How I Survived Homeschooling in Bill Gothard’s Cult: Part Two
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.
The summer I turned 14 (1989) my family joined ATIA and started using the “curriculum”. Even as a young teenager those Wisdom Booklets never made sense to me – it was just a bunch of preaching (brainwashing) with a little academia thrown in. The home and peer oppression continued while I stonily went through the motions, wondering when it would stop. I hoped I could hang on until I was of age to move out.
I learned how to not rock the boat, tell my parents what they wanted to hear (i.e. I’ve been convicted of XYZ, etc.), guard my heart and thoughts closely and try not to let myself sink into the mire of religious self-righteousness.
In religion a person serves a man’s interpretation of the law. Freedom is knowing that you serve no man, ever, that Jesus paid with His blood to buy us all back from sin and death, fulfilling the law, made us a new creation in Him, no longer to be servants/slaves. That’s good news!!
At 14 and a half I took my first steps down the beautiful path of freedom. It wasn’t until after I was married at 18 that I was able to start skipping and running with joy down this soul-freeing highway! I never looked back, knowing that Jesus would weed out all the death teachings of the law and nurture the life-giving knowledge of Grace & Peace that He had instilled in me even before I was born. An excellent teacher that He brought my way has been Mike Williams of the Gospel Revolution. His book, One, has helped immeasurably towards erasing years of abusive, evil teachings. Also, Excuses Begone!, by Dr. Wayne Dyer and Think & Be Free by Grant E. Miller.
I was required to study the Bible, but was allowed to pick my topic or book in the Bible. So I did word studies (Kay Arthur) on redemption vs salvation, and tithing, to name a couple. I shared my findings with my parents and tried to cautiously share the new joy and hope that I was discovering away from religion.
My parents didn’t really respond to what I was sharing, and since nothing changed I assumed that they didn’t, or wouldn’t, hear me.
So I tucked it all inside and continued to play the game, the game of survival.
That summer, in 1990, on our way to the ATIA seminar I was shocked when my parents announced that my dad would be getting a vasectomy reversal, so they could follow God’s will and have more kids. This was surprising to me because all I’d heard from my mom since I could remember at an early age was, “I can’t wait till I can do what I want when you’re gone,” or “I can’t wait till you’re out of the house.” Eighteen seemed to be the magical number. I remember thinking at the time, “What has my dad done with my mom? Brainwashed her?” I wasn’t the only one to think this – my mom’s family accused him of brainwashing her too. So after the ATIA seminar in Knoxville, TN we traveled to the doctor’s place in Texas, who, by the way, was also in ATIA, and the surgery was performed. This was based on one man’s pressure to “go forth and multiply” to be able to receive His blessing and be in “right” standing with Him.
The following year went along much as usual, except that I started to give up on any changes happening, and, of course, I had another birthday – my fifteenth.
There were the usual uncomfortable episodes with my dad – wolf calling me, standing me next to my mom and looking us up and down, laughingly calling me his girlfriend, and all the deep soul searching questioning sessions called “family time”.
Two momentous events occurred in the spring of 1991: we moved across the country from Arizona to Georgia for a job and my mom conceived her first post-vasectomy reversal baby, due that Dec.
In the summer (July) of 1991 we once again packed up for another ATIA seminar. This time during the week there in Knoxville I attended one of those “special” meetings that were for us older students 16 (or soon to be) and up. I only remember that at some point info was given on the Counseling Training Seminar, which sounded interesting to me, and that Bill seemed to look at me a lot during his talk. When I first noticed his attention, I thought he was surely looking at someone else, but my dad was next to me and no one else close enough for where his eyes kept going. I looked around to be sure. It creeped me out, so I watched to see who else he looked at so intently. I didn’t notice him looking in other directions as long as he did in mine. At the end of the hour or so, my dad wanted me to go up and greet Bill. I said no, that if he wanted to greet him so much he should go by himself, which he did. I felt my stomach sink a short while later as I watched my dad and Bill turn and wave to me, motioning me to come down.
I reluctantly went down and met Bill, trying not to show my distaste, when he covered my hand with both of his and held it a little too long, while looking intently into my eyes.
I was wondering what my dad had told him about me. My dad seemed oblivious to this very forward and inappropriate behavior, grinning at the “special” favor that was about to be bestowed on me. Even though I was too young (not quite 16, thank God!), I was going to the Counseling event. Fortunately, it worked out that I ended up not going – Bill couldn’t get it worked out – but a few weeks later I was invited up to HQ for a couple of months.