Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bill Gothard has negativley affected my life....

I started this blog to have a space to write about how patriarchal fundamentalist thought had affected my marriage and resulted in disaster on many levels. The truth is that patriarchal fundamentalist thought had already wreaked havoc on my life before I even met my husband, but that is really a whole different story. I did not intend to write much about my family of origin here, but I will today in solidarity with the Quiverfull Daughter, of whom I am very fond.

I am not a Quiverfull daughter. I am one of four girls raised by my single mother after two failed marriages. Her story is one of abuse and heartache, and it affected her life and personality in very negative ways. My mom is abusive and manipulative and completely self-centered. I am convinced she has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Since I started relating to her as if that were a true diagnosis, our relationship has improved significantly. (Recommended read: Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina W. Brown, Ed. D., L.P.C.)

My mom was a staunch feminist, but she was also a great opportunist. She was in and out of different churches all my growing years, depending on her needs and how she thought it could benefit her. She was also in and out of illicit sexual relationships, but of course those two lives never crossed. She was very abusive in private, and managed to keep my siblings and me isolated from one another even though we were all going through the same thing. To those of you who ever lived in such a tangled mess of a family, you understand. To those of you who had a healthier experience of life, I couldn't begin to explain it. Her public church persona, however, was "poor abandoned single mom just trying to live for Jesus".

The summer between seventh and eighth grade was the most violent. I only found out as an adult why the physical abuse suddenly stopped, but the mental/emotional/psychological abuse would never end. It would continue today if I allowed her the access to my heart that real mothers have with their loved daughters.

The biggest spiritual crisis of my life came that summer. I was twelve years old. The honest truth is that I loved the Lord with all my heart. Not because I was raised in a family with daily devotions, but because Jesus loved me and had comforted my heart so many times- through moves and divorces and shamings and beatings and beratings. I loved church when we went, and I spent time every day pouring out my heart to God in prayer. My Bible was underlined and highlighted and I memorized Proverbs not because I had to or was in a competition, but because I wanted my loving Lord's counsel for how to live my life.

At the same time, the abuse was at its peak and I was crushed- angry, depressed and desperate for any kind of love and acceptance I could find. I would tell my mom I was spending the night with fictional friends (she never checked) and then spend the night in the abandoned house across the street just to be away from her. Once when I was hanging out with God at lunch, a group of kids from school found me. Instead of making fun of me, they asked me to join them. They happened to be partiers, so soon I was smoking and drinking if I was invited to join the fun. It felt so good for someone to like me!

That fall, I was forced to go to the Basic Youth Conflict seminar. Even though I drew pictures of KISS all over my notebook, I was listening carefully. I wanted more than any thing to please God and would have loved for my mom to care about me. And Billy G. had all the answers! If only I would submit to my mom in everything, forgive her unconditionally ever time she wronged me, then *presto* *change-o* God would change my mother into a loving mature woman of God. After all, she was my AUTHORITY.

I came home determined to make this work. I worked hard to please my mom, yet never was able to make her happy. I was subservient, and when she began to verbally and/or physically abuse me I tried to keep a "sweet spirit". And I prayed. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before, that God would make me good enough so that my mom would be free to live for Jesus and stop abusing me/us.

But you know what? My mom didn't change at all. She kept right on treating her children as she had always treated us. And it still hurt just as much as ever. I was still angry at being screamed at for hours, slapped around, and continually insulted and degraded. I just could not be the "sweet submissive child" that Billy G. told me God wanted me to be, even in the midst of abuse. It never occurred to me that Billy G. ws wrong. I thought something was wrong with me.

I thought God wasn't changing my mom because I wasn't sweet enough. I thought God wasn't changing my mom because I was still angry and hurt about being mistreated (such a mild word for such devastating heartache). I thought that the presence of these emotions meant that I had an unforgiving heart, and pray as I did, those feelings just would not go away.

Of course the truth is that Bill Gothard is a dangerous heretic and his teachings are poison, but at that point in my life I thought anyone on a platform was right. It was easy for me to assume the problem was with me. My mom had told me my whole life how stupid, thoughtless, selfish, lazy and utterly hopeless I was.

And so I walked away from Jesus with a broken heart. I remember how deep I sobbed that night, gut-wrenching sobs from the depths of my being. I told Jesus I could not be a Christian, because I was such a hypocrite, and I did not want to blaspheme his name with my abhorrent behavior. I was not good enough to follow Jesus.

So I quit reading my Bible and trying so hard to live a righteous life. I hung out with people who appeared to actually like me, and if we drank and smoke and did drugs, so what? I was a moral failure, an epic fail at godliness. So what did it matter.

Because of my own experience, of loving the Lord with all my heart and yet continually being accused of evil motives and thoughts, I identify with Quiverfull daughters.

Because of my own experience, of never measuring up and yet carrying all the responsibility for the actions of others, I identify with Quiverfull daughters.

Because of my own experience, with those in authority claiming absolute power over our lives in the name of God, I identify with Quiverfull daughters.

My experience began in the seventies, and all that damage came from only ONE weekend seminar. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of having this pounded in your head day after day after day. So, Quiverfull daughters, children of ATI, survivors of fundamentalist cults, you have my loyal sympathy and strong support.

And that was only the beginning of the way Bill Gothard negatively affected my life. It would peak in a perfect storm of spiritual abuse, complete with church elders and symbolic stonings.


  1. Hey-my heart goes out to you. Bill G is a total ahole and thank God the truth about his ways is finally making headlines, though it is horrid that children had to die for this to happen. I have written a similar story, though not surrounding fundamentalism, in my own blog
    feel free to check it out if you want to. Thanks for telling your story.

  2. I would love to read your story, Mary. Heading there now...

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm very sorry that you suffered so much. I have very similar issues with Bill Gothard. Following his principles made me miserable. My senior pastor will be leaving at the end of April and he is being replaced by our very Gothardistic associate pastor. I am praying that God will remove Gothard from the pedestal everyone puts him on and that God will reveal his teachings for what they truly are, whatever that may be. I love my church and don't want to leave and don't want to see people hurt. I agree, his teachings are poison.

  4. I'm Mennonite and Bill G has done more to harm my culture than any other one single person, in my opinion. My husband is a pastor and about to put his proverbial head on the chopping block to expose the heresy of this Gothardian teaching in a very public way. I know there will be a backlash. But that is okay. Someone needs to stand up and speak the Truth.

  5. Thank you for being yet another 'voice crying out in the wilderness.'

    I simply cannot understand those who continue to defend mr.G and should know better, with even the least bit of a education in studying the Bible. He's an out and out judaizer, maybe the foremost lawgiver of our times, yet so many evangelical Christians support him...??!!

    I find myself hoping/praying for divine justice: that his 'ministry' will collapse when he dies, and hopefully before too long. (o'

    (a former ATIA student who gave 3 yrs to Gothard in a training center)

  6. Will,

    May God restore to you all the years you wasted serving that false god under false pretenses. The Lord knows it was He whom your heart truly longed for. May the peace of Jesus guard and keep you every moment of a long, prosperous life. SS

  7. Lolz! I'm gonna leave the comment above up for a day or two, just so the whole world knows how dangerous this man really is. Yes, people still follow him. How sad.

    Bill Gothard's cult is alive and well and financially healthy. He charges people to come to his seminars, use his sorry excuse for educational curriculum which they must use to be in his cult, and THEN he gets free slave labor of home schooled kids whose parents SEND them to work for Mr.Gothard for free like it's some kind of honor. It is crazy how gullible people are.

  8. I know lots of families that are involved in the ATI cult. My boyfriend had to escape his home because his parents were nuts. I can't believe there are so many people dealing with this too..

  9. I am glad your boyfriend escaped, May 20 Anonymous 9:53. I hope he continues to find healing for his broken heart.

    I am deleting May 9 Anonymous 9:32. I ask everyone who reads here to say a prayer for all of those still suffering under Gothard's so-called "ministry".

    So sad....

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Darren,
    I assure you that God is alive and well and at work daily in my life, pouring out His love and approval on me as He welcomes me to share in the fellowship of the Trinity. I hope that one day you too will come to know this great love. God is sooo good to me! I praise Him every day for His faithful lovingkindness. =)

    I'll bet you do still struggle, and you will continue to struggle if you have chosen Bill Gothard for your spiritual mentor. Yikes! Talk about poor choices. I truly hope things get better for you soon, in every way.

    Ciao, SS

  12. Shadowspring,

    Thank you for writing your post. I am not an ATI girl, either, but Gothard's teachings strongly influenced my parents and a church I attended in high school.

    For years I've felt crazy. Yesterday I began doing some online research that began with the phrase "the Umbrella of Authority. " I'm comforted to know I'm not crazy, but also very sad and very pissed.

    I'm sure sometimes it works out well, but if adults on pulpits are teaching young women to submit to every authority ever, some of those young women are going to get really hurt in the process.



  13. Thank you for letting me know the post was a help to you! =D SS

  14. Wow,, sorry that you had to go through what you have experienced.God is a truthful, yet forgiving and loving God,, with a deep, deep love for you. A very interesting site I have run across is recovering site for ex-ati'ers that have come out of gothardism and are blossoming in their spiritual to you

  15. Thank you for that kindness, Greg.

  16. I was encouraged by several college friends to attend the IBYC meetings in the nearest large city. God had already given me a healthy skepticism about anything following the words, "You just have to...", and it served me well in this case. I asked a friend who had already attended the Basic meeting if I could peruse the study materials, and was told that would not be possible, because "you have to be there in person to get the full impact, and you'd really get confused unless you were there". This SCREAMED at me: This is a cult from the pit of hell, and this Gothard creep is just another Marjoe Gortner, or worse. So, happily, I stayed away from this "Institute" in the Spring of 1975.

  17. I am so happy for you, Anonymous 2:13!! You get a gold star for heart smarts. <3 <3

  18. part one- My heart goes out to you and how you were raised. Your story reminds me very much of what I went through except I had a dad but both he and mom were disappointed with me. I was born loving horses, artistic and never cared for typical girl stuff like dolls, make-up, clothes, Italian mom was so disappointed because she wanted me to have all the little girl things she never had as a child of poverty but I never liked those things. She did not know what to do with a horse crazy kid and thus I spent a lot of time alone in my room with her screaming at what a failure I was, worthless, how I would someday hate horses, she tore up my art, etc. Since she also babysat to make money I was her main helper but I was always in trouble for what those kids did. (I should watch them better, etc) so I never wanted to have kids was. By the time I was married I was primed for deep depression after attending the one and only Gothard seminar I ever went to because I was convinced that all those things about me were evil and I would never be able to please God.

  19. part 2-AT the seminar I learned my personality, likes, dislikes, not wanting kids were all sin. And animals were NOT part of the formula for christian life. Gothard said for girls to ride horses, or girls who liked horses were rebellious and to only have a small pet and not show it much love. Large pets might require too much time.

    Fortunately, I was friends with a very wise Christian lady who had been through much trial and growth because her husband survived 12 bullets in a store robbery told me God does NOT make cookie cutter christians.

  20. part 3- After fasting and praying and Bible reading then finally meeting God one on one, He told me my only sin was not having faith to follow His plan for my life, and that he had given me my quirky personality, love of animals and art talent and that I would be able to reach those that normal people could not. I never had children, have horses, cats and dogs, 27 years of teaching in public school and one very remarkable and longsuffering husband who has had illness after illness. (probably because of having to live with someone like me!)

  21. part 4- Christians should be careful following God's will and plan for their life. Too many christians get tricked into following what someone else claims is "God's only way." Only Jesus claimed to be the only way and He left 2 commands to God and love your neighbor. The details of how a christian should live their life, marriage, numer of kids if any, birth control or not is left up to the christian spouses and their relationship with God.

    God does not make "cookie cutter Christians", meaning each Christian has to follow the individual path God has laid out for them....It is a personal relationship and we often miss the mark. Good thing our salvation cannot be earned or we would all fail.

  22. part 5- It is a mistake to think that what God wants in one person's life is what He must want for ALL and then mistakenly try to put those ways of living on all christians as being the only way. What if ALL christians felt they should only go to Africa as missionaries? Who would go to the other countries? What is ALL christians felt that God's best plan for them was to live a monk's life of silence? Then who would tell the gospel? Or that higher education is not godly or needed? I am so glad my doctor is Christian and that he prayed over me before surgery.

    And the results of following God's will for other people can often have bad results.

    I.e. Andrea Yates (both her and husband followed quiverful blindly) who drowned her 5 children. Her doctor told her to take more time between children so she could mentally/physically and emotionally heal. They did not listen and she went off the deep end, now the woman is in jail, her children dead, her husband divorced her and remarried and now has a child. Where were the blessings promised by following quiverful for them?

    Obviously there was no birth control until modern times, so large families were a way of life and very helpful in subsistence living as more hands meant more help raising crops and tending herds.

    In the mid 20th century, dedicated American missionaries chose to have only a few children and often left them behind for others to raise as they went into sometimes dangerous mission fields. That was considered truly following God to give up your children for the mission field. When did that stop becoming "God's way". How did those missionaries, seeking out the will of God, miss out on the message of quiverful?

    Chaplain to the U.S. Senate, Peter Marshall, had only one child. Was he not following God? Was he wrong for only preaching following God through a relationship with Jesus Christ ? How did he miss out on the message of having large large families?

    Quiverful also is closely linked to Bill Gothard, who has a reputation for putting legalism (following lots and lots of so called rules to earn God's favor. But no one can follow all those rules which has left many feeling they have failed and are worthless. Gothard has redefined many scriptures to say what they were not meant to say. See for more info on the man and his mistakes and the stories of those hurt by his theology.

    Isn't it interesting how God does not repeat Himself? Here are a few examples of the many One-Time-Only Wonders....There was only one Abraham who by faith believed God's promise to make him a nation (and he had only one son from Sarah), only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and witnessed the one and only parting of the Red Sea, only one Noah who rode out the flood with all the animals on the one and only ark, just one David who using only one stone, brought down a giant. And one Mary who was visited by the one Holy Spirit to become mother of the one and only Jesus who proclaims that HE is the only One by whom salvation can be had. None of them attended any Gothard seminars and large home taught families was their only way of life because there was no birth-control. Nor were there cars nor electric lights back then but we use them now without feeling sinful. And God has made only one YOU and one incredible distinct personality found lost and wandering that He will paint and frame into one masterpiece! And that masterpiece will look like no other!

  23. Anonymous, Can I put all your comments together above in a guest post titled "No Cookie Cutter Christians"?

  24. The only thing I would change is your comment about missionaries leaving their kids to "follow God". My husband was one of those kids. God did not call his parents to abandon him. They loved the praise of their fellow Christians more than they loved either God or their children. That's what was going on there. :(

  25. to shadowspring, I am the anon who you asked could you put all my comments together...yes you may!

    As to the missionaries leaving their kids for others to raise as they went to the mission field...not all did but some did I guess if it was a dangerous area.

  26. You really have NO idea how horrible and effect the practice of sending children to boarding school on the hearts of the children abandoned there. I do hope you will check out

    Going to a "dangerous area" was a willful decision. These so-called men and woman of God chose to abandon their children to take a stab at being heroic. It was completely self-serving, and in no wise would God ever call anyone to abandon their children to serve in ministry.

    My missionary mother-in-law used to have the audacity to deride women who used daycare. Daycare! A mere eight hours a day, only five days a week, when she left her children in institutionalized child care twentyfour hours a day, seven days a week, ten months out of each year!

    And daycare centers have standards to meet! They are registered with government officials and have regular inspections to check on the welfare of the children. Daycare centers are not hidden hundreds of miles away out in the wild, only accessible by plane, boat or days long jeep trips.

    Daycare workers have to go through real training in child development, while those chosen to staff missionary boarding schools are chosen because for some reason they don't merit being left all alone on a remote mission station. But hey, good enough to be left all alone in charge of a bunch of helpless children! Wth?!?

    My husband is permanently psychologically wounded because of mission culture and missionary boarding schools. Suicide attempt, depression, the deep conviction that God hates him and finds him less than worthless was pounded into him by mission culture and mission boarding school.

    Is God so puny and helpless that the only way He can reach the lost is to incite people to neglect and abuse children in order to git-er-done? No, no, a thousand times no.

    Couples with children shouldn't even be considered for remote mission work. It is a huge blot of shame on the church that they were encouraged to do so. Shame, shame, shame.

  27. Fortunately I never attended Gothard's seminar but I know many who have and I've looked over their books and notes. Many of these folks were uber uptight about sex. The man has invented his own religion. Bill G basically (pun intended) answers to no one.p, but instead is presiding his own fascist theocratic fantasy world built his own assertion of authority. It is utter and complete bullsh*t.

  28. Gothards seminar got dropped by a lot of churches years ago but a lot still subscribe to his brand of Christianity. That authority from the top down control and 'gothardism' which potrays gothard as having the final say as if infallible. Yes, his ministry has serious heresies and according to Galatians a little leaven leavens the whole lump. So stay away from the poison.

  29. I found your blog doing research on the problems Gothard's teachings have caused.

    You are NOT alone. I heartily recommend you check out They are doing a great work exposing the truth of what has happened there. The story of "Charlotte" that was released this week is horrifying.

    Blessings to you.

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