On being an X-er


X-ATI Guy's latest entry explains why his site speaks to more than just those who were once involved with Bill Gothard's Institute of Basic Life Principles or Advanced Training Institute. Ordinarily I'd just put up an excerpt, but you need to read the whole thing:

X-ers hold a unique place in Christianity. Whether one's background is IBLP or some other Christian subculture that emphasizes individual performance over Christ's grace, we've endured a level of spiritual scarring--a hardening of the soul. Some of us don't make it, and they become the spiritual washouts, the reprobates, the backslidden untouchables. Others of us realize the problem was in the system, and once we exit the system, we begin the rehabilitative process of discovering God's grace for the first time.

But leaving the program is not enough. The residual effect of the indoctrination controls our perception of God in unhealthy ways. Freeing yourself from years of harsh judgment and performance-based Christianity is a messy process; it is often accompanied by rage, substance abuse, moodiness and long nights of inner reflection. Exiting the Matrix is not pretty. At times, our suspicion of systems of though[t] makes it difficult for us to assimilate truth. Which, of course, provides plenty of ammunition for those still in the Matrix to condemn the X-er. "He has left us because he was not one of us."

God's love is powerful, though, and eventually we discover the joy of a life redeemed by Christ.

For those of us who have unplugged from the system, there's no going back. Supporters of the system label this abandonment as "rebellion," "anger," "pride," and "judgmentalism." If we speak out against the system, we're told to forgive those who have offended us--to go and share how we were damaged. We're advised to move on and get over our hurts. We're frequently told that we're bitter. But you're talking bitterness, and we're talking freedom.

We're told that unity in the Christian world is more important than individual suffering. But since when was the program we left interested in Christian unity? Systematic conformity is more like it.

Our intent is not to judge people, but to judge error. And we make no claims of a special insight into Scripture or a unique connection with God that sets us apart from other believers.

Have we been hurt, misled and damaged? Yes. Are we healing and experiencing God's grace? Yes and yes. That's the ethos of the X-er revolution.

I've never been involved in any of Gothard's ministries, but through college I was a FAT participant in Campus Crusade for Christ. FAT stood for faithful, available, and teachable. "Faithful" meant if your staff discipler asked you to do something, you did it. "Available" meant you didn't get involved in other campus activities or even allow your studies to absorb your free time -- your time was reserved for ministry activities. "Teachable" meant you didn't question the Biblical basis for what was presented; you didn't challenge what you were being taught.

Why would I put up with this? I longed to fellowship with other Christians who were serious about living a dedicated Christian life -- something I didn't see in my home church. Recently I read through Whittaker Chambers' explanation, in the book Witness, of why he, or anyone else, would become a Communist. From my Crusade experience, I could understand the desire to be dedicated to a cause worth living for and worth dying for.

As a committed Crusader, I thrived on the affirmation I received for jumping through the prescribed hoops. Jumping through those hoops had some value. I studied and memorized Scripture. Leading singing at Friday night meetings built my confidence in front of a crowd. Leading small group Bible studies forced me to deepen my own knowledge of scripture. Going on summer missions projects forced me out of my comfort zone. But the affirmation that I was becoming a "man of God" and a "spiritual giant" was what kept me going.

I came to trust my staff disciplers, to believe that they had my spiritual best interests at heart. Looking back years later, I can see that their principal concern was building me into a useful tool for the movement, at whatever cost to preparing me for a lifetime as a Christian in the real world, and all the decisions that entails. (UPDATE: My wife, herself a Crusade veteran, suggests that I don't mean it quite the way it comes across, and she's right. My staff disciplers were not cynical manipulators seeking to use me for their own ends. They simply couldn't distinguish between the best interests of the institution and the best interests of the Kingdom of God. I will add that my first discipler, a senior student, was more focused on building in his disciples a foundation for living the Christian life, less focused on building the Crusade organization.)

One of the things that comes toughest to me as an X-Crusader is believing that I can trust a mentor, that someone out there would be able to help me sort through my options without steering me in a direction that fulfilled his own agenda.

I like X-ATI Guy's comment: "At times, our suspicion of systems of though[t] makes it difficult for us to assimilate truth." Crusaders were sold a systematic approach to the Christian life that only works within Campus Crusade. It makes it hard to buy into any attempt to apply scripture and define the normal Christian life. Cynicism is an easy reaction.

It's a long process of recovery, learning how to live a life motivated by grace instead of the desire to please others.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 13, 2005 12:39 AM.

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