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.


On theaters and trapped soldiers

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Today’s bathwater comes from Bill Gothard’s 2010 book titled The Amazing Way. I found this book while moving into a new apartment: apparently it was a gift from the IBLP Taiwan office to all of the ESL teachers working in conjunction with IBLP and King Car a few years ago. I was about ready to throw it away when my wife said I should keep it as a way to explain to friends what kind of teaching I grew up with.

Looking at the front cover you can’t help but hear the book yelling, “Snake oil! Snake oil! Good for what ails ya!” On the front cover Gothard promises, in this 94 page, glossy print little book, an “amazing way to complete success, lasting wealth, total health and great joy.” That’s right folks: God took thousands of years and over 750 thousand words to help us “see through a glass darkly,” but Gothard’s got it for you here in this book that you can read in one quiet setting.

Early in the book Gothard recounts a tale from his childhood that shines a very interesting light on his perspective. His father took him into Chicago for a religious meeting. While his father was conducting the service, Gothard snuck out the back and walked the streets, interested in the big city. He spent a nickel on a viewer promising “spectacular sights,” only be to very disappointed by what he saw. Not long after, his father found him and said something fascinating: “This is awful! I came down here to save those alcoholics, and I lose my own son!”

I can’t help but think that this must have been a very important moment in young Gothard’s life. He was curious: he wanted to see the city. He wasn’t searching for trouble, or trying to sin. An advertisement promised something “spectacular” and he was intrigued enough to risk a nickel on it. His father responded in horror, and communicated to him that curiosity about the world is equivalent to the bondage of alcoholism.

Driving out of Chicago, Gothard looked out the window of his father’s car and saw a theater. Feeling the “profound effect” that his father’s “hatred of evil” had on him, Gothard vowed that he would never step foot in a movie theater.

Any who have spent time trapped at a training center know what it is to live this idea taken to its logical conclusion. The world is dangerous, and you will be trapped by it. This us vs. them mentality permeates the Institute lifestyle: the mindset is that of battle weary soldiers pinned down far behind enemy lines. There is a small part of the world that is safe, and the safety of that place is directly proportionate to how far away it is from them.

What did Christ do? He left the safety of heaven and entered our world. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He spoke to a Samaritan women (one of ill-repute, nonetheless) in broad daylight. He came “eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34). He was not concerned with exposing himself to bad influences: he was compelled to love extravagantly in the very places where sin and suffering reigned. And he calls us to do the same.

Hiding from the world, and refusing to engage our culture where it is is bathwater. It’s time to throw it out.