The Secretive World of Bill Gothard
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 17, 2011 at 03:35:31 PM EST
     During the early seventies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was the largest seminary in the world.  It was the flagship of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Around this time a new movement started that was drawing participants around the nation.  It was named the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar.  It drew between 10,000-20,000 participants per event.  Eager minds sat for days listening to lectures from Bill Gothard, the founder.  His teachings were contained in the popular notebook that was not to be shared with anyone who did not attend.  Followers were warned not to speak with others about what was taught.  A veil of secrecy engulfed the meetings.
     A couple of results from these annual meetings were standard.  For one, the church I belonged to would lose members.  To counter this, the church arranged for members who had been to the seminar to share testimonies about how wonderful the indoctrination was. Another result was that some women who attended Southwestern without the blessings of their father would leave the school.  
     A local pastor led what was known as a church that embraced Gothard.  He would come to chapel and just about every few moments he would refer to Bill Gothard's principles.  Later on that decade this pastor was part of a fundamentalist takeover of the seminary.  A school that by and large viewed the Gothard movement with a bit of caution, would have new direction.  Later on this same pastor became almost as enamored with David Barton as he was with Gothard.
     Today participation at these seminars has dropped off to a fraction of the original attendance.  The name was changed to Institute on Basic Life Principles.  The impact on the Christian culture is still there.  Bill Gothard sends out weekly emails to over 90,000 pastors across the world.  You could imagine the interest I had when I received a copy of Gothard's Advanced Seminar Textbook.  Someone donated the secret book for a garage sale.  I found the contents to be beyond what I had imagined.  
     Gothard was criticized by people outside of his seminar crowd as placing himself above medical Doctor's advice.  The book is full of such.  He promotes teaching the fetus as well as adopting Freudian sexual theories.  Accused of teaching Judaism as Christianity, Gothard promotes the idea of arranged marriages.  Some have written his legalistic view of Scripture is not Biblical.  He once wrote that Cabbage Patch dolls were supposed to prevent women from giving birth, among other gems.  These other strange ideas flow from the book.
     Chapter one of the work is a response to the Humanistic Manifesto, a small movement with limited followers. Gothard makes it the group he wants to respond to in the book.  Regarding abortion, Bill takes a viewpoint that IUD and other birth control pills kill a conceived child.  Gothard advocates the "full quiver" view of birth control. That is birth control is evil and out of the will of God.  God ordained reproduction and going with birth control is going against God.  
     Violating the cycle of a woman goes against God. He has several pages on this. Gothard  says this can cause medical as well as spiritual harm. It can even lead to infertility which is definitely against God.  Birth control can be murder.  The pill is evil and can cause many medical complications. Sterilization is wrong since there is no problem with over population in the world.  There is more than enough oil and land in the world to keep pace with a growing population.  If you are infertile call for the elders to lay hands on the wife.  You might need to check out the music you are listening to which might be the reason for your infertility.  Rock music as well as loud contemporary music makes conception difficult.  The idea that rock music does not lead to pregnancy is a new twist.
     There are many pages dealing with sodomy.  That and the woman's cycle tend to consume a great deal of interest to Gothard, who by the way was never married.
      Gothad states that fathers must pick out a man for their daughter with a clear conscience, under authority, and who has financial freedom.  The father gives the command, the mother works out the guidelines in the family.  Father is spiritual leader.  The woman is to work out how to properly go forward with the command of the father.  Female chemistry is to be submissive to the will of father.  Gothard rejects the concept of working mothers.
     The manual spends a great deal of print on music.  Certain rhythms and tones can cause sensuous impressions. Timbre is to be evaluated in the song since it can bring harm. All music must be brought under control of the Holy Spirit.  High volume rock music blocks out the conscious.  Gothard states that rock and contemporary music are the "antithesis of what God desires in the life of a Christian."  One husband in the book played a rock music record backwards and of course, "Satanic words spill forth." Henry Ford used to teach that Jews created jazz in order to evoke the sexual appetites of Black people.  Bill Hargis networked with a man who advocated modern music was basically evil in nature.  It appears that Bill Gothard has bought into the theology of Jerry Lee Lewis who said rock and roll was the devil's music.  
     Speaking of finances, the work advises the following, "Being forced to borrow is always a sign of God's judgment."  There is in the book a story of a woman with a good paying job. She quit in order to be submissive and trust her husband as the spiritual leader.  The book claims real Christians should purchase a home without borrowing money.  The book was written in 1985, and one wonders who had cash even then to purchase a home.  Today modern man scarcely purchases an automobile without a loan.
     There are other gems of wisdom that are peculiar to many readers.  Gothard condemned both  drinking at a bar and attending a dance.  The work promotes the idea of home school.  The parents are to be teachers. Modern education groups children by age level which is the seed of rebellion.  TV ultimately will make people the enemy of God according to the seminar.  The prodigal son was not welcome back according to Bill's view of this gospel story.  He had to earn his return in contrast to what most people see as the jest of the parable.  Anyone who offends a believer is God's agent according to the work.  A fatalistic view of reality and prosperity promised for following magical principles seems to be the theory of the book.  
     The book goes so far as to teach women how to stand and gives advice on dressing. The length of slacks for men is even diagramed.  Color choice for women is suggested as well as hair styles that are more attractive for different faces.  
      The work claims pastors must wear suits on Sunday.  This view on dress and music reveals how little influence Gothard has had on many in the mega church movement.  Rick Warren's golf shirts and shorts on Sunday and the contemporary music in the modern church seems to reflect how little impact the movement has in many churches.  Gauging just how much impact the movement had is hard to evaluate.  For certain, few outside of the inner circle of followers realize just how far out on the fringe the teachings of Basic Youth Conflicts are.



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One gem I left out was the advice to never ask your secretary to sew a button on for you.

by wilkyjr on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 08:57:59 AM EST

I think Gothard came and went.  I most certainly remember being taught by the groups that raised me that Cabbage Patch Dolls were demonic.  I remember walking by them in Toys R Us and being scared to even look at them.

I don't know how much Gothard had an impact on my homeschool education, I know he didn't help, but I doubt that his influence was as strong as it is in some other circles.

A family in a town 20 miles from me beat their home-school child to death with air-conditioning tubing for mispronouncing words in her homeschool lessons.  I don't think they were under Gothard's seminars, but it was one of the very conservative homeschool advocates (one who taught that stealing a cookie is as bad a sin as murder in God's eyes, and vice-versa).

I'm glad to see Gothard left in the dust - I severely dislike the things I've read in his books.  Sometimes I feel like these powerful men release this documentation into the "plantation" population when they wouldn't do anything they teach to their own children.  But, who knows, maybe their kids were subjected to it as well.

As for Gothard's decline, good riddance.

by OldChaosoftheSun on Fri Jan 21, 2011 at 10:44:42 AM EST


This stuff sounds a lot like another huckster of almost a century earlier: John R. Rice, doesn't it? Paricularly with the dress bit! One of Rice's books was Bobbed Hair & Loose Women, or something close to it!

by achbird65 on Mon Jan 24, 2011 at 10:59:56 AM EST


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