Our friends in Kyiv, the X-ATI guy, and spiritual abuse

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(This was going to be a general blog roundup, but the Dynamic Duo in Ukraine had too much interesting material.)

Discoshaman is busy after a summer on hiatus. He posts his response to the clowns at sorryeverybody.com, and he lists Entertainment Weekly's list of top cult films and highlights the ones he's seen. And he reflects on evangelicalism, cities, and heaven:

The Duchess and I are both big city people. While Red State in our values, the idea of actually living in one is a little scary.

So I got to thinking. . . our eternal reward described in Rev. 21 is a city. Which explains why Paris, San Fran, Prague or Budapest all feel like a foretaste of heaven. I'm sure there's some charm to small towns that I've missed, but nothing compares to the energy of the City.

I agree. Especially Prague.

The Discoshaman's wife, TulipGirl, is blogging about child development mis-leader Gary Ezzo and exposés of his teaching by TV stations in Detroit and Wichita. The focus of the TV stories was on the hazards of Ezzo's approach to scheduled infant feedings, but as TulipGirl says in the comments, "I honestly think the advice for toddlers and older children is more harmful in the big picture." About that advice -- dealing with discipline and behavior -- another mom comments, "Following the Ezzo plan for older children turned our children into little 'moralists.' They could spout the right and wrong of things, but they had not incorporated anything into their hearts. It was all about being trained in behavior rather than reaching to their hearts. It also turned their good behavior into ways to get rewarded. They did things for reward, as opposed for the love of virtue, which is what Ezzo's plan is supposed to prevent."

TulipGirl also blogs about a program with similar flaws: Bill Gothard's Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

From what I gather, Gothard is like Ezzo in that his approach focuses on external obedience and behavior and in that he presents his personal (and often idiosyncratic) applications of scriptural principles as if they had the same authority as God's Word itself. An alumnus of the Gothard subculture calls himself X-ATI guy and has a very interesting blog here. TulipGirl links to a recent entry -- a very reasonable, balanced, and concise critique of the world according to Gothard.

The emphasis on performance--on outward behavior and appearance--does not produce holiness. Rather, it produces those who are very good at looking the part, pretending they are in line with all the standards rather than risk going against the tide. Not that all ATI students are fakes; that is not the point. But the system produces more than its share of young people who go along with things outwardly without having an inner commitment to the standards and convictions that are taught. And sadly, many students resist the outward "standards" as being phony, and in the process reject Christ.

There are usually three sorts of ATI students: those who blindly agree with all that is taught, those who disagree and express their disagreement from time to time, only to comply for the most part, and the silent dissenters. The silent dissenters are the ones who violently disagree with the flavor of Christianity with which they are presented, but they know it will do little good to object while under their parents' roof. So they think to themselves "I can endure this for several years," and live in silent rebellion until they are out on their own. At which point all efforts to conform to the ATI ideal are discarded.

And we've seen so many "good" ATI students wash out on their own because they were never taught how to make wise decisions. Their parents demanded only obedience, without proper training in WHY they should obey or believe. Without that personal element, ex-ATI students often turn out as bitter agnostics.

X-ATI Guy survived his experience with his faith and his sense of humor intact (I suspect the sense of humor was God's provision for the protection of his faith), and his blog combines serious discussion and pointed satire. Here's a piece about Gothard's opposition to facial hair. (The comments are good, too.)

Here's an interesting summary about Gothard I found through Google -- plus a history of Gothard's organizations here, a series called "Bill Gothard's Evangelical Talmud.

Although I've never been a Gothardite, I was involved in leadership of the Campus Crusade for Christ "movement" at MIT, and I recognize the use of manipulation and guilt motivation to produce conformity, the focus on performance, and the misuse of Scripture to place a leader's personal opinions beyond challenge. Coming out of that hothouse atmosphere, I found I had been trained well to meet the expectations of the leadership and to fulfill my part in the program, but not how to live the Christian life in the real world. (There's a lot of good in CCC -- the problems I saw had more to do with the students deeply involved in the movement. The outreaches to non-Christians with the gospel and to nominal Christians with the basics of living the Christian life, respectively, were positive.)

In that connection, I should at least mention the very-occasionally-produced comic strip "Which Circle?", whose authors apparently did made it through CCC with their sense of humor intact, but lost their faith in the process. Still, there is a lot of truth in their caricature of the CCC campus ministry, at least as I remember it from the '80s. (The strips even feature a character who is a barely-disguised version of a CCC staffer who was the leader of the Manila team of the 1983 Philippines summer project on which I served.) It's therapeutic humor, but it would be even better if someone like X-ATI-Guy would hold up CCC's practices and attitudes to the light of Scripture.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 20, 2004 11:37 PM.

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