Friday, April 4, 2014

Encouraging Words for the Hoodwinked

My dad recently posted the following essay to an online forum for parents involved in the same fundamentalist group we were a part of. With his permission, I'm happy to share it with you.  

With recent revelations that fundamentalist homeschooling guru Bill Gothard has resigned from the Institute in Basic Life Principles over allegations of sexual abuse I ask myself, "How in the world did I ever become one of his biggest fans?" I attended his seminars every year from 1973 to 1996, my wife and I used Gothard curriculum to home educate our kids, and as a pastor I clung to every word this man said regarding running a church.  I feel like those husbands and wives I talk to in counseling who discover their partner has been cheating on them--stupid, deceived, and hoodwinked. While my upset is minuscule compared to the women who've been damaged, here are the messages I give to myself to weather this scandal.
1. I don't feel guilty for not being omniscient. The reason charlatans, magicians, and liars get away with deception is because they're good at what they do. With a variety of tricks--seductive grooming, sleight of hand, misdirection--audience members get snookered. Yes, gullibility and naiveté often play a part, but not 100%. I don't feel guilty for trusting Gothard. He was convincing.

2. I don't regret our decision to home school, read IBLP materials, or attend those seminars. Yes, we embraced some of the wonkier aspects of his ministry--dresses on our daughters, vetoing pop culture for our sons, thinking public schools were like the cantina on Mos Eisely in Star Wars, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." At the same time we found much of Gothard's teachings helpful. What I do regret is not being more curious in 1980 when Gothard resigned from his leadership role amid what then was to me a vague and unimportant news item in Christianity Today. I regret not listening to my friends who warned me about this guy. I regret the sense of superiority I felt following a guy who fasted, meditated, and got answers to prayer. I regret the years of conflict I created in several churches for mentioning my black and white (Gothardish) aversion to divorce, rock, debt, birth control, television, dating, youth groups, and borrowing money. I regret waking my kids up at 5 AM to teach them Greek (although my 32 year old daughter did recently tell me that training helped her answer a clue in a crossword puzzle). 

3. I hope to learn from membership in my new group, "Those who've been hoodwinked."  The next time some guy who doodles on an overhead projector with outlines and flip charts, who does chalk talks, and who with few whistles and bells speaks with authority to packed stadiums on zillions of topics with Bible verse proof texts I will be wary. I hope to ransack my psyche to see what possible weakness would incline me to fall for such a guy. In 1973 I was a newly converted hippie with no moral compass, no clan to call my own, and no life purpose. Forty-one years later I trust I'm no longer easy pickings for charismatic gurus. But I'm not letting my guard down.
4. I hope to include in my life message a new chapter on spiritual discernment. Spiritual abuse is not only fodder for atheists and grievous to Christ. It's damaging to the preyed upon. My heart goes out to the young men and women entangled in what appears to be a movement rife with systemic dysfunction, a DNA of authoritarian control, and psychological abuse. Even if IBLP vanishes it is likely other groups will spring up which puts vulnerable young people at risk. I hope I and others who are recovering grace can stem the tide.

Me and my dad March 2014 - rule breakers

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post....Emily, does your dad have a blog?