Bill Gothard, Advanced Training Institute (ATI), Institutes in Basic Life Principles (IBLP)
When I was in Chicago visiting my daughter in the fall, I met with Jake Youngman who had contacted me weeks earlier about the cult of Bill Gothard, Institutes in Basic Life Principles and ATI. He wanted to interview me based on my knowledge of cults and the culture of this group, why I viewed it as a cult, and why it caused/causes harm especially to girls and women.
My background: I remember hearing about Gothard’s program in the 70s which was then called Basic Youth Conflicts. Many Christians and their families from various denominations attended their seminars. My family went through the Basic and Advanced seminars in the 90s, when it was called Institutes in Basic Life Principles. Our children went to the Children’s Institute. Others continued further with the program and joined the ATI (Advanced Training Institute) homeschool program, and even sent their kids to some of the “training” facilities throughout the country and the world.
Bill Gothard’s training was sold as a program to help Christian families to be successful if we just followed his formula. He had answers to all of life’s problems.
The reality is that he didn’t. Not only do his teachings harm women/girls, they also harm men/boys because they teach that men are to rule over women, that women cause men to stumble sexually, etc. That is only one of many problems, but one that I know about most because of listening to the stories of victims who were harmed by Gothard.
When reading over his teaching materials on sex abuse, it occurred to me that Gothard’s teachings is essentially grooming material for young men/men to sexually abuse girls and get away with it, blaming girls instead: for dressing immodestly, for having unconfessed sin in their life, etc. The blame is consistently shifted to the victim, with no responsibility placed on the perpetrator. (The Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting used this curricula and is it any wonder Josh Duggar got into so much sexual trouble?)
A couple of years ago, I contacted Bill Gothard himself and asked him pointed questions. He danced around the questions I asked regarding repentance and asking forgiveness from his victims. Instead, he tried to shift the conversation to his latest program, just like a used cars salesman. The man is evil. He should have no place in ministry.
Here is the documentary that was made by Jake Youngman about cult leader, Bill Gothard.
45 thoughts on “Bill Gothard Documentary”
I know a family here in town that went whole hog for Gothard. As I thought about them over the years I can see now how odd the things I heard from the dad in that family really were (including telling me once “… and then I realize I am a prophet!”).
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The ATI Parent Recovery group posted this so we could be prepared for its release last week. Many struggled with triggers just hearing his voice in the video clips. That we spent hundreds of hours listening to this evil man, paced in spiritual bondage to his approval and 7 /step programs to everything. Only to be destroyed and blamed when life’s consequences came in spite of our warped devotion to his prescribed ethics to raise children strong and mighty in Spirit. Children raised in this cult ran far away from the legalism and the judgmental Gothard taught. Our grief and spiritual abuse is real. There were 20,000 of us who gathered every summer for training camp. This was a huge cult.
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I hope he meant that in the definition of proclaimer of God’s word, and not prophet in the sense of proclaimer of God’s will.
Unfortunately the 10 years I spent in the Assemblies of God makes me think he is probably what I call a Jack n the box prophet. Wind them up with some lively praise & worship music, maybe a solo or two and POP goes the prophet with the standard thus saith the Lord.
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I’m not surprised many were triggered in hearing his voice. I have had survivors ask that I not post his picture because of triggers. One of the things that saddens me the most is that well-meaning parents took his teachings and became, in essence, cult leaders themselves as they endorsed the teachings in their own homes.
What I explained to Jake (which was not shown in this documentary) was that this wasn’t like a normal cult where everybody was gathered in one location following a leader. People came together occasionally, but then each family became a mini-cult (depending on how much they adhered to the teachings). This created so much trauma for children growing up in this environment who got out from Gothard’s teachings and then looked at their parents as evil, when in fact, they (parents) were drinking Gothard Koolaid and sucked into his manipulations.
My heart goes out to the adult children and parents, and my prayer is that adult children will gain understanding about how their parents were sucked in, and that also parents will acknowledge the harm they perpetuated on their children by being brainwashed and manipulated. This is difficult because it requires humbling on both sides in order to restore relationship. But I have seen healing and restoration happen . . and it’s a beautiful thing. Don’t ever give up on love and grace. Love and grace is what heals and restores more than anything else I’ve seen.
Your grief and spiritual abuse is indeed real, Deb. Thank you for sharing.
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I don’t know as I would describe my emotion on hearing Gothard’s voice as triggering. Rather, it was as if I was back in the whole trap for a moment and nothing had changed. It is weird, because when you take a step back and analyze the man’s speech pattern, it is very stilted and disjointed, but somehow it was mesmerizing listening to it hour after hour.
I’m one of the adult children. My parents and I have worked it out. They were sucked in by the promises of protection. Thankfully, they never completely swallowed the Kool-Aid, and actually started to question the program about the same time I did. They didn’t realize the damage was greater for us, as we had been fed a lot more of the teaching than they had. However, we are all dealing with it pretty well. Seeing that old footage though…
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Thank you, roscuro, for sharing your experience as an adult child grown up with Gothard’s teachings. I’m glad to hear that your family is doing well in the aftermath. That’s encouraging. 🙂
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Gothard was demonic to the core, in my opinion. There’s little, if any difference at all, in the way he operated to the way the “leaders” in Calvinism and Reformed theology do. In the video, a young guy early on says: Always a new seminar…”
In C and R “theology”, it’s also always a new CONference, always a new revelation, a new slogan, a new “radical” this and that, a “new Biblical counseling” method and so it goes on…these are all ways to keep control over the masses; to indoctrinate; to put down women, little by little…until they get what they want (and that’s why there are blogs like SSB around!) The love of God is absent in both Goddard’s cult and Calvinism. Period.
I sympathize deeply with those were victims of this cult leader Gothard and his ungodly ways who’ve had to hear or see him again on the necessary video. It’s similar to the many thousands who have to see or listen or read (by chance; accidentally, or maybe not) to Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, and the pious, petulant Johnson, Grudem, Dever, Washer, Mahaney, etc. again after having been set free from those chains. It’s horrible, horrible, horrible. Listening to them rips open old wounds (some new) and pushes tears out of eyes that have been trying to look forward, away from the evil, away from the pain, away from the lies, away from the humiliation, away from the abuse.
To the Gothard victims: If you’re not free yet, keep on pushing. Freedom will come. You know, Jesus does not change and is always there,
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“Well, you don’t know it’s a cult while you’re in it,” the young man says at the end of the video.
And that is the power of Satan; of he who poses as an angel of light and his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.
Two things stood out in this video: Fear, and blaming oneself if something had gone “wrong.” Sounds familiar, very very familiar. It feels like there’s a demon in my room right now…
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It’s true for all of conservative evangelicalism and charismatics. There’s always a new hip speaker, conference theme, breakthrough book, prophetic voice, prophecy fulfilled, prayer movement, new threat to the church or our Christian nation, and urgent appeal to be “revived,” give money, re-commit to Christ, pursue a ministry, and fight those evil liberals and secularists to prepare the way for the Return of Christ…. oh and I should add… “…before it’s too late.” This is the only way to keep people working, volunteering, and giving to institutional religion, and pay the salaries of the leaders, who are usually wealthy when there’s a national or mega-church ministry involved.
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I’ve watched about 10 minutes of this so far. Gothard’s voice makes me want to punch things. I will watch the rest of it as I can. Thanks for sharing Julie Anne.
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This was brilliantly done. What this short documentary does is give the faces to those voices from the ATI students. While most all of us have read their testimonies on RG and other blogs, to see their actual faces and their inflections nails the pain and hurt in being raised in this carthic twisted system. I think all of them mentioned reaching out for help and counseling. All of them were unable to function once out of the ATI fish bowel. What promised success and leadership for those raised in ATI did the exact opposite in reality. The actual pain one could see in all of their eyes is just so unbelievable. The music which was done also by a former ATI student cements it. Maybe God continue to bring healing and hope to these and all ATI students everywhere.
Did Christmas come late or is it just early this year? Excellent job. I’m bound to lose a few more facebook friends over this one and challenge my relationship with my best girlfriend who still has one foot in the system.
Also what is so bizarre about this whole IBLP/ATI is how did so many good well meaning Christian take such detail advice from someone that never married and raised children himself? That is just so strange. The ATI program was just a repackage of the IBLP that I went to in the late 70’s/early 80s. But then, Bill was very big. I read one blogger think (Roger Olsen) that Bill Gothard was third on his list of the most influential Christian leaders in the 1970s. I would agree. He had big wide spread support from all sorts of different people. There was very “hey wait a minute this is off” from any one. His seminars were greatly encouraged and pushed. Does this mean that if someone comes along and quotes the Bible like a machine gun that must mean his is “biblical” even though he is misquoting the Bible right and left only to support his own twisted ideas and views? While the sex scandal which I remember from the 1980 did slow down support, Bill just seemed to reinvent himself with the ATI program. While out of the main stream of Protestant Evangelicalism, its seems like the ATI program turned into a cancer with children as it’s victims.
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I’m glad you are being careful, Dash. No need to let this evil man ruin your day!
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Rob War, I did not realize the music was done by a former ATI student. That makes it more meaningful, for sure. I’m glad you liked it. There are so many things that could be said about Gothard, this could easily be a series. I hope that happens one day.
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I finally watch it tonight. Brings up a lot. When I was 7-8 years old our church got really wrapped up with Bill the bastard, a creature I despise at such a level that when he dies I will truly be happy to hear it.
Suddenly our sunday school teachers were hitting us with belts and pinching our ears for talking during the lesson. I remember this one really evil couple that were my 1st
grade teachers, to this day I hate those people with a passion. I think they were playing some sick, sadistic game and getting off on having power over weaker, little people. My 2nd and 3rd grade teachers were flat out cruel and emotionally abusive. One would make you stand up the whole class if you couldn’t say your verse. I remember this kid with learning disabilities that would be standing there in the back crying the whole class. Another time this kid wet her pants because the monster teaching wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom. I wonder now what was wrong with those two twisted women. They had kids and should have been much more capable of dealing with children but they were the worst. Honestly, I’m really surprised no one ever came back as an adult and slaughtered Gothard somewhere along the years of his terroristic reign.
I know people whose parents beat them with horse whips or plumbing tubes when they were found masterurbating in early puberty, and a couple of girls who had their heads shaved by their mothers in high school because of BILL Gothard. I know people who couldn’t go to their prom because of Bill Gothard. When I was in the eight grade one of my classmates at the christian school went into the woods of a park & took a whole bottle of sleeping pills. She was the sweetest, most gentle, kind spirited girl. I remember the last time I ever talked to her. She gave me half of her almond joy as we talked after school by the vending machines. I always think of her whenever I see one of those at the check out counter at Walmart. Three more kids took their lives in the four years I was in that school. One because a teacher told her she was no longer a virgin because of tampon use in front of other girls in a gym class. That idiot had a young lady convinced that she would be unable to marry since she was no longer “pure”.
In all the analysis that is done over this vile, disgusting man somewhere along that process the question must be asked, how in the hell did WE the church allow this to happen. Why did so many parents buy into this garbage ? Where were the heads of leadership, deacons , elders, older church members ? Why did NO ONE put a stop to this or atleast speak out against it ? Where did this little demon possessed bag of crap get his authority over all of fundamentalism? Why didn’t people just get their families out and find a normal church ? Quit the christian schools and allow their children a normal healthy childhood. This ego driven imbecile drove people away from the cross. How does one organization do so much damage and why was this accepted and tolerated ?
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Your whole story is so sad. What an evil system.
My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) told me once that “If someone titles himself ‘Apostle’ or ‘Prophet’, RUN!”
Calvary Chapel does.
Calvary Chapelites use the “full-auto barrage of Bible Bullets” as a thoughtstopper and standard reaction when questioned.
In the words of the Prophet Steve Taylor:
Even an 80-something dirty old man whose brain still hasn’t hit puberty, who lives/works in a child’s cartoon of a musty old grown-up’s house, and single-handedly keeps a hair dye factory in business.
@Boston Lady, I think this is neo-calvinist. I watched a documentary by Franky Schaeffer that was really insightful. His claim is that there was a reaction to liberalism that set fundamentalistic bars on what was “Orthodox”. This was pretty apparent in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, where J. Gresham Machen established the church as a protest against growing liberalism in what is now the PCUSA. But, the movement’s success became its downfall. Pretty soon, the church fractured, not over something significant like Evangelicalism (belief that scripture is infallible), but over microscopic differences like infant baptism, immersion vs. sprinkling, pre/post/a-millennialism, psalmody, hymnody, praise bands. Franky claims that this is based on a fundamentalist view that God is somehow going to condemn people to Hell for being Christians, yet having the wrong view of some theological issue.
I think you have to take Calvin in context. The Catholic church was putting people to death for heresy, and using peoples’ fear of eternal consequences to build up power and wealth. In that context, Calvin was probably a gracious breath of fresh air. However, much of the church has moved well past where Calvin was, but the authoritarians still seem to long for the day when the church leaders could push the local judges and governors around.
Remember that Calvin predated Hobbes and pretty much the ‘Divine right of kings’ thinking was pretty well established. Calvin went against this by saying 1) that kings could not legitimately force their subjects to disobey God (disobedience to an immoral command is okay), and 2) lower magistrates had a responsibility to hold the king in check and it was morally okay to join a lower magistrate in revolt against an unrighteous king. Those were pretty surprising things to say in that time period.
I wonder if that was a Feature instead of a Bug.
Because if you’re unable to function outside the ATI fish bowel (Freudian slip there), you’ll stay in ATI forever. As will your Quiver full of children, and their Quivers full of children, generation after generation after generation.
I consider far-left stuff that infiltrates the church institutions to be more “cult like” than issues like Bill Gothard. It is a sad day when churches claim to be christian churches and perform “gay marriages” for men who are actually practicing pedophilia. Reality is that his teaching has a “prosperity” tone to it and that is false gospel…..not truly a “false teacher.” If a person is weak in faith and not in tune with knowledge and wisdom through various education and understanding of culture or friendship, they can get pulled around by the control taught by the man. But his idea for scripture study is NOT a problem in the “churches” themselves. Many connservative churches (like menonite/ baptist /Seventh Day Adventist) teach to STUDY BIBLE and to “memorize scripture”
Pretty sure the only church I’ve heard of actively marrying off pedophiles is Doug Wilson’s.
“Reality is that his teaching has a “prosperity” tone to it and that is false gospel…..not truly a “false teacher.””
Hey quizer, I take it you’ve never been subjected to the Gothard regime yourself? The apostle Paul himself said that if even an angel came with a false gospel, let him be condemned! False gospel = false teacher, period. What Gothard was doing was far more than standard Bible study; his materials have been described as an evangelical Talmud. We’re talking about the guy who tried to make circumcision mandatory for all male Christians, despite Paul’s teaching on the subject in Galatians. And that’s just one little tip of the iceberg. I would urge you to educate yourself at the Recovering Grace blog if you have not already done so.
You can always count on Gothard supporters to work “teh gayz” into a conversion. I feel so fabulous right now.
Julie Anne– Did the covenant marriage idea originate with Gothard? Could it be that the next generation has used the same ideas in biblical counseling and the reformed ideas?
And Scott– I am so sorry for all that you endured. There were people that I talked to about homeschooling with the Gothard curriculum who refused to listen. The tipoff that it was a problem was how exclusive it was. Parents were not permitted to use it without special training, and those who used it were not free to pick and choose part of the material. But those I knew who used it felt like they were giving their children a good education.
Irene, I do not believe it originated with Gothard. Too many people outside of Gothard’s realm also hold to this idea.
Teh Fag Card is now officially in play.
(Incidentally, most pedos are opposite-sex, not same-sex. Even those males who diddle same-sex self-identify and arouse as straight; what attracts them to little boys are the feminine secondary sexual characteristics of a pre-pubescent — the high-pitched voice, the smooth skin, the lack of facial hair, the undescended genitalia.)
That was an opposite-sex pedo, so that made it OK in the Doug’s sight:
“The [male] Penetrates, Colonizes, Conquers, Plants; the [female] lies back and Accepts.”
I believe this is true, however my understanding of the data is that the ones who are interested in little boys tend to offend more often, and more children. So their impact may be greater than their numbers, proportionately.
BTW, I saw someone i know in life posting that gothard umbrella of husband over wife nonsense. And his recent wedding had an extended part about submission. Ugh.
Hummm. The tune of males singing in a low voice is intoxicating….when many sing in low voices together earthquakes rumble. Their chromosomes reveal that that have male voices somewhere in the mix even if its tenor. The tune of females singing in operatic tones and breaking glass reveals that women can actually break the ceiling of sound. The constant feminine hormone changes in the plumbing reveals a deep need for a foundation that shakes the earth.
Transgenderism (a condition where men believe in sodomy and and not in the saving power of God…..who went into the earth and rose again) is so obvious even a rat of a man can understand the principle.
Pedophillia, I’ve read that this unusual desire happens in polygyny crowds too from time to time. Spiritual sounding board never wants to offend the polygyny groups because that would mean they have to offend other people who practice sexuality in a “unique way”…..including the LGBT groups….who simply practice their lesbian marriages and invite male students age 17…..in for the ride of their lives. And they happen to have the chromosomes necessary to make them male.
Sin is sin. It doesn’t matter the flavor and where it came from.
seems that the spiritual sounding board clicks “ignore” when Jim Jones cult leader shows up…..dressed as a priest and practices “it” on young boys…to even grown men……..and continues the praise the mockery of those who deny that they mock against reality of what happened in the cult…….aka….sodomy.
Jim Jones….control freak….practices sodomy.
Gothard…..reality freak….people can grow up….get jobs….raise a family in their own way if they want to.
Big difference, the style of leadership.
Gothard never addresses sisterly and brotherly love among Christians….hence it only appears to appeal to Mennonite/Amish ways of life, but it isn’t the same. His methods are psychological….Mennonite and Amish simply use shunning for those who deny biblical things or culture practices and they know that men are men and women are women….those facts don’t change.
Quizer, I’m trying to make sense of your comments, and I must say, you’re not making it easy.
This, and the whole musical metaphor(?) that your wrote before it… What does this even mean?
Since you seem to be equating adult homosexual activity with sexual abuse by pedophiles, I will say right here that I cannot agree with this. I will never accept that sex between consenting adults — even if it falls below God’s standards — is as bad as the rape of children. Never. And I will never worship a god who tries to convince me of that.
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So this is essentially a “anti-Christian” website.
It doesn’t see “abuse” from a biblical perspective….meaning that God’s laws (Like the 613 Jewish laws) are fulfilled through JEsus (he took care of it and explained right and wrong).
It says that it is ok to break God’s laws, because God’s grace is always available to everyone, especially to consenting adult sodomy practicing people.
This needs to be addressed clearly and with resounding evidence or people would get very confused by this website. Yes, there have been cases where children have been victims in “sexual experiemental” groups or couples. This website never addresses concern in that area. So it is ok to have a “perverted mind” according to this website so to speak and continue in sin and adultery.
basically this group fails to admit that even among poly groups, infidelity is a concern and turns into abuse or problems. Also, men/women who look at pornography even in poly groups are seen as creators of problems among the group and towards the children.
This website won’t address issues and problems among those types of sexuality issues, because they would be condemning other people like people who practice sodomy and different forms of sexuality that are in opposition to scripture.
So this group/website simply sees that it is easier to simply pick on the “patriarchy” groups….because they are always supposed to have the most righteous behaviour…..and clearly they don’t. The website will not admit that problems exist inn themselves.
Its better to be a “shaker” than to listen to the nonsense, as far as I am concerned.
Way to misunderstand literally everything.
“Quizer, I’m trying to make sense of your comments, and I must say, you’re not making it easy.” – Serving Kids in Japan
I have yet to see a coherent thought.
“And his recent wedding had an extended part about submission.” – Lea
Awhile ago I decided to research this part of the marriage vows since some Christian churches use them and others (including very old churches/denominations) do not use them. It turns out that part of the vow is from ancient pagan Roman marriage contract law.
So when someone demands to know why I don’t support that part of the marriage vows, I say wide-eyed, “Why are you supporting ancient pagan Roman customs? I am so shocked!” Silences every time.
Sometimes I see a comment stuck in moderation and I read it, and then I read it again, and then I hope that one of you can make sense out of it because I don’t want to exercise so much brain power when I need to reserve some for school. Thank you both (Velour, Serving) for confirming my initial thought 🙂
Quizzer, please pull it together or you’re going in moderation because you are looking more and more like a troll with each comment. I don’t care if you agree or disagree with me, but it’s important to have cohesive thoughts that go along with the post or the comments.
Yes, it’s very helpful. It’s like he’s talking about some random thing and then being mad that this post isn’t about that? Or something.
Quizer is now in moderation. The last comment was off topic and just bizarre. Quizer, you are still free to comment, but I won’t be approving comments that are off topic.