How to drive women away from your ministry

Greetings, and welcome back! I’m excited about getting back into blogging after this two-month hiatus. I’ve had a lot of time to think, and some important discussions with friends and family.

Today I’ll be wrapping up our foray into Training Faithful Women, and be giving some closing thoughts on the topic. Faithful women 11

Ok, I feel like I need to tread lightly here. This particular passage, on the surface, is not all that troublesome. To a certain extent, I agree with Gothard. Many Christian parents have somehow bought into the idea that children are, if not a curse, at least a horrible nuisance. It is honestly quite upsetting to go into fellowship halls, or Sunday school rooms and hear what some parents say about their children. It’s much more than someone sharing their struggles; it’s often just a kid-bashing party. Even parents who don’t have anything to complain about get in on the action, bemoaning the fate that awaits them when their ticking time bombs decide to make life a living hell.

Yes, children are bothersome. I’ve spent over an hour writing this post so far, because I’ve been interrupted so many times trying to get the two month old to calm down and stop crying. I get that kids can be difficult. But many parents are in need of a serious gut check about their own attitude towards their children.

But the issue here is that Gothard has taken a much more radical stance than “keep a positive attitude towards your children.” Gothard raises importance of the birth of children (and not just children, but large numbers of children) to an unhealthy level. In ATI world, those with large families are lauded, and held up as perfect examples to follow. Regardless of health, regardless of financial situations, regardless of housing conditions, Gothard preaches that true Christians must have lots and lots of children. We’ve already seen an example from an IBLP booklet in which a husband was lauded for ignoring the fact that his wife feared for her life and instead brow beat her into agreeing to having more children.

This is the opposite of grace. This is hard, cruel law, devoid of love, compassion or understanding. Grace understands that different people have different abilities. Some parents can raise 8, 9 or 14 children and provide the needed attention, training and love. Some women are able to give birth to many children without losing their health. Other women struggle after one or two children. Some families have children with special needs that require many times more attention than most kids. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how many children you should have. Preaching that there is places the future of many people at risk.

Faithful women 12faithful women 13

Oh my, how insulting can you be in three paragraphs?

First is the assumption that a wife can only add to the husband’s income. That’s kinda funny for my family, because my wife actually makes more money than I do (it turns out that formal education actually does make a difference, and having a master’s degree is enough to bump you up a pay grade).

Second, it’s interesting that there is no IBLP material that suggests men supplement the family income via “home crafts.” This hearkens back to issues I brought up with David Gibbs Junior, and the way he made fun of a female doctor, as though her gender prevented her from practicing medicine. Because, in IBLP world, being female means that you really are only good for certain things. You’re only good for having babies, and encouraging other women to have babies. And if all those babies put strain on your budget, you’re only real option is to knit potholders, because the 1950s really were the greatest time in the history of ever.

Well, we’ve finished the ten reason why your church should start this ministry. The rest of the booklet lays out a plan for finding the correct woman to run this ministry and training her to run it. I’m not going to take the time to go through everything as thoroughly as I have up this point, or we’ll be in this booklet forever. I’ll just take time to grab a few pieces of crazy and hold it up for us all to laugh at.

Here’s a good one; the older woman who will minister to younger women in your church “must have inward radiant beauty.” Wow. How, exactly do you determine who has this radiant beauty? I wonder if this search for inwardly beautiful woman might not tempt pastors (who, as we have been told in the past, are oh so weak in this area.)

Wow…one of items on the checklists for pastors is to “be deeply convinced by the Holy Spirit that the training of faithful women is not an option.” Is it just me, or is the impetus for the moving of the Holy Spirit placed on the wrong party?

At the end of the booklet we are given a schedule for how to train this first “faithful woman.” It’s pretty funny. At the first meeting (which you cannot arrange; your wife must call this lady and schedule the meeting. Also, your wife has to be there for every meeting, but she has no actual role in any of the meetings) you are to give this woman an assignment, such as reading a book or memorizing some Scripture. Tell her to call your wife (not you) when she’s done her homework. I can’t help but laugh at the mental image of a young pastor calling an older woman into his office and giving her homework like a 6th grade kid.

At the second meeting, you are supposed to ask her how she became a Christian, and then “ask her if she desires to be totally dedicated to God’s will.” If she answers “yes” (yea, they really put the word yes in quotation marks), then you give her…ANOTHER HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT! It’s a 4 question form that they’ve provided for you, and it’s literally the most boring type of reading comprehension questions that you encounter in 4th grade Sunday School. (Actual quote: “Whom has God chosen to teach young women? Answer: Titus 2:3-4.”)

At the third meeting, you give her more homework! This time it’s a “personal spiritual evaluation” (how convenient that such a form precludes the need to observe and test a person’s fruits!) and a form on which this poor woman can write down a bunch of goals for you to judge. There’s also a special NOTE (in all caps, just like that), telling you to be certain that you have not made any commitments to spending time with this women up to this point. I guess she’s still on trial.

Oh boy! The fourth meeting! This is the meeting in which you actually explain your purpose in meeting with her all these times!  I guess you have to be sure that she’ll put up with loads of BS before you let her in on the deep, dark secret that you want her help in the women’s ministry at your church?

Oh, this is rich. They don’t actually tell you when to use this form, but there’s actually an evaluation form that you are supposed to fill out. This will help you decide if this woman is perfect enough to invest time in.

Pre-training evaluation

Honestly, what self-respecting woman would allow her pastor to treat her like this?

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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.

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.

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.

anger

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.

communication

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)

deference

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.

Defrauding
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.

Discretion

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.

Equity

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!

In which Gothard comes THIS CLOSE to making a valid argument.

Welcome back! We’re back at it today, looking at Ten Biblical Reasons the Rock Beat Is Evil in Any Form. Here’s a really cool cover of a Micheal Jackson song that can will serve as our soundtrack for today’s post.

Reason number 6: “The ‘rock beat’ disobeys God’s command to avoid ‘all appearance of evil.'”

rock music looks evil

It’s not worth it to spend too much time on this point, because Gothard is painting with such broad strokes it makes it almost impossible to nail down exactly what he’s saying. As near as we can figure, there are two forms of “sound” and “dress styles” and “appearance.” There is a Godly form, and a worldly, evil form. If you sound, or dress like the world, then you are not avoiding the appearance of evil.

This sounds great if you’ve locked yourself in a place far from civilization for the past 40 years (that sounds eerily like what some of our parents tried to do…). But if you’ve ever been out in the world, you realize that life is not nearly so well defined, clear cut or obvious. The bad guys don’t always wear black. You cannot judge a person to be either worldly or Godly from their clothes.

As to Christian groups putting satanic symbols on their album covers…yea, whatever. I’m not even going to waste time on that. If somebody cares to produce an example, then I’ll address it.

Here’s a fun one:

Not only is it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish wordly rock groups from most “Christian rock” groups, but it is also very hard to determine which members are men and which ones are women, because of the long hair, skirts, and other attire worn by many of them.

Yea, I’m just going to leave that one as is.

Reason number 7:

The “rock beat” contradicts God’s command not to be brought under its power.

Wow, stop the presses! This is big news. God himself has spoken, and he has told not to be brought under the power of the “rock beat.” I wonder what verses I have missed. I didn’t even realize the words “rock beat” appeared in Scripture! Let’s see what verse it is:

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient…I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Oh. So, actually, God didn’t issue any commands about rock music. We’re told not to be controlled by things that are lawful. In other words, we shouldn’t become addicted or enslaved to things. I feel…slightly cheated. It’s almost like Gothard is willing to twist Scripture to suit his own purposes.

Let’s see…rock music is an addiction…blah blah blah…a stronger beat is needed…blah blah blah…testimony about addictive rock music (“It is so easy to slip into!”) blah blah…

Yep, nothing new here. Wild claim, twisting of Scripture and more personal testimonies. Let’s move along, shall we?

Reason number 8:

The “rock beat” opposes God’s command not to mix light with darkness.

Oh boy, more circular logic! “Rock music is evil, therefore verses that tell us not to mix light with darkness apply, therefore rock music is evil!”

Ok, here’s something interesting. Gothard tells us that “God ordained preaching, not music, to reach the lost.” This is an interesting claim, except…it’s beside the point. The idea Gothard is presenting is that a syncopated beat is inherently evil. Even if you can convince me that music (of any sort) shouldn’t be used to spread the Gospel (because it’s wrong to sing the Gospel message? What?), that doesn’t really have anything to do with the moral status of a syncopated beat.

I love the music video for She Hates Me by Puddle of Mudd. It’s hilarious.

Ok, now we finally get to point 9, which I’ve been looking forward to writing about, because this is the one part of the booklet that I can actually agree with. Let’s see what he says:

rock music ministers 1

rock music ministers 2

Wow, I almost agree with this. Gothard has hit on a very real problem, both in Christian music and in Christian outreach to youth. Many older leaders in the church who feel out of touch with today’s youth will ask a younger, “hipper” Christian to teach the youth. But sadly, churches often choose someone without asking important questions about his spiritual maturity, Biblical knowledge and ability to provide wise counsel to youth. This is a serious problem.

But, while the issue of poorly equipped ministers is not to be taken lightly, it has nothing to do with rock music. The final two paragraphs simply do not follow from the previous points. Gothard’s argument boils down to two points:

A. Teachers and ministers should be qualified and equipped to teach the word of God well, therefore

B. Rock music is vulgar and comparable to pornography.

That simply doesn’t make sense.

Finally! The last reason!

The “rock beat” violates God’s command to protect our bodies as God’s temple.

Gothard claims that rock music damages our bodies in three ways:

  1. It damages our hearing.
  2. It damages our brain cells.
  3. It damages our concentration.

Yes, playing music too loud damages your hearing. PLAYING CLASSICAL MUSIC TOO LOUD WILL ALSO DAMAGE YOUR EARS! DUH! I feel the need to beat my head against a wall for a minute…

rock music damages our brains

Ok! Finally! We had to wade through 9 reasons, but we’re getting something that actually, really addresses the rock beat! But…wait, who did this research? And when? Was it peer reviewed?

Well, Google is a thing, and I think I’ve found the research. Here’s an article that seems to reference it, but again, there are almost no details. But at least it gives me some names: let’s see what an Ebsco host search yields. Searching for Gervasia Schreckenberg yields…one result. It’s a letter to the editor of the New York Academy of Sciences and it talks about how life begins at conception.

Ok, no dice there. Let’s see if we can get anything on Harvey Bird.

Nothing.

Ok, Ebsco host is the place for finding academic, reliable research. It’s odd that I’m getting nothing. Maybe we can google again…

Nope, no luck. I sent emails to both universities, requesting information on the research. From the few tidbits I could find online, it seems that perhaps they played non-stop drum beats for a group of mice for three weeks, which apparently drove them nuts. Well, duh. That’d drive anybody nuts. But last time I checked, most rock music contains more than just a single drum beat, and it doesn’t last three weeks…

rock music you can't think

I take it back! Everything I ever thought about how poorly the sources in the previous paragraph were cited, I take it all back! That’s the height of responsibly citing all sources of research when compared to this. “Further research”? When? Where? Who? How? Peer reviewed? Published? Repeated by any other reputable scientist?

You see, while it may seem that Gothard is finally leaving his logical fallacies behind and offering solid evidence, he’s still just offering smoke and mirrors. Because Gothard refuses to give us details about the research, and doesn’t give us the option of personally examining the evidence, we’re forced to just take him at his word. This is contrary to the entire concept of research. Scientists who conduct and report on research are very careful to record exact details about their experiments, the conditions and how they reached their conclusions, so others can carefully critique their methods. Any scientist who refused to explain details, or to submit his work to peer review would find any claims he made ignored. And anyone who tells us “research has shown” without giving us the opportunity to examine the details should be ignored as well.

Well folks, we did it!  It took two weeks and 9400 words, but we’ve made it through this booklet!

Some closing thoughts on music:

  1. To listen to Bill, rock music is one of Satan’s primary tools to attack and destroy both Christians and non-Christians alike. As we saw in the story last week, Gothard teaches that we don’t even have to listen to rock music for it to have an ill effect; simply have a recording existing in the home can give Satan an in-road for attack. If rock music truly is such a horrible tool of the devil, why is Scripture entirely silent on the topic?
  2. Why has Satan taken so long to bring out one of his most effective tools? Why did he wait thousands of years before introducing the rock beat?
  3. The Bible is entirely silent on the subject of musical styles. The only direction we are given is to sing a new song to the Lord. God is creative. And he is pleased when his children are creative as well.