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.)