Don’t Judge Me…A Matter of Perspective

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It really was innocent, but it looked scandalous.

Let me take you back to my last winter youth retreat in my “cult”. I was super close to being out. In fact, I was already a closet rebel as this story will confirm. 😉

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Our church had rented this small Christian camp for years, both for family camps and youth retreats. I loved the rustic chapel with its fireplace and knotty pine beams. I thought I knew every crook and cranny until my friend’s younger brother asked me if I’d ever seen the attic. Apparently there was a secret staircase in a closet that led up to a small storage area.

Always up for adventure, I decided to let him show me. Just going up to the attic together was sketchy because it was a boy and girl alone. But things got worse from there.

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From my Scrapbook! 🙂

For some reason the closet door was located about two feet off the floor and the closet was filled with old televisions and other junk. So we had to climb over and around to reach the stairs. Going in wasn’t a problem. But my long, straight, denim skirt became an issue on the way out. I tripped over a television, my legs got trapped in my skirt, and I fell out of the door. Fortunately, Dan was there to catch me. But that catch was another shocking sin because he was a boy and he touched me!

 

It would have been fine, but as we turned and he set me down, we were face to face with a young, all-in, super committed girl from the youth group. Her eyes and mouth were wide open. The realization of what it looked like struck us. We started laughing so hard we couldn’t even breathe let alone explain.

Christy and Dan were alone in the closet and came out touching each other and giggling!!!

It’s a funny story, but we all do it. We make snap judgments and condemn people without knowing all the facts.

Years later, I was out of my cult and working at summer camp. Normally I worked on the elementary camp, but today I was up at the high school camp helping my friend teach a choreography to some of the older campers. It was an elective drama class and there was one boy. I knew why he was there. Girls! He must be a total player with terrible motives. What a jerk. I only spent an hour with this guy, but he made such a strong impression on me that I can still remember what he was wearing.

Four years later I married him.

Yeah…

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I have come to discover that my perspective is just that, my perspective. In order to get a clear and accurate picture, I need multiple perspectives and all of the facts. It’s easy for us to feel wise and discerning, but we are not infallible. We need community, and we all need grace.

Will you join me? Let’s give grace before judgement. Let’s listen before we condemn.

“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” ~ Jesus, (John 7:24 NLT).

“An Impostor Jesus” – The Introduction

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I wish I looked this cool when I write!

Last week, I gave you the first paragraph of my book. In honor of the fact that I am going to The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in less than a week, I have decided to give you more. 🙂 Pray for my journey! Pray that I will listen to the Holy Spirit, that I will be humble and available, that I will be bold and courageous, and that most of all God’s will is accomplished!

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***

“I’ve been brainwashed. The unexpected thought tugged at my mind. We were a sleepy bunch of teen girls, dragged from our beds after midnight to be lectured by an adult chaperone. Clumped together on a couple of ratty old couches, we yawned and tried to listen. I was all too aware that my alarm was going off in less than six hours. Prayer meeting started at 6:30am and if you cared at all about giving off a spiritual vibe, you would be there. Which meant getting up even earlier to shower, and blow dry and curl your hair, because for some reason curly hair was also a sign of spirituality.

Mrs. W droned on and on about cliques, and friendship, and I felt myself drifting off. Then she said it, the real reason this meeting had been called.

“It just grieved my heart, to look out the window today and see you all playing in the snow. I couldn’t tell who the boys were and who the girls were since you were all wearing snow pants.” Her voice dripped of judgmental disappointment.

Yes, at this winter youth retreat, we were all wearing snow pants to play in the snow. Shock! Horror! What?

In previous years, most of us, at least the “godly” ones, had worn skirts or culottes over our snow pants.

How do I explain culottes? They are kind of like gauchos only much, much uglier. The first ones I wore as a young teen were homemade and looked like an intensely gathered skirt with a waistband. However, unlike a skirt, if you grabbed the voluminous sides and pulled, voila, there were two sections of fabric, one for each leg. Over the years, our culottes eventually shrank down to a slightly larger version of the more familiar gaucho. We wore them when a skirt was a health hazard, such as swimming, horseback riding, or downhill skiing. However, it should be noted that downhill skiing in culottes, even skinnier ones, feels a bit like skiing with two flags attached to your legs flapping wildly in the wind.

The ridiculousness of it all began to sink in. We had been dragged from our warm beds in the middle of the night to be lectured about modesty and femininity because we had failed to put another layer of clothing over top of our already poofy snow pants.

I rested my head on the shoulder of the girl next to me and stared skeptically at the woman lecturing us. An increasingly familiar feeling of rebellion crept over me. I had always been a “good girl”, one of the “godly” ones, but that was about to change. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t rock music, or blue jeans, or college that was turning me into a rebel (like we’d been warned about). It was Jesus.

If you are at all familiar with TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” show and have seen the Duggar family, then you have an idea of how I grew up. Only, don’t think of the “stylish” Duggars we all know now. Do me a favor and Google the 2004 version of the Duggar family. Yup, that was me: long hair, awkward bangs, homemade jumpers and all.

My siblings and I were homeschooled before homeschooling was a thing. We were educated at home back in the day when kids like us were afraid of the yellow school bus (there were occasional conflicts with a local school district). Back when grocery store clerks had to scrape their chins off the floor when we told them why we weren’t in school. “Is that even legal?” was a commonly heard question.

Obviously, not all homeschoolers are Duggar-ish. How did I end up at a youth retreat getting lectured about snow pants at midnight? The short answer is that my parents joined a cult…

I’m skipping this section because you can read it on my blog. Just follow the link above.

“Once I “got out” I chose to close the door on my past. After being chased through Cedar Point by a former friend so that they could yell at me about my new cartilage piercing, I just needed to be done. We were no longer attending the cultic church, so I moved on and started college. (I might have still worn homemade jumpers and had waist-length hair my first year, but hey, it was a step in the right direction.) I told new friends that I had been homeschooled in a conservative Christian home and that was all. My husband didn’t even learn the truth about my past until we had been married for over five years.

A few years ago, I started to get connected with former ATI students and people who had been influenced by Bill Gothard’s teachings. Many of them were no longer Christians. Having been burned by the version of Christianity they experienced, they wanted nothing to do with God, Jesus, or church. I didn’t blame them, but it made me wonder. Why was I still a Christian? Why hadn’t I run away? I started to go back and process for the first time in over a decade. As I worked my way through memories and former ways of thinking, I came to a simple conclusion. I met Jesus. He became so real to me, even while I was in the cult, that I couldn’t leave Him behind. I left the legalism and lies, but I couldn’t leave Jesus. After all, He was the one who showed me I’d been brainwashed.

One afternoon, after an online interaction with some of my former “cult-mates”, I found myself in my basement doing laundry and talking to Jesus. It broke my heart to hear from people who had such misconceptions of God and who didn’t want to give Jesus another chance. I got it, but I hurt for them. Sitting on my basement floor, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I whispered “I just want to represent You well.” And the Holy Spirit whispered back to my heart, “Write. Tell your story.” So, here I am.

It’s not just people raised in a Christian cult who are walking out on the church and Christianity. Many “normal” people raised in good, “normal” churches are leaving their former faith as well. Recognizing this growing trend, I started to wonder if there was a common thread. What if people across the board are leaving the religion and tradition of Christianity because they have never met Jesus? I think this common thread is what makes my rather extreme story universal.

Think of me as the Samaritan woman at the well, in John chapter four. I met this amazing, radical, mind-blowing man named Jesus. He changed my life, and I want you to meet Him too. It is my prayer that as you read this book and hear some crazy stories, you will consider lies you might be believing, and question your own view of God and Christianity. By the end, I pray you will be able to say with the people of Samaria, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42.”

I hope you enjoyed that sneak peak! Thank you for your prayers as I take the next scary but exciting step forward. 🙂

“The Cult Next Door” A Documentary

Does your voice sound strange to you when you hear it on a recording? Tell me I’m not the only one! I always think, “Oh gosh, do I really sound like that?” No one else seems to notice because, yes, I really sound like that and everyone is used to it. It’s even worse to watch myself on tape. Yikes!

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I’ve done two on-camera interviews over the years, and both times were…unique. The first interview was for the Bible school we went to after we got married. We were supposed to answer the questions with scripted answers put into our own words. I couldn’t get my lines right and it felt silly, so in the finished project, my husband does most of the talking and I just look like I’m about to burst into giggles at any moment.

Our second interview was a couple of years ago in Israel. We were supposed to talk about the tour we were on but had no script. We were on top of a building having lunch. I’m squinting in the sun trying to come up with something to say. Awkward!

I’m not overly comfortable on camera. So what am I doing in this picture, obviously being interviewed? 

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Photo courtesy of Youngman Films

In November, I was contacted by a gentleman, Jake Youngman, who was working on an investigative documentary focused on my old cult leader, Bill Gothard, and his organization, The Institute in Basic Life Principles.

I am more passionate about exposing the truth than I am uncomfortable being on camera. And so, Jake and I talked on the phone and then met twice to do interviews. Even though it was sometimes awkward, in the end, I’m very happy to have been a part of this project!

The documentary, “The Cult Next Door” was released online last night and I am excited to be able to share it with you.

Bill Gothard has had more influence on Evangelical Christianity in the past fifty years than we may ever know. Hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women attended his seminars and were influenced by his faulty belief system and blatant lies. Many of them never went farther into his cult, never joined his homeschool program, or believed he was a “messenger from God”. Many attendees probably never recognized how Gothard’s teachings skewed their view of God or His “principles”, and yet they carried those subtle lies into their churches, seminaries, ministries, and homes. They in turn influenced many others.

My goal in life is not to expose Bill Gothard, but to point people to the real Jesus.  It’s overwhelming to try to identify and correct all the many lies spread throughout Christianity. But, I know that if people begin to search for and find the real Jesus, He will show them the truth about who He is and who we are because of Him. I know that the real Jesus is fully capable of revealing truth and exposing lies. So, I will continue to talk about Him and point people to Him with every bit of my energy for the rest of my life. That is my passion.

The Cult Next Door (Official Short Film) from Youngman Films on Vimeo.

How My Parents Joined a Cult

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Every time I tell my story, people ask the same questions. “What about your parents? How did they get involved? What do they think about Bill Gothard and IBLP now? How do they feel about you writing publically about all of this?” Well, here are some answers! I have talked with each of my parents separately and together to get these answers, and they have approved this blog post.

An Introduction to Bill Gothard:

64804_458336314496_4891626_nMy parents were first-generation Christians. They began their relationship with Jesus in college and got involved in a wonderful Christian campus ministry. The campus minister was instrumental in their spiritual growth. Unfortunately, He was also a supporter of Bill Gothard and took students to Gothard’s Basic Seminar every year. The community of Christians at college was alive and vibrant. Students were serious about growing in Christ and my parents absolutely loved it!

After they graduated and left the campus ministry, my parents struggled to find a church with the same passion for Jesus. In every church they went to, the people seemed fake, like church was just something they did on Sunday, but their relationship with God didn’t really matter.

Homeschooling with Bill Gothard:

Some of their closest friends from college, a couple who was a few years ahead of them in marriage and children, decided to homeschool. This was back in the 80s when No One was homeschooling! It appealed to my parents and they decided to homeschool as well. Their friends started to use Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Gothard promised that ATI was an exceptional homeschooling program that would automatically make your family and children succeed. You also had to be approved to join the program, have your life in order, commit to various standards, pay a yearly fee, and promise not to share, or even show, any of the curriculum to anyone who was not “ATI”.

If you ask my parents now, they will tell you that they wish they’d paid more attention to the red flags. But, their trusted friends believed Gothard, so they thought it must be okay. Plus, my parents were pretty new Christians and they didn’t have the Biblical background to see through the lies and out-of-context Scripture. They thought they could weed out the bad and keep the good.

We joined ATI when I was twelve. Before ATI we were just an average homeschooling family. My mother liked to garden, and sew, and make bread. My siblings and I devoured books, played outside, did chores, and went to homeschool group outings. We went to a regular church in town and looked relatively normal (for the 1980s and early 90s). After joining ATI, things began to quickly change.

Joining the Cultic-Church:

IMG_3984Our Family, Christmas 1998

When I was fourteen, we left our regular church and started driving an hour and a half twice a week to a new church. It was made up of conservative, homeschooling, Gothard following, mostly large families. At the heyday, we had families coming from as far as two hours away, even some from Canada. The church promoted a safe environment for teens, protection from the world, like-minded fellowship, and deep spiritual teachings. Sundays were an entire day of church with a lunch and fellowship time in-between two two-plus hour services. There was no Sunday School, Children’s Church, or nursery. There was lots of singing, testimonies, prayer, and long sermons. My parents saw people who were actually “living out” their Christianity for the first time since college and were excited. Once again, they thought they could weed out the bad and just enjoy the good.

Unfortunately, even more than the ATI program, this cultic church was damaging for my brother and me. Adults have an easier time picking and choosing what they believe. As teens, we bought it all, hook, line, and sinker. It didn’t help that we went to special teen events where we were “indoctrinated” even further. There were red flags at this church as well, especially as my dad got involved in leadership. It took us seven years to leave.

More About My Family:

My family was never “Gothardites” like some people I knew. They always saw Bill Gothard as just a man and didn’t agree with everything he said, especially my dad. My parents both had genuine relationships with Jesus before Gothard and ATI, and continued those relationships while we were in the program (cult). We were a “fringe” family. We didn’t make the yearly pilgrimage to Knoxville, TN (a huge mega conference just for ATI families); I think we went twice. My parents didn’t send us to training centers (where most of the abuse happened) or let us go overseas with groups of ATI students. My dad was a public school teacher for crying out loud, so he was almost considered a traitor. In fact, I credit my father and his skepticism with protecting me from getting further involved than I did.

My parents are wonderful people! They were just deceived by a manipulative con artist with amazing promises of success. Unfortunately, Gothard’s program and teachings seemed to appeal to mentally unstable, abusive type people, and many former ATI students experienced horrible abuse in the name of Gothard. This was not my family! We were just a nice, homeschooling family who lived a sheltered, old-fashioned life.

What My Parents Think Now:

Regret. This is the word I hear most often when we talk about Gothard, ATI, and the “crazy church”. My parents regret their choices. They regret not noticing or listening to the red flags they saw along the way. They are sorry for the damage that was done to their children. They regret not listening to cautions from others and from their own hearts.

How They “Got Out”:

Since we were always a fringe family, getting away from Gothard’s teachings just kind of slowly happened for my parents over the past ten or twelve years. Then when everything started coming out two years ago, first girls and women accusing Gothard of sexual harassment and abuse, and then learning about all the misconduct in the 1970s, it just solidified everything for them. They realized that all the cautions and hesitations they had had in the past were validated.

How They Feel About My Blog:

My blog and the book I am writing reminds my parents of the choices they made and makes them feel regret, and that is hard. However, they assure me that they are supportive of what I am doing. They are glad that I can use this venue to work out the damage I experienced and help others in the process.

I have had to remind my parents multiple times, especially my mom, that I am not mad at them. I am not upset. I don’t blame them for the choices they made. I have come to the place where I embrace my life. There were a lot of wonderful moments, friendships, and memories within the craziness of it all. Besides, without my past, I wouldn’t have a story to tell, or a blog to write, and I wouldn’t have the passion behind my search for truth instead of tradition.

An Honest Confession – I’m Afraid of Failure!

This is just an honest update about me and this book that I am supposedly writing. I’m going to give some background, be honest, tell you what happened yesterday, and ask you for prayer!

I never set out to write a book, or even have a blog for that matter. It all started about two and a half years ago with the website called Recovering Grace. Yes, I had spent ten plus years in a cult (I didn’t call it that back then), but I had tried to put it all behind me. It wasn’t something I talked about. Even my husband didn’t know most of the stories or the ways the teachings had affected me. Then Recovering Grace happened.

IMG_3567Recovering Grace is a website run by former ATI (Advanced Training Institute) students. ATI is the homeschool program created by Bill Gothard, creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. The Duggars use this curriculum (which if you dig deep explains a lot of their behaviors and beliefs),and so did my family. If you Google Bill Gothard right now, you will find that he, and IBLP, are being sued for sexual misconduct by 18 plaintiffs (which is the very tip of the ice berg since one of the plaintiffs was his driver for a few years and says he witnessed over 150 young ladies being harassed). You get the picture.

Two and a half years ago, Recovering Grace started publishing stories about women who were sexually harassed. Once they published these, the wheel started turning; people came forward from the 1970s and gave them hard copy information alleging financial and sexual misconduct, manipulation, intimidation, slander, etc. I started remembering, dissecting, processing.  After joiningg a Facebook community of former ATI students, I encountered many people who wanted nothing to do with Jesus or God because of the “Christianity” they experienced. It completely broke my heart! I realized that I was one of a few former ATI students who still considered themselves a Christian, who still had a relationship with Jesus.

I spent time in soul searching and introspection. As I thought about the lies we were taught about God and Jesus, I started to realize that the same lies are subtly present in much of Modern Western Christianity. Jesus found me in the middle of the legalism and lies, and showed me how to know Him. That is my desperate desire for the world…to actually KNOW God because of His Son, Jesus.

That was the beginning of this whole crazy journey. God wants me to write a book. He has made that abundantly clear over the past few years. But I don’t want to, and I have been dragging my feet. Mostly because I am afraid.

Look at what God has done!

  • As all of this went down, God confirmed that I was supposed to write, even having another woman say out of the blue, “Maybe you need to write a book”.
  • I started my blog, despite having reservations.
  • The speaker for  our spring Ladies Day at church not only confirmed my calling, but gave me the next step, the Speak Up Conference which just happened to be in Grand Rapids.
  • I won a full scholarship to the 2014 conference!
  • At the conference I shared my One Page (kind of like an introduction to your book idea) with a publisher and an agent and they were both interested. This does not happen!
  • After the conference, I freaked out and although I continued to occasionally blog, I ignored the whole book idea.
  • God did not let me get away. I continued to run into people who reminded me that He wanted me to write a book. I had plenty of excuses.
  • Over a year later, I revised my One Page and sent it to another agent (referred to me by a writer friend). She loved it and wanted to work with me. This does not happen either!
  • The Speak Up Conference this summer “just happens” to be on the only weekend that would work (since I’m working as the health officer at camp again) and they are willing to give me a significant discount.
  • I found an awesome cabin that I can get for cheap, on a lake, to go and focus on writing since I’m supposed to get my full Book Proposal done before the conference this summer.
  • BUT, I’m freaking out!! And freezing and wanting to run away…

All of this brings me to yesterday. We had a guest speaker at church. The minute he opened his mouth I realized that God was speaking to me, including a pounding heart and tingles going down my spine.

“If you’re on mission, just do what you’re supposed to do.”

Then he asked four questions, questions that originally came from Jesus.

  1. What are you afraid of? Failure, rejection, change, success, basically everything!
  2. What do you want God to do? This question scares the crap out of me. If I actually allow myself to dream, I’d say, I want God to use this book to push people to evaluate their Christianity, to make them question their beliefs, to see lies, and to start seeking for the real God, the God who is only more than we can ever imagine. I want people to realize that if they are feeling discontent and disillusioned with their version of Christianity, maybe they too have found an impostor and not the real Jesus. I want God to use my book to bring people to a real relationship with Him!
  3. What are your excuses? (Do you want to get well?) I have plenty! Trust me! Including not having time, being the mother of small children, not being wise enough or good enough or etc.
  4. Who do you say God is? If God is really who I say I believe He is, then I just need to shut up and get to work. It’s one thing to believe in my head and another to believe with my heart.

Ok, this brings me to the end of a very long blog post (389 words over my normal limit). Friends, I need you to pray for me! Pray that my faith will be stronger than my fear. Pray that I will stop making excuses. Pray that I will be obedient! I’m going to be starting a prayer team. If you are interested in joining me, please let me know on Facebook or by contacting me here. I’m closing with a final thought from the speaker-sent-from-God. 🙂

“God doesn’t measure success; He measures obedience.” Thank goodness!!!!!

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Living in the Real World of Gray

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I was raised in a world of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, us vs. them. Granted, my parents were more tolerant than a lot of families I knew, but the atmosphere was still there. And, it didn’t help that I naturally tend to think this way anyway.

Let me give you some examples. Oy!

Wrong and bad things (in no particular order): dating, college, women wearing pants, public school, blue jeans, bearded men, women with short hair, being friends with the opposite sex, Disney movies, any movie rated more than PG, movie theaters, white bread, pork, music with a “back-beat” aka rock and roll, CCM, country, etc, tattoos, multiple piercings, you get the point.

Good and right things (contrasted to the bad ones): courtship, women in skirts and dresses, homeschooling, khaki slacks (for males), clean shaven faces, women with long, flowing, gently curled hair, sticking with friends of your own gender, movies rated G and PG that weren’t Disney, preferably old fashioned ones, fresh made, whole wheat bread, beef and chicken, classical music or instrumental hymns, one set of small stud earrings for females only, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, that’s extreme you say. What does this have to do with me?

Here is what I have noticed. Christians, even “normal” ones are often terrible at living in the real gray world. We choose sides, and fight to the death about stupid issues that aren’t even that important in the long run. We alienate people with our feisty opinions about politics, abortion, homosexuality, the End Times, Calvinism, debt, divorce, health care, etc. Before you get all mad at me for putting some of those topics in the category of “stupid issues”, let me say that I believe in personal opinions and convictions based on Biblical truths. But, our convictions and opinions should never be stronger than our love for people and our desire to see them meet Jesus.

If we have truly met Jesus in a real and personal way, if we have experienced His amazing grace and forgiveness, if we are overwhelmed by His love for us, then there should be one and only one issue that motivates us. Sharing the real Jesus with the world!

I’m sure as you’ve read this, other “hot topics” have popped into your mind. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about things like breastfeeding, organic foods, school options, political leanings, abortion, and gay marriage. I just realize that my opinions and beliefs don’t make me more or less “godly”. I’m okay with not being “right”. I know that there is only one thing that changes my status before the God of the Universe: what I choose to believe about Jesus.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

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Too often Christians forget that God didn’t rescue us so that we would be “perfect”. He made us blameless through Jesus so that we can have a relationship with Him. Why do we get so caught up in changing peoples’ actions and beliefs to make them look “more Christian” instead of teaching them to know Jesus so that He can change them from the inside out as He sees fit. Do we doubt the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that He is real? Why do we put so much value on “outward” goodness while ignoring our own inner struggles and sins? What if all Christians set aside the things that divide us and chose to help each other really get to know Jesus. What if our love for Jesus and our passion to share Him with everyone around us was stronger than our differences? What if we cared more about Jesus than about being right?

ID-100365286Truth is that while there are some “black and white” truths in the Bible and in the Christian life, there is also a lot of gray.We need to welcome the gray even if it scares us and makes us uncomfortable. Because that gray area is where freedom happens and where our relationship with Jesus grows. There is room for gray because there is room for growth and change.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.:-)

What the Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard and IBLP Means to Me

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Yesterday a lawsuit was refiled against IBLP (The Institute in Basic Life Principles) and now includes Bill Gothard. It was originally filed on behalf of 5 women who claimed sexual abuse. The new lawsuit includes 10 women and the charges are more severe. You can read the whole story here at the Washington Post, or google Bill Gothard and read it on a number of other news sites.

There will be Christians who use this story to cry “persecution” and there will be people who are mad at how Christians are taking other “Christians” to court. People will stand up for Bill Gothard and claim that this is all slander invented for the purpose of destroying a “man of God”.

I am someone who has a bit of an inside perspective since I was homeschooled for seven years in Gothard’s ATI program and was involved in his “ministry” until I was 22. I attended his seminars, went to a church heavily influenced by his teachings, and spent a year taking online classes from his “college” including two classes where we took apart his Basic and Advanced Seminars and found Scripture to back up his points. (Which I couldn’t do and which ended up being the beginning of my doubts about everything.) I even, regrettably, helped to teach children’s programs while their parents attended Bill’s Seminars.

I now believe that not only are Bill Gothard’s teachings twisted and dangerous, not only were they created with ulterior motives, but they have also influenced, either directly or indirectly, a huge percentage of evangelical churches and Christians. Gothard’s teachings have destroyed families, encouraged abuse, supported legalism, and created a false view of God (among other things). I would go so far as to say that Gothard made up an impostor Jesus based on his own personal goals and ideas.

With all that said, how do I feel about the lawsuit? I am NOT gleeful that all of this is being paraded in front of the world; I DON”T feel satisfied revenge for all the damage done to me and people I love. BUT…

I am very excited that both Bill and his organization are being shown for what they truly are. I hope the organization known as IBLP goes down in smoke and rubble and is completely discredited. And I hope that Bill Gothard is shown to be who he truly is and not who he has pretended to be. I long for people who are still trapped in this system of beliefs to be set free. I hope that people who have been influenced by Gothard and his teachings will have their eyes opened to the lies, twisted Scriptures, and false beliefs about God.

I want, more than anything, for people to find the real God, and the real Jesus who is not full of “49 Commands” (a Gothard teaching), but grace and love and mercy. I want them to discover the God who created us for a relationship with Himself and did whatever it took to make that relationship possible, including murdering His own Son… The God who doesn’t love us more when we follow the rules, but who knows the depths of our sin and selfishness and loves us anyway… A God who does not operate in formulas and steps, or give secret, hidden messages (like Bill claimed multiple times), but who is so amazing we can never understand Him, and so simple that a child can believe.

There you go, my thoughts on the lawsuit. What do you think?

 

Here are some more links if you want more information:

For truth about all things IBLP/ATI/Gothard check out Recovering Grace. They have some great Facebook support/recovery groups for ATI Students, ATI Parents, and a new one that was just started for anyone influenced by IBLP.

If you want to read the whole lawsuit, you can find it at Homeschoolers Anonymous. Just a warning though, it is graphic.

 

 

The Duggars, Bill Gothard, and Me

TLC’s favorite super-sized, conservative, homeschooling family, lately receiving less than positive attention. The founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, who stepped down in 2014 amid allegations of sexual harassment stemming back into the 1970s. And me, a pastor’s wife, mother of two, and blogger just trying to live a “normal” life. What could we possibly have in common? Actually, more than I want to admit.

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This is me hiking (yes, hiking!) in 2001. Look familiar at all? The Duggar girls are actually more stylish than we ever were. 😛

And here I am, also in 2001, wearing my navy and white (a requirement) while working at one of Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminars.

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The Duggars are avid followers of Bill Gothard, although they have tried to distance themselves a little bit since the allegations came out in 2014. They use his homeschool curriculum (if you can call it that), and so did my family.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you will know that I began to question a lot of Gothard’s teachings as I grew in a relationship with the real Jesus of the real Bible. (Who you will find, if you read it in context without someone twisting everything to meet their own agenda.)

The Duggar’s first appeared on TV in 2004. I was only two years “out” at this point and their original photographs (which you can find here) practically gave me a panic attack. (Okay, honestly, they still do.) I identified with this kind of family. We went to the “crazy church” with them. I had a friend who was still stuck being Cinderella in her large family with parents who wouldn’t let her leave. It was all too familiar, including the “facade of perfection” while dysfunction reigned underneath. I couldn’t talk about the Duggars for years without getting angry and emotional. So, mostly I just ignored their existence as much as possible.

I also didn’t talk much about Bill Gothard and his cultic organization until about two years ago. I would tell people that I was raised in a conservative Christian home. In reality there was tons more to the sub-culture I lived in, but it was incredibly hard to explain without sounding insane. So, I just tried to leave it all behind.

Everything changed for me two years ago when Recovering Grace (a website run by former students of Gothard’s “curriculum”) began to expose not only an incredible number of women who accused Bill Gothard of sexually harassing them, but also began to publish information and testimonies from people back in the 1970s and 80s that showed corruption in his organization and personal life. Suddenly all my doubts and questions and hesitations seemed vindicated. I’d known for years that something was off in his teachings, but Recovering Grace put words to my feelings.

I joined a support group Recovering Grace runs for those recovering from Bill Gothard’s teachings and tried to reach out to confused and damaged people, tried to share the real Jesus and real gospel of grace that I had found. My blog happened soon after; I became passionate about sharing truth as I noticed the ways Gothard’s lies have infiltrated “normal” Christian people and churches.

So, why am blogging about my connection to the Duggars and Bill Gothard right now? Because, believe it or not, Gothard is trying to start a new “ministry”, “seminar”, whatever. It’s the same old garbage, with a new name. You can find a link to his page here. The same vague wording with grandiose promises if you follow his secret steps. He posted on Facebook about it yesterday. (Or one of his minions did; I doubt Gothard himself is on Facebook.) And a bunch of us from my support group began to ask questions and post comments. They were quickly deleted by the “moderator” of the page. Anything that was questioning or negative was deleted and only the positive, encouraging comments were left up. Here is a screen shot of my comment, which had over 10 likes in a matter of five minutes before it was taken down.

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There is something screwy when a “Christian” organization can’t deal with criticism that their teachings don’t line up with the gospel!

So, why am I writing this post? For the same reason I write this blog. I am passionate about the truth! The truth that I believe is found solely in Jesus Christ. I’m writing in the hopes that someone who is looking for truth will find this post. I’m hoping they will read some other posts I’ve written and start to question themselves. I’m hoping to point people to Recovering Grace because they have a ton of resources showing the problems with Gothard and his teachings. But most of all, I’m writing because I am obsessed with Jesus and His grace, love, and forgiveness that He freely gives to all who believe. John 3:16-18

Freedom vs. Rules Part 1

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“For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations?” Colossians 2:20

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by any of them.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

Sometimes I wonder if we even read the Bible back then. I recently did an in-depth study of the book of Colossians and the whole time I kept thinking, “How did I miss this for so many years? Did we just skip this book?” We seem to also have skipped Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Corinthians, etc. We skipped all the parts of the Bible that condemned legalism and instead spent a lot of time in the Old Testament and the gospels…looking for rules to follow. Here’s a definition of legalism for those of you who are lucky never to have experienced this way of life.

Legalism:

  1. strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
  2. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works; the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

These definitions hit close to home for me as I think about the home school program I was raised in (ATI: The Advanced Training Institute), the cultish church we attended or were affiliated with for most of my teens/early twenties, and the way I lived my life for almost ten years. It wasn’t my choice to get involved at first; I was a child that was taken along by my parents. Later, since I wanted people to think well of me, I learned to follow the rules and perform correctly with the best of them.

“What’s wrong with following the rules?”

“Are you saying we should just live in sin?”

“God has called us to be holy and different from the world”

I can hear the questions.

People living in legalism spend a lot of time pointing fingers at other people in judgement, while feeling good about themselves. “You’re wrong because you do blah, blah, blah. And I’m right because I do this, this, and this.” The only person worthy to judge the sins of humanity didn’t. The only people Jesus ever yelled at were the Pharisees who thought they were so perfect. But he got down in the dirt with sinners and forgave them. Maybe it’s not about rules. Maybe it’s about Jesus.

I grew up in a cultish subculture of Christianity. It’s still out there. But more concerning to me is the legalism I see in mainstream churches. When we put the focus on ourselves through legalism, we steal God’s glory and we alienate people from the only One who can save them!

I’m going to be writing a couple more posts about legalism and false teachers, so stay tuned! 🙂

An Introduction

I directly copied this first blog post from the “About Me” part of my profile. I never wanted to write a blog, but it is something that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, so I’m pretty sure it’s God asking me to do it. 🙂

“After spending my teens and early twenties in a cultish sub-group of Christianity known as IBLP and ATI (If you Google these terms, you will most likely find articles about how the founder, Bill Gothard, recently resigned due to sexual harassment charges.), I began a journey to leave behind the legalism I was raised with and find the real God of the real Bible. What I discovered still surprises me!

This blog is just some of my thoughts and a few of my journeys as I uncover a glimpse of the God who created the universe and loved us, his little creations,  enough to die for us. This God has been terribly misrepresented by people who don’t really know him and haven’t really read his book. I’m not saying I’m smarter or wiser or have all the answers. But, I have met him and gotten to know him over the past fifteen years.

Paul, the man God used to write 1 Corinthians says in chapter 1 verse 23 and 25, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

The real God and his real Son Jesus trip up people who are living their life by a set of rules and laws, and they seem stupid and foolish to intellectuals. But I have met Someone worth tripping over to find the truth. And if the intellectuals of this world think that I and my beliefs are stupid, then let me be foolish. The God that I have found is worth it all!