Bill Gothard, Emotional Responses, IBLP and ATI, It's All About the Image, Personal Stories, Recovery Process, SURVIVOR STORIES

Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Shares Emotional Aftermath

Bill Gothard, IBLP, Child Abuse, Discipline


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:


112 thoughts on “Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Shares Emotional Aftermath”

  1. _ _ _ Point 1 _ _ _
    One thing I find a little amusing is that KAS seems to find this blog too harsh.

    While not everyone who posts here is a Christian – some are atheist, agnostic, and I’m not sure what all else – there is never-the-less a sense of decorum here (even from the Non-Christians) that I don’t generally find on more “secular” type blogs and forums.

    If KAS thinks the folks here are too mean or un-couth, he should spend more time on blogs, forums, and Facebook groups that are largely populated by Ex-Christians, liberal Christians (and ones who are a bit sour on the Bible and traditional values), atheists, and agnostics.

    The guys who post to such groups and forums would eat KAS for lunch.

    The guys who typically post to such sites would not hold back, their posts would be generously peppered with vulgarities (lots of F-bombs, for example, with no apologies or F’s given if they offend KAS).
    Where-as here, on this site, he gets much more gentle treatment from participants, though he thinks most of us here are not gentle enough.

    I would love to see KAS pontificate over at sites such as Ex-Christian net, Friendly Atheist blog, or ‘Stuff Christian Culture Likes’ facebook group, as he does on here, and see how long he is tolerated.

    _ _ _ Point 2 _ _ _
    You’ll notice the most disturbing thing is every time KAS makes an appearance on a thread, the thread derails from the original intent-

    Say, discussing how one or more people have been deeply wounded by pastor or theology X, Y, Z…
    To how KAS thinks people should discuss X, Y, and Z.

    The spotlight has shifted from examining the harmful behavior (or teachings) of guys like Bill Gothard and what Dash endured under Gothardism … to KAS, and to what KAS wants and thinks.
    I wonder if that is the intent?


  2. Regarding Dash and Dash’s original post.

    Dash said,


    blockquote>I no longer believe anger and sadness are negative emotions.


    blockquote> I know what you mean. I wasn’t brought up in Gothardism but in standard Southern Baptist theology and churches, but the dynamics of my family were such that I was taught that girls and women are not to show negative emotional openly, especially not anger.

    My mother was usually okay (though not always okay) with me going to her in private and expressing anger, but I was taught to swallow my anger and be a doormat. In my case, this was in large part because of sexism.
    I was raised with these traditional gender role ideals that said women should only be sweet and nurturing, never angry.

    My dad and sister are kind of angry people. They have no qualms about expressing their own anger, but hypocritically, they both scold me or hound me into keeping MY anger under wraps.

    My dad and sister also have shamed me and criticized me for going to other people to admit since my mother died I’ve experienced depression, feelings of being lost, being lonely, etc.
    (According to my dad and sister, I’m not supposed to have those feelings or talk about them to anyone because that is wrong and shameful.)

    For the past few years, I’ve been getting out of this mindset.

    I’ve read books by psychologists and psychiatrists (some who are Christian, some not) who explain it’s healthy to express negative emotions, and there’s nothing shameful about having or admitting to feeling sad (or lonely, angry, etc).

    These books actually say that it’s very detrimental to keep negative feelings bottled u and to repress them.

    Dash said,

    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.

    I’ve never married either, and ‘m over 40. I was engaged at one time. I broke things off with my ex because he was a selfish jerk-hole, among other reasons.

    HUG, who sometimes posts here, has never married, though he did have a steady, serious girlfriend for awhile.

    I’m pretty much an introvert and have a difficult time being around people, too. I was certainly disappointed by people after my mother died. None of them – Christian friends and family – were there for me in my time of need. It was a let down and a shock.

    So, I can kind of relate to some of the things you’re going through or have gone through.


  3. I have not addressed your testimony of suffering. I wasn’t sure whether I would make a bad situation worse. SKIJ has assumed this is because I don’t have any compassion.

    I didn’t assume it, KAS. I only suspected it. Now you’ve gone and proven my suspicions right.

    How dare you try to compare Dash’s sufferings to anyone’s. How dare you try to make him feel guilty because he isn’t in the same emotional and spiritual state as these two men you brag about. You have no right doing that to him, or lecturing him about what to do with his mind and heart. You’ve demonstrated that you aren’t nearly a good enough person for that.


  4. (Part 1)
    Serving Kids said (to KAS),

    How dare you try to compare Dash’s sufferings to anyone’s. How dare you try to make him feel guilty because he isn’t in the same emotional and spiritual state as these two men you brag about.

    You have no right doing that to him, or lecturing him about what to do with his mind and heart. You’ve demonstrated that you aren’t nearly a good enough person for that.

    I was thinking about doing a blog post related to this at my own (Miss Daisy) blog. I’m still debating whether or not to write it.

    I do find it a turn-off when people compare person A’s pain and situation to person B’s situation and scold them, or, to say, “Person A had it worse than you and Person A moved on and got over it, so why don’t you suck it up buttercup,” to Person B.

    There may be some people in some situations to whom that sort of thing applies, but it sure doesn’t apply to every one, and if it’s said to the wrong person, it can cause the person in pain even more pain.

    After my Mom died, for example, I was badly in need of a sympathetic shoulder to cry on and did not have one.

    I tried opening up to Christians I knew (both family and at churches) to receive support, and I was instead faced with criticism, platitudes, shaming, etc., from those people.

    Another common thing I kept running into, as I’ve mentioned on this blog, and at the WW blog, are Christians who have this very annoying tendency to compare YOUR pain (and situation) to someone else’s, and then declare that your pain is nothing, so you should just pick yourself up by your bootstraps and just get over it already.

    When I confided in Christians I thought I could trust about my grief over the loss of my mother (even within the first four years of the loss, when the grief was very fresh for me)…

    I had Christians compare my grief, to say, starving orphans in Africa, proclaim that the orphans had it way worse than I did, so, I should just shut up and move on with life already. I thought that was a very insensitive attitude.

    Of course, the Christians who conveyed this usually dressed it up in much prettier-sounding words (they weren’t always quite so blunt about it), but that was the gist of it.
    (And it was still insulting and insensitive, even when it was said in really sweet, nice, KAS approved language.)

    And that attitude I got from Christians actually prolonged my grief.

    Outside of internet forums for grief, I was unable to find anyone who seemed to understand or care about what I was going through at the time.

    I have a big sister who is bad about this, too.
    She feels that because she has more or worse problems than mine (or than anyone else’s) that only she is worthy of compassion, but everyone else needs to toughen up and soldier on.

    My sister gets very hostile if or when I’ve ever gone to her seeking emotional support during a time of crisis, but she expects me to hold her hand while she rants and weeps over her own problems. It’s very hypocritical.

    (continued in Part 2)


  5. (Part 2)
    On the other hand, I have known or met people or come across folks online who do seem to be “stuck” in their grief, or who remain intensely angry at an ex-spouse they divorced 20 or more years ago, or who remain stuck by or in whatever situation they were hurt by in the past.

    I have known people who don’t seem willing to want to move on from whatever hurt they experienced X years ago, or to even try moving on.

    They almost seem comfortable remaining stuck in Victim Mode, or seem to find comfort or enjoyment at remaining angry at the guy who did them wrong X years ago.

    And it’s very sad. They could enjoy life if they could move on from whatever it is.

    (In my own case, I made a choice to get over my mother’s death, and I worked at it, which I mostly have done. And it was work, it took effort.
    I couldn’t financially afford to see a therapist, so I did a lot of reading about grief from free online resources, that sort of thing. I did not want to remain “stuck” in the grief.

    I had to go it alone, which is a shame. Christian family and churches should have helped me, but they were more interested in shaming and judging me than in helping me (giving me empathy), so I had to get by alone).

    Anyway, the types of people who almost seem to relish being in ‘Victim Mode’ or in staying angry at the world all the time do exist (I’ve known a few over my life), but I would be very, very careful in lecturing anyone and every one I meet in person or online that I feel they are stuck and need to move on…

    Nor would I feel comfortable telling just anyone and every one that “Joe Blow” has life worse than them (“Hey, if Joe could move on, so can you”), so they just need to suck it up and move on

    I think all this would depend on the specific person and specific situation… one size does not fit all.

    (I’m not directing this at anyone in this thread, post, or blog – I am speaking in general terms.)


  6. How dare you try to make him feel guilty because he isn’t in the same emotional and spiritual state as these two men you brag about.

    Co-sign, Serving Kids in Japan .

    Also, no matter the topic, KAS has someone who mysteriously handled way worse, way better than…whoever he’s talking about. Isn’t that convenient.

    But it’s never KAS. He doesn’t actually understand. He just uses these (possibly mythical) people to try to keep others in line. Bad form.


  7. Daisy, I think your pain is your pain. You have to go through it to move on. I don’t think you can put a time frame on these things, since we are all different.

    I had an ex who lied to me and it hurt. And I kept thinking it’s been a month, I should be over it. Now two months. Now three. And I don’t truly know how long ‘getting over’ something is supposed to take. We are all so different.

    I know there are things that help people move through pain and things that will hinder them. All we can do is try to be the kind of people who help. Lecturing people that they should be over it by now is not a thing that helps. I am thoroughly convinced of that.


  8. @ Lea
    I discuss that and other points in my blog post, which is listed as a Pingback about this post (the link is above).

    As I get into therein my blog post, yes, your pain is yours, we all differ, healing is a time consuming process (not instant),etc,

    But I do sometimes see people who have spent years and years paralyzed by an issue. Their life grinds to a halt because of past abuse or mistreatment.

    At some stage a person has to make a deliberate decision not to allow that hurt or pain to impede them.

    It’s what I had to do over several issues in my life including my mother dying, My ex abusing me financially, my big sister verbally abuse me for years, a boss who harassed me yrs ago, etc.


  9. Quotes from KAS:

    It is how God views this and what will happen to it all at the judgement seat of Christ.*

    You don’t speak for God, KAS, you deluded arrogant nincompoop.

    Someone at some time has got to go beyond this though. I don’t want to be the one, I’m not sure it’s my place. Much better done in person.


    Dude, you should keep your distance because I’ve dealt with religious loons like you many, many times. You wouldn’t get two condescending sentences out at me, I’d literally laugh in your face and tell you to go f— yourself. And then I’d ignore you and walk away. I don’t accept asperity from self-righteous mental cases with delusions of religious grandeur.

    This kind of posting is hay. wood and stubble and will not survive the judgement seat of Christ.

    Oh poppycock. Again KAS, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR GOD. If you truly believe that you do, then you’re certifiably schizophrenic and you need to check into a psych ward immediately.

    Reading such drivel damages the reader.

    Reading your drivel makes everyone stupider, KAS. Why don’t you go live in a country that practices Sharia? You can practice being truly persecuted for a change, instead of the imaginary persecution that you currently experience only in your head.

    I may be damaged, but I’m not a mark. Go peddle your condescension and delusions of self-righteous grandeur at someone else. You bore me.


  10. KAS,

    If you have time to watch the Piper video one thing is painfully obvious on that video: John Piper’s words drop with arrogance as he giggles at telling women to submit to violence.

    We shouldn’t have to point out that even Jesus didn’t turn the other cheek when the temple guard struck him. He stood up for his rights. John 18:23. Yet Piper is such an ARROGANT PRICK that he will ignore Gods commands to keep his tradition.

    Something is seriously wrong with the idea that because some people are offended by the words “arrogant prick” then the church can just close its eyes to pure evil standing right in front of it.

    Liked by 2 people

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