Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Shares Emotional Aftermath

Bill Gothard, IBLP, Child Abuse, Discipline


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For some, the ramifications of following the teachings of an influential spiritual leader (or cult leader) can be lifelong. As difficult as this next personal story is to read, it is the reality for some, and that is why I will continue to post stories like this.

Part of being an advocate for those who have been abused is never forgetting the reality that they face. It is believing them and standing with them, even when it is ugly and uncomfortable. We may not be able to walk in their shoes, but we can come alongside them and let them know that we are here for them.

We’ve heard from Dash (pseudonym) before and how the teachings of Bill Gothard influenced his parents and the way they “disciplined.”  The other day, Dash sent me a note sharing his thoughts and struggles, and it made me angry and sad. Dash is still suffering physically and emotionally from the abuse and trauma he faced as a child.

While Gothard may not have specifically taught parents to “discipline” their children as Dash’s parents did, his teachings laid the groundwork for “sparing the rod.” For Dash’s parents, the sparing-the-rod teachings gave them a license to beat and abuse, all for the sake of children demonstrating godliness and good character. Basically, it was whipping children into submission so that they cheerfully and robotically complied with every command.

My family also attended Bill Gothard seminars. Gothard had an unhealthy preoccupation with children maintaining an outward appearance of joy. Whether there was authentic joy did not seem to matter. So, as I was thinking about Godthard’s teachings, I realized that it is foreign for Dash to speak out like this and to express what Gothard would view as negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, etc. Thankfully, Gothard is not controlling Dash’s emotions anymore, nor are his parents. He now has the freedom to express all emotions, even the ones that may be uncomfortable. That’s good!

I no longer believe anger and sadness are negative emotions. They are simply emotions that God has given us. Dash has become acquainted with his anger. Part of the recovery process is finally connecting abuse with the anger it deserves, rather than stuffing the anger away as something ungodly. I kinda think God expresses anger at abuse. No, I know He does. That should tell us something, shouldn’t it?

Because Dash’s angry words and emotions are his reality, I am not going to remove any “offensive” language. It is not offensive to me anymore. It conveys to me that someone is in touch with their anger. I’ve come to realize over the past years that sometimes we need to express ourselves with words that most accurately describe what we’re going through. For me, to conceal these words is a way of minimizing the strength of Dash’s feelings, and I’m not going to do that. I want us to see and understand exactly where he is and feel his anger along with him. So if you are uncomfortable with reading swear words, now is the time to stop reading. Thank you for your understanding.


Dash Shares More of His Story

I had a real epiphany today. It finally came to me that Bill Gothard basically viewed his ATI families as a kind of Off-Broadway production for advertising purposes. The purpose of ATI was/is to present the evangelical community with living, breathing examples of “Perfect Family” results that can be obtained with his materials, to increase enrollment and revenue. The family home is the “backstage” area, where the performance is produced, and herein lies the really sinister part because I finally understand that Bill literally did not care how his “Perfect Family” image was achieved outside the home. Beat the kids, break them, scream at them, molest them, humiliate them, devalue them, remove all traces of self from them by any means necessary. Anything and everything is fair game so long as the ATI “Perfect Family” image is achieved outside the home, because then Gothard attains his true goal, which is self-aggrandizement. “Look at how effective my ATI materials are.”
Son of a bitch.

Bill Gothard, child abuse, IBLPYou want to know about Bill Gothard’s true legacy? Let me tell you about his legacy.

It’s very interesting to me how y’all talk about “relationships.” Boyfriends, girlfriends, married, divorced, kids, grandkids. I’m 47 and I don’t date. I haven’t dated in over a decade. I gave up on social interactions in college. I hate people with a passion. All the goddamn drama for nothing. I’ve never been married and I’ve never had a kid. I leave my apartment to work and that’s it. I live alone with two cats; I haven’t had a roommate in 20 years. If I could just sleep all the time, I would.

A lot of you still go to churches, which frankly amazes me. Why? Not for me. Never again in this lifetime. Why the hell would I go to some building where an arbitrarily appointed authoritarian in a monkey suit glowers from the pulpit and tells me all the ways I’m living my life wrong? All you preachers out there, take your exegesis and your scholarly opinions and shove them up your collective asses. You don’t matter. The Bible is bullshit. It’s a bunch of fairy tales and stone age folk stories. It’s superstitious hocus-pocus and it’s a joke.

Am I depressed? You bet I am. I live with migraines, numbness in my hands and feet, blurred vision, tinnitus. The doctors I have worked with most recently agreed that the likely diagnosis is CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), which is a degenerative disease of the brain tissue that occurs later in life when you’ve been hit repeatedly in the fucking head.

My parents beat the shit out of us kids in my family until we were old enough to leave. Before Gothard and twice as badly after we joined ATI. Not just spankings, either, but full-on beatings with open hands, closed fists, dowel rods, belts. My mother hit me in the head hard enough to knock me sprawling and knock me out cold on numerous occasions. My dad used to start swinging with closed fists at the slightest provocation. They used Gothard’s teachings to justify all of it. They screamed and bellowed them at us. We were bad evil children deserving of death.

My mother sexually molested me when I was two. The mere idea of sex makes me physically sick.

I doubt I’ll live to see retirement. I’m not even sure I’ll make it another five years. Life is intolerable and the world we live in sucks. God does not exist, and his followers are gibbering lunatics. There is nothing in this world that I want. Even my music begins to pall with age. What’s the point of any of it? Death would be a kindness to me, and I fucking mean it.

^^^THIS is Gothard’s real legacy.

Other articles by Dash:

(license)

40 comments on “Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Shares Emotional Aftermath

  1. Dear Dash,

    I am so sorry that you experienced this tyranny, all in the name of god. I am so very sorry. Thank you for daring to expose this for what it is by sharing more of the details of your story.

    Hugs,
    Brenda

    Like

  2. Anything that separates you from the reality of being human and having the human emotions that Jesus expressed (both sadness and anger, multiple examples of both) is straight from hell. Please don’t let these pigs separate you from Jesus, because when He walked among us and ran into people like that He overturned their tables and scattered their money on the floor for anyone to take and went after their arses with whips. He also told people it’d be better for them to be thrown straight into the sea with a big stone round their necks that hurt people like you.

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  3. Dash-I am sorry this happened to you and that no one was there to protect you. I was not exposed to Gothard until I was a young adult and even then I thought he was strange. I didn’t know how strange until the stories that started appearing on the internet a few years ago. I pray you will find the peace and comfort a loving God wants to give you because you are much more special to Him than you ever were to your parents or Gothard.

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  4. Dash – Thanks for sharing more with us. I do appreciate hearing from you on here. I always know your thoughts are raw and come from the heart. What pains me is knowing that those raw thoughts come from deep hurt. You are valued here, Dash.

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  5. I am not at all offended by the language. On the contrary, I appreciate Dash’s honesty and transparency. I totally understand where Dash is coming from and pray for his healing. So sad!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. heart breaking… and how this has been multiplied for so many others. It is grievous, appalling, and so so wrong…

    and Dash, even though you consider the Bible is bs, etc…

    I pray for healing in your inner being, Dash, as only the Holy Spirit, the Counselor can bring, in His beautiful way, deep inside of you, in your inner being that was violated in so many ways over the years… I do not blame you at all for shutting down to love from any human being (I bless your cats for their comfort to you!)… People are meant and wired to be loved, and when you receive mixed messages from your parents, who are suppose to love you, that as young children we love them unconditionally because we are trusting children, and when instead of love from them, we get abuse (whatever their intentions are), our soul is deeply wounded… and at a young age, even though there is no way to articulate this horrific crisis, but you know in your inner being (not cognitively necessarily), that what is happening is so wrong and it causes great confusion internally.

    I see you as a spiritual refugee… refugees flee because it is not safe for them anymore… and again, I don’t blame you one bit for running away as fast as you could when you could, from the church and staying away from the institutional church… I am grateful you are connecting with the Ekklesia (organic church) here via Julie Anne, etc.

    I find this is also confirming of how manipulative type “powers that be” have turned the institutional church into a corrupt business for their own benefit, to some significant extent…

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  7. More Iron age folk tales but I get your point. This was very helpful to me in how you expressed yourself. I also relate to the physical issues and the constant pain/numbness. It can be so exhausting. One thing I am coming to realize and be so totally thankful for is that my parents did not force God down our throat. My father loathed the evangelical “born again” faith with a deep passion and it actually protected me in ways I am just know beginning to understand.

    Dash these are mere words but I am sorry this happened to you. If this helps your articles have helped me a great deal.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It sounds kind of weird to say I liked what you said, or I loved it, but I did. Not because I am a crazy who enjoys people in torment but because I know how it feels to express those real thoughts and feelings with abandon. I know saying it where /when folks get shocked it made me feel good. It made me feel powerful. Keep saying it. I admire the blunt honesty. I understand the hopeless utter torment you are living .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing, Dash. It can be really really hard to share feelings like this, because in my experience people accuse you of being negative or tell you to stop complaining. So thank you for speaking out. And I want to thank you on a personal level too. I came so close to going down the ATI route for homeschool, but even from the outside his approach seemed lacking in compassion. The more I read stories like yours, the more thankful I am that I pushed for a different approach for my kids. God only knows what would have happened. My husband has issues of his own as it is; thank goodness he didn’t get hold of a religious justification for them, because without the support of my church I don’t know where I’d be.

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  10. Dash, Thank you for being open here with your pain. Unfortunately, many people can not empathize, because emotions like anger, rage scare the Hell out of them and they aren’t able to recognize the pain behind the anger.
    I am hopeful that your willingness to pour out your rage here and maybe, just maybe experience some empathy and love here will be a small step towards healing.
    I personally have often dealt with the desire to just die and get life over with.
    Poor parenting can leave a hole in your heart a mile wide. Healthy connection with just one or two people can help make life tolerable, and at times can bring moments of contentment.
    I hope you can find one or two connections. Stay away from those people who trigger your pain!! I am sorry for your suffering and want you to know your life holds great value!! Love-Ann

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dash,
    I want to add my “I’m sorry this happened to you”. It shouldn’t have. I also realize that all the sorry’s in the world can’t take away your pain. Thankfully, though, you do have an affirming place to air your frustrations/anger. It’s your story and you get to tell it any way you want to, with as many colourful adjectives — we’ll listen and not judge. Please know that there are many of us who sincerely wish we could make things different for you. I agree with Ann, above. I am hoping you can find people you can relate to and who will understand you. After all, the Dash we’ve come to know on JA’s blog, we like. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. because emotions like anger, rage scare the Hell out of them

    Hopelessness is the one that scares me.

    I hope that sharing and knowing that there are people who do care helps.

    I don’t have anything to say that isn’t trite because my response to this story is an expletive, sadness and concern.

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  13. BTW, did you see the ‘gospel’ coalition has an article about how having been mistreated doesn’t give you any ‘secret’ knowledge? Calling people ‘broken wolves’. Of course, especially women, because why not? Ugh.

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  14. I read the “broken wolves” essay by Joe Carter, and it’s hilarious. I don’t claim to be a Christian, there’s certainly nothing appealing about me, and I don’t have any special knowledge. Morons. Whatever, they can spout all the dire crap they want, it doesn’t change the fact that the modern church is a place of abuse and it’s entirely due to blathering idiots like John the piping Piper.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Got Hard strikes again.

    Testimony from another of the eggs cracked to make the Perfect Christian Family Omelet. All for the Glory of an 80-something ManaGAWD with assorted sexual paraphilae (with looooong… waaaavy…. haaaair….) who never grew beyond 10 years old internally.

    From the above, Dash is male. It’s not only FEMALE eggs who get cracked for the Perfect Christian Family Omelet.

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  16. @Lea:

    BTW, did you see the ‘gospel’ coalition has an article about how having been mistreated doesn’t give you any ‘secret’ knowledge? Calling people ‘broken wolves’. Of course, especially women, because why not? Ugh.

    Because The Party Can Do No Wrong, Comrades.

    Like

  17. @Bunkababy:

    It sounds kind of weird to say I liked what you said, or I loved it, but I did. Not because I am a crazy who enjoys people in torment but because I know how it feels to express those real thoughts and feelings with abandon.

    Because Dash is being REAL.
    Not rewordgitating “Offend Nobody” pablum like you hear so often.

    @Ann:

    Dash, Thank you for being open here with your pain. Unfortunately, many people can not empathize, because emotions like anger, rage scare the Hell out of them and they aren’t able to recognize the pain behind the anger.

    Take it from someone who’s dabbled in fantastic fiction writing:
    It’s the Strong emotions (like anger and rage) that put POWER behind the story. All three of my writings that wrote themselves and had IMPACT are Dark. (The trick is not letting the Strong and Dark emotions consume YOU in the process.) And the denial of those strong, REAL emotions is why Christianese fiction is all so “Stay Sweet” Saccharine Insipid.

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  18. @Dash:

    I had a real epiphany today. It finally came to me that Bill Gothard basically viewed his ATI families as a kind of Off-Broadway production for advertising purposes. The purpose of ATI was/is to present the evangelical community with living, breathing examples of “Perfect Family” results that can be obtained with his materials, to increase enrollment and revenue. The family home is the “backstage” area, where the performance is produced…

    In a TIME interview years ago, the actor who starred in Mad Men lost it about fans who tell him they want to be like his on-screen character, Don Draper. And his response to them (from memory):

    “You want to be like him? He’s one of the hamburgers that appear in his ad agency’s photo shoots and commercials — shiny and juicy on the outside, all dried out and rotten on the inside!”

    Like

  19. JA – I’m sure Phil and Joe are referring to survivor bloggers, but let’s face it, at this point I partly fit that description myself. In any case they have no business commenting on any of us, and it pisses me off.

    HUG, you always crack me up. Thanks for weighing in.

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  20. Dash, I have no problem with the language you used. I doubt if there are enough vulgar words in the English language to describe how you feel. I can not imagine being raised in that environment. You do know that there are millions of us out here who would never dream of even treating a stray animal the way your parents treated you, don’t you?
    Anger is okay, sometimes good. God was angry sometimes, and Jesus cleared the Temple ….knocking over tables. I think your anger is a form of righteous anger. Keep telling your story. People need to know what institutions like ATI and the people involved do to children and the lifelong repercussions. You have a battle to fight to protect others, and you have the ammunition to win. I hope you have the strength to defeat that monster that your parents beat into you for all those years.

    The head trauma? Don’t give up on that either. The left side of my skull was bashed in in a car wreck when I was 18. I suffer a stroke at age 45. I’m not supposed to be able to walk and talk times two, but I do, and then some! Granted, I have not suffered repeated head injuries – 1 concussion, 1 contusion, and 1 major head trauma – but…. My MRIs really mess with the neurologists heads, if you know what I mean! Maybe yours will too.

    Take care of your kitty cats.
    Cats??? Cats????? Oh, for Pete’s sake! Go get a dog. Dogs are way better than cats!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ll take Dash’s real talk over the convoluted, imho straight-from-hell backhanded hate that comes from many church leaders such as Gothard any day. In all candor, it’s more like Jesus’ talk than the mealy-mouther crap we hear from politicians and most church leaders. But again, Dash, I sure do wish you didn’t throw Jesus out with these monsters. Because if there is no God, if it’s all just a random dance of atoms, then there is no justice, and Bill Gothard setting up a system in which children are abused is no different from Mother Theresa helping children. Please don’t throw Him out.

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  22. @JulieAnne:

    Carmen, I just realized who you were thinking I was talking about: Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty! It took me a while!

    Of “PERSECUTION!!!!! RALLY ROUND THE BEARD, BOYS!!!!!!!” fame.

    Like

  23. Somethng about word-associating with the names/handles here:

    @Lea – Your handle is also the name of Kimba the White Lion’s girlfriend in the original Japansese.

    @Dash – I cannot read your handle without thinking of a fiercely-competitive tomboy of a cute pegasus mare:

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  24. Dear Dash: First, I want to say that I am so, so sorry for what happened to you as a child. There can be no defense for such wickedness. As a child, you should have experienced kindness, compassion, gentleness, concern, patience, along with love expressed in hugs, kisses and wonderful memories that bonded you with your parents. Instead, only pain and misery flood the memories of your youth. How heart-breaking!

    Next, I want to say I understand your angry reaction toward Christianity, since it was in that context in which you were abused. I, too, am a survivor from a Christian cult that used guilt and shame to pound people into submission. The leader in that cult showed disgust toward children and there were several instances in which children were mistreated and abused. In fact, the son of the cult leader ended up in the hospital with bruises and welts due to extreme physical discipline, at the order and instruction of his evil father. That poor son’s plight at this stage in his life, reminds me very much of you, dear Dash. Rigid, self-righteous, condemning, judgmental religion can only inflict harm upon people in such controlling belief systems. There can be no good fruit that comes out of such Dark Places of spiritual and physical torment.

    When my husband and I left that Dark Place, we had to work through and process so much that had happened. I felt so much anger and frustration due to all the madness that resided there. Most Christians could not understand or help me. Too often, the message is to suppress one’s feelings, forgive, and move on. This is a recipe for disaster! If we do not process what happened to us in cases of physical and/or spiritual abuse, the results of squelching our true selves and presenting a false face to others, will result in mental, emotional and often physiological manifestations. To thine own self be true is an adage that I have embraced in this regard.

    Dash, I wish you peace, comfort, and hope, and yes – pray – that you will arrive at a place of deep healing within your soul and body. Be rest assured that there are many people – many Christians as well – who are empathetic toward you and care about the pain you have and are experiencing. Do not go gently into that good night, my friend!

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  25. He’s a #}}%%^#.

    MOD NOTE: JA removed Carmen’s original word. Carmen, can you please elaborate why he’s a #}}%%^.? I want this blog to be a place where people can learn from each other. Some people don’t know why Piper is a #}}%%^. 😀

    Like

  26. John the Pied Piper has been spouting heartless and misogynistic nonsense for years now, Kittycat. Just to note a few examples: He is on record as saying that wives should “endure abuse for a season” from their spouses. He also claims that it’s wrong for a divorced wife to remarry, even if her previous marriage has been a nightmare of violence.

    It also doesn’t help that Piper refuses to say a bad word about Mark Driscoll (one of the most blatantly bullying “pastors” still active), and teaches that God “ordains” all of the bad things that happen to us “for His own glory”. Which means that God also ordained all of the evil things that were done to Dash. I don’t blame Dash for refusing to put his trust in a “god” like that.

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  27. Mark Driscoll got forcibly driven out of Seattle for a reason, way to go Seattle. And John Piper is a raving lunatic, as is the entirety of the patriarchal “gospel” Coalition. Those people are heretical wankers.

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  28. I’m sure someone will be along presently to give us the usual “touch not God’s anointed” speech for daring to speak against John-The-Piping Piper. I’m very fond of that speech, it’s so comically ignorant and deliciously stupid.

    The upside of teaching people never to question the belief system you feed them is that you get a vast number of stupid followers who are easily manipulated. The downside of teaching people never to question the belief system you feed them is that, well, you get a vast number of stupid followers who are easily manipulated. Good times.

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