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.

Misdirection and linguistic tap dancing

10 Scriptural Reasons

Hello folks! It’s midnight, I have phone calls to make, homework to do and I really should be in bed…but there is bath water to be thrown out!  I’ve fallen so far into the development of concupiscence that I’m listening to rap music and drinking Dr. Pepper. Quickly folks, hide your kids.

A few notes before we begin: I recently had a conversation with a friend on Twitter who informed me that Bill Gothard has been made aware of the problems with victim blaming in the counseling booklet and has promised to ask IBLP to stop selling that book until it is corrected. Of course, I can’t vouch for how accurate this report is, or how sincere Gothard was, but it’s good to know that TOBW is having some effect.  (It’s worth noting that the booklet is still for sale.)

Moving on to today’s topic: Ten Scriptural Reasons Why the Rock Beat is Evil in Any Form.  Earlier I spoke about the use of personal testimonies, and how they should be used in a logically constructed argument. Today we’re going to look at the first of these Scriptural reasons. As I did last time, I’ll be randomly inserting links to non-approved music, so we can all stay sane.

I don’t care by Apocalyptica.

On the first page they quote 2 Peter 2:1-3:

…There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.  And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…

Below that we have an interesting statement:

“Music in itself is a language and gives a message. Thus, those who sing and play are teachers. Teaching truth out of balance leads to heresy.”

This is an odd series of statements. Music has been called a language by many, and we all know that music can communicate emotions very well. I found this fascinating article about some research showing that musicians working together to improvise music are using some of the same parts of the brain that are used for language. But it’s important to note that other language-related parts of the brain were completely dark. Music is, in some way, tied to the language part of the brain…but we don’t understand how or why. The author of the study is quoted as saying, “Meaning in music is fundamentally context-specific and imprecise, thereby differing wholly from meaning in natural language.”

So the statement that music is a language is partially true. But we cannot take that to mean that music works in the same way as spoken language. You cannot use music to communicate, for example, that Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and was crucified for our sins. Music is totally powerless to communicate anything that specific. So when we speak of music as a language, we have to be aware of its limitations.

Then we’re told that anyone who sings or plays music is a teacher. This statement is just…odd. Ok, I see how we are all teachers, in a very broad definition of the word. But musicians don’t exactly fit the typical definition of “teacher.”

Finally they tell us that “teaching truth out of balance leads to heresy.” This really is a nice bit of linguistic tap dancing to get from an over-simplified definition to twisting the meaning of the word “teacher” to FEAR!!!  And that idea of fear is made stronger by the following sentence:

“A ‘pernicious’ disease is one that is very difficult to cure.”

This appeal to fear is really, really important. You cannot open your argument against rock music by saying “The Bible never addresses musical styles. All we know is that God encourages us to sing a new song. That’s the entire extent of what the Bible has to say about musical styles.” You cannot allow that thought to even enter the minds of your readers, so you must make them afraid. Make them afraid of heresy and pernicious diseases that are hard to cure. Raise the stakes.

Here’s 5 people playing one guitar. It’s cool.

The first full page of text starts with a definition of rock music. This definition is…sadly inadequate. “The ‘rock beat’ is a dominant and repetitious offbeat which competes with the melody and distracts from the words of a song.” How exactly do you know when a beat is dominant? Doesn’t some classical music have a rather dominant beat? What exactly is an offbeat? If you’ve got 10 Biblical reasons why it is evil, couldn’t you give me a bit more information on what exactly we’re actually talking about?

And what is this “offbeat” that is so often spoken evil of? Here’s a simple explanation of syncopation:

Yep, it’s nothing more than an unexpected twist in a piece of music. I wonder if plot twists in books are also evil? What about poetry that establishes a pattern and then breaks it? Could I summon a demon with a poorly written haiku?

Ok, here’s our first Biblical reason. Quick, listen to The Piano Guys’ cover of What Makes You Beautiful. Bonus points if you can tell me at what point in that video the beat competes with the melody.

“The ‘rock beat’ deceives youth into violating the Fifth Commandment.”

Here’s essence of this “Scriptural reason”: “There is no question that many parents are strongly opposed to the ‘rock beat.’ Therefore, those who promote the ‘rock beat’ are causing young people to dishonor their fathers and mothers.”

Whoa!  That’s a really big leap of logic right there! Let’s swap something else out for a moment and see how it sounds:

“There is no question that many parents are strongly opposed to senior hitch-hiking trips. Therefore, those who promote national highways are causing young people to dishonor their fathers and mothers.”

What if some parents don’t want their kids using chewing gum? Does that making the gum industry evil? And what about the parents who aren’t opposed to rock music at all?

The actual issue being discussed here is not rock music; it’s children obeying parents. It really has nothing to do with music at all. There is no question that the fifth commandment says we are to honor our parents. But to say that because some parents oppose a particular thing, then anyone promoting that thing is evil is a really far stretch. This is classic misdirection: the argument has quietly been turned from “is rock music inherently evil?” to “should children honor their parents?” Once they’ve shown Scriptures showing that children should honor their parents, they act as though they’ve proven that rock music is evil.

Next we have three testimonies of young people talking about their personal experience the evils of rock music. I don’t think I’m going to take the time to respond to them; as we’ve talked about previously, testimonies can’t prove a point, they can only illustrate it. But I will leave this link here; CGP Grey does a great job of explaining how telling someone that they are in pain can actually cause them to feel pain. The application here is that if you spend years telling a child that rock music stirs up evil desires, you shouldn’t be surprised if they experience those desires when they hear rock music!

I’m going call it good for tonight, because the next section really deserves its own post.

Why not enjoy some jazz while you await the next post?

A heavy yoke

Good evening! Quick plug here before we get started today: Throwing Out The Bath Water now has a twitter! Follow @badbathwater to be notified whenever a new post appears!ITC orientation

Today’s bath water will be a small tidbit from the Indianapolis training center orientation manual. I got this little booklet when I arrived in summer 2001 for LifeFocus, a 7 week program for teenage boys. (One of these days I’ll write some about LifeFocus: it wasn’t the greatest experience of my life.) There’s enough in this one handout for several posts, so today we’ll just focus on a short segment under “Discretion in Use Of Time.”

“The most productive, successful people do not have free time. They plan each minute of every day.”

For someone who has never experienced IBLP life, it’s hard to explain how those two short sentences are so extremely damaging. But let’s give it a shot.

For starters, I’m going to go out on limb and say that this statement about successful people is categorically false. Successful people do have free time. They may be busy, and they may have a tight schedule, but they understand the importance of free time. Scheduling out every last minute of your day, every day of the week, is a recipe for disaster. My wife actually did this a few years ago and ended up in the hospital for a week.

Free time is critically important. You need free time to recharge, to relax, to let your subconscious quietly work on a problem, to gain a new perspective on your work or to enjoy God’s beautiful creation. People who completely neglect free time end up burnt out, not successful.

Second, let’s take a look at how this actually plays out in real training center life. I had a conversation with a former leader from Indianapolis a few years ago. He had left the Institute and was working with troubled youth at a boys’ ranch. He sighed and said, “Well, it’s nice to work at a place that believes in things like overtime pay.”

Working at a training center meant that you worked when you were told to, on what you were told to work on, and for however long it took, without expecting any kind of compensation or reduction of duties elsewhere. I remember working 14 hour days during LifeFocus, and then being assigned to security duty. That meant you got 4 hours of sleep, and 4 hours of patrolling the grounds and watching the security cameras. But I never got a nap the next day, or reduced work the next day. I still remember trying to make my eyes focus on Dr. Jerry Benjamin as he was teaching. They told us to stand or walk around the back of the classroom if we couldn’t stay awake in our chairs. And what if there happened to be 2 am physical training the night after you had security? You sucked it up and ran those laps, because who wants a LifeFocus leader yelling “Are you giving one hundred percent?” at them?

One might wonder how an organization worth $90 million couldn’t afford to hire a security guard, or pay their employees overtime. But have you ever wondered how IBLP came to be worth so much in the first place?

“Productive, successful people do not have free time” is a fancy way of saying, “You must work for us all the time.” It betrays a shocking callousness towards the well-being of people who believe that their work is building God’s kingdom.

And how did Christ address the issue of working for his kingdom? He said nothing about striving to be a productive successful person, or trying to fill every minute of your day. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30)