Dan Webster's Religious Guru's Advice For Women "Like Sharia Law," Says Noted Author
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 04:24:48 PM EST
"In their advice to women, the books [Gothard's books] read like sharia law, with strict instructions on how to dress, date, and run a home, and with strict consequences for disobedience." - Hanna Rosin, God's Harvard, page 92

"Once they are married, the husband "gives the law" and the wife "works out the proper procedure to carry it out." Equal authority in marriage is "Satan's goal." The key to a happy marriage is "the wife's submission and the husband's sacrifice." - Rosin, quoting Bill Gothard, page 93

"I enjoy the advice he's given. I think it's been a major part of my life. I'm not ashamed of that. What he has said I believe to be the truth." - Daniel Webster, on Bill Gothard, 1997

"To compare Daniel Webster to the Taliban is ludicrous" - Daniel Webster spokesperson Brian Graham

Hanna Rosin's 2007 book God's Harvard - A Christian College On a Mission to Save America (link to New York Times review) was just about the last place I would have expected to find support for US Congressional Representative Alan Grayson's characterization of his Republican political opponent in the 2010 race for Florida's 8th Congressional district, Daniel Webster: "Taliban Dan." Interpretations within Islam of what "sharia law" would entail vary widely but Hanna Rosin seems to be referencing extreme, even fringe takes, and that raises interesting questions about politicians close to Bill Gothard and his doctrines.

As I've detailed in a recent Alternet story, Daniel Webster's intimate, over three decade long involvement with evangelist Bill Gothard appears similar to a classic guru-disciple or mentor-pupil relationship and has included speaking multiple times at Gothard's conferences, traveling with Gothard to Korea in 1996, using Bill Gothard's material to homeschool his six children, making an instructional video for Gothard's Institute For Basic Life Principles, and, when Webster became speaker of the Florida legislature in 1996*, hiring four of Gothard's IBLP employees as high-level Florida State House staffers.

Bill Gothard and "Biblical Stoning"

As I describe in my Alternet story, Alan Grayson's GOP Opponent Directly Tied to Christian Group That Wants Permanent Subordination of Women, according to the Vice President of the Chalcedon Institute, before the institute's founder, father of Christian Reconstructionism R.J. Rushdoony, died, Rushdoony nearly struck a deal with Gothard that would have allowed him to distribute Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law book, a template for implementing Biblical law in government.

Rushdoony was a virulently racist Holocaust denier who believed in Geocentrism, the proposition that the Sun, and all the heavens, rotate around the Earth, which is the center of creation.

Although the deal fell through because the two men held clashing positions about divorce (Gothard wanted to ban it altogether) they otherwise were in agreement including, apparently, on R.J. Rushdoony's vision of instituting stoning as a form of capital punishment for murder, adultery, homosexuality, idolatry, apostasy, and witchcraft.    

Asked about his 1996 trip to Korea with Bill Gothard, Daniel Webster told the Florida Gainesville Sin, for an August 5th, 1996 story, "I respect (Gothard) as much as anybody. I wouldn't have gone [with Gothard to Korea] but he wanted me there."

Interviewed for a February 16, 1997 story from the Florida newspaper the St. Petersburg Times, Webster stated, on Gothard, "I enjoy the advice he's given. I think it's been a major part of my life. I'm not ashamed of that. What he has said I believe to be the truth."

image, below: diagram from workbook used in Bill Gothard's "Basic Youth Conflicts" course, with student notes, circa 1974

"Taliban Dan"

Alan Grayson has been widely pilloried in the media, from the right on over to the decidedly liberal John Stewart Show, for releasing a political attack ad that took out of context a statement Daniel Webster, a former speaker of the Florida State Legislature, made during a speech at a 2009 Nashville conference held by evangelist Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute.

Alan Grayson's ad clipped the isolated phrase "submit to me" from Webster's speech, which seemed to reverse the apparent meaning, because Webster was telling his male audience not to focus on Bible verses that tell wives what to do. Rather, counseled Webster, husbands should pay attention to Bible verses that tell them, as men and as husbands, how they should behave.

Except for a few better informed analysts on the margins, media consistently portrayed Grayson's characterization of Webster as wildly deceptive. But according to Hanna Rosin, Gothard does indeed promote a authoritarian doctrine of submission to authority which places women clearly below men in a divinely proscribed hierarchy.

"Submit, wives!

Rosin's book concerned Patrick Henry College, recently founded by Christian homeschooling proponent and activist Michael Farris. As Rosin describes,  

"When the Patrick Henry kids were growing up, one of the most popular gurus was Bill Gothard, who ran the Advanced Training Institute out of Oak Brook, Illinois. Gothard believes in running families like a military unit. He offers specific instruction on how kids should behave and dress, down to the length of their bangs. A few times a year, families would attend seminars around the country where kids would learn "basic life principles," such as how to conquer an addiction to rock music. The bad kids would get in trouble for what the adults would call "folly," which could mean listening to your clock radio in the hotel room or talking for too long with a member of the opposite sex...." [Rosin, pages 90-91]

Women, as Hanna Rosin explains Gothard's instruction, are to wear blandly-colored, loose fitting dresses with "neck bows and big pilgrim collars." And, "[t]hey are to avoid flirting, looking bold, or staring too long, all habits of "eyes that have not been brought into proper discipline." "

Per Rosin's account, in Gothardism the central authority governing a young woman's entry into sexuality is, of course, her father and dating represents sinful capitulation to "unwholesome sexual appetites." As she describes Gothard's approach,

" "The proper way to get to know a young lady is by building a relationship with her father." Fathers and daughters sign covenants with each other: "I will protect you from unqualified men" for him, and "I will keep myself pure for my husband" for her.
   Once a man is chosen, the engagement should be brief; "In courtship the young man has pulled the pin out of the 'hand grenade' of the young lady's emotions, and in a short time it will 'explode,' " he writes....

Once they are married, the husband "gives the law" and the wife "works out the proper procedure to carry it out." Equal authority in marriage is "Satan's goal." The key to a happy marriage is "the wife's submission and the husband's sacrifice." "Reject the concept of working mother," the book advises. "When the scriptural functions of the home are restored, there will not be the time or the desire for the mother to work for someone else outside the home. God designed a wife to find her fulfillment by being a helpmeet to her husband." [Rosin, pages 92-93]

Hanna Rosin is not alone in her observation that Gothard teaches female submission. The evidence is overwhelming. From 1971, when Bill Gothard's efforts came to the attention on Time Magazine and up into the late 1990's, when most of the major Florida newspapers covered Dan Webster's ties to Gothard, journalists have consistently noted that Bill Gothard teaches that wives should submit to husbands.

Lest there be even a single iota of doubt on the issue, here's what Bill Gothard had to say on the subject, in Gothard's 1982 book Rebuilder's Guide, published by Gothard's Institute For Basic Life Principals. In chapter 6, When a Wife Initiates Divorce, Bill Gothard lays out the "consequences":

   1. She exposes herself to Satan's power


        Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands. (See Ephesians  5:22, I Peter 3:1) This means they are to "get under the protection of their own husbands."
    The alternative to scriptural submission is not freedom, but defeat by Satan and exploitation by others.

   2. She destroys many families
             By disobeying God's word and taking matters into her own hands, the wife destroys both her own family and her husband's family. She sows the seeds of destruction in her families of her children and her grandchildren "to the third of fourth generation." (See Deuteronomy 5:9.)


"Consequence" number two is a reference to Bill Gothard's teaching that sin can cause a curse, a hereditary inclination towards the sin that gave rise to the curse which is transmitted down generational lines.

As I describe in Alan Grayson's GOP Opponent Directly Tied to Christian Group That Wants Permanent Subordination of Women, other notable teachings and practices of Bill Gothard include,

  • The claim that schizophrenia is merely a form of "irresponsibility."
  • The need for believers to submit to all forms of authority, which is put in place by God.
  •  As charged by several conservative Christian critics, the claim that Cabbage Patch and troll dolls are evil and inhibit childbirth.
  • As charged by author Cora Anika Theill, the claim that rebellious wives can be 'cured' by casting out spirits of 'rebellion.'
  • The doctrine that rock music is demonic and can case possession by evil spirits.

*Correction - I originally listed the year Daniel Webster became speaker of the Florida legislature in 1997. That was incorrect - it was in 1996.

While I am sure Rosin's comments were well intentioned, I think it needs to be pointed out that the term sharia can have many different interpretations in Islam, and that the austere, harsh version of Sharia she describes is embraced by a minority of muslims worldwide.

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 05:19:18 PM EST
Best, BruceW

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Oct 03, 2010 at 05:30:52 PM EST

On the other hand it is the fundamentalist holder of these views that are similar in America as well the Middle East and to certain extents Asia. So I can well see why Rosin might have chosen that term. Gothard has been preaching this stuff for 30 years.

by Leckey on Sun Oct 10, 2010 at 04:22:15 PM EST

I didn't think anyone would try to defend Grayson's blatantly false ad. I know you're not defending the ad directly. That would be impossible. You're just using the Fox "news" tactic that there's a deeper truth here that those of us who just look at the facts are missing. Actually, this article kind of reminds me of Fox and how they tried to equate Obama with his crazy pastor, (who, incidentally, seems sane compared to this guy). Factcheck.org and the Daily Show got this one exactly right. The way Grayson manipulated that tape, you'd think Andrew Breitbart was running his campaign. And it follows close after another deceptive Vietnam ad Grayson ran against Webster. I love that Grayson is a liberal, and an outspoken one at that. But his casual relationship with the truth leaves me sadly unable to support him. The people of that district really do have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

by Dave on Thu Oct 07, 2010 at 09:51:40 PM EST
Anyone who has studied or analyzed race relations in this country would say that Wright was RIGHT!

This is not a good country.  It is certainly not a "nice" country, and the hypocrisy is rampant.  The poor and minorities see the truth- and it's getting worse as the dominionists get stronger.  The racism and discrimination is now more de facto rather than de jure, and it's more subtle, but it's still there- and growing.

I suggest the texts "Racist America" by Feagin, "Two Nations" by Hacker, and anything by Tim Wise (available online- like through Alternet) for coming to a better understanding of race and race relations in America.  Another one that really gets into the differential treatment people get is "Pathologies of Power" by Farmer, and I would suggest that as a background read for the structures that exist in this country.  There is also a book that deals with White Privilege... that may even be the name of it.  I would recommend that, especially to anyone who isn't a member of a persecuted minority.

In this case I'm speaking both as a researcher who has studied and analyzed race, as well as a member of a minority who has directly experienced racism and persecution.  The churches in Florida come off especially bad in that second category- even the so-called 'mainstream' churches.  

By the way...

You say that you cannot support Grayson because of his "casual relationship with the truth"... but will you vote for a DOMINIONIST???  Especially with how badly dominionists lie and distort the truth (for political and 'religious' reasons) and how much they try to deceive people?  (This all is so well documented!)

If so, that would make you one of their supporters!  

I suggest you think about that.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Oct 11, 2010 at 10:27:56 AM EST

With Rev. Wright on Bill Moyers Journal. Other times though, he came off more like a clown. Bill moyers, reflecting on his interview with Wright the following week expresses my thoughts as well as I could.
And as a totally blind person, I unfortunately have more than sufficient experience on being part of an oppressed minority. By the way, my saying that Grayson isn't truthful in no way implies that I think Webster is. If I lived in the 8th district of FL, I would either sit out the election, or hold my nose and vote for Grayson. I certainly wouldn't vote for Webster.

by Dave on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 02:58:02 AM EST

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