Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Other Voices

I was told this week, anonymously, that if I was less "obsessed" with Bill Gothard I would be taking more responsibility for my life. 

So I devote this post to some of the other voices, and there are many hundreds, probably thousands, of us, decrying the teachings of this man who duped first our parents and then us. Perhaps the wider lens will better express why we are so passionate about sounding the alarm. Because while we survived, we do not wish our turmoil on anyone else!

Rebecca, who blogs at A Beautiful Ruckus, has written an excellent piece about her experience in ATI: "In Which I Talk About Surviving Bill Gothard's Cult".
"Maybe you are wondering why I feel the need to write a post going all the way back to my teen years. That's a fair question. The answer has a couple of parts, but I'm sticking with the main one for now:
"Because there are women and girls still in this program
and in other programs like it."

* * * * *

Alissa Wilkinson, a movie critic for Christianity Today, captures the challenge in this post:
Over and over, I have attempted, and failed, to explain ATI to people who have never heard of it. Those who have not encountered ATI think I’m making it up; those who had brushes with it in their own youth usually have to make jokes in order to ignore their own memories.
* * * * *

"Laura" did a bang-up job of summarizing the ATI lifestyle in her entertaining post for Homeschoolers Anonymous: "The Many Valuable Lessons I Learned in ATI". The following is only a tiny, but factual, sample!
  • Whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs.
  • A desire for white bread was a major factor in beginning the French Revolution.
  • You’ll know you’re getting enough fiber when your, um, bathroom business floats. 

Of course, ATI is far more serious than an obsession with whole wheat. As Lana Hope on her blog Wide Open Ground pointed out last year:
The ATI curriculum is a system that wounds children who have emotions and fail to live up to the holiness standard, all in the name of God. Not only does this god despise public education, peer pressure, rock music, cabbage patch dolls, eating pork, trolls, birth control, and people who wear normal clothes, but this god also expects little children to master character traits, for teens to parent younger siblings while always feeling “grateful,” showing “initiative,” and “patience,” and for children to stuff their frustration and emotions because that’s “self-control.” Let me assure you: this is spiritual abuse.
I’ve had friends tell me they watch the Duggars’ show because its funny to watch. “I don’t believe that stuff,” they say. What they don’t understand is that by laughing at the show, they are laughing at children who are being spiritually abused, and by using these children as their entertainment, they are encouraging this nonsense to spread around.
* * * * *

Micah J. Murray at Redemption Pictures recently wrote about growing up in Bill's homeschool cult. He quoted the lines we survivors hear so often:
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There was some good and some bad. Just take what good you can and leave the rest.
I don’t know how.
The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can’t see it for what it is. You never think you’re in a cult when you’re in a cult.
Until the day you can’t deny the reality of what you’ve seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while,
I grew up in a cult.

In 2011, Robin Ganstrom wrote a post warning other families about the ATI cult, based on her twelve years of involvement. You can read the whole thing at Darcy's Heart Stirrings.
"ATI is is a HOTBED of spousal and child abuse, too. I have seen it so many times. In ATI, men are taught that they are the ultimate authority in their homes, and the whole umbrella of authority/chain of command teaching is emphasized over and over, starting in the Basic Seminar."
* * * * *

Years ago, X-ATI Guy started a satirical blog. For many of us his site was like the Interpreter's House in Pilgrim's Progress, our first stop on the way out of the cult toward health and recovery. He was edgy and daring, and he made us feel safe for the first time. Under the cloak of anonymity, he spoke for us all.

The blog was a subversive meeting place, a place we would visit privately and only discuss in quiet corners of the Internet or behind closed doors with friends. "Do you know who X-ATI Guy is? I wonder if I worked with him? Are you X-ATI Guy?"

His humor helped validate and then break down our fears. The sarcasm was cathartic because it put the unspeakable into words. And as comments were added--some bravely, others anonymously--our courage grew. So did our outrage. 

We all moved on, even X-ATI Guy, and found different ways to express ourselves and reclaim responsibility for our lives.

Gothard liked to talk about college students "washing out spiritually". He also loved to quote from Isaiah 59: 

When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord
shall lift up a standard against him.

But I don't think Gothard ever imagined his own homegrown army washing away the multi-million dollar empire that was built out of the souls he bruised. It could happen yet.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pressing the Pause Button

For those who have asked, yes, I do plan to finish the "Finding Each Other" series. I hope it will be soon, but the words have stalled. Part Two is traumatic; any time I spend in that space has to be counterbalanced with happy living in the present.

Also, our small experience working at IBLP Headquarters suddenly became part of a much bigger narrative this year. Current events do not change the past, but they do affect my emotions as I revisit my own history. I thought I could write it and stay grounded, but some days that is simply not the case.

Thank you, kind readers, for sharing my journey--both the pretty parts and the prickly ones.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Library Shelf: 13:24

13:24  by M. Dolon Hickmon

This fast-paced novel is not just gritty; it is undeniably brutal. It is riddled with unpleasant characters doing offensive things, though which actions are most offensive will depend upon the reader's judgement. The writing, while rich in adjectives, is uneven. In short, this is not the sort of fiction I usually read.

And yet, the vivid story sucked me in from the very first chapter. Even though I had to put it down repeatedly as other situations demanded my emotional energy, the story, with all its dramatic turns and twisting threads, pulled me back again and again. In the end, I found it surprisingly cathartic and empowering.

As Anne Lamott explains, "Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer's job is to see what's behind it, to see the unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words". Hickmon does exactly that. He opens the door on child abuse masquerading as acceptable (even Christian) discipline. And he turns the unspeakable into words.

The result is a grotesquely powerful tale that deserves to be read and spread like wildfire, as long as preachers still instruct god-fearing Americans on how to inflict pain on small children to the glory of God. Most such children--though not all--survive physically, but we live with psychological scars and emotional limps. This thriller uses bold colors and slashing strokes to paint that pain as an image that cannot be ignored.

Hickmon, writing out of his own experience and research, shines a rare light on the cognitive dissonance experienced by children who are beaten to make them good. Through fiction that could just as easily be contemporary headlines, he explores spanking as child discipline, spanking as sexual expression, and the appalling intersection of the two. He examines the ripple effects that the toleration of familial violence has on the larger community. He describes other forms of child abuse, both legal and illegal. My favorite chapter was in the middle of the book, when a character describes what it is like to live with PTSD as a result of his religiously abusive childhood. In that scene, which I reread multiple times, and one childhood flashback scene, I felt the author was telling my story, too.

I am a harsh literary critic, so I will be honest. There were verbs in 13:24 that I found jarring, phrases that felt unnatural. Too much of the dialogue was carried out in complete sentences. The vocabulary occasionally felt incongruous with the setting. Most of the time though, I was so mesmerized by each unfolding scene that I didn't mind a few bumps along the way. When I reached the last page and reflected on the tale as a whole, its imperfections faded in significance as I thought of others who would appreciate and relate to the story, others whose hearts also received the 13:24 brand, others who may feel less alone after reading Hickmon's words about the unspeakable.

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
Proverbs 13:24

*If psychological thrillers about murder, sexualized abuse, and Gothic metal aren't your cup of tea, you may still want to read M. Dolon Hickmon's thoughts on Proverbs, faith, and child discipline here

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

IBLP's Basic Seminar: Instilling Fear

The Institute in Basic Life Principles' Basic Seminar is a core element of the IBLP cult. For many, it was their introduction to the teachings of Bill Gothard.

While the seminar's mainstream popularity has greatly diminished since the 1980's, it continues to flourish in other contexts, like prisons in Florida and Arkansas and New Mexico, and its insidious "principles" propagate under other names including the Character First program, the Police Dynamics seminar, Journey to the Heart conferences, the ALERT Academy, and Verity Institute. Until this year, this seminar was a prerequisite for enrollment in the Oak Brook College of Law. Courts have even ruled in favor of employers who mandate that employees attend a Basic Seminar.

Since Gothard borrows widely from others when writing "material", it is difficult to know which IBLP seminar concepts were actually original with him. Over the decades, Bill conducted some week-long seminars in person, but most attendees simply got to watch 30+ hours of Bill's talking head on video. (The modern version has been cut to 25 hours.) When I attended my first seminar in 1989, a young man in a navy suit stood by an overhead projector on stage and flipped accompanying notes onto the screen as Bill spoke. We each got a printed name tag and a workbook when we registered with the staff at the door. From the time Bill began speaking, we all raced to keep up with filling in the blanks in our books.

An illustration from the IBLP Basic Seminar

When Bill gives a lecture, he uses enough mild humor to be disarming and punctuates each point with a Bible reference that, to his audience, makes it seem legitimate. As the notes rapidly fly off the screen, there is no time to actually look up the verses and see if the context of the passage even supports what Gothard claims it means. From the opening session, Bill purports to teach his disciples to "see life from God's point of view".

The following nuggets of "Godly wisdom" are taken directly from the first pages of the Basic Seminar textbook:
  • We develop right attitudes by comparing ourselves with the characteristics displayed by Jesus. 
  • There is a universal ideal on inward character qualities.
  • If necessary, God sacrifices outward beauty to develop inward qualities, since our happiness is based on having these qualities.
  • God's reputation is at stake in what we do with our appearance.
  • One of the most basic aspects of faith is to realize how God gets His directions to us through those He has placed over us.
  • The way a girl responded to the authority of her father tends to be the way she will respond to the authority of her husband. The way a fellow treated his mother tends to be the way he will treat his wife.
  • The way a teenager responds to his parents' authority will soon be the way he responds to God's authority.
  • Authority is like an "umbrella of protection". and when we get out from under it. we expose ourselves to unnecessary temptations which are too strong for us to overcome. This is why Scripture compares rebellion and witchcraft -- "Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft." (I Samuel 15:23) Both terms have the same basic definition- subjecting ourselves to the realm and power of Satan.
  • "What if I'm single and living in an apartment?"  First, be very sure that God has led you to move away from your parents, and that they were fully in harmony with the move....When a single person leaves his family apart from God's direction, he exposes himself to many unnecessary temptations to wrongly fulfill [his] social needs. If your parents are in full harmony with your move to another location, it is important to maintain good lines of communication with them in order to receive counsel from them.
  • Forgiveness is having a greater concern for a person after he offends me than I did before he offended me.
  • When our lives are dedicated to God. He puts a protective wall around us so that nothing can touch us except that which God permits. He permits it for a purpose and this purpose is for our ultimate joy and reward. Thank God for the benefit He plans through each offense.
  • Fasting increases spiritual alertness. If we neither eat nor exercise, a greater amount of blood is available for mental and spiritual concentration.
  • ...and on and on!
By denying the stages of normal social development, Gothard traps teenage listeners in an eternal adolescence. By urging submission and forgiveness, he intimidates abused victims out of getting help. Not content with those conquests, Gothard goes on to pit his followers against "today's society", which he dismisses as humanistic, rebellious against [God's] authority, and headed for destruction. Included in this group would be LGBT people (whom Bill prefers to call "sodomites"), college professors, teenagers who dress according to fads, married women with jobs, and couples who use birth control. Bill also pits his audience against other religious people who remain ignorant of his god's wisdom. No wonder so many people who bought into his message went back to their communities and caused church splits!

Many today claim that Bill ensnares his disciples in legalism, but I find that his teaching goes so much deeper than rules. I have many friends who grew up in legalistic environments, yet when their understanding broadened, they were able to jettison the strict rules and move forward. What Bill teaches goes far deeper than legalism, and no amount of "grace" or forgiveness or "loving God" is sufficient to fully counteract the poison.

I was taught a theology full of grace even while I was part of IBLP. I read Luther and Bonhoeffer, Max Lucado and Chuck Swindoll. I trusted a "loving god" who knew my frame and remembered that I was dust (Psalm 103). I read Galatians and disagreed with Bill regarding some of the rules he encouraged my parents to follow. I knew Bill didn't actually believe his eternal future depended on following those rules--his "principles" did not apply to his own lifestyle! He did not wonder if he was good enough for the god he credited with blessing him with wisdom and regular "insights".

And yet, even when I left IBLP and was involved in churches that taught the grace and love of Jesus week after week, I still had a terrible time shedding the teachings of Bill Gothard's cult. They had entwined themselves with my own thoughts and lay coiled in my brain. Friends talked about how awful legalism was, and I agreed. But I wasn't afraid of displeasing my god, I was afraid of making an imperfect choice and regretting the consequences ever after.

Bill made us insecure about every choice we made.

Rather than merely teaching us that God wanted us to live thus and so, he taught that there was a best, a right choice in every situation. Legalism would have been much simpler in the long run. My Mennonite friends had their Ordnung which made rebellion and obedience as clear as a yardstick. You cut your hair, or you didn't. Your sleeves went to the elbow, or they didn't. Your head was covered, or you were rebellious. IBLP was never quite so clear. Were culottes allowed or not? Who was forbidden to wear denim, and when and where? Why was one girl's hairstyle shamed, while other women got away with it? Everything was about more than mere appearances, more than following the rules.

Instead of being told blue toothbrushes were bad and red were good, we were told that God knew what color toothbrush we should buy, and also whether we should wear a clip-on tie or a regular one. Properly discerning God's will in these things could even be a matter of life or death. We were reminded that God's will was not the same for all people or at all times. "Others may, but I cannot" was a refrain we were trained to repeat. We were taught to stand alone, to make a wise appeal, and also to obey authorities, for they spoke with God's voice. We were told to reach the point of "having no will either way", like George Mueller, when we prayed to know God's will. The god IBLP taught us to serve was capricious, inconsistent like our IBLP leaders. He could protect us, but would sometimes prefer to "deepen our character" instead by allowing us to be hurt, abused, or even raped, for our own good or to teach us a lesson.

Yes, there were rules, but many were neither clear nor obvious. And so it became a game every time. Does God want me to take the stairs or the elevator? Which shoes does God want me to wear today? Would God be honored if I had a second helping of granola? What would be the possible consequences if I step out of God's will? Can one accidentally step out of God's will? 

Bill Gothard made us frightened to death of being satisfied with "Satan's best", which he said always preceded "God's best". We distrusted our physical sensations, our emotions, our reasoning. Instead, we were to base every decision on Bill's magical Seven Principles. Instead of asking, Is this the person I want to marry?, the question became, Is this the person God has brought for me to marry, or is this the decoy Satan wants to trick me into marrying?

The IBLP seminar teaches people to be afraid.

It teaches them to be afraid of Satan, afraid of their own desires, afraid of getting sick or having financial or relationship problems if they don't follow the "principles" closely enough, or don't keep physical drives on a short enough leash. In many ways, Bill was merely a more conservative voice of "prophecy" in the 1970's, his message akin to Hal Lindsey's in Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. I sum it up this way:
God's enemy, Satan, has the desire and power to hurt you 
and you need to find ways to be safe from him!
Bill spoke, and some shrugged. But others panicked and followed him, blinded by their fear.

Frightened by Bill's made-up charts describing the moral slide to reprobation, we made vows, we made commitments, we raised our hand up and then down, with every head bowed and every eye closed. We promised to read our Bibles every day, we promised not to have secrets from our parents, we promised to submit our wills and our choices to those of our superiors, we promised to pray daily for God's protection from the devil. With these talismans we hoped to be guarded against the evil lurking outside to devour us, and the evil lurking in our own hearts to consume us.

Using fear and manipulation to control others' behavior and thoughts is one identifying characteristic of a cult. And cult survivors, unlike those who grew up in merely strict religious groups, often struggle with decision long after escaping the cult. They may suffer from post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, depression, nightmares, sexual problems, psychosomatic health problems, and anxiety. Unsurprisingly, these are exactly the symptoms exhibited by many who have left IBLP, especially those who attended the Basic Seminar as children and found their way out of the organization as adults. The more carefully they adhered to Bill's interpretations, they more difficulties they face when they attempt to reclaim their own minds.

The teachings of IBLP are not merely "out of balance". And though Bill peppers his points with biblical references to give the illusion of legitimacy, they are not the "universal, non-optional life principles" he purports to unveil. They are mostly the fabrications of a man who does not believe them himself.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Voiceless Women: Dorothy Plackett Carey

Now as the church submits to Christ, 
so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

The life of Dorothy Carey blows my mind and breaks my heart.

Her husband was brilliant, a gifted linguist who left an indelible mark on Indian culture. But Dorothy would never comprehend that. The uneducated English girl grew into an illiterate adult, and how was a poor 19th-century married woman to learn to read? He left hundreds of letters and volumes in numerous languages in his wake. We have not a single scrap of text in Dorothy's words.  To the rest of the world, William Carey is known as the "Father of Modern Missions". To Dorothy, he was the man who sacrificed her soul on the altar of his vision.

Twenty-five-year-old Dolly Plackett's whole life had taken place in Northamptonshire within miles of her birthplace. Being an old maid probably worried Dolly. Without a man to protect and provide and speak for her, what would her place be in the village? The shoemaker was Dorothy's brother-in-law, and he had a young apprentice named William. William was but a teenager, six years her junior, but he began to smile at shy Dorothy anyway. Maybe she smiled at him first; we don't know much about their courtship. Yes, he was young, but he was smart, and a dreamer. He liked to go to religious meetings and, when work was slow, he was teaching himself Greek!

Dolly married young William in 1781. It is said that she signed the marriage register with a wobbly "X". They were poor as churchmice, for he was still but a cobbler's apprentice, but at least she had an identity now: Mrs. William Carey. In 18th-century England, that identity was important. According to the great Sir William Blackstone (whom she could not read), as far as the law was concerned, "the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage"*.

The next two years were harder than Dorothy had expected. She gave birth to a girl, and they called her Ann Eliza. But illness struck the Carey home. William came down with a high fever, and so did toddling little Ann. When Ann's labored breath ceased altogether, Dolly buried her precious body in the English earth. William himself was too ill to attend the funeral. He was so sick that his hair fell out. William's mother came, to do what she could to console the grieving parents. Though she herself had known poverty as a weaver's wife, she was unable to conceal her shock at her son's penurious state.

While Dolly fell into depression, William fell into religion. He had gotten involved with a Baptist group and now he was baptized. He and Dorothy had been brought up in the Anglican tradition, but a fellow cobbler had converted William to the Dissenters' theology, and William could hardly get enough of church meetings and Bible study. When he had fully recuperated, he spent his free time reading, preaching, and learning more languages--none of which paid even as well as shoemaking.

Perhaps at his mother's request, William's brother helped them financially for a while. When the master died, William took over the shoe business. However, he also felt obligated to support his master's widow since she was a relation by marriage. Fortunately, she remarried the next year, releasing William from his sense of responsibility.

William's language hobby had become an obsession: in addition to Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, William was now learning French, Dutch, and Italian. Dorothy sometimes still worked at learning the alphabet in English, but once baby Felix arrived she had her hands full, what with sewing and laundry and cooking what they could afford. Good thing her sister Kitty was so close. Dolly didn't know what she would do without Kitty.

In addition to other languages, Will was fascinated by other interpretations of Christianity. The Moravians were especially interesting, with their zeal for sending missionaries to other parts of the world. In 1785, a nearby church of Baptist dissenters made William their pastor. And when he preached, he sought to infect others with his concern for heathens "lost in ignorance". He was reading travel documentaries now. In 1787, Will talked Dolly into getting baptized again.

A letter Will wrote to his father in 1790 detailed his daily activities, with not a word about Dorothy or the boys. There were three of them now: Felix had been followed by William, and then came little Peter. Another baby girl followed Peter, but, like her sister, Lucy died before she turned two. She had been such a darling: tottering around, learning to talk, trying to keep up with her brothers.

In 1792, William started a missionary society of his own, spreading the motto: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!" Then, in 1793, William celebrated the new year by announcing his own calling from God. He would be a missionary himself--to India!

Dr. John Thomas (whose temperament tended toward manic-depressive) had spent time in India in his medical capacity. During his time there, he had done some preaching in his home, and converted two European deists to Christianity. He returned to England interested in developing a more substantial evangelical ministry. And William, as he wrote to his father before setting sail from England, "set his hand to the plough". India needed him! God needed him! He had a duty to go! His wife and children? Well, of course God would provide.

But Dorothy balked. She was in her second trimester, carrying William's sixth baby. What was her husband thinking? She had no inclination to move to India. She had no intention of delivering a baby aboard a ship somewhere on the high seas. Everything and everyone she cared about was in England. Her baby girls were buried here. Why was he asking her to leave? She could not keep William from going if he must, but she was staying put!

And so it was decided that William Carey would go to India with eight-year-old Felix and they would return for the rest of the family after getting settled. That way Dorothy would have some idea of what conditions she could expect and could prepare herself for the transition of a lifetime. Since the voyage alone would take five months each way, she could reasonably expect not to see her husband again for a few years.

So Dorothy and the boys moved into a cottage with her sister Kitty, and they all bade farewell to her zealous husband and her eldest living child. Felix and Will boarded a ship, along with Dr. and Mrs. Thomas (who, despite her preference to remain in England, believed it right to go with her husband). But numerous complications delayed the ship's departure from England. Back in the cottage, little Jabez made his appearance at last, and still the missionary voyage had not gotten underway. Apparently the men made a quick trip back to see the baby and Dr. Thomas took the opportunity to persuade the postpartum mother one last time. Wouldn't she reconsider? There was still time for her to join the team!
“I went back and told Mrs. Carey her going out with us was a matter of such importance, I could not leave her so – her family would be dispersed and divided forever – she would repent of it as long as she lived. As she tells me since, this last saying, frequently repeated, had such an effect on her that she was afraid to stay at home; and afterwards, in a few minutes, determined to go, trusting in the Lord: but this should be on the condition of her sister going with her. This was agreed.”
And just like that, Dorothy and Kitty packed up their belongings and three small boys and boarded the ship that would be their home from June until November.

The first year was even worse than Dorothy had imagined:
  • In nine months, the Careys moved six times.
  • Kitty married a British man they met in India.
  • There was not enough to eat. Expenses were much higher than the dreamy shoemaker or Dr. Thomas had expected. Financial planning was not the men's strong suit, and now the children were hungry.
  • There had been no contact with England since they left.
  • A British couple they met drowned in the river when their boat overturned.
  • Dorothy felt hot and sticky all the time. Laundry never seemed to dry in India. She and the boys were sick with dysentery. William had malaria. 
  • They practically lived in the jungle and got frequent reports about tigers attacking workers in the neighborhood!

And William? He made his beloved ink marks on paper and used money to ship them back to England: "I am in a strange land, no Christian friend, a large family, and nothing to supply their wants.... Well, I have God, and his word is sure." William was now managing an indigo factory! And he found Bengali "an easy language"!

Then, about October 1794, five-year-old Peter died suddenly of dysentery. William could not even find any local Hindu and Muslim neighbors willing to build a coffin or dig the grave. Dorothy had buried children before, but this was far too much trauma at once. Three of her children were gone, their graves spread continents apart. She had no money. The neighbors were unsympathetic. William could not be trusted. Dr. Thomas could not be trusted. Kitty had abandoned her. She was in a strange land, surrounded by people who made incomprehensible noises. She was a missionary, for God's sake. Was she supposed to read her husband's Bible for comfort? Had her reading lessons even progressed far enough for that?

Dolly's grief was overwhelming; the anxiety gradually spiraled into delusional panic. All her fears and insecurities focused into one piercing thought: William was cheating on her.  She tried to write to Dr. Thomas, explaining how she felt, but in his patronizing sympathy he replied to William:
"You must endeavour to consider it a disease. The eyes and ears of many are upon you, to whom your conduct is unimpeachable with respect to all her charges; but if you show resentment, they have ears, and others have tongues set on fire. Were I in your case, I should be violent; but blessed be God, who suits our burdens to our backs. Sometimes I pray earnestly for you, and I always feel for you. Think of Job, Think of Jesus. Think of those who were 'destitute, afflicted, tormented.'"
William hated to tell anyone back home about Dorothy's condition. Did he feel ashamed? Embarrassed? Maybe he hoped time would heal her. He surely prayed for her recovery. He and Dr. Thomas considered that she might be demon-possessed, but concluded that the illness was in her mind. Still, it was a year after Peter's death when William finally brought himself to admit the trouble to family back home:
“I have greater affliction than any of these in my family. Known to my friends here, but I have never mentioned it to anyone in England before, is my poor wife, who is looked upon as insane to a great degree here by both native and Europeans.… I have been for some time past in danger of losing my life. Jealousy is the great evil that haunts her mind.... Bless God all the dirt which she throws is such as cannot stick; but it is the ruin of my children to hear such continual accusations.” 
Yet Dorothy's insanity did not apparently keep William from fucking her. Maybe he was selfish. Or maybe he really thought it could help. Shortly after the letter posted, Dorothy realized she was pregnant again.

Jabez was two and a half when Dorothy, despite her broken state, birthed Jonathan Carey in 1796. About the same time, Dr. Thomas wrote this description to the mission board:
"Mrs. C[arey] has taken it into her head that C[arey] is a great whoremonger; and her jealousy burns like fire unquenchable.... [She] declares in the most solemn manner that she has catched [sic] him with his servants, with his friends, with Mrs. Thomas, and that he is guilty every day and every night.… In all other things she talks sensibly." 
Three months later, William admitted: "My poor wife must be considered as insane, and is the occasion of great sorrow."

Sometime that same year, Dr. Thomas resigned from the mission, eventually getting into the rum industry. (He kept contact with the mission, though. On the day William Carey was to baptize the first convert, along with one of the Carey sons, Dr. Thomas was there, but he suffered such an episode [seizure? panic attack?] that they had to confine him in the schoolhouse! The physician's mental health later deteriorated to the point that he spent time in a Calcutta asylum.) Without Dr. Thomas or his wife, it must have seemed to Dorothy that she had no friend left in the world! She was apparently not literate enough to keep up a correspondence with Kitty, or friends back in England.

William Jr. was eight; Felix was ten. They had been torn from their home, their relatives, their friends. They had lost their brother and playmate. Their aunt had abandoned them. And now their mother had lost her mind and spent her days cussing at their father. The poor boys must have been traumatized. But it got even worse. Like so many other traumatized women before and after her, Dolly picked up a knife and threatened her husband with it.

Dorothy's gradual descent into paranoia could not be kept secret within the tight missionary community. By June 1800, one of William's close friends and colleagues confided to his diary, "Mrs. Carey is stark mad." Now the missionaries couldn't have the deranged Englishwoman following William around, screaming obscenities at him. They rightly guessed that her problems were psychiatric, but what to do? His colleagues suggested he commit her to an asylum, an idea William rejected. In the end, he decided to keep her confined in their home. With the children. For years.

Fellow missionary John Marshman described how William Carey worked away "…while an insane wife, frequently wrought up to a state of most distressing excitement, was in the next room…" I dare not imagine what it was like for the Carey boys to grow up in that home. Young Felix** had a reputation as a wild, undisciplined child, but some of the missionaries apparently took him in hand and groomed him to join the missionary effort. By age sixteen, Felix was preaching to native Indians. When he was twenty-one, he was commissioned to evangelize Burma.

At the end of that year, 1807, Dorothy died of a fever.

William had no grieving left to do. The next month, he was engaged to his friend Charlotte Rumohr, a wealthy, elegant and well-read Danish countess who had come to India for her health. William had tutored her in English and then persuaded her to let him baptize her by immersion. They were the same age, she wrote beautiful letters, and they were supremely happy to be together at last. When Charlotte died in 1821, William grieved for a long time before marrying Grace Hughes, widow much younger than himself who proved to be a good companion and devoted nurse until his death. Carey asked to be buried beside Charlotte, the love of his life.

...husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.


*“By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything… For this reason, a man cannot grant anything to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her, would be only to covenant with himself: and therefore it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage…. The husband is bound to provide his wife with necessaries by law, as much as himself; and if she contracts debts for them, he is obliged to pay them; but for anything besides necessaries, he is not chargeable.” Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone (1765-1769); Book 1, Chapter 15

**Felix spent seven years in ministry but after losing two wives and his children, he resigned. Instead, Felix accepted a well-paid diplomacy post representing the king of Burma in Calcutta. Later, he developed a drinking problem and spent three years wandering Assam like the lost third-culture kid he was. When he returned, he assisted his father with translation, writing, and publishing until his death of cholera at age 37.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Life at IBLP Headquarters

Oak Brook, Illinois            January-July 1999

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 

I shared Brook Manor with about a dozen lovely and hard-working ladies. It was an enormous house split into numerous "apartments" with a common kitchen and living area. In spite of sharing proximity and chore lists, I suspect we all hid a lot of ourselves from each other. Not knowing who could be trusted and how much, I tended to err on the side of caution. Once a month we would have a "house dinner", sponsored by (or mostly sponsored by) the Institute. We often planned these occasions to coincide with birthday celebrations. They were a fine excuse to dress up and enjoy a meal together, at an area restaurant or in Brook Manor's basement dining room. One time we cleared enough space and danced the Virginia Reel, half of the girls lining up to take the boys' part in spite of their skirts. Another time, we all chipped in a few dollar to buy the birthday girl one of her favorite movies: "While You Were Sleeping". She was delighted, and I was slightly embarrassed because I'd never heard of it. 

Boys weren't allowed in Brook Manor and as all the "authorities" at Headquarters were male, our house was a more or less unpatrolled zone. Inside, the campus dress code was largely disregarded. It took me a while to get used to this freedom. When I encountered one of my housemates wearing Daisy Dukes in our kitchen one day, I was genuinely shocked and had to try desperately not to stare at her legs! I had purchased my first pair of navy sweatpants, to wear as pajamas. I remember the snowy Saturday when I wore them outside my room for the first time. I had no plans to leave the house that morning so after I fixed myself breakfast, I sat down at the piano and practiced some hymns--in sweatpants and a turtleneck! I remember willing myself not to give in to the awkward feelings, forcing myself to chat casually with a friend who stopped to listen. I am certain I failed dismally. 

One weekend following a heavy snowfall, word spread through the grapevine that there would be sledding on the hill below our drive after dark. I grew up going sledding every winter, but had been doing so in long skirts since I was about ten. Now, I had pants! Cotton sweatpants, too be sure, but they would be warm, and it would be dark, and my parka covered my hips anyway so my butt wouldn't defraud anyone! I slipped on my boots and zipped up my coat. I thought about calling Chris to make sure he knew about the party, but that seemed inexcusably forward, especially since he'd never seen me without a skirt. I felt daring enough playing in mixed company with my legs visually separate at the knee. Chris is still mad that no one invited him to join in the fun that night. He would have loved the rare opportunity to socialize with peers in the dark! His house leader Josh was there that night, and the children of some staff families. Sleds were in short supply, but the kitchen staff produced their biggest baking trays and the bravest among us bounced down the hill on those. That evening was a beautiful respite from the usually oppressive atmosphere of rules and meetings avoiding unprofitable "folly", though I couldn't shake the feeling that we might be caught having fun. Like the unregistered Christians in BJU's film "The Printing" when the soldiers found them holding services in the woods. "This meeting is over! Go to your homes!"

Every weekday, the kitchen staff prepared lunch for everyone. It was served in the dining room on the lower level of the Staff Center. This was our big meal of the day. For those with little cooking experience or without convenient transportation, breakfast and supper could be a challenge, but I loved this opportunity to do my own meal-planning. Never before had I had so much control over my own diet! Every week or two, I would get Michael* and Chris to take me to the Jewel-Osco down the road and I would stock up fresh produce and other groceries. Strolling the aisles was a walk in the free air, a reminder that the rest of the world, with its sensual magazines and alcoholic beverages and romance and prescriptions and ham sandwiches, went on as usual. Our sequestered life was the anomaly. I liked to just look at everything in the store, especially the floral arrangements.

Grocery shopping was almost like a date, hanging out with the boys and making suggestions about what they could eat that week. Sometimes I got the ingredients for a whole meal and after cooking a casserole in the crockpot at home, the guys would help me transport it to an empty office conference room where I would produce plates, forks, and napkins and we would dig in together. We would invite other stragglers to dine with us, but most of them were too frightened to participate in such a bold unauthorized activity. On weekends, we had picnics--on a colorful blanket on the hill overlooking IBLP's pond, or on a bike ride further afield. Chris and I still use the little blue cooler he bought to carry on the back of his bike all those years ago.

I tried really hard to integrate with Headquarters life. After all, it had been my dream for years and years. When one of the staff moms had a new baby, I baked cookies and took a casserole to their house. Michael and I joined the handbell choir that met one evening a week. We didn't sound very good--many of us had no prior experience--but we had a lot of fun. I sometimes played the grand piano for staff meetings. I went back to Pacific Garden Mission with the Garvins, singing Fanny Crosby's "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" for the "down and out" men in the audience and feeling a connection to the great "cloud of witnesses". I was asked to tutor Telos students  in English, and that took up some of my evenings. Some nights there were "work parties", like the night we were all "invited" to stay late and stuff envelopes. We spent hours on that mailing, sent out to mayors all across the country. But it didn't count as overtime because Gothard had another treat for us: Papa John's pizzas to reward our diligence and availability. I also had chores at Brook Manor and at the office. IBLP didn't bother with a cleaning service--we were assigned a rotation on the chart for cleaning the office bathrooms. My secretarial responsibilities included vacuuming, dusting Dwight Fredrickson's office, and maintaining his personal humidifier.

Besides being a director's secretary, I was an official tour guide. When ATI families dropped in to visit, I would show them around the building and recount the ancient Institute lore: the story of Bill Gothard's eyes being healed so he didn't need glasses anymore, the birthday card collection, the expensive printing equipment God had provided... The printing department was my favorite place. I loved any excuse to go down there. The work there was loud and smelled funny and was interesting to watch, and the men there didn't wear suits. Sometimes the families wanted to have a picture taken with me, as if I was a celebrity! My other favorite place was the attic. We didn't take guests up there, but I sometimes got the job of filing papers away in huge cabinets. Inside a closet, I'd found the file cabinet that held all our completed Faith Journals. One time I pulled mine out to look at. I still remember the years I labored to fill up those lines, sometimes shivering in the kitchen over a cup of herbal tea while the rest of the family was asleep, sometimes nibbling a heel of day-old whole wheat bread which I was later accused of stealing, sometimes struggling not to fall asleep over it on my bed on a Sunday afternoon. And now, my pages and pages of neat handwriting was stuffed in a drawer in a closet in an attic in a Chicago suburb. I wondered if anyone had ever read what I wrote. Sometimes I wish I had retrieved it then, but, no, I filed it back neatly by alphabetical order.

I once rode in Gothard's conversion van (the Gothardmobile) from Chicago to Indianapolis for an overnight trip. Gothard had some reason to visit the ITC, and invited any ladies from IBLP Headquarters to come along to help out with the "work" there. It made sense when he announced it, and I had no plans that weekend, and I like to travel. It seemed like a good opportunity to say hi to some familiar faces in Indiana. I packed casual clothes, because I intended to work. In the van, it was Gothard and five of us young women. He sat in the middle; I think I sat next to him. He read us a letter with a question about the IBLP policy against beards and consulted us about what we thought he should say. I don't think he got the answers he wanted. I said my dad had a beard when I was young. Ruth* said Gothard had given her dad a dispensation to keep his beard. Kathy* said that when her dad shaved off his beard to join ATI, she had cried. Bill looked so crestfallen that I felt the need to cheer him up. I assured him that he had convinced me: I would never grow a beard!

When we got to Indianapolis, there really wasn't much for us girls to do. The ladies there looked confused as to why we had come, dirtying rooms they had cleaned and beds they had made--for what? We were Headquarters staff, Gothard's favored ones, with paychecks, in a different class from the Indy staff. I had been in their shoes not long before, and I knew they were looking down on me now. It was an uncomfortably awkward position. In the afternoon, there was a picnic of some sort at South Campus. I couldn't escape the feeling that I was crashing their party for no reason. I tried to enjoy myself anyway and caught up with some old acquaintances, including a girl whose parents had sent her to join the Russia team but had made the ill-fated decision to get her hair trimmed the week before. Bill had determined that her stylish cut was too short and would jeopardize the integrity of the Institute's image. She had been banished to South Campus for six weeks so her hair could grow out. She blamed only herself, but I felt so bad for her! On the way back to Chicago, I sat up front with the driver instead of in the back with Bill. I preferred not having my hips touch his, and it was far more daring to converse with a male peer.

The Oak Brook staff lunches were followed by announcements, so attendance was pretty much mandatory, unless one had a dispensation from a supervisor. Fasting days were designated once a month. On those days we had a big prayer meeting at the other building instead, then went back to our offices and listened to our stomachs growl till we could leave at 5:00. In late spring or early summer, the Voeller family (Jim Voeller was the director of ATI) shared at a staff meeting about their experience switching to a vegetarian diet. Mrs. Voeller, at least, was very excited about raw vegetables and the Hallelujah Diet became a major topic of conversation. Especially at lunch, where salad became the entree for weeks on end. A salad bar, with the ubiquitous whole wheat rolls. The poor girls in the kitchen knew these meals were inadequate for the hardworking adolescent boys who depended on lunch for their daily protein. They put out bowls of diced chicken and shredded cheese on the salad bar, and replaced them as fast as they emptied. Someone said they went through more cooked chicken that way than when it was the main dish! Bless their hearts, those cooks kept us all going. (When Michael and I were fired and returned home to Michigan, it was weeks before Mom dared serve us salad again.)

Chris, Michael, and I had been warned not to go downtown together, but no one had said we couldn't ride our own bikes to the trails on the lovely green grounds of McDonald's Oak Brook headquarters, or stroll down to the nature preserve north of IBLP's campus. Once we all went to drop someone off at the airport, and then decided to play hooky from that night's staff meeting. We got ice cream and went to a playground instead. Chris and I had such good times on those trips, always with Michael along for propriety. Chris was still interested in me, but shoved down all signs of it so I was blissfully ignorant. Some Sunday mornings we walked together to a church in a Hinsdale neighborhood. I admired the budding trees and colorful flowers along the way, while Chris secretly admired me. He still visited Kansas once a month. One such weekend, Michael and I explored as far as Wheaton, where we spent hours at the Christian history museum on the Wheaton College campus. I imagined Billy Graham and my idols Jim and Elisabeth Elliot wandering those same hallowed sidewalks.

One warm Sunday afternoon at Brook Manor, a bunch of us girls went out on the deck in tank tops and shorts (or pulled-up skirts) and sunbathed for an hour or more. Some of us with fair skin roasted quickly in this uncharacteristic exposure. Jill* was one of Bill Gothard's favorite blondes, and she was afraid her red face would give her away and get her in trouble. The next morning, he did indeed notice when he saw her bright countenance!
"Looks like you got some sun," Bill remarked.
"Yes, I did!" Jill replied, trying to keep cool.
"Well, you wear it well," said Bill.
In my alcove office
Fortunately for all of us, Bill never remarked on my appearance. One of his henchwomen did, though, the day I wore a homemade vest over my white blouse. It was white, with a pattern of large blue roses. Lauren came to my office and admonished me. It would need to come off, she said. Dress code said ladies who worked in my department could wear only white shirts and navy skirts. Well, I couldn't remove it right there and then. I was wearing no camisole that day, and my mom had drilled into the fiber of my being that my bra must never be seen through my clothes. So I spent the rest of the morning vibrating between feelings of anger and feelings of guilt, until it was lunchtime and I darted over to Brook Manor to change my garments before rejoining the group.

Many evenings, Michael, Chris, myself, and other friends who were bold enough to join us, would gather on the rug in the front lobby of the Production Center. Some evenings we prayed aloud together. Other times we read aloud, from Chris's hardbound copy of  A Tale of Two Cities. I had my own paperback copy, which I had found at a garage sale. In that old-fashioned room, under the painting of Gothard's parents, we sat on the floor and let Dickens' timeless characters in an age of revolution come alive in our imaginations.
"...it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..."

*Names are pseudonyms.

Keep reading at Kidneys, Needles, and Y2K

Friday, March 7, 2014

On Deviance and Social Norms

This week in my sociology textbook, we read the chapter on “Deviance and Crime”. I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to get through; I even had panic attacks trying to read it! I got carried away with "processing" while working on the written assignment and here is what spilled out:

* * * * *

I often wish social norms were more clearly defined. The distinction between courageous and informally deviant is such a fine line and I feel like I spend a lot of time in no man’s land, unsure whether my behavior will meet with praise or censure when I engage with society at large. No doubt my confusion can be partly attributed to growing up in a sub-/counterculture and socialized in a religious cult where nearly everything was either black or white and my parents and their friends proudly self-identified as “radical”. 

I grew up with a large hand-painted “Jesus Is Lord” sign over our garage and my parents starting homeschooling before it was legal. Dad put a large rock through the front of our television when I was seven and asked our grandparents not to send us toys that might lead us into the occult. Mom birthed ten babies in our house. When I was a teenager, my siblings and I swam fully-clothed in hotel pools while housekeepers and other guests stared down at us from upper levels. Mom had me write a letter to Revlon asking if their home perm solution contained the flesh of aborted babies and a letter to the hosts of a church Halloween party linking jack-o’-lanterns with Satanism. 

I was pretty sure none of this was normal. Yet it was normal for me. The Bible told us God had chosen us to be his “peculiar people”. From a very young age, I had to develop an immunity to questions, stares, and even gasps, from friends and strangers alike. And like Annie Sullivan in the play The Miracle Worker, “it made me strong”.

Our family stood as a group and walked out of church services, carrying the babies, when we encountered music that violated the rules of our cult. When we went out to eat, my dad would ask the restaurant to turn off the music on the sound system so we would not be exposed to the defiling rock beat. At a Pizza Hut in Moscow, Russia, our team's leader convinced the manager to change the music that was playing and play our cassette of instrumental hymns instead so we could munch in spiritual freedom.

I absorbed the "standing alone" lesson well. I loved wearing hats and veils and would wear them to church when I felt like it, if the women there looked mostly normal. When my parents took us to a church where all the other women hid their hair behind scarves, I left my hat at home and wore lipstick! When I attended a Baptist church while staying at the in Indianapolis Training Center, I lifted my hands during the worship service. It was part self-expression and part protest against their doctrine which accused other "brothers in Christ" of being controlled by devils. 

When I worked in Oklahoma City for IBLP, we regularly saw homeless men who wandered the area around our compound, situated between the parks and the rescue mission. One pushed a shopping cart and dripped gold paint from a can he kept close to him. Many of them were probably mentally ill. We regarded them as lazy, maybe crazy, and who knew if they were dangerous? We, the ones with strong character, were the wise ones: forbidden to date or wear blue jeans, eschewing higher education, sneaking coffee once a month, working for nothing and selling families censored Internet!

One scorching Saturday when my friends and I got permission to take a walk through downtown (deserted on the weekend), we stumbled onto a quiet corner with a garden and an enticing fountain. We saw no reason to resist the temptation. Long skirts notwithstanding, we went straight in--laughing, splashing, playing, seeing how much of our bodies we could submerge in the shallow water. The homeless men who had been resting (bathing?) at the other corner of the park took one look at us and quietly moved on. Maybe we looked like trouble! But we just felt free; for that hour we were bold, unashamed, and very wet. The sun dried us on our hike back and we never told our supervisors about our "swimming" adventures--in mixed company, no less! But those of us who were there still recount our exploits. It gave us a new label, perhaps. We looked the part on the outside, but inside we were secret rebels. For some of us, labels like that eventually helped us escape the cult programming.

In my mid-20’s, I “rebelled” by wearing jeans, listening to Christian bands, getting a mortgage, buying condoms (my husband and I had two kids in two years), swimming in a bikini, and attending college. In each situation, I braced myself for the social repercussions that might follow these deviant choices. It helped immensely that I found my cohort through social media. Though scattered across the continent, we explored each step of our new life together, sometimes in excruciating detail!

These days I watch reruns of Seinfeld to create a sense of contemporary history. What did other pockets of American culture look like in the 1990’s? My husband and I adore Kramer because he is so oblivious to both labels and social norms, making it all the more hysterical when even he recognizes behavior as deviant. I suppose functionalist theory would find Kramer essential to the show because by challenging the status quo, he exposes it. And I often feel I am doing the same.

I am still scared every time I confront a perceived authority or break a rule. On the other hand, I think a lot of our social “norms” standardize antisocial behavior or justify abuse and need to be challenged by those who refuse to recognize them anymore. Those with social control may write the history, but it is those labeled as “deviant” who change its course.

Perhaps labels do stick through the generations. While I don't consider myself "radical", I feel no loyalty to conventions or traditions that are used to demean or disenfranchise groups who wield less power in society. And I'm proud when I see my children continuing the family legacy of bucking the system. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Investigation into the Indianapolis Training Center

I found the Indianapolis Training Center a difficult place to thrive, and I never stayed for more than a few weeks at a time. Some of those in leadership seemed to me unreasonably harsh; there were rules for everything, privacy was a hard-won prize, and anyone who failed to meet the standard might be shamed before the group. When Bill Gothard was there, I remember some very odd mealtime lectures about circumcision, menstruation, and lightbulbs. And when he wasn't, director Bennie McWha soberly read us an urban legend about criminals who might steal our kidneys on our way home for the Christmas holiday!

Now that dozens of women have come forward accusing Gothard of sexually harassing and fondling them in private, I wonder how many other secrets that old hotel at 2820 N. Meridian was keeping. Gothard had an office and suite available to him there, and I have no doubt he "counseled" with young ladies. There were a lot of lonely, hurting, weary girls in that building, and some of them were very beautiful. 

But now, it's time for an ITC history lesson:

In 2001, investigative journalist Karen Hensel started working on a story about IBLP's Indianapolis Training Center. Reporters used hidden cameras to investigate reports of children and teens being paddled and put into solitary confinement for whole days in the "prayer room". In January of 2002, Rodger Gergeni, a director at the ITC, told the reporters that the ITC had recently changed its policy and had stopped spanking children there on January 8, following complaints from a parent.

Hensel's work also led to a state CPS investigation, after Dave Cook from the Marion County Public Defender's office heard the reports of abuse on the news. Judge Payne at the Juvenile Court agreed to stop referring youth to the ITC while it was being investigated. And more stories surfaced:
"In late 1995, documents obtained by Eyewitness News show, ITC was aware a 14-year old girl made a child molestation allegation against another resident.
Under Indiana law, ITC had a duty to report any suspected child abuse or neglect. However, state Child Protection Services learned about the alleged molestation from a probation officer – not from ITC Director Rodger Gergeni.
The documents show Gergeni knew of the allegations but failed to notify authorities: “When asked if he had filed a CPS report, Mr. Gergeni replied, ‘No. Was I supposed to?’”
The woman who alleged the molestation told Eyewitness News that when she told Gergeni about it, he blamed her and put her in solitary confinement as punishment."
Reporters "made repeated requests for an on-camera interview with Bill Gothard, but he has yet to agree. We did speak with him on the phone. He denied that there is any abuse at ITC and says his organization has helped millions of people around the world."

But the investigation hit a dead end. The Marion County Prosecutor declined to press charges. Instead, the City-County Council passed a resolution in 2003 apologizing to IBLP for the "embarrassment" and urging the Superior Court "to immediately resume referring juveniles" to the [uncertified, unaccredited] Indianapolis Training Center. IBLP touts this resolution as evidence that no abuse occurred at the ITC. 

The following is the text of that resolution, excerpted from pages 131-133 of the Journal of proceedings  of the City-County Council of Indianapolis-Marion County, State of Indiana. I have added some first names for clarity, and highlighted some parts for emphasis.

April 14, 2003

PROPOSAL NO. 218, 2003. The proposal, sponsored by Councillors [Scott] Schneider, [William] Dowden, [James] Bradford, and [Beulah] Coughenour, concerns the Indianapolis Training Center. Councillor Schneider read the proposal and moved, seconded by Councillor Dowden, for adoption.
Councillor [Steve] Talley said that he is opposed to this proposal and feels it needs more discussion. He said that he has not seen the order that expunged the abuse allegations in writing. He said that he also cannot support a proposal that urges the Juvenile Court to refer juveniles to this facility, as this is not the role of this Council.
Councillor Dowden said that the entire Council received this order in writing. He added that Councillor Talley offered a proposal last year that would ask the Juvenile Court to cease referring juveniles to this facility, and therefore, he does not see the difference in encouraging them to again make referrals now that the facility has been cleared of all allegations, and it was found that the accuser had a history of making false claims.
Councillor Talley said that there have been further allegations since and they need to be verified. He said there may be legal ramifications against the Council if juveniles are sent to the facility at the Council's urging and the allegations turn out to be true. He added that he is concerned about the separation of Legislative and Judicial branches of government.
Councillor [Ron] Gibson moved, seconded by Councillor Conley, to table Proposal No. 218, 2003 until this order can be provided in writing and the findings can be verified. He said it could perhaps be sent to a committee for further information.
Councillor Dowden said that the written findings were distributed with the minutes of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee over eight months ago and are on file in the Council office. He said that those copies could be reproduced at any Councillor's request.
The motion to table Proposal No. 218, 2003 failed on the following roll call vote; viz:
10 YEAS: Boyd, Conley, Douglas, Gibson, Gray, Horseman, Nytes, Sanders, Short, Talley
15 NAYS: Bainbridge, Borst, Bradford, Cockrum, Coonrod, Coughenour, Dowden, Frick, Langsford, Massie, McWhirter, Moriarty Adams, Schneider, Smith, Tilford
3 NOT VOTING: Brents, Knox, Soards
1 ABSENT: Black

Proposal No. 218, 2003 was adopted on the following roll call vote; viz:
15 YEAS: Bainbridge, Borst, Bradford, Cockrum, Coonrod, Coughenour, Dowden, Frick, Langsford, Massie, McWhirter, Moriarty Adams, Schneider, Smith, Tilford

10 NAYS: Boyd, Conley, Douglas, Gibson, Gray, Horseman, Nytes, Sanders, Short, Talley 
3 NOT VOTING: Brents, Knox, Soards
1 ABSENT: Black

Proposal No. 218, 2003 was retitled COUNCIL RESOLUTION NO. 66, 2003, and reads as follows:

A COUNCIL RESOLUTION concerning the Indianapolis Training Center.
WHEREAS, The Indianapolis Training Center, a Faith Based alternative youth training program for troubled youth, operated by the Institute in Basic Life Principles, has been a very positive addition to our community since locating here 10 years ago; and
WHEREAS, The Indianapolis Training Center has served the taxpayers of Marion County very well, operating without any local tax dollars; and
WHEREAS, both individually and collectively, members of the City-County have visited and toured the Center and interacted with the youth and staff; and
WHEREAS, The Indianapolis Training Center was the innocent victim of a media campaign alleging possible abuse, and was also the subject of a City-Council Resolution requesting the City to stop referring juveniles until an investigation is concluded; and
WHEREAS, this adverse publicity caused outside entities which contribute to the operation of the Indianapolis Training Center to suspend their support; and
WHEREAS, a thorough investigation by the state, and a review by the Marion County Prosecutor, found the allegations of abuse to be completely unfounded and unsubstantiated and ordered that the records be expunged; now, therefore:


SECTION 1 . The Indianapolis City-County Council expresses regret to the management and staff of the Indianapolis Training Center for any embarrassment and financial loss endured by the allegations last year.
SECTION 2. The Council acknowledges the good work of the Indianapolis Training Center and its effective help for troubled juveniles in Marion County; and the savings to the taxpayers of Marion County.
SECTION 3. The Council strongly encourages the Juvenile Court of Marion County to join with the many other jurisdictions to immediately resume referring juveniles to the Indianapolis Training Center.
SECTION 4. This resolution shall be in full force and effect upon adoption and compliance with IC 36-3-4-14.
Councillors Talley and Coughenour asked for consent to explain their votes. Consent was given.
Councillor Talley said that this proposal apologizes on behalf of the Council for embarrassment and financial loss to the facility, and he does not want this apology to speak for him. He said that he believes there are still unresolved allegations, and he therefore cannot support the proposal.
Councillor Coughenour said that there is no truth to these allegations and no substance was found for them. She said that the media and the Council did this facility a great disservice and injury. She said that she is very familiar with this organization and it is distressing to see a body that supports being a City of Character impugning such an organization's integrity.

(The next year Governor Mitch Daniels appointed Judge James Payne to direct Indiana's Department of Child Services. Payne was forced to resign in 2012 after numerous questions arose about Payne's unethical behavior, including the possible misappropriation of agency funds. His own agency investigated, and cleared him, after an allegation that he had slapped his grandson's face.)

Fortunately, the Indianapolis Training Center has been shut down for several years now. But I cannot for a moment think of the ITC as an "innocent victim". Many of its silent victims have yet to come forward. Some were damaged for years and are only now strong enough to label their experiences as abuse. Disregard for health--including adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, and medical needs--was commonplace. One was supposed to rely on God for strength equal to one's assigned tasks, if they were different from what one signed up for. Some have been published on the website Recovering Grace. You can read some of them here and here and here and here.

Surely, if those Indianapolis council members had been aware of the abuse Gothard stands accused of today, they would not have been so quick to regret causing his staff "embarrassment".

Postscript 6/19/14: 
In 2008, Gothard used the Indianapolis City Council Resolution to reassure the Arkansas Times that IBLP had been cleared of abuse allegations at the Indianapolis Training Center. At that time, Gothard also denied that minors had ever been locked in prayer rooms. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

David Gibbs, Jr. -- Investigating Gothard?

The involvement of Gibbs' law firm in the "outside investigation" of Bill Gothard has been confirmed by the Chicago Sun-Times"Seth Kraus, of the law firm Gibbs and Associates in Cincinnati, said the firm is conducting a review of the allegations. That review is at the request of its client, the Christian Law Association, which was asked by the institute’s board to do an outside review, Kraus said."

Attorney David Gibbs, Jr. is a longtime friend of Gothard's Institute. Though he has never been a member of the board, he is a popular speaker at ATI conferences. From the IBLP website:
"David Gibbs attended his first Basic Seminar in the early 1970’s. He marveled at what he heard and purposed to apply it to his life. He went on to become a lawyer and founded the Christian Law Association, which serves hundreds of churches without charge. He has become a conference favorite..."
Gibbs, whose Christian Law Association has been described as "the Fixers for fundamentalism", gave three sermons at last year's ATI training conference in Nashville and is slated to address this year's conferences, too.  He also has a close relationship with fundamentalist Clarence Sexton of Crown College (which shares a board member with IBLP). One does not have to look far to find Gibbs sharing a podium with Sexton, or with Gothard.

Gibbs' firm was also general counsel for Accelerated Christian Education (a.k.a. School of Tomorrow) for over 20 years. According to Johnny Scaramanga at Leaving Fundamentalism, Gibbs served as president of A.C.E. after founder Donald Howard was forced out by scandal. (A.C.E. was the curriculum used at IBLP's Indianapolis Training Center to "homeschool" minors in their care.)

In Federal District Court in 1982, Gibbs represented a Christian reform home taken to court by girls who had been abused and brainwashed there. The home was affiliated with Lester Roloff, another of Gibbs' clients. In 1977, Gibbs represented Lester Roloff against the state of Texas, arguing that Roloff's homes for teens should not be required to comply with the Child Care Licensing Act.

David Gibbs, Jr. is also the attorney for First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. When their pastor Jack Schaap confessed to an illicit relationship with a minor from his church in July 2012, Gibbs was called upon to conduct the internal investigation of Schaap, in cooperation with law enforcement, and gather information to be "appropriately given to authorities". (Schaap plead guilty and is serving a twelve-year sentence.) Schaap's victim told the court in a letter about how he groomed her, "[Schaap] told me to confide in him, to trust him, and he made me feel safe and comfortable around him as a man of God. He preyed on that trust and my vulnerability."

Hmmm, why does that sound familiar?

Now it seems the IBLP board is counting on David Gibbs, Jr. to conduct an "investigation" into the allegations against Bill Gothard. I appreciate that the board is trying to respond, but I wonder how many victims of abuse and/or harassment at IBLP Headquarters would be comfortable sharing their stories with this man?

Posted on Stuff Fundies Like blog

IBLP Leaders, Followers, and Directors

from Character First training materials

Much abuse, and abuse cover-up, occurred under the auspices of the Institute in Basic Life Principles in the decades since the 1980 scandal. Numerous instances of child abuse were not reported, despite the Institute referring to itself as an "educational" organization and Bill Gothard touting his status as a Christian minister. So who was he accountable to? If they later left IBLP, why did they leave, and did they leave quietly?

We know who currently sits on the IBLP Board of Directors, but there has long been considerable turnover. Additionally, there is the opaque "Advisory Board". For the purpose of this post, I will use "Board member" to refer to any man who has served on either the IBLP Board of Directors or Board of Advisors since 1980. They gave legitimacy to Gothard's nonsense by lending their names to his so-called ministry. I for one would like to see any of these men make a public statement distancing themselves from Bill Gothard and his "principles".

Here is the list I have come up with so far:

  • Gil Bates, pastor in Tennessee
  • John Beckett, CEO of a manufacturing company in Ohio
  • Roy Blackwood (Board of Directors 1980-2012), pastor of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis and member of the board of the Indiana Biblical Counseling Center
  • Dr. Billy Boring (Board of Directors 2005-present), physician in Texas  UPDATE: resigned 3/14
  • Thomas Brandon, pastor in Texas 
  • Anthony Burrus, linguist? language teacher? in Texas
  • Wes Cantrell (Board of Directors 2003-2005), CEO of Lanier Worldwide, Inc.
  • Dr. Gustav Hemwall, deceased (Board of Directors 1961-1998), physician in Illinois
  • Thomas Hill (Board of Directors 1993-2005), president of Kimray and founder of Character First (now part of Strata Leadership)
  • Ralph Hudgens (Board of Directors 2007-present), State of Georgia Insurance Commissioner 
  • Sam Johnson (Board of Directors 2003-2012), Congressman from Texas
  • James Leininger, Texas billionaire and Republican kingmaker
  • Dr. Stephen Paine, physician in Oklahoma
  • Bernie Reese, attorney in Illinois  UPDATE: resigned 3/14
  • Jim Sammons (Board of Directors 1980-2002), real estate developer in Fort Worth
  • John Stancil, businessman in Tennessee
  • Jerry Wells, pastor of Western Hills Church in Oklahoma City and Gothard's "personal pastor" for several years
  • David York (2012?-to present), pastor in Wisconsin
  • Dr. Dean Youngberg (Board of Directors 1994-2003), physician in Kansas

It may have been possible for board members to maintain a distance from what was actually happening at IBLP Headquarters and the various training centers. Some of them may have truly been ignorant of the abuses that were taking place week after week from Michigan to Arkansas:
  • physical neglect and abuse ranging from callous to violating to inhumane
  • isolation and solitary confinement
  • denial of necessary medical care
  • verbal and emotional abuse that left some "student" disciples with longterm disabling anxiety/PTSD/health problems
  • educational abuse (especially for minors placed in the care of the Institute away from their parents
  • not to mention sexual abuse and harassment that either took place at training centers or was confided to leadership who never reported to authorities
The men and women who used Gothard's teachings as a cloak for their own cruelty should be investigated, as well. Together, they hurt so many more young men and women than Gothard could have alone. Everyone who was put in charge of a training center or an Institute program or lay claim to the "authority" to grant privileges to underlings who were sent there or were paying weekly for the privilege of discipleship should be held accountable for the way they treated those young people.