a Person.

      • Stephanie May 5, 2014 Reply

        Sharon, your note struck me as one of those 'why didn't I see that before' moments. There is little mention of the reality of the Holy Spirit in BG's teachings, though I believe he may use the word from time to times. But the Holy Spirit is our personal relationship with God, and that's not what BG's ministry was about as much as it was following the 'rules.' Thanks for opening my mind up to that!

  37. Leslie May 3, 2014 Reply

    I remember a teaching I heard years ago. The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus. Jesus leads us to God the Father.

  38. Paul Janke May 5, 2014 Reply

    I've never been a fan of Bill. Neither would I want to appear to be defending his organization. However, having read this article with some interest, I am reminded that we are all fundamentalists of one sort of another. Each of is passionate (militant) for our own set of fundamental values. Even while disparaging a black and white approach to truth, this article does so with unequivocating (black and white) language. In brief, to my ear, Stephanie sounds just like Bill. We all do.

    • horse May 5, 2014 Reply

      Please speak for yourself. In my experience in life, some people live with a lot of black and white thinking and others interact with the world and treat others with much more nuanced understanding of the grey. If you have not had experience with people who handle the grey, I would encourage you to get out and discover such people.

    • Stephanie May 5, 2014 Reply

      Paul, I think it's fair to say I'm "black & white" on what I think here, as stated in this article. But what I hope to differ from Bill in is that I want to be clear this is MY thinking. It is perfectly okay if that's not what anyone else thinks. If it helps you, well, that's why I wrote it, if it doesn't, that's okay too. We all have our "fundamentals," I think that's part of what you're trying to say, and I agree. But I'd argue that there is a group of people that have their fundamentals and think THEIR fundamentals should be everyone else's. As an example, I'd say that probably everyone reading this has had a person in their life that would not "allow" you to have a separate viewpoint - through shame, bullying, shunning, or hounding making their point over and over until you caved in.

      When I was coming out of a more legalistic mindset, that was my question to myself - "What if I'm compromising on the truth?" I can't remember the phrase right now, but there was a word or phrase that legalistic-style Christianity used for compromising, along the lines of a slippery slope. I worried I was that. But in time I've come to choose for myself that I believe God has a different calling for different people and that the Bible is not explicitly clear, perhaps, to allow for us to understand and fulfill different parts in His story for us.

      I want to hear what you think about this, though, Paul. Did I understand what you were saying correctly? What do you think about my response?

      Thanks for sharing, and for your interest!

      • Paul Janke May 5, 2014 Reply

        Thank you, Stephanie for the apparent kindness with which you've replied. As well, I'm encouraged by tbe fact that we can find common ground on my assertion that we are all fundamentalists of one sort of another. The label, fundamentalist (as popularly used), has such a pejorative force that most shy away from it. We seem all too eager to apply it to others while resisting it for ourselves. To be fair, you do not simply label Gothard as a fundamentalist, but rather as a fundamentalist who harbours sexual abuse. I would agree.

        My axes to grind in all of this relate to the two issues of humility and the nature of truth. We are all passionate fundamentalists. We all want others to share our opinions (even if we claim we don't). And this is where I passionately part company with what you opine. Truth is static, not flexible. Issues may appear grey to me but it's not because they are, in actuality, grey. The greyness is in my inability to see clearly the blackness or whiteness of the matter. Truth, then, isn't affected by my incompetence. Everyone believes that (even though most claim they don't). Proof of this is evident in our taking time to reply to one another in a forum like this. We really do believe what we believe. And so I believe that is what is most important in this discussion is to search for and find a perfectly reliable source of truth. We all do. Few actually find it while all believe they have.

        • Shane May 6, 2014


          I agree with the need for humility when evaluating and critiquing other truth claims, I also agree that Truth is not relative. I don't know that truth (not all truth) is static, but that is because Truth is engaged in relationship; it's source is personal and relational. So there are subjective and objective aspects to truth.

          I also agree with this: "In the same vein, all ideas are religious ideas and all who posit ideas in public are evangelists. The only difference between evangelists is the quality of their ideas." And maybe this is the distillation of your whole point?

          What I understood you to be saying is that everyone is a fundamentalist, and what that winds up meaning is that no one is or can be critiqued as such. Fundamentalism in one sense (at least) of the word is negative and I would argue is worthy of eschewing. As I read your posts I can't tell whether you think all "fundamentalism" is equal, and I disagree that there is necessarily an inconsistency in asserting that there are problems with Fundamentalism. I don't see Stephanie's post as somehow internally inconsistent, because she offers a critique of Fundamentalism. It's akin to saying that one cannot criticizes someone for being constantly critical, because it's inconsistent. It has the affect of making critique always self-refuting and therefore impossible.

          Not trying to set you up just want to make sure I understand from where you're coming: What is the perfectly reliable source of truth? Is there a perfectly reliable way to ascertain truth from that source? Are there decisions that we make that are amoral? Not our motivations (as you said these are always religious) but the decision itself?

          So for example, in real time, how does one evaluate whether or not to answer a fool according to his folly(Prov.26.4-5)? What I mean by grey areas is that no one can or should assert they know the objective answer to that question. Do you answer a fool according to his folly; sometimes yes sometimes no. How do you know when? You apply the best wisdom you know and step out in faith. A different person in the same circumstances very well could make the opposite decision with wisdom and faith. Life lived according to the Truth of the gospel allows for both decisions; both actually pleasing to God. There is no mental or spiritual math that will assure me on the front end and probably not on the back end which answer is correct. It's a matter of applied wisdom working by faith. Black and white (Fundamentalist) ministries are fearful of such ambiguity in life, and therefore attempt to construct a system that diminishes the grey areas; to legislate things that the Bible does not: schooling, music, dress, courtship, diet, parenting, authority, movie ratings, alcohol, how far one can walk on the Sabbath, etc. etc.

          So Christian schooling is not a black or white issue. The Bible nowhere legislates the answer to this question. It certainly says things about how parents should make these decisions, but two sets of parents can both honor God; one homeschooling the other public schooling. Likewise, two sets of parents can sinfully decide one to homeschool the other to public school. I understand this article to be addressing the fundamentalism that negates these types of grey areas.

        • Stephanie May 13, 2014

          Paul & Shane, I thank you both for your thought-provoking responses here, and the way you shared your views with respect.

          Paul, I think I see what you're saying about truth being static, but our perspective of them being what is grey. I don't think there's anything offensive about being labeled as someone who has fundamentals and is in that sense a fundamentalist, but just in being lumped in with abusive (emotional, sexual, physical) Fundamentalist practices - which exists in multiple faiths. There are Christian, Morman, Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists that I believe carry the same abusive characteristics of violating others' personal rights in their own perpetuation of their truth. But I don't think that's what you're saying I am, so I don't take offense. :) Thanks for taking time to explain.

          Shane, I think you are saying that Truth is what is stated in the Bible, and truth in the sense of interpreting the Bible is subject to either error or simply individual/family wisdom & relationship with God. Did I get that right? If so, I think that is a good way of putting it! The Fundamentalism (Capital F) comes in when people cannot handle the ambiguity of an individual or a family's relationship with God.

          I can't improve on the way you put it, agreeing with you wholeheartedly "Black and white (Fundamentalist) ministries are fearful of such ambiguity in life, and therefore attempt to construct a system that diminishes the grey areas; to legislate things that the Bible does not: schooling, music, dress, courtship, diet, parenting, authority, movie ratings, alcohol, how far one can walk on the Sabbath, etc. etc. "

          Thank you for sharing!

    • Shane May 5, 2014 Reply


      There is a distinction in holding to "fundamental truths" and being a fundamentalist. (However, the historic "fundamentals" were asserted with the seeds to fundamentalism planted within them, but that is a church history book or several to untangle.)

      There is also a distinction in stating unequivocally that there are grey areas in life, that the answer is often both/and rather than either/or, and stating unequivocally that life is essentially lived in black or white.

      These distinctions are real and have very significant consequences on how one sees truth, error, life, the "other", the Bible, self, etc. In other words, to assert dogmatically that wisdom is defined as life lived by faith in the grey areas versus wisdom is the ability to determine what's black and white in all circumstances creates two totally different ways of relating to God and his world.

      I understood Stephanie and others here to be dealing with those distinctions.

      • Shane May 5, 2014 Reply

        To be clear, when I say distinction I mean a distinction with a real difference.

        • Stephanie May 13, 2014

          A thought (meant to be a serious question!): Can I have a FUNDAMENTAL belief that there are grey areas? Hmm...not sure if that is a self-canceling question. :)

    • Ryan May 5, 2014 Reply

      I think Stephanie's only black and white language was the precision in which she laid out the fundamental flaws in Bill's teachings. I am a fundamentalist of keeping an open mind, that is a black and white issue to me, so I guess you're right.

      • Paul Janke May 5, 2014 Reply

        Thanks, Ryan. Well said.

      • Stephanie May 13, 2014 Reply

        Thanks both for the clarity and support! Lol Ryan, I just wondered the same thing - am I fundamentalist because I believe there are "absolutely" grey areas? Kind of an intriguing question to ponder!

  39. Paul Janke May 5, 2014 Reply

    In reality, truth speaks for all of us even while differing parties believe that their values are the true ones. Horse, your reply is "proof of concept". You (dogmatically) assert that you are right. We all do. This is fundamentalism in its purest form. Stephanie, Bill, Paul, Horse: all fundamentalists with strong positions that differ.

    That being said, truth is knowable if one can locate a perfectly reliable source. Humility and gentleness are in order while we search.

    • dreamer May 5, 2014 Reply

      To quote a great movie, "you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
      Just because a person believes in truth, or thinks their opinions are the correct ones, does not make them a fundamentalist. At least, not in the context of what we are talking about here. I agree with you that real truth is unchanging. However, some of us have realized over the years that what we thought was truth was...well, not truth. That doesn't mean that truth is fluid; it just means that we weren't seeing truth in the past.

      • Paul Janke May 6, 2014 Reply

        Dreamer, I don't think we disagree at all. Indeed, yours is the only post to this point that I agree with in every regard.

        By using a lower case "f", I'm merely pointing up the inconsistency of taking to task the Fundamentalists while behaving as another kind of fundamentalist. In the same vein, all ideas are religious ideas and all who posit ideas in public are evangelists. The only difference between evangelists is the quality of their ideas.

    • horse May 6, 2014 Reply

      I don't think my reply was proof of concept; I think my reply was brusk, even almost a little rude because it was brusk.

      I do see what you're trying to say, but I think you're getting there by redefining words. To me, it's like saying to someone who doesn't vote Democrat, "Hey, we're all Democrats because we live in a democracy." (I know it works better with Republican/Republic, but I wanted to pick a likely less popular view.) See what I did there? I'm conflating two different meanings of the same term.

      IMO, you're taking the word "fundamentalist" which has a certain meaning in the context of this discussion and conflating it with "has strong opinions" or "thinks one is right."

      By conflating the two ideas, it can be a way of saying, don't point out the problems with the first type of fundamentalism, because after all we're all fundamentalists. Now, I realize this can also be a way of bringing people together, and maybe that was your intention?

      • Stephanie May 13, 2014 Reply

        Maybe that is the takeaway from our fundamentalist definition discussion. "fundamentalism" and "Fundamentalism" are different words, and we have to clarify which we're referring to in this blog. Horse, I am glad you see the underlying possibility of bringing us all together. That's what separates us 'fundamentalists' (hopefully!) from "Fundamentalists". Thanks for interesting food for thought, everyone!

  40. rob war July 4, 2014 Reply

    Best article I've read so far. In reference to Bill G., I wonder if he would ever seek out help for his obvious deep seated problems. With all his emphasis on raising Godly or morally pure children, what happen in his own childhood that resulted in his own behavior as well as his brother Steve's. We will probably never know since Bill G. Doesn't believe in psychology.

  41. […] third, authoritarian systems protect abusers, not the abused: “The umbrella of protection…ends up protecting abusers better than it protects those […]

  42. […] of abuse from within is completely overlooked. At the same time, many fundamentalist teachings induce a false sense of safety among followers by promising that they will be protected from harm if…, such as foregoing dating for courtship, not attending college or working outside of the home, and […]

  43. Deb June 22, 2015 Reply

    "This is how women continue to feel the need to bear more children after a doctor or multiple miscarriages clearly indicate that it is time for some kind of sensible end to childbearing. It can result in scenarios in which older children in large broods of kids lose any desire to raise children on their own, having already been worn out by raising their brothers and sisters."

    For the FIRST time I see how I lived in shame that I could not produce more children. The shame as we walked around Knoxville with only 4 living children, when I knew we had lost 4 others at that point. I was a failure, after suffering from infertility for our first 8 years of marriage, starting after 30!!! to bear children for my husband, and then losing one to SIDS and 3 to miscarriage and all by C-section!!! All that shame, all these years, feeling God's judgment and consequences of some unknown sin.
    Infertility was a blessing to me, as I know God gave what I could handle. The 4 beautiful children that He graciously allowed my husband and I to raise are Blessings, and the 4 children I will join in Heaven one day are a promise and a hope of God. My children were spared the burden of raising little siblings, as I surely wanted to crank out more blessings. But from this day forward, no more SHAME for having failed my husband, ATI, and GOD in not bearing more children for HIS GLORY. NO MORE SHAME!! I AM FREE!!
    Thank you RG for this place and this chance to learn and HEAL.

    • Don Rubottom June 22, 2015 Reply

      Deb, I am very thankful for your new found freedom. God has blessed you and it is horrible to think that anyone would ever think otherwise. No children, one, 4 or 14 are all His handiwork. My greatest fear (and guide when possible) was that some of my children would not love children. By His Grace, they all do love children. That any took the teaching about fruitfulness to be a compulsion to pump out babies is a grief to our Father. God gives the increase. NOT man. Children are His for His purposes not for ours. I had an ATI neighbor who thought we were in a competition. I thought that was just downright weird. We lost our first and were simply thankful for each one that followed. My prayer is that your joys ahead will be multiplied more than those you missed because of the false teaching. Remember, God is not a big fan of census takers!

    • Stephanie Adams August 4, 2015 Reply

      I am so happy Deb that this helped you rediscover your freedom. I feel like that one sentence is inadequate, but you expressed it so perfectly. That sentence came straight out of a personal conversation with an ex-ATI friend. I feel like she would have been (and perhaps still will be) a fantastic mother, but she said, "I felt like I already raised kids." While her situation is different than yours, it remains that having kids just to have as many kids as possible is fraught with potential problems. Have kids because you want them, because you feel PERSONALLY called to do so (not obligated by another's interpretation) and because you find joy in your babies of all ages. Just to reach a quota, to fulfill an arbitrary standard, is a recipe for disaster.

      • Don Rubottom August 11, 2015 Reply

        Agreed, with this caution: fruitfulness is inherent in God's design for marriage. Spousal intimacy can be wonderful received as a mysterious assent and openness to His Creative engagement. It can also be selfish and closed to God and His purposes. And so receiving life joyfully is surely far better than laboring to achieve some "quota" (shivers).
        Fear and anxiety in one spouse calls for patient selflessness on the part of the other. Sex is not about EITHER procreation OR personal or mutual pleasure. Such reduction demeans it. Instead, it is about a communion of persons that is inherently free, full, faithful and fruitful, just like God's love for us. "In the image of God created He him, male and female created He them". He is imaged in Genesis 2 oneness. A call to marriage is not a call to unfruitful love.

  44. Lindsey June 22, 2015 Reply

    This was an excellent article, and articulates many thoughts that I began having at about age 16. Though I was never a victim of sexual abuse, I feel that there was emotional abuse as well as spiritual abuse in my household which stemmed from the teachings that my parents received from BG when they were young parents in the early 80's. Those teachings have led to a LOT of turmoil in my and my sister's life. Our relationship with our parents is nearly non-existent at this point. I am now 36. All the stuff about purity and umbrella of protection never did anything but leave me feeling isolated. The more I tried to live by my own principles, the more furious and aggressive my parents got about bringing me back into the "fold." If I went against their teachings, whether they were right or not, I was outside the umbrella of protection and therefore, outside the will of God. So, being he compliant one, would fall in line like a good little soldier. They told me that God would bless me for being obedient, even if they were wrong. I could not get that out of Scripture myself, and not even after many, MANY tearful, prayerful nights of crying out to God to show me how to deal with this problem with my parents. I wanted to follow God's will for my life, but I disagreed with a couple of issues that are intensely guarded by my parents. What I view as legalistic, they view as necessary to Christianity as the Resurrection itself. Because it always boils down to appearance. Avoid the appearance of evil. So the least 10 years have been literally hell. I got married without their consent or presence because they disapproved of who I married. All the holidays passed without celebrating with them. It's sad and only the Lord can mend this by now.

    I forgive them because I know everything they did or taught came from their love of us and desire to protect - however, it was counterbalanced with a desire on their part not to be shamed by the things that my sister and I have done that are a direct result of the over-protective, isolated environment in which we grew up. There was / is no room for grace in our household.

    Bill Gothard will have to answer for each and every life that was negatively affected by his false teachings. He has been a great stumbling block.

    Thank you for this article.

    • Todd k June 22, 2015 Reply

      Lindsey, thank you for telling us your journey. I,m sorry to hear the way your parents have treated you and your husband. I believe that they and many. other Gothardite parents will someday deeply regret their attitudes and actions---- especially when they get older and weaker. You are absolutely correct by writing that BG will have to answer to God for his false teachings. Although I did not grow up gothardite (thankfully),a number of Gothardites have attempted to ruin my life and reputation. (Another story, for another time). I came razor thin close to legal action. The horrifying Gothardite approaches to family rearing has made me glad of the hippie surroundings that I grew up with---- peace, love, music, et all. Please bring back the 70's (minus the red folders)!

      • Todd k June 22, 2015 Reply

        To add to this I wish that every Gothardite parent would listen to the Alan Parsons Project song "Day After Day---The Show Must Go On." It may bring tears even to their eyes. You can get that ( secular----oh my!) song with visuals on You Tube.

    • Stephanie Adams August 4, 2015 Reply

      You are more than welcome. Thank you for generously sharing your story of enduring courage. I know it will inspire others who are frustrated or trapped. I know it will help heal. Thank you again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *