How I Survived Homeschooling in Bill Gothard’s Cult: Part Two
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.
HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Alexa Meyer’s blog Life of Grace and Peace. It was originally published on June 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.
In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Conclusion
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.
A side question: as a healthy and choice-conscious male who is enjoying the reproductive freedom of my body, my choice… what the hell did Gothard/IBLP say to *men* that resulted in such brainwashing??
I can’t imagine… and even if I did gulp that crazy Koolaid, Mrs. St. James would laugh her butt off if I attempted to quote Bible verses for such things. No one of any gender or sexuality owes anyone, God or human, any part of their sexuality or reproduction.
Hi Timber! Good question! It all goes back to fundamentalist patriarchal teachings – God is a man, men are the head/leader of their households, their households are to respect and obey them in everything, no questioning (it’s considered rebellion), the woman is to submit to her husband in ALL things, God mandated having lots of children, basically anything that a man wants to come up with and say that God told him to. I’ve started a series on these teachings and how they have invaded not only mainstream Christianity, but a lot of groups of people. You can check it out on my blog site: http://www.lifeofgraceandpeace.wordpress.com
Thanks for reading! Pass it on if you think it will benefit someone!
LOL, while my own past history with fundamentalism was quite a ride, it wasn’t quite so cartoonish (yet all that sounds so convenient!). It was almost always women/wives who drove the agenda (and abuse) in the background, while paying lip service to the “submit to husband/dad” trope. Lots of weak/beta men who said/did whatever they thought would please their moms, er, I mean wives.
I’m more curious as to what in the world would force a guy to change his mind so dramatically. I mean, in the example, your dad was convinced to reverse a vasectomy–to totally change his mind and literally his body.
What the hell did they tell him?? What did he think he’d gain? (Assuming everyone in the example is generally rational.)
LOL, it sounds like you’re describing a matriarchy, which is the opposite side of the same coin as patriarchy.
I think he was told that God wouldn’t bless him because he wasn’t having as many kids as possible – it was God’s mandate. Hard to argue with “God”! The program touted “do these things and everything will go right for you,” like a 12 step program. Ridiculous! And no one can possibly be rational when they’re swallowing abusive teachings. Also, I’m not so sure that my dad’s mind was changed (I remember him talking on and off over the years about wishing to have more kids), so much as it was my mom’s mind that had to be changed. I think my dad idealized Bill Gothard to the point of thinking he’s like him; is right about everything, everyone else is living life wrong, if people would only follow him then their lives would be blessed – basically narcissistic. My mom had to decide if she was going to continue to enable my dad, and she did just that, only questioning it once to me, that I remember, after her last baby was born 16 years ago. As far as what my dad hoped to gain, why, an army of good little christian soldiers to fight the good fight against humanistic and wordly teachings. As of right now, half of my siblings are living up to what my dad has always longed for, unfortunately.
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