Bill Gothard, IBLP, ATI, Institutes in Basic Life Principles, Spiritual Abuse, Sexual Abuse
The following was written by David Shere, who has been reading here for some time. He wanted to share his thoughts and advice as a Bill Gothard survivor. This was written after the news that the plaintiffs had dismissed the lawsuit against Bill Gothard. ~ja
From a Bill Gothard Survivor to Other Survivors:
by David M. Shere
I’m not going to discuss my background here, or my experiences with the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, or with IBLP and ATI, or even with Gothard himself. Yes, I met the man, several times in fact. I remember his dark pinstripe suits and the ever-present dusting of dandruff on his shoulders; that should be enough to verify my claim for anyone who doubts me.
I’m not going to talk about what I believe. My beliefs are irrelevant here.
I’m not going to hold myself up as a role model, because I honestly don’t care what other people think. You do you; I’m busy with my own stuff, thanks.
And most of all, I am not going to talk about God, except to say that if God exists, He will do with me as he pleases. That is the meaning of Omnipotence. If I am damned to Hell, I accept it as my fate; and no amount of begging, pleading, bargaining, or doing of good deeds from me will ever change the will of God. Believe me, I’m more than OK with it. It’s kind of nice knowing how little control anyone ever actually has over anything.
Anyway, this essay is a call out from me to all of you out there, past and present, who like me have ever known Gothard or have ever been involved with any of his programs or literature. I empathize deeply with all of you. I know that at times you feel insurmountably trapped. I know that you may even despair.
I know that many of us had hopes for the recent lawsuit, which unfortunately was simply too little and too late. I’m sure there’s nothing more frustrating than realizing decades later just how expertly you’ve been had, how deviously you’ve been played and manipulated. I’m sure Bernie Madoff’s investors had similar feelings.
Anyhow, my message is a simple one. It’s not advice, it’s not commiseration. It’s not a plan or a rule or a Beatitude or a sermon. It’s not a well-placed Bible verse. It’s not a message from God or a prophet’s exhortation. It’s simply an idea, a suggestion if you will. A recommendation.
Ready? Here it is:
Bill Gothard: Who is he? He’s nobody. He’s not a friend or a family member; he’s not a relative or an employer. He’s not the Second Coming of Jesus. He’s not your pastor or your therapist or an accredited teacher. He’s not even an acquaintance or a friend of a friend. He’s just some guy, guys.
You know what Bill Gothard is? He’s the equivalent of a salesman on one of those late night infomercials you see on cable access television, only instead of selling Thighmasters or Snuggies he’s selling “49 Non-Optional Principles” and dozens of other laughably argued, badly written, cheaply printed “theological” pamphlets. Why are we paying attention to him again?
Do you know why any of us, why any of our friends or family members or parents got sucked into Gothard’s literature in the first place? Because we were weak, that’s why. We were damaged, and we were weak. And in our moment of weakness, we turned to a man who sold us the cheap television infomercial equivalent of theology. Boy, don’t we feel dumb, right?
And you know what? THAT’S OK. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone does stupid things in moments of weakness. I still drink beer once in a while even though I know I won’t sleep as well (wine is definitely better). I still smoke cigars occasionally because they taste amazing. I still eat pizza even though it’s basically just a belly fat train wreck on a plate. We’re human, and being human means being weak and stupid occasionally.
So what’s the solution? Free yourselves.
You or someone with power over you bought you into Bill Gothard’s theological infomercial of ridiculous rules and outlandish promises. And only you can get yourself back out of it.
For those of you who are parents, using Gothard’s infomercial-theology on your kids: Your choice is easy. Throw the books away. Open your window blinds. Send your kids back to school, and find a less oppressive church to attend.
For those of you who are kids or young adults, squashed under the thumb of Gothard’s endless regulations: I feel your predicament. Your situation is once removed from the source so to speak, but the power is still in your hands, yours and yours alone. You know what you need to do to get loose. Only you can see the path you must take. Argue with your parents against Bill’s teachings. Insist on being sent back to a public school. Go away to college. Get a job. If you are being abused, contact the police and file a police report. Move in with friends. Stop going to church. Establish a presence on social media and find a support network. Contact the good people here at Spiritual Sounding Board if you need resources. Love yourself and defend yourself. Stand up for your life. Fight your circumstances. Whatever it takes.