Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Courtship Story: Instant Messenger and Little Women


Continued from In Which Things Get Messy


Traverse City, Michigan          late May, 2000


I knew that by nipping a courtship in the bud I was probably ending what had once been a warm relationship, but I had been raised on stories of extreme sacrificial love (Shiokari Pass, for example, where the protagonist throws himself under a runaway train and his fiancee dedicates herself to his memory; or Abraham) and it seemed far more romantic and dramatic to memorialize an ardent friendship than let it wither in a slow death under family scrutiny.

After Chris left, we had more house guests. Two former IBLP staff members were having a Michigan wedding and my old roommate from Brook Manor (also my roommate in Moscow, where we had met the couple who was getting married) was in town for the occasion. As we drove to the church together, I told her about the events of the last week: what had happened with Chris, where things stood now, and some of the reasons Chris and I weren't right for each other. Then we two single ladies sat to watch a courtship culminate in holy matrimony. Eating cake at the lovely yet still conservative reception, we encountered numerous old acquaintances from the Institute. My feelings toward IBLP were definitely mixed at that point, but these were still "my people".

The Sleeping Bear Dunes
After my friend left, we played host to a brother-sister pair we had gotten to know through ATI. Since they were from out of state, we took them to the sand dunes on the shore of Lake Michigan. We had a picnic and then most of the family went hiking to get a good view of the sand and the water. I retreated to the van where I sat in a backseat and cried my eyes out. It was too much, returning to the same picturesque place where Chris and I had played in the sand just the week before, knowing now that he actually had been attracted to me and at the same time knowing that that chapter had been definitively closed.

I didn't regret asking Scott to cease "negotiations" with Chris. But I was overwhelmed with waves of intense emotion. I was grieving something, but couldn't articulate exactly what I had lost. Chris had never been "mine". It wasn't like we had broken up or anything! But I was sad anyway, so, alone in the back of the van, I let myself cry. I was certain that God would give me "the desires of my heart" (whatever they were) but for the present I was still quite miserable. It comforted me to think that I would be leaving for the Summer Institute of Linguistics in a few days. It was time to find a new adventure.

That Saturday I was alone in Dad's office signed into AOL Instant Messenger. Chris had been back in Kansas for about a week, and had just started his new job at the phone company. And then his screenname popped up with a greeting. I checked the door to the hallway. No one there. I positioned my fingers over the home row and took a breath.

A girl was allowed to initiate a handshake, but in relationships she was supposed to be the patient responsive partner. And Chris was initiating. Even though he knew where things stood. That I was not interested in courting him. I felt I had been as honest as possible, and if he thought he could "guard his heart" and still be friends with me, well, that was his risk to take. I was glad to think that our friendship could survive the blow I'd dealt it the weekend before. Surely I didn't need Scott's permission to chat with Chris on IM? We had two years of experience with digital communication, after all, planning everything from pizza orders and work schedules to cross-country trips!

Our conversation was brief, only a few sentences. It was important to me that Chris know I didn't dislike him. When we stopped typing, I felt relieved. I still wondered how Chris had come up with the idea of trying to court me in the first place, but I still esteemed our friendship very highly and thanked God for giving it back to me, as it were.

But there was one more twist to the tale before I boarded my plane for North Dakota. Remember how Chris had wanted to sponsor my upcoming missions trip to the Philippines? He had intended to be anonymous, of course, but Dad had let the cat out of the bag. To my amazement, Chris still wanted to send the money. He convinced his dad to talk to my dad and in the end, Scott agreed that Chris could mail the check to him, with the understanding that there would be no strings attached (romantic strings? emotional strings?). After all, I might meet a stud who was called to the mission field and we could end up sharing a lifelong ministry!

Bill Gothard's definition of Love kept dancing through my head: "Giving to others' basic needs without having as my motive personal reward". What determination Chris had! What guts, what generosity!

The centaur logo
Days later, my mind more at ease, I put on my favorite traveling jumper and headed to the airport. During the layover in Minneapolis, I checked out a bookstore. It was my first time loose in a secular bookstore so I floundered a bit, searching for something familiar. I found it on the shelf of children's classics: a paperback edition of  Little Women. Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth had been my companions through childhood, from Mama's copy with the broken purple cover to the fine illustrated edition that had been a gift from my grandfather. That had been a Grosset & Dunlap Illustrated Junior Library edition, complete with the centaur illustration that was their logo. I had carefully cut out an oval shape around the centaur, excising him from the back cover, to please Mama. I wasn't sure if this was important because he was half-beast, or because he was shirtless, but it was a small price to pay for owning the book. Using markers, I created my own decorative design on the part of the blank page that showed through the hole. You could say my volume of Little Women was personalized.
The front of my "personalized" copy

And it was dear to me. I must have read it a dozen times. Sometimes straight through, sometimes only the chapter that spoke to me at the moment. Because it was the longest story on my shelf, I took it along on many a road trip. And I was careful never to read the play in the second chapter, which Mama had warned me against. Though I eventually succumbed to curiosity and read the whole of the story the friends made up while having their picnic in chapter twelve. Though it surely contained objectionable elements, it had never been expressly forbidden.

I adored Jo. I sympathized with Amy. I understood Meg's vanity, and pretended my nightgown was her white tarlatan. Marmee was my rock. Mr. Bhaer's advice got me through some difficult phases of adolescence and I could recite Meg and John Brooke's marital conflicts from memory. I loved that Meg's jelly wouldn't jell, that Aunt March was too proud to put her name on her wedding gift, and Demi's precocious antics made me laugh every time. Alcott's phrases imprinted themselves in my brain.

And then, after so many years of offering moral support, my book was taken from me suddenly one night. It had been lying in the living room when my dad picked it up, opened it at random, and read a few lines aloud.
"Good evening, Diana!" said Laurie, with the look of satisfaction she liked to see in his eyes when they rested on her.
"Good evening, Apollo!" she answered, smiling back at him..."
Diana! Apollo! It might as well have said, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" How could I enjoy a novel with such blatant pagan references? I knew the commandment: "And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth" (Exodus 23:13). And Louisa May's writing was laced with mythology, from the Romans to the Reformers! Troubled by this damning selection, I looked at Mama, expecting her to come to my book's defense. She had taught me to love it! But Mama only raised her eyebrows sadly and shrugged. I do not remember how old I was at the time--late teens? early twenties?--but I remember feeling beaten, doomed, sucker-punched. I never saw it coming. It was so unfair I was speechless. Scott confiscated my book that night and I never saw it again.

The little paperback at the airport was only a few dollars. Of course, I felt rebellious, but I also felt completely justified. We boarded the plane to Grand Forks and I found my window seat, next to a clean-cut nervous little man who uttered not a word though I tried to give him a friendly smile. After securing my seat belt, I pulled out my new Little Women and headed straight for the chapter where Jo rejected Laurie's interest.

"...[Y]ou're a great deal too good for me, and I'm so grateful to you, and so proud and fond of you, I don't know why I can't love you as you want me to. I've tried, but I can't change the feeling, and it would be a lie to say I do when I don't."
"Really, truly, Jo?"
He stopped short, and caught both her hands as he put his question with a look that she did not soon forget.
"Really, truly, dear."
They were in the grove now, close by the stile, and when the last words fell reluctantly from Jo's lips, Laurie dropped her hands and turned as if to go on, but for once in his life the fence was too much for him. So he just laid his head down on the mossy post, and stood so still that Jo was frightened.
"Oh, Teddy, I'm sorry, so desperately sorry... I can't help it. You know it's impossible for people to make themselves love other people if they don't," cried Jo inelegantly but remorsefully, as she softly patted his shoulder, remembering the time when he had comforted her so long ago...
"You'll love someone else too, like a sensible boy, and forget all this trouble... I agree with Mother that you and I are not suited to each other, because our quick tempers and strong wills would probably make us very miserable, if we were so foolish as to..." Jo paused a little over the last word, but Laurie uttered it with a rapturous expression.
"Marry--no we shouldn't! If you loved me, Jo, I should be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like."
"No, I can't. I've tried and failed, and I won't risk our happiness by such a serious experiment. We don't agree and we never shall, so we'll be good friends all our lives, but we won't go and do anything rash."
"...I won't be reasonable. I don't want to take what you call `a sensible view'. It won't help me, and it only makes it harder. I don't believe you've got any heart."
"I wish I hadn't."
...Not until months afterward did Jo understand how she had the strength of mind to hold fast to the resolution she had made when she decided that she did not love her boy, and never could. It was very hard to do, but she did it, knowing that delay was both useless and cruel.
"I can't say `yes' truly, so I won't say it at all. You'll see that I'm right, by-and-by, and thank me for it..."

Clutching the book in my lap with both hands, I let the tears roll down my face.


To be continued...


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Library Shelf: Hold Me Tight


"Love is not the icing on the cake of life. 
It is a basic primary need, like oxygen or water."

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

I've read numerous relationship advice books over the years. Some were common sense; some were bullshit; some were just too long and boring! But this volume stands out because A) it is secular, B) it is research-based, and C) it made me cry. Any book that can draw out healing tears is worth my time!

Dr. Johnson, a clinical psychologist in Canada, uses this book to present her Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy approach. With examples from her decades of counseling practice and research studies to support her points, she guides couples through their unique trouble spots to recognize, value, and enhance their emotional engagement. Johnson builds her work on attachment theory, which resonated strongly with me, though I hadn't seen pair-bonding examined before from that angle.
The drive to emotionally attach--to find someone to whom we can turn and say "Hold me tight"--is wired into our genes and our bodies. It is as basic to life, health, and happiness as the drives for food, shelter, or sex. We need emotional attachments with a few irreplaceable others to be physically and mentally health--to survive.
The people we love...are the hidden regulators of our bodily processes and our emotional lives. When love doesn't work, we hurt.
 The book is organized by different conversations a couple can use to emotionally connect or reconnect. Johnson guides couples as they identify and work through present threats or past trauma to their secure connection then offers advice as they plan ways to cultivate safety and bonding for their long-term relationship.
Until we address the fundamental need for connection and the fear of losing it, the standard techniques, such as learning problem-solving or communication skills, examining childhood hurts, or taking time-outs, are misguided and ineffectual.
This book is do-it-yourself therapy, whether or not you have the aid of a paid professional. It is for couples--married or not, gay or straight--who believe that what they have is worth investing in, worth caring for and repairing so it will last.

Ultimately, Hold Me Tight is about finding comfort and strength in a loving adult relationship. It's about healing each other with love, developing sensitivity to each other's cues so that we can share life's dance with grace and passion. When this bond between partners is secure, Johnson says, "sex becomes intimate play, a safe adventure." (Sexual distress, she writes, is a romantic relationship's "canary in the mine".)

But a healthy love relationship is so much more than a satisfying romance--it blesses all it touches. People who are confident of their partner's loving connection and support have less stress, faster healing, better problem-solving, and more curiosity about new information! Johnson sums up what she has learned from her clients: "All the cliches about love--when people feel loved they are freer, more alive, and more powerful--are truer than we ever imagined."



Thursday, July 3, 2014

When Apologies Make It Worse


Since Bill Gothard had to resign from leading his Institute in Basic Life Principles amid allegations of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers, he has made few public statements. But in private, he has been far from silent.

An article published yesterday by Mother Jones stated:
These days, Gothard says, he is busy "contacting people I've offended and asking them to forgive me." Asked how this process is going, he chirpily replies, "Wonderful. People are very grateful and everyone is forgiving."
However, some former IBLP staff members take issue with Gothard's version of the facts. Gothard has made efforts to contact them, they say, and "grateful" was not a word that came to mind.

One woman, who has had contact with Gothard since his resignation from IBLP, dismissed his attempted "apologies" as unethical and disingenuous. As this woman has requested anonymity, I will refer to her here as "Sally". After her story was published on the website Recovering Grace, Gothard sought to engage Sally in an email correspondence. She has given me permission to share the content of those emails here. Gothard did not reply to the last message included below.

Sally,
I was grateful for my talk with ***** and he told me of his contact with you. It would be an answer to prayer to be able to be reconciled with you and I would appreciate any direction you would have towards this goal.
Sincerely,Bill Gothard
******
Bill,
As a starting point, I would like to know why you have resigned as president of IBLP?
Sally
******
Thank you, Sally, so much for your response. I resigned from the Institute because I have finally realized that relationships with the Lord and others are far more important than the work I do for Him. I have offended many individuals including you and it is my desire to be reconciled with as many as possible in the years to come.
Sincerely,Bill
******
Bill,
You say that you have offended many individuals including myself.
I would like you to be specific regarding the manner in which you believe you have offended me.
Sally
******
Sally,
I apologize for the delay in getting this message to you. For many years I have treasured the memories of the friendship that we had. I am praying that this can be restored. Some of my actions were inappropriate and offensive. Is it possible to hear your perspective on these wrong actions so that I can more precisely understand and acknowledge my fault and seek your forgiveness?
Sincerely,Bill
******
Bill,
I should not have to explain to you what was “inappropriate and offensive” about your actions towards me. It is very wrong of you to ask me to recount them for you, and I do not intend to do so.

If you sincerely desire my forgiveness and you wish for reconciliation, then you need to acknowledge your offensive behavior in an honorable, fearless and truthful manner. If you are not willing to do this, then please do not contact me again.
Sally

Readers of the accounts on Recovering Grace will recall that Gothard commonly groomed his victims of sexual and/or emotional abuse by urging them to confide to him all the sexual details of previous relationships. It would appear from this series of emails that even at nearly eighty years old, he still takes a voyeuristic interest in hearing his victims describe the shame he sought to burden them with.
"He consistently asks the girl to tell him what it is she thinks he has done. Then he apologizes for 'her perceived' grievances. There is no ownership of his behavior. He's putting it all back on the the victim."
And once again, Gothard is breaking his own fundamental rules--this time for apologies. In his Basic Seminar textbook, he wrote a whole chapter on the right way to clear one's conscience by asking forgiveness.



For example, Gothard's text points out:
It does little good to ask forgiveness for a small offense when in reality that offense is only a fractional part of a much greater offense.
Also:
There are several ways to ask forgiveness which are guaranteed not to work--such as, "I was wrong, but you were too"; "If I was wrong, please forgive me"; "I'm sorry", etc. There is one genuine statement which reflects true sincerity and humility: "God has convicted me of how wrong I have been in (my attitude and actions). I know I have wronged you in this, and I've come to ask, will you forgive me?"
Carefully choose the right wording
  • Your words must identify the basic offense
  • Your words must reflect full repentance and sincere humility
 ...One of the hardest statements for any person to make is, "I was wrong." It is a lot easier to say, "I'm sorry about .. " It is also much easier to say, "Please forgive me" than it is to ask, "Will you forgive me?" and wait for the answer.
Gothard then gives examples of wrong wording:
"If I've been wrong, please forgive me."
 And right wording:
"God has convicted me of how wrong I've been in ______ (Basic Offense). I've called to ask will you forgive me?"
This request, spoken in the right attitude, is certain to be well-accepted by the one to whom it is directed. This approach must include correction of any attitudes or actions which caused the offense and also restitution for any personal loss which was suffered by the one offended.
Oh, yes, restitution. Did you see that mentioned in the emails to Sally? No, I didn't, either. 

But let us go on. The seminar manual taught that one should not go into too much detail, and emphasized the principle with a verse from the New Testament:
In Scripture we are warned that, "It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." (Ephesians 5:12) This warning definitely applies when asking for forgiveness. It is neither important nor appropriate to review impure details of an offense. This only tends to stir up the mind of the hearer to the past. 
And yet Gothard needs more details so he can "more precisely understand and acknowledge" his fault? Hmmmm.

Of course Gothard wrote the seminar text long before email, but he recommends making apologies only by phone or in person, not by correspondence. I have highlighted some relevant points in Gothard's explanation:
Please don't write a letter. Most people are tempted to use this method because it is so easy and the least painful to their pride. But it is not effective for many reasons. First, it documents your past offenses and your purpose is to erase them. Second, a letter can be misused by the one receiving it. This only complicates the problem. Third, it often embarrasses the one receiving it, and they may never reply to it. Fourth, a letter doesn't allow you to gain their verbal assurance of forgiveness. That is a very important factor for you and for the one you have offended. A verbal forgiveness allows him to become free of his bitterness.
Oh, yes, bitterness! So we ask forgiveness in order to help our victim "become free of his bitterness"? No wonder these women are frustrated!

Let me give you a tip, Bill. Forgiveness alone is not enough to erase your many offenses. And the women you used for your own sexual or emotional gratification are wiser and more self-protective now. This is not about restoring a friendship, it is about your manipulative abuse of your position.

"I am not trying to reconcile - I am trying to bring to attention a problem that has been ongoing for forty years. I forgive him, but I have no wish to reconcile with him." 
--"Sally"

Perhaps most interesting of all, though Gothard's attorney friend-turned-investigator failed to contact any of the women who spoke out on the Recovering Grace website, Gothard himself is contacting them. He is even contacting other women who have not publicly spoken about their IBLP experiences but who were indeed mistreated by him. Would he possibly be working from memory here? And if his memory is that sharp, why would he need to ask for more details?

This is, after all, a man who taught millions exactly how to ask forgiveness for the offense of "Behaving improperly on a date":
Wrong Confession: "I realize that I was wrong in necking with you on our date. Will you forgive me?" 
Right Confession: "I realize that I have been wrong in my selfish actions and attitudes toward you when we were dating. It would mean a great deal to me if you would forgive me. Would you forgive me?"
...be as brief and as clear as possible.... Talking too much will not only "sidetrack" the whole purpose of your coming, but may give the impression that you are trying to justify or explain your offenses in order to minimize them. 
You don't say, Bill? You don't say.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hobby Lobby and Bill Gothard


From the back cover of Bill Gothard's 2010 book The Amazing Way:
"Through the example and teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, we have benefited both as a family and in our business. It is as we take those lessons from God's Word that Bill clearly articulates that we live the full life that God intends."
--David Green, CEO, Hobby Lobby



Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Courtship Story: In Which Things Get Messy


Continued from The Plot Thickens


May 2000     Michigan, also Indianapolis


In spite of his history of taking drives around Chicago without his landlord's permission, Chris was no rebel. With all his hopes for future happiness resting on my father's permission, he was adhering faithfully to the ATI/IBLP courtship script.  The next move was Scott's to make. And the week had been delightful. Chris had enjoyed every minute with my siblings; getting to hang out with me again made it even better! The only disappointment had been, well, my dad.

All week Chris had waited for my father to say something, anything! Here Chris was, with nothing else on his agenda. Nearly a month had passed since Chris had first requested permission to court me. Now, for the first time, the three of us (Chris, me, and my dad) were in the same house, eating at the same table, sleeping under the same roof. When would their discussion resume? Was Scott toying with him? Chris wasn't sure what the procedure was, but he certainly hoped they could move on to the next step soon.

The Fiat was packed and Chris was ready to hit the road when Dad finally spoke. Would Chris like to take a walk? A walk? Now? How do you say what you really think to the man who holds the power to say yay or nay to your heart's deepest yearnings? Um, sure!

What did they talk about? The conversation has faded completely from Chris's memory. But as they strolled up the road together, news spread through the house like wildfire. "Dad and Chris are going for a walk!" This was a highly irregular event. Dad and Mama walking after lunch, or after dinner, yes. But Dad taking a walk with a visiting young man after breakfast was completely unheard of. When the pair returned from their walk, Chris got in his car and took off. Dad went back to his office chair and said nothing.

When I got home from work that evening, I was already agitated. I wanted to know if anything had happened in the final moments of Chris's visit to illuminate the dark mysteries of the last month. Andraste filled me in. "Dad and Chris took a walk before he left," she said me. But that was all she knew.

A walk? Dad and Chris? What the hell was going on? If they were talking about me and my future, didn't I have a right to know about it? I had had more than enough of men in my life planning my existence for me. And Dad had better not be getting Chris's hopes up! I knew Chris way better than he did, after all. It was just cruel to string him along like this!

I knew Chris was lonely--how well I knew! It was hard to leave the Institute, whether you left on good terms or bad. It would be natural for his thoughts to settle on an old friend. Or maybe I was just being conceited. Maybe he really was interested in Andraste. She was sweet and domestic and had just finished high school, after all. He was younger than I, not by much, but I'd always said I'd marry someone older. 

The last months had had their share of internal tension but the last week had been off the charts! Out on the trampoline, I vented my exasperation to Andraste. "This"--bounce--"is ridiculous"--bounce! Poor Andraste understood exactly how I felt. It had been a rough week for her, too. What with graduation, a house guest, a crazed roommate (me), and the gift of clip-on earrings with the caution not to wear them "too often"! She wanted to help.

Andraste got on the computer and looked for Chris's screenname. Sure enough, there he was. He was staying overnight at the IBLP training center in Indianapolis, for old time's sake. And naturally, he had gravitated to the CharacterLink office, where he was sitting in front of a computer screen. "Jeri's really upset," Andraste told him. "We all know about your letter, and that Dad talked to you in private this morning. But he won't tell us anything and Jeri's going crazy wondering if it's about her."

Chris felt bad. Making me miserable was the last thing he wanted to do. Apparently, his letter was an open secret, their one-on-one conversation was a giveaway, and Scott didn't realize what his own daughters knew. The next morning, he made a phone call to my dad.

"Scott, everyone in your house knows about my letter, but they don't know if I'm interested in Jeri or Andraste. You need to tell them what's going on."

So Dad and I had a conference in his closet of an office. So it was about courtship, and it was about me. I knew it! I also knew I had no romantic feelings for Chris. It was unfair for Dad to let Chris get his hopes up! We had a good friendship and had shared a lot of memories, and there was no reason to ruin that relationship by trying to force it through a "courtship" process, subjecting it to scrutiny and pressure and expectations from my family for months (years? how long did one maintain a courtship before giving up?). How dare Dad give my friend false hope? I insisted he call a halt to the whole thing. Now.

Dad agreed. He would talk to Chris. "But, first," he said, "Chris wanted it to be a secret, but I think you should know now, he wanted to pay $5000 for your trip to the Philippines. Of course, under the circumstances, it wouldn't be right to let him do that, so I'll tell him to keep it."

Well, that was a bombshell that came out of nowhere. Chris had that kind of money? He wanted to give it to me? So I could move across the globe for months? I was dazed. "No, right, he shouldn't. Of course." My head spun. I knew Chris was generous, but he was an even better guy than I'd thought. Not that it made any difference in my sexual interest. I would stick to my position. If my mind ever changed, my mom would be able to say I'd been bought. She'd said things like that before. Well, I wouldn't change my mind.

Chris was still in Indianapolis when Dad called him back. That conversation turned out to be significant, mostly because of how Chris interpreted it. We don't have a recording, of course, but Chris recalls that Scott told him, "As far as I'm concerned, you're a great guy, but Jeri has asked me to tell you that she's not interested. So consider yourself free to move on and pursue other interests!"

Chris had an entire day on the highway to digest this news. The Fiat covered the distance to Wichita in record time.

And I wondered, if I hadn't put my foot down, how long would Dad have strung Chris along?





Continued at Instant Messenger and Little Women


Sunday, June 22, 2014

A *Real* Investigation into IBLP



Thoroughness:

  Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected

--Bill Gothard


Bill Gothard's buddy David Gibbs, Jr. has now completed his "investigation" into allegations made against Gothard by former IBLP staff members. According to the IBLP board earlier this week,
"...the Board sought the facts through a confidential and thorough review process conducted by outside legal counsel. Many people were interviewed, including former Board members, current and past staff members, current and past administrators, parents, and family members.
"At this point, based upon those willing to be interviewed, no criminal activity has been discovered."

But according to the team at Recovering Grace,
"...not one of the women who have shared their stories on our site were personally contacted by Gibbs Jr. or his investigative team, including Charlotte, who alleged molestation."

Perhaps Gibbs Jr. needs to brush up on his Character Qualities.

It would seem that Gibbs' investigation focused narrowly on certain allegations of sexual impropriety (some of which Gothard has admitted to, resulting in his resignation). However, this is but the sensational tip of the iceberg and ignores the broad scope of hurtful, unethical, and even illegal activities that have damaged numerous lives associated with the Institute in Basic Life Principles.

Gothard promoted his organization as "Giving the world a new approach to life" and following God's "non-optional principles". A ministry that prides itself on being "under authority" should have nothing to fear from the truth. And yet, the testimonies of some former students and staff members paint a disturbing picture. Some of these stories of life under the auspices of the Institute have been published on Recovering Grace. Others have been shared more privately. Some victims are willing to have their names attached to their experiences while others prefer anonymity, or pseudonyms.

Each of the incidents outlined below could likely be explained away on its own. But taken together they suggest a pattern that I believe is worthy of deeper examination. The Board of IBLP can write, "We dedicate ourselves to help build up families and individuals," but if these situations actually took place, the Institute's so-called "ministry" is a farce, with or without Gothard, and IBLP should be shut down to prevent further abuse of power.


A real investigation of IBLP might look into allegations of the following:


OSHA and other code violations at all locations: Indianapolis, Oak Brook, Elms Plantation, Oklahoma City, Eagle Mountain, Eagle Springs, Northwoods, Big Sandy, Flint, South Campus, Little Rock, Nashville, and others
For example
  • Lack of permits: illegal remodeling, dredging a lake without a permit, improper electrical wiring
  • Poor fire safety: hiding fire extinguishers and fire pulls behind paintings or d├ęcor items; silencing a monitored fire alarm to avoid disrupting conferences, not reporting fires to fire department
  • Improper supervision: letting teens work on upper-story building exterior or fire escapes without safety harness
  • Injuries: electrical shocks from unsafe practices, minors injured while operating power tools, carbon monoxide poisoning of kitchen volunteers
  • Faulty elevators
  • Violations of residential occupancy limits

Prayer rooms (especially at 2820 N. Meridian, Indianapolis): 
  • locking minors in solitary confinement without notifying parents
  • locking minors in solitary without access to a restroom
  • withholding food or medication
  • spanking minors without parental consent

Failure to protect children by reporting abuse:
  • failure to report sex acts with or molestation or attempted sexual molestation of minors in IBLP's care at the ITC (Rodger Gergeni)
  • failure to report sexual abuse of minors in ATI families (Bill Gothard)
  • pressure on homeschooled victims not to report physically abusive parents
  • shaming victims of sexual assault and neglecting to counsel them to contact police
  • pressuring ATI moms not to divorce abusive husbands who posed a danger to the children

Educational neglect
  • failure to educate "homeschooled" minors who were sent to IBLP centers by their parents
  • using A.C.E. curriculum for children sent by the courts
  • violation of child labor laws
  • children (9-10 years old) working in the kitchen or cleaning bathrooms, sometimes rising as early as 4 or 5 a.m. to work
  • unpaid teenagers working 12-18 hour days in the hotels (cooking, industrial laundry, cleaning hotel rooms and public restrooms)
  • selling teens unaccredited degrees (Telos.edu) without adequate explanation of their value

Forced fasting
  • on weekends, designated prayer days, and other times when meal preparation was inconvenient
  • though some children were sent there by the state and other students paid for room and board, only two meals were served on Saturday and only supper on Sunday
  • sometimes only two meals a day were served for weeks in a row
  • requiring students to turn in care packages
  • also mandatory weight checks (Weigh Down) for staff women, involuntary diets, forced exercise
  • failure to recognize eating disorders such as anorexia (even when girls were passing out)

Medical neglect
  • withholding or confiscating prescription medication (including antidepressants, an asthma inhaler, post-surgery pain medication)
  • refusal to get prompt medical treatment for severe burns, broken bones, concussions, pneumonia, collapsed lung, high fevers, torn ligaments, acute food poisoning--many former students trace chronic health problems to untreated conditions that arose at training centers
  • treating injuries with alternative remedies such as sugar water injections (Dr. Hemwall)
  • letting doctors or dentists with revoked licenses treat students at training centers

Campaign ethics
  • sending youth to campaign for Indianapolis judicial and mayoral candidates
  • providing private services to a public official (Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin) in Oklahoma

Employer issues
  • pressuring employees not to record overtime on time sheets
  • advising employees that submitted overtime hours would not be paid
  • mandatory unpaid evening work teams for employees (washing dishes, cleaning carpets, scrubbing bathrooms)
  • paying less than minimum wage, paying minimum wage minus "rent"
  • firing employees without due process or notice
  • refusal to pay workers’ compensation
  • instructing employee to lie to hospital staff to protect the "ministry"
  • praising employees who gave up their paycheck to become volunteers
  • allowing children under 16 to work more than twenty hours a week
  • sexual harassment of junior staff or students by adult staff

ALERT
  • physical abuse, medical neglect, solitary confinement, unsafe equipment, psychological abuse
  • refusal to contact parents regarding medical emergencies
  • keeping four teens tied together by the feet for an entire day, resulting in injury
  • a unit of under-dressed teen boys standing outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures at night until one confessed to a minor infraction
  • disregard for basic safety precautions

Mistreating Russian orphans in Moscow and at Indianapolis South Campus:
  • foster families spanking children and even teens
  • children spanked for minor misdeeds
  • English-speaker spanking Russian child without an interpreter present
  • withholding meals from children for disciplinary purposes or feeding them only dry rolled oats and water
  • child labor (reports of children required to clean toilets at 5 a.m.)
  • using orphans to "encourage" financial donors

Restricted communication from training centers: 
  • limited access to public phones, email, fax, or internet
  • reading students' outgoing or incoming mail, confiscating mail or making students open mail in presence of a leader
  • censoring outgoing email
  • telling students what to tell (or not tell) their parents about situations at the training center
  • limiting who a student or employee was allowed to correspond with outside
  • restricting conversation or interaction between fellow students 

Psychological abuse
  • lengthy, repetitive, or middle-of-the-night “counseling” sessions (berating and brainwashing)
  • restricting sleep
  • piping loud music into bedrooms
  • assigning staff to night duties on consecutive nights (along with their day jobs)
  • requiring student to wash clothing by hand until she had earned "privilege" of using the laundry facilities; requiring staff to recite extensive Bible passages before breaking a fast
  • confiscating clocks
  • hours of forced labor intended to "break will" or "conquer rebellion"

Violations of privacy
  • not permitting students to take bathroom breaks or use the restroom alone, or with the door closed
  • confiscating personal items such as clothing, music, photographs, medication, and cell phones

Miscellaneous
  • sending unreported cash through customs on staff member's person
  • exaggerating or misrepresenting facts in newsletters
  • promotional video about ALERT describing a pilot “rescue” omitted the fact that it was ALERT’s own plane that crashed while taking aerial photos of the property)
  • personal gifts of cash or clothing from Gothard to his favorites
  • discrimination against males who appeared "too effeminate" and females who were overweight or not "feminine" enough
  • photoshopping hair, clothing, and landscaping for newsletter photos
  • selling overpriced plant kits to ATI families under fraudulent advertising
  • serving old (long-expired) donated food or insect-infested grain
  • transferring minors across state lines between "training opportunities" without parental permission or notification
  • insisting that Character First was not affiliated with Gothard

With former ATI students and IBLP staff reporting incidents like these, is it any surprise that so few choose to use Gothard's materials with their own children?


Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Courtship Story: The Plot Thickens


Continued from Best Laid Plans


May 2000     Michigan


To recap, I was aware that Chris had sent Dad (Scott*) a letter last month, but could only speculate about its contents. Chris, operating under the delusion that the letter expressing his interest was a secret from everyone but Michael, was awaiting Scott's permission before discussing anything with me. Still, Chris hoped I already had feelings for him. Was it not common, in the tales of blissful courtships, for God to already have prepared the girl to welcome her perfect match?

My siblings dragging Chris inside
When Chris arrived at our crowded farmhouse, though I don't remember what, I'm certain I served up something delicious in his honor. The boys' room opened off the dining room and one of my brothers, probably Amos*, had already offered to sleep on the couch so Chris could have one of the four bunks.

Chris's car had given him some trouble on the journey, so before darkness fell he went out to the driveway to look it over. The rest of the family dispersed and I noticed that Chris was outside alone. Knowing how much companionship meant to him, and feeling a bit sorry that his adorable little sports car had embarrassed him on such an important day (it was a big day, right? perhaps part of some grand romantic scheme?), I joined him. I was glad for the chance to visit alone with Chris, but my radar did not pick up any romantic signals.

My curious inquiries as late as the week before had met with vague responses like "Chris is Michael's friend" and "Chris is coming to visit our family". So, partly to make a statement to all concerned that my life would not be put on hold for anyone's unvoiced expectations and much to Mama's annoyance, I voluntarily scheduled extra hours at work that week. If Chris was truly coming to visit Michael, or "the whole family", he could just do that! At the office, though, when I told my favorite salesman about Chris's visit, he was impressed. Anyone who would drive two thousand miles round-trip in an old Fiat--well! That took some determination. Grrr, this wasn't helping me convince myself that Chris's motives had nothing to do with me! Surely, if they did, I would know by this time?

Andraste marked her high school graduation with other homeschoolers that week, the first of us siblings to have a cap-and-gown ceremony. I was suffering from at least a twinge of envy and was grateful for Chris's company. As we milled around the auditorium both feeling a little lost, Chris filled me in on the latest gossip about mutual acquaintances--who was courting whom and whose courtships had not worked out. Chris did not reveal any out-of-the-ordinary interest in Andraste, but then, I could not detect that he had any new feelings toward me, either! Alone with Chris in the crowd, I cherished the rare opportunity to visit with my good friend; at the same time, it was utterly maddening.

On Sunday, several of us, including Chris and I, decided to tag along with Amos to attend an Amish church service way out in the country. In the car, I treated Chris to an Italian aria I had recently learned from my voice teacher, and helpfully gave him the English translation: "Victory, my heart! Bondage to love is over." Naturally, he wasn't sure how to interpret this musical outburst!

When we arrived at the farm in the middle of nowhere (I still don't know where we were), we girls stood out sorely with our flowing hair and printed dresses. Some people arrived in buggies. Separate entrances admitted men and women into the building where the service was to be held. I had spent my teens reading about "singings" in authentic Amish romance novels, but this was the closest I'd come to experiencing one. At twenty-four years old, I was probably the oldest single girl in the room. We sat on backless benches and sang gospel songs a capella, reading the lyrics by gas light since the place lacked electricity. We had a long drive home in the dark to process the whole surreal evening.

The week went on, with Chris signalling nothing and me giving as many contradictory signals as possible. I tried to tell myself there were no secrets afoot, but could not dismiss the fact that Chris had mailed Dad a letter. Could that mean... Courtship? Was this what I had been keeping myself for? Despite sermons decrying them, I knew well what crushes felt like and I did not have a crush on Chris. Though I couldn't bring myself to think the words "sexual interest", I knew there was none. No romantic attraction. No unhealthy "soul tie". I had told Dwight Fredrickson as much back in his Headquarters office when he expressed concern about Chris and I associating too closely. "I am not here to find a husband!" I had declared with spirit. And I'd meant it.

Growing bolder by the day, I now studied Chris's hairy arms, the hands he never knew what to do with, his long bony fingers, the curve of his ass in jeans. I had fantasized many things about various men, but never about Chris. And I couldn't bring myself to start now. Did he find me attractive? Could that possibly be why he was here??

Rolling down the dune
On my day off, the whole family took an excursion to the sand dunes by the lake. Chris let my siblings bury him in the sand, and I got comfortable enough, or giddy enough, to roll down the dune with the others. This was a mild flirtation because my pleated denim skirt wound up high enough to reveal the long lace-edged homemade bloomers underneath--and I just knew my mother was watching my bold "immodesty". Displaying my undergarments to Chris on the dune!

On the morning of Chris's departure, I made a point of saying goodbye before I left for work. He was still pajama-clad when we shook hands in the kitchen. I don't know why I expected it, but all morning I thought about Chris's route and hoped he would surprise me at the office before leaving town. Maybe if he could see me alone, he could clear up the mystery that had hung suffocatingly in the air all week. What was the good of secrecy, anyway?

But Chris didn't come.


*Names are pseudonyms.


Continue reading at In Which Things Get Messy