I was told this week, anonymously, that if I was less "obsessed" with Bill Gothard I would be taking more responsibility for my life.
So I devote this post to some of the other voices, and there are many hundreds, probably thousands, of us, decrying the teachings of this man who duped first our parents and then us. Perhaps the wider lens will better express why we are so passionate about sounding the alarm. Because while we survived, we do not wish our turmoil on anyone else!
Rebecca, who blogs at A Beautiful Ruckus, has written an excellent piece about her experience in ATI: "In Which I Talk About Surviving Bill Gothard's Cult".
"Maybe you are wondering why I feel the need to write a post going all the way back to my teen years. That's a fair question. The answer has a couple of parts, but I'm sticking with the main one for now:
"Because there are women and girls still in this programand in other programs like it."
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Alissa Wilkinson, a movie critic for Christianity Today, captures the challenge in this post:
Over and over, I have attempted, and failed, to explain ATI to people who have never heard of it. Those who have not encountered ATI think I’m making it up; those who had brushes with it in their own youth usually have to make jokes in order to ignore their own memories.
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"Laura" did a bang-up job of summarizing the ATI lifestyle in her entertaining post for Homeschoolers Anonymous: "The Many Valuable Lessons I Learned in ATI". The following is only a tiny, but factual, sample!
- Whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs.
- A desire for white bread was a major factor in beginning the French Revolution.
- You’ll know you’re getting enough fiber when your, um, bathroom business floats.
Of course, ATI is far more serious than an obsession with whole wheat. As Lana Hope on her blog Wide Open Ground pointed out last year:
The ATI curriculum is a system that wounds children who have emotions and fail to live up to the holiness standard, all in the name of God. Not only does this god despise public education, peer pressure, rock music, cabbage patch dolls, eating pork, trolls, birth control, and people who wear normal clothes, but this god also expects little children to master character traits, for teens to parent younger siblings while always feeling “grateful,” showing “initiative,” and “patience,” and for children to stuff their frustration and emotions because that’s “self-control.” Let me assure you: this is spiritual abuse.
I’ve had friends tell me they watch the Duggars’ show because its funny to watch. “I don’t believe that stuff,” they say. What they don’t understand is that by laughing at the show, they are laughing at children who are being spiritually abused, and by using these children as their entertainment, they are encouraging this nonsense to spread around.
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“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There was some good and some bad. Just take what good you can and leave the rest.”
I don’t know how.
The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can’t see it for what it is. You never think you’re in a cult when you’re in a cult.
Until the day you can’t deny the reality of what you’ve seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while,
“I grew up in a cult.”
"ATI is is a HOTBED of spousal and child abuse, too. I have seen it so many times. In ATI, men are taught that they are the ultimate authority in their homes, and the whole umbrella of authority/chain of command teaching is emphasized over and over, starting in the Basic Seminar."
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Years ago, X-ATI Guy started a satirical blog. For many of us his site was like the Interpreter's House in Pilgrim's Progress, our first stop on the way out of the cult toward health and recovery. He was edgy and daring, and he made us feel safe for the first time. Under the cloak of anonymity, he spoke for us all.
The blog was a subversive meeting place, a place we would visit privately and only discuss in quiet corners of the Internet or behind closed doors with friends. "Do you know who X-ATI Guy is? I wonder if I worked with him? Are you X-ATI Guy?"
His humor helped validate and then break down our fears. The sarcasm was cathartic because it put the unspeakable into words. And as comments were added--some bravely, others anonymously--our courage grew. So did our outrage.
We all moved on, even X-ATI Guy, and found different ways to express ourselves and reclaim responsibility for our lives.
Gothard liked to talk about college students "washing out spiritually". He also loved to quote from Isaiah 59:
When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord
shall lift up a standard against him.