Musings

Hello folks! This space has been really quiet for the past few months, and it may still be quiet for next new few months, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. I’ve got several projects I’m hoping to bring out into the open before the year is over, and I hope they can be helpful to those of us coming out of the ATI system. I also will be finishing my master’s degree in November, so that should free up a little time for me to write more.

Today I’m not going to be examining a particular IBLP publication; instead, I wanted to just talk about a few things that have been on my mind.

It’s really hard to shake habits and inhibitions that are drilled into you as a child. We don’t have a worship minister at my church; there’s a pool of about 10 people who take turns each Sunday. One of them has a particular fondness for singing upbeat songs and leading the congregation in very simple dances. And every time she does, I stand there stiff as an board made of awkwardness. I can’t dance in church. I know it’s ok; I know all the verses about dancing in worship.

But moving your body in response to music is bad. I remember my dad telling my sister to stop bobbing her head in time to the music our neighbor was playing. My sister was horrified; she had let the rock music get into her head and influence her without even realizing it! So when your 6 or 9 or 12 years old and even clapping with a praise song is looked down on as border-line sin, you just lock your body down and refuse to move. Moving your hips is bad, bobbing your head is bad, basically responding to the music in any way is bad, so you just place your hands on the pew in front of you and sing without moving a muscle.

The same is true with drinking. The only time I’ve ever had alcohol was when I was 7 years old, and mistook the champagne at an anniversary party for Sprite. For years I’ve said that it’s because there is a history of alcoholism in my family, and I don’t want to risk it. But that’s not actually true. Sure, there are a few alcoholics in my family history, but what family doesn’t have that? The reason I don’t drink is because it was drilled into me ever since I was little bitty that the world is watching and our witness is dependent on upholding these “high standards” and if you can’t even go into a movie theater for fear of what people might think, do we even need to mention what they might think if you buy alcohol?

And so my sister had a big party for her 33rd birthday (that’s when a hobbit comes of age, after all) and she served mead. She offered me some, and it smelled incredible. My wife had some, my mom had some, my dad had some. And I just. couldn’t. drink it. I tell myself over and over again that it’s perfectly fine, that we’re under grace, that we have freedom in Christ, that I’m just living in bondage to a lie…and yet I can’t drink.

I did have a bit of a break through this summer. We went to a friends’ wedding, and there was dancing at the reception. It was awesome; everyone at the table I was at got up and danced. My wife got up and danced. So I spent a while just sitting there, holding my daughter and feeling awkward. But I finally decided that just because I have weird hangups from being raised in a cult, that doesn’t mean my daughter has to have those hangups too. So I got up and danced with her. It was awkward, and I had no idea what I was doing, and I’m sure I looked like a total dork, but I danced with my daughter. That was cool.

What hangups do you have from your time in ATI? I’m curious to hear about your experience.

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I’m not dead!

Greetings, my dear readers! You must be one extremely loyal fanbase to be reading this after 2 months of hearing nary a peep from me. I promise I am not dead, and I have no intention of letting this blog die either.

The past two months have been extremely busy. I won’t bore you with all the details, but my daughter was born in mid-December, so a great deal of my time has been taken up with caring for the cutest little person in the history of ever. On top of that, I left Taiwan on Jan 21st with 15 junior high students in tow, and we spent 27 days in Central Wisconsin doing a cultural exchange program. Between caring for 16 more kids than I am used to caring for, trying to visit with family while in the States, and desperately throwing together BS to submit for my online classes, there wasn’t much time for throwing out bath water.

But don’t fear! We’ll be back at it quite soon. As soon as I publish this post, I will be working on the final post discussing Gothard’s Training Faithful Women. After finishing that, I’m very excited about doing a series looking at Gothard’s views on depression. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quote from my good friend, minister/author Jamey Gilliland. Jamey is not familiar with Gothard or IBLP, but he had this to say after doing some research:

…I have some concerns. Even though Gothard has a phd, he is not a biblical scholar based on his writing processes. His method is isegetical, rather than exegetical, and illustrates no knowledge of covenant theology and the relationship of law and grace in the New Testament era. His seminars are formulaic with multi step quick fixes devoid of orthodox substantive explanation. His writings also seem opportunistic to the nonissues of the day. Gothard is dogmatic to his own personal subjective standards and many of his followers I have read about are confused doctrinally and divisive ecumenically. A byproduct of his teachings seem to lead to feelings of exclusiveness, elitism, and isolationism. Gothard gives himself permission to be the mouth piece of scripture’s silence. Typically when the Orthodox Church sees silence, we imply freedom. Gothard sees silence and imposes law and thus becomes a law unto himself. On his teaching of grace in the book, “the advanced seminar textbook,” he defines grace completely wrong. His definition is heretical at best and blasphemous at worst.

Stay at home, you infernal ladies!

Today I am deeply saddened by the denial of justice to Eric Garner and his family. The fact that this decision was handed down while the public has access to video footage of the murder shows a truly frightening disregard for even appearing to care about justice or equality. My prayers are with the Garner family today. This blog isn’t really a platform for discussing recent events in New York and Furguson,but I must say that I have been horrified at the willingness of many of my friends on the right to ignore statistics in favor of focusing on a single criminal, their willingness to make light of the plight of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and their hardness towards families and communities with gaping holes left by police bullets and batons. My prayer is These Frail Hands by Brave Saint Saturn.

And I am overwhelmed with grief,
to see such suffering,
For those who lack the voice to speak
For those of us left stuttering

May this not prevail,
Dear Lord, your love will never fail

We now return to your regularly scheduled disposal of bath water.

Reason number 7 why you should start a “Faithful Women” ministry.

Faithful women 7

Ok, this is cool, right? Strengthening marriages sounds like an excellent goal!  And the verse talks about teaching women to love their husbands; another noble goal. We should be able to skip over this point, right?

Love

Ok, never mind. We’ll be here a while.

First off, agape love is not love that is “founded in admiration, veneration and esteem.” This is more than a slight twisting of the meaning of words; this is categorically, factually wrong. Agape love is unconditional, self-sacrificing love. It is the love that God has for us. Did “God so love the world” because he admired, venerated or esteemed us? This statement seems strange and far out of left field even for Gothard.

Secondly, phileo love is “brotherly love.” This is the type of love that exists between family members, or close friends. And it is so much more than an “inclination prompted by emotion.” As DC Talk so eloquently pointed out, love is a verb. It’s real actions. It’s washing the dishes and fixing the car and writing a note to put in the lunch box and setting down the cellphone to talk to someone. It’s calling to check that someone made it home on icy roads, or sharing your Dr. Pepper with someone (that one is tough for me.) It’s not simple an “inclination.” That word choice is downright insulting.

Thirdly, how the heck is an older women supposed to “wisely teach” this “inclination”? What on earth does that look like, in real life? I can’t even imagine it.

Blind obedience

“This is not to be blind obedience…” Well, that sounds great, except for the fact that it totally is blind obedience. I just happen to have a booklet published by IBLP about making an appeal; let’s take a look at what is actually meant when they say a wife can make an appeal. According to The Key to Freedom Under Authority, to make an appeal, a wife must

  1. Have the right standing with her husband
  2. Have the right basis for her appeal
  3. Present the appeal at the right time
  4. Give accurate information
  5. Have the right attitude
  6. Use the right words
  7. Display the right response if the appeal is rejected

This last one is extremely significant. Aside from the fact that Gothard wants women to follow a 7 step program to talk to their husbands, we have the extremely disconcerting fact that the final say rests completely in the hands of the husband, and therefore the wife must, in fact, practice blind obedience if her appeal is rejected. Please remember that Gothard has gone as far as to suggest that Abigail was wrong to prevent the murder of her entire family by David, and even suggested that it would have been better for Abigail to appeal to her husband, be rejected and then the entire clan to be murdered than for Abigail to get out from under her umbrella. (see A Tale of Two Abigails, part 1 and part 2.)

faithful women 8

Never mind that Paul was writing to a pastor in a particular place, with a particular history and particular culture. Never mind any considerations of context or intended audience. No, let’s just slap a Bible verse on it, and then preach our own ideas. “Stay home, you infernal ladies!  Do what you’re told! Feel those inclinations! Have lots of people over to your house, but don’t ask them questions about the Bible! And you better not let it interfere with your home business!”

Bleh. I have a headache. I’m going to drink my tea and go to bed now.

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.

How did Gothard dupe so many?

Greetings! I haven’t posted as much in the past few weeks because life is getting pretty busy, and probably won’t slow down until…who am I kidding? It won’t ever slow down. But I’m trying to keep to a at-least-once-a-week schedule anyway!

After posting last week’s blog, I kept feeling like I had missed something important. Sure enough, my friend Craig pointed out another problem.

Is there another dangerous unstated insinuation by the testimony that you highlighted?
If this woman’s morning sickness was cured when she repented then, MORNING SICKNESS IS CAUSED BY SIN. If you can figure out what that sin is and repent your morning sickness will depart.
Or if the husband can point out the sin that is causing the morning sickness and get his wife to repent, then he to can “conquer his wife’s morning sickness.”
What a disgusting anti-gospel message.

In other news, Throwing Out the Bath Water was featured on Recovering Grace, which was pretty cool. Recovering Grace also recently linked to a blog post about Gothard’s teachings on giving up rights, which I highly recommend that you read. I had several major “ah-ha!” moments when reading it, and it’s going to take me a while to process through it all.

Training Faithful Women

Today I want to look at a supplemental material that apparently comes from a seminar on church ministry. This book is going to take a little time to get through, because there is so much to be discussed.

We have weak churches

Some of these statements seem rather benign, even if they are a tad simplistic. But I want to take a moment to talk about it, because these few sentences show very clearly how Gothard works, and, to a large extent, answers the question, “how could Gothard manage to dupe so many people?”

He starts with a statement that seems to be undeniably true, yet is extremely over simplified. He also commits a major logical error, arguing that because weak families result in weak churches, any church that is weak must have weak families. Weak families do cause weak churches, but not all weak churches are weak because of weak families. To put it in different terms, termites cause structural damage to a building, but not all structural damage is caused by termites.

The next statement commits the same error, although it’s not quite as egregious, considering how much influence the father and mother have in the family. Nonetheless, there are still things beyond the control of the mother or father that can weaken a family. Illness, employment, abuse by an uncle, a neighbor selling drugs; all of these things can also weaken families. Life is not always as clear cut or straight forward as Gothard would have us believe.

And finally, we get the kicker: all it takes to strengthen families and churches (two excellent goals!) is to have somebody personally explain responsibilities. It’s just that simple. Gothard has the magic ingredient to fix these problems. He has the information for this “forgotten fundamental” for every church.

Now stop for a minute, and put this into normal-people language. Gothard, for all of his talk of “faithful women” and “dynamic potential,” is actually proposing that churches implement a women’s discipleship program. That’s his “forgotten fundamental.” It’s not forgotten at all: there are literally thousands of resources available for these types of ministries, and hundreds of thousands of people involved in these ministries. They’re not new, they’re not unusual, and they’re certainly not “forgotten.”

So why does Gothard try to paint a women’s discipleship program in this light? Simple. He wants to be seen as the only source of wisdom on this topic. He doesn’t want to compete with other writers or speakers who have spoken on the subject. So he wraps it in strange terminology and claims everyone else has “forgotten” about it in the hopes that nobody will go shopping elsewhere.

This is how Gothard dupes people: simplify a problem that people want desperately to fix, and then claim he is the only one who knows how to quickly and easily fix that problem.

Next, Gothard lists ten benefits of training faithful women. Some of them are very interesting. Faithful women 1

Ok, cool. I have no issue with this reason. It’s good for younger women (and younger men and older men and older women too…) to have people they can look up to and emulate. But then we get a list of women in “God’s hall of fame” and it gets a little strange.

God's hall of fame

Several of these really jump off the page here. Deborah, a woman of discernment? Really? What about leadership? Bravery? Kick-ass-ed-ness? Or Priscilla, a helpmeet? Priscilla was an industrious craftswoman (a tent maker, like Paul) who was an important evangelist and church planter. Priscilla even functioned as a 1st century talent scout, seeing and nurturing the potential in Apollos (someone who Scriptures says “was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.”) All her ministry boils down to “a helpmeet”?

Some of these make sense; Hannah, a woman of prayer, or Esther, a woman of courage. But honestly, this lists seems to cheapen them; it seems to convey that the great works and examples of these women were simply the result of working really hard on one of Gothard’s 49 favorite words. Maybe I’m being too picky here….but it still bothers me.

Reason number 2:

faithful women 2

“The danger of…wrong attitudes or behavior of wives” is not clearly stated in Scripture. People are all capable of corrupting doctrinal truth; there is no particular sub-set of people who are more likely than others to corrupt. We do need to be aware of the danger of corruption coming from wives, but also from husbands, and from youth group leaders and song writers and from blacksmiths and computer technicians and U.S congressmen. Particularly singling out wives as a dangerous source of corruption paints them as time-bombs in our churches, rather than people loved by God.

The Scripture quoted here does not support the claim made by Gothard either. Briefly summarized, it tells us that young women should develop the character of Christ in their daily life (which, for those young women in Titus’s church and cultural setting, meant particular things), so that God’s word would not be spoken evil of.

Violating truth

Wow, every single one of them? Man.That’s tough. I wonder if men ever violate truth…

special danger of women

Now I’m confused. We need older women to teach women how to ask their husbands to teach them things? Wouldn’t it be a whole lot more efficient to just have the men teach their wives about this? And since women are so susceptible to doctrinal error, whose crazy idea was it to put them in charge of training other women?

I’m not going to address the quote from 1 Tim. 2, because, bluntly, I’m still very confused by that chapter, and I really don’t think I can speak with any authority on that passage. Perhaps some of my readers would care to share their thoughts?

faithful women 3

“When a women pours out her problems to a minister, she exposes him to the strong temptation of becoming inappropriately involved with her in his emotions.” And loving her as a sister in Christ isn’t an option here? Weeping with those who weep isn’t a good idea? Sharing your struggles with someone who is charged with your spiritual welfare should be discouraged? And if a women sharing her problems with her pastor causes him to become “inappropriately involved” with her, is the real problem with her sharing, or with the pastor?

This tendency (that can be seen through IBLP material and at all IBLP sponsored functions) to build walls between the sexes is disturbing for multiple reasons.

  • It over-sexualizes all interactions and prevents real, solid friendships and real fellowship from happening. I remember not being allowed to eat at the same table as my sister when doing CharacterFirst! work in Memphis. (There were about 9 of us in the basement of a large church, and we literally sat on opposite ends of the fellowship hall.) Rather than speaking to a person, you find yourself speaking to a gender. It’s institutionalized objectification.
  • It divides the body of Christ, and prevents members from loving their brothers and sisters in Christ. (How can I “do good unto…the body of believers” if I am not allowed to even talk to a significant portion of them?)
  • Walls that prevent communication serve to protect abusers. If a women is not able to speak to her pastor about an abusive husband, that is one more door that is closed to her. And if we are to take all this talk about ladies speaking only to their husbands about their problems seriously, it does not take much imagination to picture a pastor telling a wife to talk to her husband about these issues!

“When a women seeks regular personal counseling from a pastor, she will usually cause signals of caution or alarm in the pastor’s wife.” Wow, there is so much more  wrong with this pastor’s marriage than a counseling session with a church member if the wife is getting signals of caution or alarm! There is an obvious lack of trust and understanding between the couple. At the very least this couple needs to have an open discussion about what they are comfortable with, and what type of boundaries they should put in place to protect their relationship. And if this alarm becomes “seeds of contention” that damage the marriage…well, again, there’s a bigger issue here that is causing the damage. A pastor counseling a church member does not destroy a marriage.

Side note: how insulting is this to pastors? Do we think male pastors (because female pastors are never addressed) are unable to handle a situation like this? If a pastor can’t manage to deal with the temptation of talking to church members about their problems, is this guy qualified to be a pastor? And if this pastor is honestly that weak, will preventing these conversations actually prevent problems at your church? Rather than giving advice on how to “pastor proof” your church, wouldn’t it be far better to put out a booklet titled Kick That Guy Out and Hire A God-Fearing Professional?

Finally, notice who is to blame for broken marriages and sex scandals in the church: women who try to seduce pastors. Those poor pastors! Those poor, passive pastors! Why, they had no more choice in the matter than you or I; these evil women seduced them.

No. This thinking is wrong. It’s disrespectful to women and to pastors. It paints women as the bad guys and men as innocent victims. It erects walls between members of the body of Christ. It excused the sins of pastors who abuse women in counseling.

Final note: Isn’t it interesting how Gothard carried on private counseling sessions with multiple young girls for literally years and yet had the audacity to teach this?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

On a personal note, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the passing of my son. My wife and I would appreciate your prayers.

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.

flatterty

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?

freedom

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.

frustration

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.

Grace

 

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.

leadership

 

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

 

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.

slander

 

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.

success

 

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.