If you are talking about Josh Duggar, you are missing the point

My Facebook feed has recently exploded with news about the scandal surrounding Josh Duggar. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a link to the latest news article, and everyone has a pretty strong opinion about what everyone involved in the situation should do.

And it seems to me that all of them are missing the point.

The victims are more important than the abuser. Long before questions about the status of a reality TV show, or the reputation of a family, or the job of a B-list celebrity enter our minds, we should be asking about the victims. Have they been given access to quality counselling? Is there any way to protect them from media attention? How have they been able to cope with the trauma of this abuse?

Rather than posting a “I stand with the Duggars!” picture, or a status berating TLC for promoting this family, wouldn’t it be a much better idea to boldly proclaim, “I stand with the weak, with the innocent, with the abused”? Whatever happens to a TV show isn’t that big of a deal. Whether Josh Duggar should have resigned or not doesn’t actually matter all that much. How this affects the public perception of Jim Bob is very trivial. There are much, much weightier issues here. How can we, as a society, support and affirm the value of victims of sexual abuse, both these particular women and millions of less famous women?

Isn’t that really a more important topic for conversation?


I hold no ill will against the Duggar family. I do not rejoice to see them publicly shamed. I’m not glad they have been caught up in a scandal. I do not wish to see their family name drug through the dirt. I really, honestly wish the very best for them. I pray that this trial brings them closer. I pray God gives them wisdom, and love for each other.

But I think there is an important lesson to be learned here. And while I hesitate to write this, fearing that my words will cause unnecessary pain for their family, I feel compelled to point out a very real danger; a danger that is illustrated perfectly by this situation.

You cannot shelter you family from sin.

The Duggar lifestyle–a lifestyle encouraged by IBLP teaching and practice–is designed to protect. Protect the hearts of children. Protect from the evils of rock music. Protect teens from lust. Protect girls from creating unhealthy soul ties. Protect young people from temptation.

Don’t associate with the “worldly” youth group at church.

Don’t go to movie theaters.

Don’t listen to pop music on the radio.

Don’t allow co-ed swimming.

Don’t separate the family for Sunday school.

Don’t watch TV.

Don’t go to college.

Don’t study secular thinkers.

Don’t become romantically involved with someone without your parent’s approval.

But it doesn’t work. Sin is in our hearts. Sin is not something outside, it’s not something that seeps into your life through movies, or music, or friends, or white flour, or unhealthy soul ties. It’s in the very center of your being. And no matter how protected you are, no matter how far you remove yourself from evil influences, that sin will still be there. Rules, boundaries and lifestyle choices will never remove it. Only Christ can do that.


Pray for the victims. Pray for the Duggars. Pray for Josh.

And seeing this terrible, painful situation, please understand this important truth;

No lifestyle, no rules, no pattern of family management will ever remove sin from someone’s heart.


Tying hands and closing doors

Why not more unapproved music to start off? Here’s The Distance by Cake.

Today we’re returning to Training Faithful Women, a handbook about women’s ministry. Part 1 is here. Let’s look at reason number 4 for starting a “faithful women” ministry.

Faithful women 4

I don’t have too much issue with this reason, except that the text following it is so strangely confusing. The first several paragraphs are a rant about how the church, not the government, is responsible to take care of widows. Then they talk about how the church is only supposed to take care of widows whose family cannot help them. And there’s a quote from the Internal Revenue Service (how the heck did we get here from “provide a ministry”?) telling us that whoever takes care of widows is at the center of society. Finally, we get something that sorta, kinda, almost relates to the heading:

Godly widows

But wait; these widows have spent years earning these qualifications (by bringing up children, lodging strangers, meeting needs and helping the afflicted), which means they are already actively involved in fulfilling ministry. And how do these ladies manage to have “outstanding” qualifications (meaning they’ve been doing a lot of ministry) and still have “outstanding” availability? I’m just really having difficulty picturing this woman. She’s apparently been heavily involved in church ministry for decades (beginning before she lost her husband, I would assume), but apparently has stopped all ministry recently, which leaves her available to help young ladies. I have to wonder why she’s stopped ministering (and why that’s not a red flag) and why she would suddenly be willing to start again, since you don’t let go of a life-long habit without considerable thought.

Why am I making a big deal of this? It’s not heretical. This isn’t teaching that is going to cause problems in your church. But it doesn’t actually make sense. It’s poor, meandering writing that can’t decide where it’s going or what it’s trying to say. It has no logical flow and the writer can’t even manage to keep his focus on the heading he just wrote. As discussed previously, there are literally thousands of resources available on the topic of women’s ministry; given the choice, who would choose this one?

faithful women 5

Oh my word, this is terrifying. Please remember what these “Scriptural standards and qualifications” are in IBLP world. Also remember that Gothard just told us that the church should carry the sole responsibility of caring for a widow without a family. In Gothard’s ideal world, women are made to toe the line because they fear they may starve if they don’t follow the rules.

You don’t want to marry this man your father has picked out? You want to go to college? Leave an abusive husband? Send your kids to public school? Not teach the Wisdom booklets? Use birth control? Remember, one of these days, we may be the only people who can help you. And if you don’t live your life according to our rules, we won’t lift a finger.

In Gothard’s ideal world, women are bullied and pressured into following the church’s teaching on threat of complete Earthly ruin. How utterly horrifying.

faithful women 6

Oh boy. Here we go.

leaders need followers

That’s…wait…what? Isn’t that supposed to work…like…exactly the opposite way? I thought leaders inspired people, who then followed them. Where does this idea come from, and how the heck does Gothard get away with making a statement like this with nothing to back it up?

fragile egos

You really have to wonder why these guys are supposed to be the leaders. Apparently they can’t lead if they don’t first have followers, and their egos are so fragile they can’t handle their wife asking other people questions. Gothard isn’t describing a husband; he’s describing an insecure 13 year old kid.

Ahh…there’s so many things wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, this is not how any healthy relationship works. No matter who you are married to, there is always going to be something that your spouse is better at than you, and things you are better at than your spouse. This is a good thing. You’re supposed to complement each other. You’re supposed to arrange your life in a way that makes the best use of both partners’ strengths, and allows each partner to cover for their spouse’s weaknesses. Marriage is not an ego trip for the man. If his wife knows more about the Scriptures than he does, he needs to recognize that and get over himself. If he wants to know more about the Bible, maybe a great start would be learning from his wife.

Second, this teaching undermines one of the most important roles of the body of Christ, namely, supporting and helping Christian families. You must be aware of a need to meet it, and telling women not to ask questions at church ties the hands of the church. How is a pastor to appropriately instruct his congregation if half of them aren’t allowed to even ask him questions?

Thirdly (and perhaps most scarily), this is yet another door of escape that is being closed for a woman in an abusive relationship. Not only is she not allowed to talk to the pastor about anything personal, she is not allowed to ask anyone except her husband any questions about the Scriptures. This would include the question “What does the Bible say about leaving a man who hits you?” Further tying the hands of women in these horrible situations is a grave, grave sin.

Finally, this puts incredible (and totally unnecessary) pressure on the husband. Regardless of how long he’s been a Christian, how much training he has (or hasn’t) received, or how well equipped he feels to answer her questions, a husband has the responsibility of knowing more than his wife, or of anyone that she might want to ask a question of. Picture this: a new Christian is approached by his wife, who says “I was going to ask one of the elders (who have spent decades studying the Scriptures) or the pastor (who is a seminary graduate), but I decided to ask you instead: how can we tell the difference between poetic imagery and factual prophecy in Revelation?”

What insane pressure to place on a brand new Christian! In the hands of an abuser, Gothard’s teachings on authority and male leadership are extremely dangerous. But even in the hands of a compassionate, loving husband, they are still a heavy, crushing burden.

On respecting your spouse

Two life changing dates are approaching for my wife and I. The first is November 23rd. That date will mark a year since we lost Sojourner, our son who was only 16 weeks along. The second date…well, we’re not sure when the second date is, because we’re expecting a little girl sometime around December 10th. It’s really hard to describe the heart-rending sorrow and the soaring excitement that we’re both feeling right now.

IBLP put out a series of booklets about health some years ago, called Basic CARE. CARE, of course, was an acronym, but I don’t know what for. (What is with IBLP and acronyms?) They printed one about miscarriage, and I had thought about reading through it and responding to it, but it quickly became clear that I’m not ready for that just yet. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll look at it. So instead I read the booklet on morning sickness.

The morning sickness booklet was interesting in that they managed to spend a lot of words to say so very little. The booklet boiled down to We don’t know why you have morning sickness. Maybe you can try fasting. Maybe you are experiencing guilt. Maybe you should eat crackers between meals. Here’s a few random testimonies and pictures of babies. NO MATTER HOW BAD YOUR MORNING SICKNESS, DON’T EVER CONSIDER GETTING YOUR TUBES TIED!!!!

I was intrigued to see how they managed to make the booklet be about the same things they always talk about. There were guilt trips, advice to fast and lots of words about the blessing of children. The guilt trips were not surprising considering the source (and honestly not nearly as heavy handed as in many other IBLP resources). The advice about fasting was fairly well balanced; there were cautions about over fasting and advice to speak to a doctor before committing to fasting. They even wrote at length about the importance of getting medical attention if you become dehydrated. And even though I’m somewhat suspicious about fasting to fix morning sickness, there is some evidence that fasting can be good for you. 

What I want to focus on today is this talk about children as a blessing. Before I go any further, I want to state very clearly that all children are a blessing from the Lord. Losing our son last year, and now looking forward to the birth of our baby girl has impressed on my how incredibly precious every life is, and how each child is worthy of love and respect. But what happens in this booklet is very legalistic. God’s word tells us that children are a blessing, and Gothard takes this as a command to have children.

I know Mark Driscoll has fallen into his own very serious scandal recently, but he said something a few years ago that I think is quite true. When speaking about Proverbs, he talked about how legalists take blessings and turn them into commands. This is exactly what Gothard does with verses about children.

Let’s look at the booklet now.

facts are bad

This really disturbs me, because the essence of what they are telling us is facts are bad if they don’t support our interpretation of Scripture. “…such statements only serve only to make couples more vulnerable to unwise counsel and destructive procedures…”

No, no, no. Such statements serve to inform couples of the facts. The facts are that we don’t know what causes morning sickness. The fact is that you cannot know before you get pregnant if you are going to experience mild or extreme morning sickness. The medical profession has no business giving “hope to mothers,” their business is to fully inform people of the facts.

This is not a small, minor deal. It would seem that whoever wrote this booklet would prefer that doctors not inform their patients of the facts. It would seem that having lots of children is a more important and higher goal than informed consent. This is a big problem.

husband morning sickness 1

husband morning sickness 2

This poor mother is so sick she fears that she is going to die. Having never been in a situation like that, I can’t say that I’m able to understand what that must be like. But I imagine it must be terrifying. I imagine looking at my children, my spouse and other loved ones and wondering how they will handle my passing. I would feel great sorrow when I thought about not seeing my children grow into adults and following their own dreams. I’m sure this mother felt scared and vulnerable.

What would you do if your wife told you she thought she might die? What if she said this was the last child she wanted to carry (assuming she lived)? It’s hard to imagine, but I think I know what I would do. I would hold my wife in my arms and I would cry. I would tell her how much I love her, and how important she was to me. I would pray desperately that God would let her stay with me. And I would tell her that whatever her decision, I would respect and support her in that decision.

This husband? He thought about the people who were watching. Hearing that his wife thought she might die, he thought about how that would make him look. It’s hard to find words to describe how truly horrible that is. Then, having given due consideration to his reputation, this husband used fear tactics to brow beat his wife to repent of fearing for her life.

I was just thinking about how I would tell my wife I would respect her decision if we were in the same circumstances, and it occurs to me that I’ve actually already done that. Before we even got married we talked about birth control methods and how we would use them. Over the past few years we’ve continued to dialogue about children and birth control and our family. And I don’t think we’re an unusual couple; anyone with any decent amount of respect for their spouse will talk to them about these things, and will show respect for their wishes. Both partners should agree that they want to have a child, rather than one partner brow beating the other when she’s already sick and exhausted and scared.

When looking at these two ways of responding, it’s very important to be aware that one is healthy and the other is abusive. And it’s pretty scary to see IBLP holding up this abusive husband as an example to other couples.

Redefining reality, part 2

There’s been an interesting development regarding the previous post ; Olivia Brodock left a comment explaining the reasons for writing her blog post and what she intended to communicate. It’s worth looking at.

Before getting into today’s topic, I wanted to briefly follow up on something from a previous post about rock music. Gothard had referenced some research that showed rock beats caused problems in lab rats. I’ve managed to track down the original study. It was published in the fall of 1987 in the Bulletin of the New Jersey Academy of Sciences, under the title Neural Plasticity of MUS musculus in Response to Disharmonic Sound. The research was conducted by Gervasia Schreckenburg and Harvey Bird. Several staff and faculty members at Georgian Court University were extremely helpful in tracking down the information for me.

So, what does reading the actual research tell us? Sadly, not much. It seems fairly clear from the study that the mice exposed to “disharmonic” sounds did experience real and physical changes in the brain that had a negative impact on them. However, “disharmonic” is only defined as “musical stimuli with non-synchronized component rhythms.” Beyond that, the article is much more concerned with examining the changes in the rats’ brains than with discussing the exact details of their environment. This is unfortunate. The lack of a more precise definition of the key difference between their control and experimental groups makes the experiment all but impossible to duplicate. Dr. Schreckenburg passed away some years ago, and I have been unable to contact Harvey Bird. The article did mention two graduate students who helped with the research; if I have time I will try to track one of them down and see what they can remember. (Or, if any of you happen to have free time, you could help out! Leave a comment if you’re interested!)

Now, back to redefining reality: twisted definitions from Bill Gothard. Read part 1 here. 

False guilt

Well, the wording is a little bit confusing here, but let’s try to unpack it. If you are feeling guilty, and you are told that you are experiencing “false guilt,” that means…that you’ve done something wrong.

Example: I recently purchased a new cellphone. My old phone was about two inches away from completely dead, and I really did need a new one. My wife did not need a new phone; she repeatedly told me that her phone is fine, and that there was no point in spending the money on a new one when the old one worked just fine.

And yet I felt extreme guilt about it. I felt very strongly that I shouldn’t buy myself a phone until I’d bought her one. Several friends and family members (including my wife) assured me that there was no reason to feel guilty. Thanks to Gothard’s teachings, I tend to always feel like I’ve never done enough for other people, and to feel guilty about getting myself something. This is false guilt. I do not have to feel guilty about buying myself a phone.

But according to Gothard, my false guilt over buying the phone is a sign that I am actually feeling guilty about something else, something far more serious. Apparently I’ve committed some other, greater sin, and my sub conscience knows that my friends won’t excuse that sin, so it transfers the guilt to a less grievous crime.

You see what this does? Gothard sets up a nice little circle of condemnation. If you feel guilty, then you have done something wrong, period. There is no room to realize that you have been taught a lie, or that a preacher has placed the legalistic restrictions on you that are contrary to the freedom Christ gives. Even if you come to understand that you should not feel guilty over a particular action, you are left in a worse position than before. Now you feel guilty, and you don’t even know what you feel guilty about! There is some vague greater sin that is lurking behind your conscience.

Combine this teaching with the impossible list of rules preached by Gothard and you have a dangerous thing indeed. If you don’t quote Scripture while falling asleep, you feel guilty, because that is what a good Christian is supposed to do. And even if somebody manages to show you that God doesn’t judge our relationship with him according to a daily checklist, then you still feel guilty, because you had “false guilt!”

Gothard references Romans 2:15 to back up his definition.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

As usual, Gothard completely ignores context. Paul is speaking specifically about Gentiles who did not have the law (which, at the time of Paul’s writing, meant they did not have God’s word at all), and is pointing out that even these Gentiles have an understanding of right and wrong.


Flattery can only be flattery if you’re talking about an unchangeable? You can’t flatter someone because of their piano skills, or cooking, or that big deer they shoot? This definition isn’t so much dangerous as it is just odd. Who would think this is a complete definition?


Aside from the fact that this is not what freedom means, I find myself disturbed by how this definition changes the focus of some key Scriptures. Look at John 8:36:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Using Gothard’s terminology, this verse becomes “So if the Son gives you the power to do what you should, you will have the power to do what you should indeed.” Notice how the focus moves away from what Christ has done for us (He has set us free) onto works (doing what we should do.) This is the very essence of legalism.

What about John 8:32?

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will give you the power to do what you should.”

And let’s not forget the verse that Gothard tacked on to the end:

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13)

What’s odd is that this verse make no sense with Gothard’s definition. “For, brethren, ye have been called not unto what you want, but the power to do what you should. But don’t use the power to do what you should as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Again, this is why it is so important that you look up and read for yourself any Scriptures that Gothard references.


Now we get back to guilt trips. Frustration, by Gothard’s definition, is a failure. If you feel frustrated, you have failed.

So are you frustrated that you have to wear a skirt in windy weather? You failed. Are you frustrated that adults are not allowed to leave training center grounds without permission from leaders? You failed. Are you frustrated that your parents paid for you to participate in a program that consists mostly of hard labor that benefits IBLP? (More than ten years later, and that one still ticks me off.) You failed. There is no room to consider that those in leadership may have made poor decisions, or that they might be building their own kingdom from your sweat. You cannot think of those things, because you, by being frustrated, have shown your failure.

Do you begin to see how this teaching is extremely dangerous in the hands of someone willing to take advantage of others?

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (Gal. 6:4)

So…yeah, basically nothing that relates to his definition. Typical.



I won’t wax eloquent on this one; it’d be better to just refer you to this excellent piece published on Recovering Grace that addresses the problems with this definition (click on “Grace and Faith”). In a nutshell,this definition again moves the focus away from what Christ did for us and to what we must do. Notice that the source of grace is left entirely out of the picture; rather than being about the incredible goodness of God in giving us undeserved favor, it’s simply a “force” that helps us “do things.” Yikes.



I…what? Nothing about pointing a group towards a common goal? Helping each team member to bring their best to the team? Working well with a variety of personality types?

 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess. 5:12-14)

Read those verses carefully, and then read Gothard’s definition carefully. Try to find how the two relate. (Hint: they don’t.) I’m not pointing this out because I think my readers have a wrong definition of the word leadership, but because I’m hoping to show how incredibly off-the-wall crazy Gothard sometimes is.






Liberation is actually “the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; release.” Submission means “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.” These are vastly different things.

It’s important to note how extremely passive liberation is with this definition. It’s something that your “divinely appointed authority” allows you. It’s not something you ever fight for, or leave an abusive relationship for. Practically speaking, it’s a list of restrictions that are handed to you. Then you have to find a way to work under those restrictions, regardless of if they are reasonable or not.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (1 Tim. 2:1,2)

20 bonus points to the person who can find a connection between Gothard’s definition and that Scripture.



Wow! Not only is this definition categorically wrong, it is dangerous. Slander, in case you don’t know, is a false statement that hurts someone’s reputation. “Bill Gothard was fond of playing footsie with young female staff members” is not slander, no matter what my intentions are in making that statement, because its true. “Bill Gothard ate babies as part of his annual retreat in the Northwoods” is slander, because it’s false. (And to all the know-it-alls telling me it’s libel; just read it out loud, and I’m right!)

And if you are in Gothard’s world, guess who gets to decide if you were intending to hurt? Someone in authority, of course. You know, the very people who would be in hot water if you told the truth about abuse or neglect. superiority complex

Yep, down means up and up means down. Somebody with a superiority complex doesn’t think they’re superior. Nope, because that would make sense. You see, somebody with a superiority complex actually has an inferiority complex. That’s why we call it a superiority complex.

Excuse me while I go bang my head against a brick wall.



Ok, imagine you take a class and you pay attention most of the time. At the end, you have an average of 92%, worth an A for the class. Yea!  That’s pretty good, right?

But did you have success in that class? To determine the answer, we need to look at what you “could have done.” If you had paid attention in the class, you could have gotten 100%. By this form of measurement, you have fallen short by 8%.

What’s the bottom line here? You are never good enough. Your frustration is a sign of your failure. That failure occurred because you didn’t make use of this force that lies within you and gives you the power to do things God’s way. You cannot speak the truth about those in authority over you, those who add to your burdens, because that would be slander. If this makes you angry, then you are sinning. Why can’t you just show deference and do things the right way to please those in authority over you?

You are never good enough. There are a million rules, and 8 steps to overcome this, and 5 principles for that, and 12 truths for becoming that other thing, and you will never do it right and you are not good enough.

A response to Olivia Brodock, the Homeschooler who survived.

My original plan was to finish going through Gothard’s twisting of definitions today, but something has distracted me. Several friends recently shared a blog post, From a Homeschool Victim Who Obviously Survived.

From a victim

The first thing that caught my eye was the image. That is the same image that has been used by Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA) in their reporting on the TOS abuse cover-up scandal. (It’s worth noting that the page now shows a different image, and there’s a note saying they had to take the original image down because they didn’t have permission to use it.) Using that image is extremely telling. For anyone who is aware of the current controversy sweeping the homeschooling community (namely, how to respond to a large number of alumni who are bringing grievances to the table) it places the blog post in the very center of that discussion.

And let’s be honest, that is precisely what the author intended. This author intentionally found the image used by HA and used it to set the tone for her post. This choice tells us a lot; it tells us what context she intended her audience to frame her post in.

So, having set the context in which we are to understand her post, the author goes on to satirize the stories of abuse victims. Let’s look at what she says.

It took me most of the last six years to really understand what was done to me during those years of “home schooling“.

This is making fun of those coming forward with stories of abuse. You see this type of wording time and time again when abuse victims come forward. “I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal.” “That was all I knew, so I just accepted it.” “It took 3 years of counseling to reach a point that I understood this was wrong.”

Notice the passive voice; “what was done to me.” Again, the author is using the language of someone who has been victimized.

Throughout the post, this author continues to use language that is used to describe abuse.

We were forced…homeschooling forced me…it stole from me…I have my mother to thank for every twang of guilt…I survived the mental trauma…

This is purposeful, intentional use of language that fits abuse. This author, by satirizing the stories of abuse survivors in this way, is attempting to make light of their plight.

Sometime in the past day or two, a note has been added to the top of the page.

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to discredit real abuse. Real abuse happens within all walks of life. It does need to be addressed and dealt with – with punishment for the offender and healing for the very real victim.  But this post is a satire about a life that often seems hard and unfair. What child does not think life is unfair at times?  :)

No, this is not “a satire” about when kids think life is hard or unfair. The author is sure to specify in the second paragraph that she is now 6 years past graduation. She claims to be writing with the perspective of an adult, reflecting on her childhood years. You can’t just slap a disclaimer on the front and pretend it’s suddenly satirizing something totally different. This is oddly reminiscent of my previous post; you can’t just up and decide to change the clear meaning of something just because you want to. You can’t use the language of abuse to make light of it, and then claim you didn’t mean to discredit real abuse.

To my friends who are reading this post because I posted a link on your Facebook page: Please understand that I do not mean to point the finger at you and say you are somehow a part of this culture of making fun of abuse. I don’t expect you to follow all the latest developments in my niche of interest. I don’t expect you to recognize that image, or the wording that was used in the post and respond the same way I did.  I do, however, expect a homeschool blogger to be aware of homeschooling issues, and to show love and sensitivity towards people who have experienced real abuse (which you can totally do while maintaining that your own experience was positive). I replied to your sharing of the blog post not because I’m angry with you, but because I feel it is important that people be aware of the context. I trust that you are a reasonable and kind person, and that you understand that abuse has occurred in some homeschooling families, and that it’s not something to make a joke about.

Redefining realiity

One of the warning signs that you have come into contact with a cult is the need to learn an entirely new vocabulary. Common words are redefined, and concepts that are inherently contradictory are said to be the same thing. Scientology is scarily good at this, and is famous for requiring students to study with a Scientology dictionary in hand, looking up any terms they don’t understand to get their unique definition of each one. I was intrigued by the section on “cult speak” on this website (please note that I haven’t read the entire page and I can’t vouch for the credibility of it’s author. But what he says about cult speak rings very true of IBLP.)

So today we’re looking at a couple pages from the Advanced Siminar booklet. I’m afraid I don’t know that much about this particular resources: it was a large notebook passed from one of my father’s mentors onto him many years ago. A handwritten note in the cover mentions a seminar in Dallas, TX in 1975. The materials obviously pre-date ATI (no mention of homeschooling is made, and many examples speak as though the reader would be in a school setting), and some of the terminology was later changed by Gothard (for example, “chain of command” was later changed to “umbrella of protection,” although no real changes were made in the teachings.)  What caught my eye when glancing through it was the 4 pages of “operational definitions.” Some of them make sense, but others are downright scary. Let’s take a look.


Ok, this one is interesting to examine, considering that my last post was titled “I’m Angry.”

So,if you are angry, it’s because there are rights that you have not given to God. In case you are unfamiliar with the concept, Gothard spends a great deal of time in his Basic Seminar explaining how it is important that we give up our rights. Christ gave us his rights when he came to this Earth, and we should give up our rights as well.

The problem with this thinking is that it primes people for abuse. Instead of learning about healthy limits, and how to recognize when they were being used, ATI students were taught to treat every wrongdoing as an opportunity to “give up rights.” This is extremely dangerous in the exact type of situations that people at Headquarters and Training Centers often had to face: refusal to pay overtime, solitary confinement for rule infractions, unwanted advances from leaders.

This definition portrays anger as a sign of sin on the part of the one who is angry, regardless of the situation. Imagine applying this definition when someone was angry over the murder of a loved one, angry about sexual abuse in their past, or angry about a pastor who ran off with the church’s money. In each of these situations, anger is seen as a sign that something is wrong with the person who is angry. That’s just sick.

Let’s look at the Scripture verses listed after the definition, because people often glance at the references, assume the Bible supports Gothard’s point, and move on. This is dangerous, because Gothard is not above twisting Scripture, as we can see here.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (Eph 4:26)

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice (Eph 4:21)

See? The Bible tell us to be angry (with a warning not to sin while being angry), and Gothard uses that Scripture to support his idea that anger is always a sign of sin. The second verse has absolutely nothing to do with the definition that Gothard has just given us; it’s just a random verse that happens to reference anger.


Nothing about understanding the other person, nothing about conveying accurate information; nope, this is plain and simple manipulation. I include this one not because it’s so terribly dangerous, but because it’s an interesting insight into what Gothard sees himself as doing. To him, communication is not about two (or more) people coming to understand each other. Rather, it’s about one person with an objective, and the way he achieves that objective.

Oh, and that verse in Proverbs? Again, just a random verse about talking.

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. (Prov. 15:2)


One-way, much? This is a power-play, plain and simple. You have to conform to my tastes, and I’m not required to do anything. This becomes particularly terrifying when you consider the “chain of command” authority structure Gothard envisions for families; a wife has no alternative but to bow her head, forget her personal preferences and “limit (her) freedom” to conform to whatever her husband demands. In a healthy relationship, that’s not too horrible of a thing. This teaching in the hands of an abuser, or a control-freak, is extremely damaging.

I read this to my wife this morning, and she just about flipped out. The issue here (and in so much of purity culture) is that it places a completely impossible burden on women. Intention doesn’t come into the picture at all. If, by her mere existence, a girl “causes” a man to lust, she is defrauding. The focus is taken off of the inappropriate actions of a man who is ogling someone, and places the focus on someone whose most serious crime might be nothing more than existing in the body that God gave her.


Never mind “weep with those who weep.” If you have discretion, you will know exactly how to preach Gothard’s talking points!

Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee (Prov 2:11)

Notice how that verse has nothing at all to do with applying principles?

Dissolving Expectations

This is a strange teaching of Gothard which boils down to don’t have an opinion. If you are seeking God’s direction on a matter (and keep in mind that this is to be done by going to your “authorities”), then you should bring yourself to a point that you are ok with being “led” (told to go) in either direction.

This is dangerous because personal opinions and preferences matter. They are important. They are part of what make you an individual. A person without preferences is not a healthy person. And more importantly, a person taught to suppress their preferences, and taught that they must always follow the directives of those in authority is ripe for abuse.


What? No,no, and…What? This isn’t what equity means; it isn’t even close to what equity means! Equity is “the quality of being fair and impartial.” You can’t just declare that a word suddenly means something totally different than what it actually means. And tacking some irrelevant verse on the end doesn’t mean you have good reason to make words mean whatever you want them to.

There are several more “definitions” that I’d like to look at (did you know that frustration means you have failed?), but it’s getting late, so those will have to wait for another time. My bed is calling me! Be sure to like us on Facebook or follow on Twitter so you don’t miss part two!