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Monday, June 27, 2011

Letter to a Family Considering Joining ATI (Guest Post)




The following is an excellent letter, written by a personal friend of mine. It was a response to a man on a message board ("H") asking for info on ATI (Gothard's homeschooling institute) from people who had been involved. Robin shared her letter with an online group we are both part of, and she has given permission for me to share it with you all. I am honored to do so. Her beautiful heart clearly shows through this letter. We once knew each other as fellow Gothard-girls. We now know each other as fellow Jesus-followers and freedom-lovers. May these words reach the people who need to hear them the most.

~Darcy

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H, to really get to the bottom of the criticisms, I STRONGLY recommend you read "A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life".
Google the book and you will find it. Amazon has it.

I was in ATI for about 12 years, from age 10-22, very involved, lots of mission trips, Russia, Singapore, Character First, Children's Institutes and so forth. And I never rebelled, I was not one of those who hated the program and fought it while I was in it. I threw my heart and soul into being a good example for my siblings and embracing the standards and trying to live as I was taught. My family left the program in 2002, when I was 22, primarily because they could no longer afford the $600 annual fee. Since then, I have been soul-searching, searching the Scriptures, and re-examining what I was taught. It has been a long, complicated sifting process. To this day, my wonderful, godly husband of nearly 3 years, who grew up in a fabulous Christian family but NOT in ATI, cannot believe some of the things I grew up believing, or the culture my young life was based in.

It is especially now at age 31, looking back, that I see the very subtle dangers and heresies that I (and my family) fell for. Part of the danger is in the teaching, part is Mr. Gothard himself, part is in the culture... I truly believe, now, that it is a very dangerous organization. I would STRONGLY caution you to do your homework and be very careful! It is so easy to get sucked in, a bit at a time. It truly is like a cult.

To answer your question about the dress code, at least when I went to the conferences back in the '90's, the dress code was laid-out, specific, and strict for the "Apprenticeship Students". (ATI-speak for teenagers, since "teenagers" is an unBiblical concept, lol) In ATI, "Apprenticeship Students" were ages 12-marriage. Even if a someone was 25 and unmarried, they were still pretty much treated like a teenager or child, and not as an adult, until they are married. At the conferences, the "adults" could dress as they wished, but modest dress (basically the same as what the apprenticeship students had to wear, but it could be other colors than navy and white) was STRONGLY encouraged. So in a way, it is more of a "behavioral norm" than a stated command. Of course, in an authoritarian culture which emphasizes the "Principle of Authority" there is really little difference between a suggestion and a command, when it comes from an authority figure. If you don't conform, you are being "rebellious". And the ATI leadership and Bill Gothard himself are definitely considered to be authorities over all the families in ATI.

I spent years doing my utmost to fit in on the outside and have the high standards that I was taught to strive for, and on the inside feeling like a failure because I just couldn't measure up. No matter how hard I tried, I could never keep all of Mr. Gothard's lists. Most ex-ATI people I talk to describe the exact same feeling. It is not an organization that teaches grace or spiritual growth through Christ's working in us and changing us from the inside out. Instead we are taught to strive and work and make commitments and vows and work hard to become pleasing to the Lord. It was such an eye-opening epiphany for me, literally brought tears to my eyes and changed me forever, when I realized what God's grace truly means. I think the chapter of A Matter of Basic Principles, the chapter called "The Definition of Grace" is the most important chapter in the book. Bill Gothard literally has a teaching, a letter he sent out to all the ATI families in the early 2000's, where he teaches in essence that grace is "the desire and power to do God's will". So, God's grace is about our works??? That is heresy. Grace is God's unmerited favor. Grace is realizing that God IS pleased with me, no matter what I do, simply because I am His child and He loves me. Works have nothing to do with grace. I don't have to strive and strain to earn His favor. Read the book of Galatians (I seriously think Bill's Bible is somehow missing that book...) we are not saved by grace and then sanctified by works. No, we are saved by grace AND sanctified by grace! The changes in our lives, the fruits of THE SPIRIT (not the fruits of our striving and working!) and our godly Character are produced by the Spirit working His will in our lives as we walk in Faith, following His individual leading in our lives, not by us outwardly conforming to Bill's endless lists on "Seven Steps to This" and "Ten Principles for That".

You may say "Well, of course I will not pressure my kids to live up to ALL those lists and standards! We will just take the good and leave out the rest!" but if you say that, then you don't understand the peer pressure that exists in such a group. You may have more lax or realistic standards at home, but when your kids go to the seminars or on the mission trips, you won't be there to provide balance. My parents had no idea of some of the teachings I swallowed on some of those trips. They certainly would not have agreed with everything I was taught, or with how I felt so much pressure to conform. Going to the "Young Ladies Counseling Seminar" and teaching at over 13 Children's Institutes, I saw over and over that those who didn't conform, were shunned. The girls who wore skirts barely to their knees instead of halfway to their ankles? Shunned, generally. Those who wore just a bit too much makeup? Or who talked a lot about secular movies or "worldly" music or wore fashionable but barely-acceptable-by-ATI-standards shoes? Or who enjoyed hanging around the guys and talking and laughing with them and maybe even (gasp!) flirting a little? Those of us who were striving to be godly (I say this tongue in cheek because now I am ashamed of this) shunned them. I didn't want others to see me talking to the "rebels", because they might think I was a rebel and shun me too. I still remember when I was at a C.I. and a new guy sat down at one of the pianos during a break in our training and played some ragtime music. He was very talented, and it was very fun, good music. Not Rock music, ragtime. But those of us who were more experienced with the ATI culture kind of snickered among ourselves and talked about how long it would take for those in charge to go shut him down. Sure enough, he didn't even finish the song before one of the leaders was telling him that that music was "unacceptable" and to stop playing it. Now I see how petty and judgmental and UNGODLY it all was, but at the time we were so self-righteous and sure of ourselves.

I know it is tempting, I understand why people (such as my parents, whom I love and respect) are sucked into it. It would be wonderful in a way if the Christian life was based on a set of formulas, which, properly applied, would guarantee success in life, happy relationships, and kids who turn out great. Especially when you have a lot of kids. I am the oldest of 10 kids and am a home-school graduate. I think home-schooling is wonderful and plan to home educate my own kids someday. But not in ATI. And Christianity is NOT based on a set of formulas, as Bill seems to think. (I love calling him that now, after so many years of the hallowed "Mr. Gothard".) Christianity is a relationship with the living Christ, and no set of standards or list of principles will substitute for that or even really help that. They only distract from that real relationship.

In ATI, children are in essence trained to be hypocrites, since so much focus is placed on dress standards, music, and so many outward peripheral issues which are NOT specifically spelled out in Scripture and therefore are not essential to living the Christian life. There is also a tendency for people in ATI to alienate themselves and their families from the rest of the body of Christ. ATI teaches to seek out "like-minded friends". What this boils down to is breaking fellowship with anyone who does not agree with ATI's view of things, usually minor issues not spelled out in Scripture. That family lets their kids listen to Christian contemporary music and their daughters wear jeans and T-shirts? They aren't like-minded! Never mind that they love the Lord and are passionate about serving Him and they are raising wonderful kids... ATI teachings and culture breed fear that if you let your kids hang around with their kids, your kids will rebel. So if that family will not change to suit you, if they won't change their music and start wearing long skirts and commit to courtship instead of dating (which by the way, CAN be done in a God-honoring way...), then you'd better stop being friends with them. Now I seriously believe that it is HEALTHY to have friends who believe differently than I do... talking with them, questioning why they believe what they believe, finding out how different people think, questioning my own beliefs, examining Scripture together to find out what it says on various issues, is a BIG part of how we mature spiritually! If everyone around us believes the same (or if we end up swallowing the subtle seeds of "we are better than the rest of those so-called worldly Christians out there who don't look and act like us" that are sown widely throughout the ATI culture) then even as we outwardly conform, our true inner spiritual growth will stagnate! That is what happened to me! I look forward to my kids someday asking me the hard questions... "Mommy, why do we believe this? Johnny's family doesn't believe that!" That is a teaching moment! That is how learning happens! If we can't defend our beliefs to our own kids, then why do we believe them ourselves? Do we really want to raise kids who obey blindly and don't ask questions? Really?

ATI acts like rebellion and worldliness and sin is some kind of disease, and if you isolate your kids from the germs of it, they won't get "sick". The truth is, rebellion and sin is in ALL our hearts, we all have a sin nature, and it doesn't need any outward example for someone to fall into sin.

Actually, the very culture of ATI breeds rebellion, though it's hushed up... because any family that starts to question and has kids that rebel will be shunned by the "faithful" (I am not kidding... it really is like a cult!) When questioning authority is discouraged, and mindless conforming to a rather arbitrary set of standards is what is taught, then of course there will be those who see through the hypocrisy and reject it!

My own family is a perfect example... I towed the line and did my best to be a good example to all my younger siblings. But one of my brothers, being a very smart kid, couldn't see what was wrong with listening to Christian Contemporary music. The words were honoring the Lord, many songs were straight from Scripture, and the music was more fun and interesting than the boring dusty old hymns we were encouraged to listen to. He is just not the type to enjoy classical music. You will notice, if you look up the verses used to defend ATI's position on music, that most of them are quite a stretch... Bill has a tendency to throw lots of Scripture references at you at every seminar you go to, so many references that few people actually take the time to go look them all up and read them in context. If you do, you will see that MANY of them are taken WAY out of context or sometimes even are actually saying the opposite of what he is trying to make them say! Bill talks a lot about "Biblical Principles". That is ATI-speak for ATI teachings that are rather tenuously taken from Scripture. Many are simply based on Bible stories (of which the main point of the story may have been simply historical in nature... not all stories in Scripture are meant to teach doctrine) or isolated passages that were actually talking about something else. Bill acts like he has found out secret hidden truths that no one else has found from over 2,000 years of studying the Bible... and in some ways he has... because the teachings ARE NOT really from Scripture! I could pull isolated passages and stories out of Scripture too and make them say whatever I want, and throw in some personal stories of people who were "blessed" by following my "principles" too if I wanted to! The prophet Isaiah walked around naked for a year, from village to village in Israel, to share a specific message on repentance with God's people. If I taught the Bible like Bill Gothard does, then I could build a whole teaching about how the proper way to witness to people is totally nude! LOL.

Anyway, about my brother. He started listening to CCM on the sly. My parents found out and made a HUGE deal out of it, that he was rebelling and so forth. If he'd had a good enough relationship with my parents, he could have simply asked them about the music standards and had a respectful, frank discussion about it. But in a culture of "Chain of Command" where unquestioning obedience is the standard which is taught, there isn't much room for that. Also, my parents were continually criticizing my brother for how he did his hair, the clothes he wore (he wanted to wear T-shirts, my parents and ATI culture taught that only collared shirts are acceptable in public) and so forth. The message he got, was that all these "standards" were more important to my parents than he was as a person. He grew to think they loved the standards and ATI more than they loved him. And they weren't (at that time) really even open to discussing the standards.

Which by the way, are NOT in Scripture... nowhere in Scripture does it say men have to have their hair trimmed around their ears and can only wear it in a "conservative" parted-on-the-side 1950's style, or that men should wear collared shirts, and the rest! Why do we even focus on such stupid things? But in ATI, a LOT of focus is given to such things! You will learn that there is literally NO area of life about which Bill doesn't have a teaching! Including what kind of toys your kids should play with, your health care, your leisure time, music, business plans, how to bake bread, clothing styles, keeping the O.T. dietary laws, circumcision (don't even get me started on that one...), sex between a husband and wife, social dancing, acceptable ways for young men and young women to talk to each other (pretty much try to avoid talking to the opposite gender unless you have jumped through all kinds of hoops and are practically engaged already... forget about having opposite gender friends!) all kinds of things! Eventually, my brother totally rebelled and not just against ATI, he threw the whole package out... Christianity and the Bible too. He made some really bad decisions and ended up spending some time in jail. In spite of the fact that my parents sheltered him as ATI taught and he was homeschooled from preschool to the day he more or less ran away from home and joined the party scene. I believe that having healthy, open, respectful and loving relationships with our kids, and setting a good example to them of Christ's love and grace, is a much better way to raise kids who will love the Lord, rather than focusing on conforming to and teaching a set of principles. Remember, it says in Scripture that we will be known as His disciples by our love for one another... it doesn't say "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye all listen to melodious music and wear conservative clothing and live by the 7 Basic Principles".

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. It sounds good on the surface, but actually it isn't Biblical. Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. My relationship with Christ does not need to go through my father or my husband, or my pastor, or Bill. In Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Greek... yes, children are directed to obey their parents, adult children are directed to honor their parents (note the difference between the two), wives and husbands are to honor and love and submit to one another in the fear of God...but that is not the same as a military-style "chain of command". And nowhere do we see the idea of an "umbrella of authority" in Scripture. But in the ATI world, if a man chooses to be hyper-controlling or verbally abusive, there is no recourse at all for his wife and children. They are directed to simply keep submitting and obeying him, and not to talk about the family's problems with others, lest they damage their testimony. This culture runs VERY deep in ATI. Of the longtime ATI families who were friends of ours in the program, roughly half are now divorced, and well over half have had some or most of their kids completely rebel and even reject Christianity. There are so many long-time ATI families I know, where it came out after many, many years, that behind closed doors the husband was verbally and emotionally tearing his wife and kids to shreds on a daily basis, then putting on a suit and a smile and being accepted as a great leader in the ATI community. Hypocrisy is easy when "spirituality" is gauged by outward conformation to a list of standards. The only kind of abuse ATI believes merits any attention, is physical abuse. This is more a part of the culture than actual teaching, though I am pretty sure I have heard it in from-the-stage teachings at various conferences. If a woman comes to someone and says that her husband is abusing or mistreating her, she is encouraged to forgive him, go back to him, and keep submitting and praying for him. I actually heard my own parents counseling women in that situation, to do so. Nothing else. I know of women who were abused for over 20 years, whose sons grew up to have HORRIBLE attitudes toward women because of what they saw at home, whose daughters grew up thinking such actions were normal and that women have no choice but to be doormats. If the man doesn't actually strike his wife (or if he doesn't do it very often, and he "repents" afterward), then the counselors in ATI scoff at the idea that he is abusing her, and instead she is accused of being "rebellious". Never mind that verbal and emotional abuse can be far more devastating than physical bruises. I have a ministry now to abused women, and I can tell you, emotional abuse is REAL. Of course, ATI's official teachings say men should be respectful and "listen to the cautions of their wives" and so forth, but listen to those lessons carefully... if he doesn't listen to her and treat her respectfully and lovingly, there is nothing she can do about it. She has no recourse, and he has no accountability. I'm not saying that ATI will turn a good man into an abuser, but instead that this kind of system tends to attract men with abusive tendencies. So hanging around with all those wonderful ATI families may not be as "safe" as it seems, and that wonderful-seeming, respectful, sharply dressed ATI young man who wants to court your daughter could be something very different from what he appears, after the wedding day. I saw THAT happen several times too. Like I said, hypocrisy is easy in a system like ATI.

I know there are a lot of people in ATI who really sincerely love the Lord. Probably most of the people in ATI. I know they have a lot of great-seeming materials and programs. But sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, as one who grew up in the program, I would avoid all of it like the plague. I do not plan to use ANY ATI materials in my own home when I have kids. Because the subtle heresies and culture and false teachings are scattered far and wide throughout all of it. Well, I amend my first statement. I might use some ATI materials as a way of teaching my kids about false teachers and how subtle they can be, but I would give them a Basic Seminar Textbook and have them actually look up ALL the verses and study them in context, and see where Bill is twisting Scripture, and how false teachers work. Yes, false teachers. I know this may come as a shock, but now I do not even believe that Bill is truly saved. It makes me sad. I know that many, many true Christians have embraced ATI, but it would not be the first time that true Christians were fooled into following a hypocrite. And if mere numbers of followers showed that God was blessing an organization, then that would tend to lend credibility to all kinds of cults and false teachings out there... Islam? Mormonism? I could go on. The main reason I don't think Bill is truly saved, that I think he is a dangerous wolf in sheep's clothing, is his emphasis on works and his heresy about (basically) denying God's grace, teaching that we have to work for God's favor. In ATI-speak they talk all the time about being people who are "striving to please the Lord". Think about that. Deeply. Striving? To please our Heavenly Father who loves us and gave His Son for us while we were yet sinners? How can we possibly earn His favor? All our righteousness is as filthy rags. The works that we do, grow out of our love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for us, and His working in our lives. They are the RESULT of God's grace (favor), not an attempt to earn it.

I apologize for going on here and writing a book (LOL!), I didn't set out to write such a long response, but I am really concerned and passionate about this. Like I said, I spent 12 of my 31 years of life in this organization, embracing it and trying to follow all the teachings to the best of my ability, and now as an adult looking back I have GRAVE concerns about it. I have been reading emails on here for quite a while and wanting to respond or tell my story, but I didn't know where to start. Thank you, H, for sending the message that motivated me to get all this out here for discussion. It has been healing to write down all these things which have been in my head for several years. It is almost, in a way, like a chance to go back in time to where my parents were when I was 9 years old and they met this wonderful family with sharply dressed, respectful children, who raved about this amazing teacher Bill Gothard, and got my parents to go with them to a Basic Seminar, thus starting the process of being sucked in. (By the way, we later found out that that very man was abusing his wife and children, and now he and his wife are separated, have been for nearly 10 years, and several of their kids have rejected the faith. Look at the fruit...) It has been healing to be able to say to you what I wish someone would have said to my own parents, all those years ago. I will pray for you and your wife to have wisdom and discernment as you seek God's best for your family.

Love in Christ,
Robin (McKerracher) Ganstrom

P.S. Once again, PLEASE read the book A Matter of Basic Principles. You will be glad you did.

32 comments:

  1. Thank you for this! It's an excellent resource! My parents considered sending one of my brothers to Gothard's ALERT program, but then that brother did some research and decided it scared the crap out of him and he would NOT go. So my parents didn't make him, and I'm so glad in retrospect! But it's people like you speaking out that let people like my brother find the information when they start doing the research!

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  2. Robin, great post! I've often thought in recent years that the problem with my family is that we took ATI's own word about how marvelous it is. By the time we encountered dissenters, our minds were closed to them.

    It's been a long haul separating the bad from the good. I'd recommend finding other sources where the two aren't so well mixed together.

    -- SaraJ

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  3. Thank you very much indeed, Robin.

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  4. For those interested, here's the link to A Matter of Basic Principles on Amazon: link.

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  5. AMEN! Well said!! I wish a certain large t.v. family would get THEIR eyes opened to the truth about their "nice" homeschool group....... I second the recommendation for "A Matter of Basic Principles."

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  6. Wow! And the way she writes it, she's not flat out attacking the program - just showing where the flaws are. I don't know if my parents ever considered the program, but I do know that we would have been deemed rebellious just because we're not as legalistic as some. Interesting read. Thank you!

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  7. I appreciate this very much.

    Our family has never been in ATI, though we've known a family or two who have. I have been uneasy about Bill Gothard and his teachings for a long time; hearing a clear explanation of the flaws and dangers is helpful.

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  8. This is a amazing article! You got it absoloutly right. I have a LOT of ATI experience. My father used to be the director of ATI and my family was involved for over 18 years. My parents are now divorced and many of my sybolings including my have gone in the opposite direction (praise God). I have to agree that ATI is so cultish. Men not slowed to have facial hair cause its "rebellious". Guys and girls can't mingle cause, well, that'd just the rules. PARENTS: please take caution... I have noticed such common tendancys that parents who aren't as strict, let there children experience or see the worlds way of things, those children have a much higher tendancy to stay close to the world after the see how lifeless the way of the world is.

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  9. **stay close to the Lord

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  10. Excellent and true!
    I have experienced first hand the disdain and condescension that emanates from some of these self-righteous people. They all seem to believe that there are no genuine Christians outside their group. I find it puzzling that even some who had been Christians for years before entering the cult end up swallowing the lie that spirituality and holiness come through a formula.

    Life in Gothardism is antithetical to biblical Christianity. Every aspect of living is prescribed and controlled by those who are "in authority" over you and the concept of freedom in Christ and "working out one's salvation" (learning to follow Christ as one internalizes His word) is totally foreign to those precious people. It is a life of bondage.

    I could write a book on the transformation I've seen in several families who have moved into those holy circles and become "enlightened" and now see things that the rest of us simply cannot grasp. It truly grieves my heart.

    Abide in Christ and let His word abide in you and He will transform you into the person He wants you to be. He is so faithful.

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  12. Thank you for your posting! You hit it right on the head. My boyfriend's family is completely wrapped up in ATI. They are very, very sick. My boyfriend had to leave at the age of 19 due to their abuse and he has been free ever since. Although he "rebelled" from ATI, he did not leave the faith. He is still following the Lord. He says that in ATI you follow your parents, not God. The things his parents have done to him are extremely sickening! I pray one day they realize their sickness. It amazes me how these "Christian" people can treat others. They are in complete bondage and all of their kids will leave one by one.

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  13. it is very good and informative.I high appreciate this post.I imagine this is a massive violation.
    Friendship letter to best friend

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  14. I am now so thankful that my Dad couldn't let go of his Star Wars and sci-fi habit and decided we couldn't be a part of ATI as kids......my parents seriously considered joining and in the end decided (thank God!) that they couldn't live up to the standards. While we still got a hold of some of the indoctrination resources, it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been! Thanks for a very honest and revealing post!

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  15. I know I'm commenting on an older post, but this article was really interesting and almost comforting to read. I've had little connection with anyone involved with ATI, but I have seen it close enough to sense that something is off there. I've been so blessed to have parents who taught that the clothes we wear and the music we listen is and should be a reflection of what is in our heart, and not try it the other way around: somehow inject godliness into our hearts by the external things.
    "In ATI-speak they talk all the time about being people who are "striving to please the Lord". Think about that. Deeply. Striving? To please our Heavenly Father who loves us and gave His Son for us while we were yet sinners? How can we possibly earn His favor? All our righteousness is as filthy rags. The works that we do, grow out of our love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for us, and His working in our lives. They are the RESULT of God's grace (favor), not an attempt to earn it."
    Amen!
    This was an excellent article, and very worth the long read!

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  16. Have you noticed that no one has come forward with anything remotely like any kind of defense for the herracy of ATI. Not that they'd have a leg to stand on.

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  17. I feel like you have experience everything I did. Except I wasn't homeschooled, everyone else in my church was though, and I was the "bad" kid who went to gasp Christian school!
    But in the end my sister and I and one other girl around our age were the only ones who didn't end up pregnant...parents at our church then began going through a "oh maybe we don't need to be so legalistic" phase and i feel like they are still trying to find a balance.
    But seriously! So great to read about someone who knows what I've gone through!

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  18. This post is so inspiring, Robin. It inspires me to become a better person and to focus more on my relationship with Christ, rather than my deeds. Very insightful.

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  19. Thank-you for putting into words what I wasn't able to. I can relate because I also am the oldest of 10 kids, raised in ATI since I was 6. What you said is entirely true and I think it's wonderful that you are warning potential ATI families to save themselves a lot of heartache. This also reminds me of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church I grew up in too. I have a sister who is still stuck in it and is shunning the rest of the family because we do not measure up to their "standards."

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  20. Interesting how it takes people so much courage to question a particular sect of a religion few have the courage left over to question the religion as a whole. They always seem to migrate to a less offensive teaching. Take the next step. Question everything!

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    1. I think that it is a mistake to believe that people who reject some parts of a religion but still hold to other parts haven't "questioned everything". I would say that most of the people I know who have gone through questioning and rejecting of the beliefs they grew up with HAVE questioned everything, and we have all fallen on different parts of the religion spectrum. Just because you deem all religion as wrong, doesn't mean that those who still hang onto parts of it haven't done as much questioning as you have.

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  21. Thank you so much for this. Although my family is not in the ATI movement we have known several families who are and we have seen the damage. Two of my brothers were interested in two young women whose families were in the movement and proceeded to court them for three years, all to have their parents decide "no" for them in the end. I saw the Gothard followers tear my brothers apart with their criticisms and judgments and "shunning". It has also torn our church apart, which makes me very sad, and affected how my younger brothers view Christianity. They have seen how those who identify as Christians have treated their family and been burned by the process. I don't want them to reject the the good principles WITH the bad. Thank you again for this article! It is a well-balanced, well-reasoned argument. I appreciate it's telling the truth in love and lack of bitterness, something that is hard to find often in those coming out of the movement.

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  22. Thank you for your post! I inwardly critisized my husband for not wanting to "give up everthing"-esp. sports, movies,etc. He and my daughter are Lord of the Rings fans, P.O.C. fans etc.! I thought why can't he see that this ATI program is what our family needs? Now I see that once again I should follow my husband not some group! He is a godly man who makes good decisions but I was comparing him to what I see on the outside looking in at a couple of ATI dads I know from TV (won't mention names!) I still admire those families. They seem so happy and I wish we could find close family friends like they seem to have but I thank you for your honesty. We will think twice and definately study more on it!

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  23. My family was not apart of ATI but we did attend a basic seminar once. I also agree with what you have to say. Just also wanted to mention that Micheal Pearl had a debate against Bill Gothard in the Pearl's Newsletter I believe, which I am sure you can find online. I know to some Mike Pearl is also taboo but on that one subject I think you would agree with him and makes me think the Pearls are more on track.

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    1. I just re-read Michael Pearl's article against Bill Gothard's 'Patriarchal' system. Bill Gothard wrote a letter in response which is very interesting. He seemed to go backwards a bit in what he previously stated/believed, but not fully. You can google it.

      My 15 year old daughter is VERY interested in going to the ATI homeschool conference this year, and has been working and saving her money. We don't use the curriculum. She really likes the girls she met from there, (most of the girls she met dress normal and are not legalistic in any way), but also has a very clear understanding of legalism and a disdain for it, too. I explained to her all the negative comments I have been reading online, and she says she knows and understands. She has her own little motives for wanting to go, which I will not question, and I am allowing the Lord to lead. It may be a learning experience. I am praying for an alternative conference, though...one that is not worldly, yet does not contain so much legalism.

      *Sigh* After reading so many negative reviews from ex-ATI students, I am disheartened because, ladies, let me tell you as a pastor's wife, that it is just as bad to go in the opposite direction. I am weary of the serious carnality and casual, flippant regard of God so prevelant in many churches today. It makes me equally as disturbed as the things I read about ATI. When I have to see hundreds of women's/teen girls' cleavage in church on any given Sunday, counsel numerous couples who think living together is okey doke with the Lord, constantly debunk the 'it's o.k. to watch someone pretend to have sex in a movie...it doesn't affect me' comment, and weep with mothers whose kids are addicts because their parent's standards are no different from the world's anyway....it's time to regroup and RIGHTLY DIVIDE the word of God. Not turning too far to the right, nor too far to the left.

      I love to follow the Lord! All that I do and say for Him is out of a gratefulness to Him for all He has done for me! It is out of love and a thankful heart for His grace. This is the big difference - the reason for 'striving'. You see, God's word does say 'for I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man' (Paul). But the *motive* for doing so is different! Not striving to gain salvation. Not striving to appease an angry God. It is a joy to return the love to one who loves me.

      No, the hypocrisy is not limited to ultra-rules groups, but is also found in non-denominational, grace-leaning, verse-by-verse Bible teaching groups as well. Seriously. We can cheapen grace by giving all sorts of worldly/carnal junk the thumbs up under the guise of 'freedoms'.

      Will the middle ground please stand up?

      I am thankful that the author of this article did not go in the opposite direction.

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    2. P.S. I realize that the girls my daughter met from ATI who are gracious and 'normal' do not reflect the many others who are shunners.

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  24. Please don't attack other religions if you don't know much about them. I'm a Mormon and proud of it!

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    1. Attacking other religions was not her intent, as I read it. She was merely pointing out that Christians can and have been lead astray. Christianity does not uphold the teachings of the Book of Mormon. Mormons do profess to BE Christians, but among the reasons we reject Mormon teachings is this; Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God, but they do NOT believe he is diety, that he *IS* God, -God the Son.

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  25. My family was apart of ATI from 1989-2000. While my siblings and I were apart of all kinds of oppurtunities and met several GREAT people from all over--so much harm was caused in our family harmony as adults and most importantly, our theology! My best advice for Christian families wanting more for their family, be involved. Everywhere. Secular. Christian. Get your children involved in their interests. I am the youngest and my family got out when I was 16, because I graduated early. I only suffered a few years of being stunted and not going to college (although, ATI has changed their position on that....). My older siblings, while full of experiences and friends, struggled into their early 30's to begin a career. So happy this blog is here and I'm basically commenting to keep it current and high for google searches!!! Parents beware. Don't do it!

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  26. I came across this post while researching ATI after hearing the Duggar girls speak about their involvement with the group. I am grateful for your posting your experiences (all of you) or I would not have known what was going on (other than the resignation of Bill Gothard along with his open letter of confession and repentance that I also found). Thanks to all of you for posting honestly and as respectfully as possible. The transformation of our lives is possible ONLY through and by the grace of God and the presence of His Holy Spirit...not through anything we do apart from the presence and power of His Spirit. The more time I spend with Him, the natural grace-filled obedience becomes....not by my power or strength, but by His. May His Grace and Peace be with each one of you as you seek to know The Lord and to make Him Known in SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. In His Love By His Grace, This Homeschooling Momma

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