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« Stuff people say to their ministers | Main | Bibles among bagels survey »
Wednesday
Feb122014

Bill Gothard and those who pick up the pieces

By John Pierce

Over the years I counseled many students who had naively bought into Bill Gothard’s cult-like teachings that had scarred them. He isolated himself from any questioning — presenting his rigid and often-wrong biblical interpretations as coming directly from God.

Though tragic, I’m not surprised by the revelations of Gothard’s abuse of young female employees nor his refusal to take responsibility for his misuse of power. Narcissists of his order consider themselves above the accountability that they demand in others.

Before writing my doctoral dissertation on Christian approaches to the decision-making process, I attended and critiqued his “basic seminar.” It was far worse than I expected in terms of really bad theology and psychology, legalism that would make a Pharisee blush, and his failure to bring any perspective other than his own into the presentation.

Most astonishing was his overt condescension toward females. His attempts at humor were always mocking of and even hostile toward women. I marveled that those in attendance didn’t rush the stage. But the gullible, gathered crowd just soaked up his nonsense with the sponges they had traded for their brains at the door.

It was hour after hour of note taking without any critical analysis. What a shame.

I’m not exactly sure what Jesus meant about being wise as serpents but gentle as doves. But enough wisdom to see and acknowledge the dangers of this man’s teachings would have saved a lot of tragedies.

But, of course, those who waved warning flags were simply dismissed by his loyal followers as “not believing the Bible.” But we stayed around to pick up the pieces — lots of badly damaged pieces in the name of Jesus.

(Recovering Grace details firsthand accounts of Gothard’s heavy-handed ways including his repeated targeting of young women — who often continued facing such abusive treatment due to their parents’ blind allegiance to a man they believed could do no wrong. See recoveringgrace.org.)

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Reader Comments (3)

Nice post. It would seem that if you swallow his authority structure, and Bill is right next to Jesus, and certainly above scripture (practically speaking)... then the condescension is just one of the many barbs at the end of the hook. Amazing how such horrid theology and scholarship , that word hurt me as I typed it, could endure this long without more massive, robust, critique.

The cat would appear to be far, far, removed from the bag, though....wait till the secular outlets get the story.

Feb 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergreg r

The very sad thing about all this is that those that grow up with his legalism via some homeschool program, often end up fleeing it as adults and then going to the other extreme, abandoning their faith or principles of their faith. Have witnessed this personally - from long skirts to bar-hopping.

The Word of God is Truth. Don't add legalism to it. Don't build an empire upon it. Don't abandon it or delete parts of it and replace with worldly principles. It IS.

Feb 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLZ13

I was a little surprised at the condescension that the author used to criticize Gothard's condescension;

"Most astonishing was his overt condescension toward females. His attempts at humor were always mocking of and even hostile toward women. I marveled that those in attendance didn’t rush the stage. But the gullible, gathered crowd just soaked up his nonsense with the sponges they had traded for their brains at the door."

Mar 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDee Ann

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