My Life with Bill Gothard Part Two

guest-post

This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

My parents really are nice people. After hearing some of the personal stories of some of my Gothard and Fundamentalist friends and watching families closely, all-in-all I feel pretty lucky. There was never any indication my parents were total mental nut cases, just two people trying way too hard. If their goal was to get a little further from the emotional and spiritual dysfunctions and effects of alcoholism or to give their children good memories, the ability to think reasonably and logically with compassionate hearts, they somehow succeeded in spite of Gothard’s dogma and the pressure placed on those who accept his self-proclaimed utopia. One interesting facet of this is they tried so hard and burdened us with so many rules and regulations and a mindset void of balanced thought, I think I could have easily become an alcoholic as I sorted through the pain and the brainwash. It’s been a long time coming, but I feel I’ve finally learned it’s okay to be a normal, run-of-the-mill person with hopes, dreams, strengths & weaknesses, failures, successes and a ‘sin nature’ who enjoys a balanced, pleasurable (gasp!) life. As I read the comments from my last post, I realized that only those who have experienced the effects of Gothard and Fundamentalism completely understand the difference between the issues we deal with that may have some similarity to common bumps in the road of life. Fundamentalists and Gothardites also deal with a huge GOD factor and resulting doctrines and beliefs which place fear at the forefront of every decision-fear of being wrong, of doing evil, of simply looking evil (which has numerous definitions in that world). If you think emotional blackmail in human relationships is cruel, try worshipping a god who utilizes it hypothetically himself and actually through your parents and environment.

I was in 2nd – grade when my parents decided to home educate us. My dad told me and my sister together and my sister or I asked if that meant our mom would buy red pencils. When I told my activity table in Sunday school one of my friends commented, “Cool! Does that mean you get to raise your hand and go to the bathroom anytime you want?” If only our experience were that simple. The thoughts of children- so guileless and unaffected; why would a parent ever accept the idea their child needs to be anything other? Life hits hard & head-on as it is and usually too early. Why not let kids be kids while adding layers of kindness, hope, courage, simplicity, strength, love, acceptance, logic and tolerance so that when the realities of life can no longer be ignored and tenacity must be forged in its fires, those nurtured qualities come alive & hold them even when mommy and daddy are no longer present? But allowing kids to be kids doesn’t work out well when you’re trying to raise an army. I must have been 7 or 8 when I told my aunt she would go to hell for wearing pants. If you think it’s evil the words ever left my lips, imagine being a child and already thinking those horrible thoughts about people you loved, triggered by a mere article of clothing. Yes, this was my mind, my world at a young age. My parents, prime candidates for Gothard’s inclusive teachings, started with his Basic Seminar (more later) and led to utilizing his home education program, Advanced Training Institute International.

Different than Bible-BASED home education curriculum, ATI is Bible-CENTERED (Bible being the textbook). If you understand the mindset of a family who would be attracted to ATI, this distinction is essential – Bible-based isn’t good enough if Bible-centered is available. Wisdom Booklets, based on a specific verse or passage of Scripture (Wisdom Booklet #1 beginning with The Sermon on the Mount), are provided linking Science, Math, Social Studies and Character Studies to the passage in some way. Fortunately, my parents supplemented the Wisdom Booklets with other curricula so that my siblings and I all graduated with the state required courses completed, therefore acquiring a better education than many die-hard ATI’ers. I have known personally some who brushed-off all other avenues of learning and education and focused only on their Biblically-based studies. I’ve overheard many ATI mothers and fathers voice their (non)education goals and dreams for their children. I know one girl whose father finally relented, allowing her to attend a local, forward-thinking, private, very high-quality institution with the understanding she attend classes without gaining credit. What a loss. This may not seem so strange if you realize the objective of ATI is to raise children who are virtually untouched by the ‘world’, its ideas, processes and practices. This mentality disparages traditional education of any kind. Liberal-arts, secular and even Fundamentalist Christian colleges (BJU, PCC, CCC, etc.) are not entertained as options for post-secondary education. Criticism from the outside and the ‘harsh’ expectations of existence (I say that tongue-in-cheek), led Gothard to establish Telos International which does provide some basic coursework for secondary education as prep for their Programs of Study. One glance at those websites will give you a good overview of the absurdity that is ATI. Fortunately or unfortunately (it could go either way), I convinced my parents God had called me to a Fundamentalist college, an experience I was mentally, socially, spiritually and emotionally unprepared for.

While in ATI, my family started every weekday morning with a Wisdom Search , a family Bible-study digging deeper into the ‘truths’ of the Wisdom Booklet we were studying. Most mornings Every morning, all I wanted to do was a grab a red pencil and commence voracious eye stabbing. My siblings probably would have too had they not been more lethargic than I some days. ATI parents believe they are doing ‘good’; they are giving their children a gift, a better way, a better life than the hopeless and meaningless existence they perceive surrounds them. I don’t know why neither one of my parents, both formally educated individuals, did not clue-in one of those sleepy mornings-my dad droning on while our heads bobbed listlessly, contributing occasionally to the conversation attempting to convince them we were awake and attentive during those few seconds we nodded off into leftover dreams-IT WASN’T WORKING. Those few seconds seemed like hours. Those days, years. Those years seem like centuries ago. And I’ve only just begun.

Read Part Three

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