Monday, October 21, 2013

"God, Thank You For This Beating"

The May 20, 1974 issue of Time ran an article about Bill Gothard entitled "Religion: Obey Thy Husband". I wasn't born when the article was published, but I know the scene all too well. These excerpts are particularly poignant.
Standing ramrod-straight in a business suit, Gothard lectures with few gestures, fewer jokes, no vocal theatrics and as props, only an easel for sketching and an overhead projector... Yet his hearers sit in rapt attention, jotting in thick red notebooks.
A few years later, my parents were "jotting in thick red notebooks", and a decade later, they brought me along. Gothard still stood "ramrod-straight" and despite years of working at his centers, I have never personally seen him in anything but a suit.
Gothard even advises a wife whose husband chastises her to say, "God, thank you for this beating." And Gothard adds to Christ's words from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But you know what you are doing through them to build character in me."
This standard Gothard fare enabled many abusers. Sadly, tales of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse abound in groups of cult survivors raised under Gothard's influence.
...Gothard ... favors fasting, tithing and Bible memorization, while opposing liberal Bible criticism, much of higher education, highly rhythmic music, working wives, explicit sex education and any sexual arousal before marriage. As for homosexuality, Gothard says that when it is made "a normal way of life, then it's all over for a society, and we are right at that point."
Dating could get you shunned from the group, yet there have been a number of sex scandals at Gothard's IBLP headquarters. Gothard himself has been accused of sexually harassing young women on his staff. Others have carefully followed Gothard's "principles" only to find themselves married to abusive spouses, or spouses with whom they were sexually incompatible or to whom they did not even find themselves sexually attracted.
Gothard, cheerfully convinced that he teaches only what the Bible does, is less concerned with his critics than with administering a budget that should reach $8 million this year. The money goes into a 200-acre headquarters complex in Oak Brook, Ill., where a staff of 70 answers 200 spiritual "Dear Abby" letters per month, prepares advanced seminars and is developing a national training center for pastors and schoolteachers, as well as a "character curriculum" that he hopes many colleges will adopt. According to Gothard, they should scrap conventional subjects and rebuild courses around 49 virtues, including diligence, loyalty and tact.
The "character curriculum" eventually evolved into the Advanced Training Institute homeschool program (the Jim Bob Duggar and Congressman Dan Webster are two well-known ATI fathers), and later the Character First program which has continued to promote Gothard's vision of submission to authority to school children, orphans, prisoners, U.S. Air Force recruits, and Navy SEALs.


  1. Sickening. Domestic violence produces trauma, not "character", and I'm disgusted that Gothard would command women to submit to it. How many women ended up injured or even dead because of that man's twisted advice?

    1. Trauma, exactly. I used to mistake those two for each other. And then I would read Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard to reassure myself that I was right. :(

  2. Wow. Yes, Ahab, trauma, not character. A friend and I were talking about this the other day. The saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" was really rankling. Suffering has not made me stronger, it has made me sick, sad, scared, fearful. I have made me stronger, but not suffering or abuse. It's fascinating to read the Before story, J. How much trauma could've been avoided if things had been stopped in their tracks back then, eh?

  3. Dear Jeri, found your blog. Gothard..well maybe he doesn't, and so takes his frustrations out on women.. But seriously, these ravening wolves are sickening - they turn people away from striving toward the Lord Jesus.