Monday, November 29, 2004

Passport Rule Conflicts with ATI Policy
The Advanced Training Institute is objecting to new rules which ban smiling in visa and passport photos. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explains that a subject's expression should be non-smiling with both eyes open, and mouth closed. U.S. State Department indicates that a smile with closed jaw is "allowed but is not preferred."

ATI students are not sure how to cope with this directive. "Dozens of ATI students travel on ministry trips to foreign countries," said an ATI spokesman. "We train them to go abroad with a ministry smile, and these new regulations impede an important aspect of our work."

Bill Gothard himself, known for his teaching on submitting to authorities, spoke out against the new rule. "Government leaders all over the world tell me the thing that sets ATI young people apart is their bright countenances. If they cannot smile in their passport pictures, how will they minister to customs officials?"

ATI plans to file a godly, seven-step appeal with the U.S. government which will cite the spiritual and health benefits of smiling.

If this effort fails, however, ATI is prepared to engage in civil disobedience. "We are commanded to let our light so shine before men," said the ATI spokesman, "and we must obey God rather than man. These rules violate the separation of church and state."

ATI is organizing peaceable demonstrations for students to gather and sing "The Smile Song."

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Happy Spiritual Thanksgiving
FLINT, Michigan - Students fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving at the Riverfront Character Inn were surprised to hear that they had "enthusiastically" agreed to fast over the holiday weekend.

The Inn director apparently expressed an idea to Bill Gothard during a routine phone call. "I was thinking, 'What is the most spiritual thing we could do on Thanksgiving?'" he said. "In my heart God seemed to be saying that we should spend the day in prayer and fasting." Mr. Gothard immediately received confirmation within his own spirit. Subsequently, the kitchen staff was advised to lock the kitchen over the holiday.

The RCI received glowing praise from Institute Headquarters, where the staff has been working for days to prepare a seven-course meal. "While we'll be enjoying a warm meal here, we certainly admire those plucky folks at the Riverfront Inn!" said a female ATI admissions staffer.

Mr. Gothard called the RCI during a staff Wisdom Search and complimented them on their choice to "develop spiritual hunger for God." Many residents were puzzled over the announcement. "We agreed to do WHAT?" asked one.

"No doubt God will reward us for this mighty deed," commented another student.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Bill Ain't Jivin'
The NAACP has issued a vigorous objection to Bill Gothard's teachings regarding music, denouncing his principles as "racist propaganda."

IBLP's music program, Sound Foundations, teaches that rock music, with its roots in the voodoo culture and tribal rituals, is sinful and damaging. Sound Foundation instructors have studied the influence of African-Americans on music, and teach that the drum beat (which goes counter to the heart) is inextricably linked to Satanism. Additionally, the improvisation popularized through jazz in the 1920-30's illustrates life without restrictions, boundaries, guidelines and principles, and can be credited for the breakdown of American culture. Jazz and blues led to the development of rap music and hip-hop, which is "too evil to even study," according to Sound Foundations policy.

A concerned ATI family recently sent copies of the Sound Foundations curriculum to several civil rights activists. "Bill Gothard and his Institute must have a hidden agenda of racial suppression to make these assumptions," said an NAACP spokesperson. "It seems his followers are only allowed to listen to 18th century white boys. We've heard our share of ridiculous theories, but this beats all."

Gothard personally prefers Handel's Water Music.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gothard Life Movie

OAKBROOK, Illinois - Inspired by epic character movies such as Ali, Ray, Nixon, and Alexander, IBLP will be producing a full-length feature film on the life of founder and president Bill Gothard. Oliver Stone is the project's top pick for director, although Robert Altman is a close second.

The biopic will cover Bill's life and ministry, starting with his unique childhood in suburban Chicago, examining his call to ministry at the age of 15, and covering his college years and the humble beginnings of his youth ministry. The movie will trace the course of Bill's ministry to its powerhouse days in the 1970's and 80's when thousands gathered to hear him speak.

"This is a marvelous opportunity for us to remind the world of how God used Bill Gothard," said an IBLP spokesman. "Millions have been encouraged to live up to the non-optional principles Mr. Gothard discovered."

Casting has been a challenge for this project. Frankie Muniz, from Malcolm in the Middle, will play a young Bill Gothard, but locating an actor who can play the adult Gothard with appropriate spiritual depth and dramatic delivery is taking much longer.

Kevin Kline reportedly has the best chance of the talented field of actors vying for the role. Mel Gibson was rumored to be Gothard's personal pick, but Gibson rejected the role, indicating he was looking for more masculine, action-packed roles. Kevin Spacey expressed interest in the part, but was turned down because of his involvement in American Beauty. Danny DeVito was turned down for being too short.

Another challenge is no obvious female character to play opposite of Gothard. While Kate Beckinsale, Reese Witherspoon, Mandy Moore, and Claire Danes will all play IBLP staff members who serve at IBLP's Headquarters location in Illinois, no leading female role has emerged.

David Mamet is writing the film's script, which he calls "revolutionary and punchy--a character movie with intrigue, power, money and fame."


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Hey, I didn't make it up.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Newlyweds Reject God's Blessing
BEND, Oregon - Tom and Jill (last name withheld), joined last month in holy matrimony, say they have no plans to have children immediately. While the couple was counseled by both sets of parents that birth control is a selfish rejection of God's blessing, Tom and Jill struggled with their own position on the issue.

"We talked about it a lot before marriage," said Tom, "and we decided that our marriage would be stronger if we could have some time--perhaps several months--just to ourselves. We love children, but we don't want any right away."

"I'm sure we're breaking my mother's heart," said Jill, who comes from a family of eleven children. "She wants a grandchild so bad--I know she expected a birth announcement when we returned from our honeymoon."

Tom predicted the holidays may be a little uncomfortable. "Jill's 4 year old sister asked everyone at the dinner table why Jill don't have any babies yet."

"Right now we're just pretending that we're having trouble getting pregnant," he said.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Book Review

The Power of Spoken Blessings
by Bill Gothard

While X-er has not read this book, he is fairly confident that he can provide an insightful review that will assist you in your decision of whether to buy and read it.

Many folks will remember the criticism expressed years ago that Bill Gothard never attached his name to his work. This was attributed to Bill's innate humility by Gothard supporters, and to his insidious secrecy by his opponents. Regardless, Bill decided to go on the record with his blockbuster The Sevenfold Power of First-Century Churches and Homes, and he hasn't looked back since. The Power of Spoken Blessings is Gothard's most recent release.

Blessings is a touching cross between Gary Smalley's The Blessing (ignore the name similarity), Dennis Rainey's The Tribute, and a common Jedi mind trick of influencing thought through subtle suggestion.

The IBLP Store proves the following description of the book:

What if spoken blessings could grant freedom from years of bitter hurts? What if they could break down the walls that divide husband from wife, parent from child, and friend from friend?

Our words have lasting impact not only for harm, but also for great good. By speaking blessings, we can help bring healing to aching souls and restoration to bruised relationships. Learn the secret of spoken blessings and embark on a rich family tradition that brings harmony and closeness beyond anything you've previously experienced.
Blessings is a quick read, only 96 pages, but its truths can be absorbed over a lifetime. In it you will learn how to praise, how to envision success for others, how to motivate your siblings and other familiar Gothard teachings uniquely re-packaged.

Scripture tells us "Death and life are in the power of the tongue," and in this small volume you will also learn of "death words" that you should avoid. "You're a rebel," "I hate you," and "Why don't you just go to h*ll," are all damaging words that can undo years of spoken blessing and inflict great trauma.

Instead, readers are urged to tell others how they are an encouragement. "You have blessed my life by ______" is one common phrase used by Blessing Speakers.

In the end, this book may not top any bestseller lists, but is a valuable addition to your IBLP library. Buy this book. Read it. Then share it with your friends who need it the most.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Blessed are the Shaven of Face
Families joining the Advanced Training Institute International must go through a rigorous application process in order to be saved approved for admission. Naturally, families must affirm their homes are television-free, rock music-free, and sensual material-free.

One of the more mystifying requirements is that men are not allowed to grow facial hair. Clean-shaven is the ideal. Unless facial hair is a matter of spiritual belief and personal commitment; in that case the man is granted an exception.

This is disturbing. Ignore the "it's wrong unless you have a personal commitment" non-logic. The restriction on beards has no basis in Scripture or general Christian practice. The explanation usually given is that beards were popularized during the radical rebellion of the 1960's and those who grow beards are subconsciously evoking rebellious fads. Bill Gothard also says that beards are an indication that a person struggles with lust.

X-ATI Guy has finally broken the mystery of the no-beard rule, and concedes that Bill may have a point.

In his book, Y: The Descent of Men, Steve Jones writes that facial hair actually grows faster for men who are anticipating sex. (Which could possibly explain why Mr. Gothard is clean-shaven....)

Combine this genetic fact with IBLP logic, and obviously: if a man grows a beard, he must be consumed with immoral thoughts. Out of a man's heart the beard grows. Clearly, a man's beard is the window to his libido.

Let us all go clean-shaven to prove our purity of heart!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Gothard Lands Cabinet Post
WASHINGTON, DC - Reorganizing his administration due to the resignations of his top Cabinet advisors, President George W. Bush has announced that Bill Gothard, president and founder of IBLP, will be appointed as Secretary of the Spiritual Interior. The newly-created Cabinet position will perform dual functions, serving as character counselor to the president and advising him on the spiritual climate of the nation.

President Bush, known for the nicknames he assigns staffers, was upbeat about the appointment. "Rev'und Bill is a man of God," he said, "and we need more of those folks here in this town of Washington."

The White House released a short statement announcing the appointment. "The Bush Administration promotes faith-based initiatives. Bill Gothard's work, which is solely based on faith--to the exclusion of science, logic, historical Christian thought and common sense--rightly qualifies him to serve in this capacity."

The Office of the Spiritual Interior plans to mandate character training for all Federal employees. Secretary Gothard promised to quickly improve the spiritual interior of the nation: "Just as all relational conflicts can be traced to their spiritual root causes, most social/governmental problems have their root in our moral condition. The evils of rock music, defrauding dress standards, and the cinema have contributed to terrorism, poverty, and the national deficit. We will encourage all citizens to obtain God's blessing on their lives."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cell Phones for Convicted Students
INDIANAPOLIS, In - Brett Johnson has a simple request for the ATI training center counseling seminars: provide cell phones for students calling home to clear their conscience.

Brett, 15, was recently attending a young man's counseling seminar at the ITC. After a particularly convicting talk from Mr. Gothard, Brett decided he needed to confess some sins to his parents. "I walked over to the confessional phone booths and they were packed full," he said. "Guys were standing in line to call home."

Brett waited for an hour and a half beyond curfew, and was finally sent to his room before he had a chance to call his parents. He arose at 4:30 the next morning to make his cathartic phone call.

When he finally reached a phone, he called his parents and tried to think of how to confess his sins. "Mom, dad," he said, "I have some things God has convicted me of."

At that moment, Brett noticed at least three young men listening to his conversation. "I froze up," he said. "How could I confess my darkest deeds when guys were standing all around me?" He quickly told his parents he'd call back, and hung up the phone, to the disappointment of his curious neighbors.

Brett approached Mr. Gothard and other leadership members to lobby for confessional cell phones. "Just think about it--you can give people a little more privacy. They can call their parents from their room or while they are walking around the parking lot."

The suggestion was met with minimal enthusiasm among ITC leadership. "That's probably not a good idea," said one. "You might use the phone to call a young lady."

I, ATI Guy Geek?
In a shocking announcement for ATI guys everywhere, our favorite pastime--scrapbooking--ranks as number 8 in the Top 10 Geekiest hobbies. How strange. I show everyone my scrapbooks from ATI ministry trips and no one has ever told me they don't like seeing pictures of me and other navy-and-white-clad young people.

Luckily for us, the hobby has no demonstrable effect on our sex lives. God forbid.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Will you be joining ATI?
Several months ago, X-er was asked by an interesting question by an acquaintance who happened to be an ATI mother. "Since you were raised in ATI, worked for IBLP, and are now a grown adult, will you put your own children in ATI?" she asked.

My immediate, horrified (and unspoken) response was, "Good Lord, no!" but I took some time to think before replying. At that point in my life I hadn't considered the question very carefully. I knew that I wouldn't--that Christianity is possible without Bill Gothard--but I could not articulate why. In fact, her question was some of the motivation behind starting this blog.

While I am grateful for some things I learned in my ATI years (discipline and love of Scripture, for instance), in no way do I believe that the program is necessary to produce good children. Which is one of the major selling points of ATI: "do things this way and you'll have children who are mighty in spirit!" Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

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.

Christianity is freeing because of the grace Christ has bestowed on us. ATI, however, is made up of a list of rules, commitments, standards and behavioral guidelines. The emphasis on outward appearance, on listening to good music, and on exhibiting character distracts young people from the true essence of Christianity: a relationship with Christ. There is nothing wrong with "rules," but if the rules are followed in order to improve one's relationship with God, Christ's sacrifice is in vain.

ATI tends to produce stilted, boring people. This is a gross generalization, but the tendency is there because of the emphasis for all families to live up to a pre-determined standard of behavior. And I don't mean the program produces non-creative people, because there are some incredibly creative people within the program; someone had to write all those Children's Institute songs! My point is more fundamental: that ATI folks approach life and think of God in a restricted fashion. Life is organized neatly into categories, steps of action, and principles. Instead of living life freely, many ATIers spend all their time thinking about what they "ought" to do. Conforming to an outward standard instead of experiencing Christ's transformation reduces the variety and uniqueness of the individual. Perhaps some parents want their children to be well-behaved clones, but that's not my desire.

Bill Gothard overemphasizes the human spirit. Those in ATI are encouraged to repress their physical desires, to not yield to their emotions. But the spirit is expressed through physical desires and emotional outlets. Our beings are not so easily divided between spirit, soul and body. To eliminate any part of our being is to suffocate the spirit. Of course, there is a need for self-control and balance. I am not advocating the uncontrolled gratification of every whim. But our physical desires and emotions are God-made and can be enjoyed within the boundaries he has created. As C.S. Lewis might say, these are folks without chests: all head and no heart.

Families in ATI tend to be over-sheltered. It's an insular community. ATI folks seek to associate with those of like mind, and they often have difficulty fellowshiping with other Christians--rejecting those with different convictions as being "worldly." It's the nature of a subculture to seek out and fellowship with those who talk the same talk and share the same standards, but combined with the self-righteous piety of the ATI program, the ATI subculture seems especially aloof.

Which produces children who are over-sheltered and incapable of functioning in the real world. As laudable as it is for ATI parents to want to shelter their kids from sin, at some point they have to grow up. Not that it's a parent's responsibility to expose a child to sinfulness, but ignoring sin does not make it go away and makes it all the more shocking when the student finally has to get a job or move out on his own.

When the woman asked me if I would raise my family in ATI, these were some of the reasons I listed for why I would not. My perspective, of course, is based on personal experience. There are other, better, more theological explanations of the short-comings of the program.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Gothard Denounces Marriage
Speaking to a group of ATI students at a counseling seminar, Bill Gothard lamented the loss of dedicated young people who had formerly served with his organization.

"The Number 1 threat to a young person's service for God is marriage," he said. "When young people succumb to the desire for personal gratification and get married, they lose their effectiveness for the kingdom of God."

Indicating that the desire for marriage is essentially a selfish, anti-Christ motivation, Gothard pointed out scores of young people who had selflessly served IBLP only to disappear into a black hole after getting married. "Rather than focusing on how they can please the Lord, these young people only think about gainful employment, buying houses, and obtaining material goods," said Gothard.

Gothard admitted that marriage is important, but is best left to those who are already married. "I suppose if all people followed in the footsteps of Jesus, the apostle Paul, and myself, it could extinguish the human race, but you can't argue with I Cor. 7--those who are single should remain single."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

ATI Develops Nicotine Character Patch
After obtaining several reports of unauthorized cigarette use among staffers and students, ATI has developed a new nicotine patch called the Self-Control Patch. Character qualities and definitions will be printed on the patch, enabling students to control cravings for nicotine while displaying a character quality. We applaud ATI for developing this life-changing product.

Family Abandons Life to Work for IBLP
The Harrington family was recently attending a regional ATI seminar when they were pulled aside and invited to come and work at Headquarters. The family went back to their home in Lima, Ohio to think and pray about the proposition. After much discussion, they decided to move out to Oak Brook, Illinois. "We felt that were obligated to go," said Mrs. Harrington. "After all, Mr. Gothard is our authority, and if he wants us to work at Headquarters, we need to follow God's will for our family."

Mr. Harrington agreed. "The hand of God is definitely on Mr. Gothard and his ministry. We're honored that we were asked to come on staff."

The family set about relocating. Mr. Harrington sold his lucrative accounting practice, while Mrs. Harrington and the children prepared to place their house on the market. Once the house was sold, the family loaded up a few belongings in their 12 passenger van and hit the road.

Imagine their shock upon arriving at Headquarters to discover that no one anticipated their arrival. "It was very disappointing," said Mr. Harrington. "Here we had changed our life for IBLP and they couldn't even throw a welcome party for us."

The family was put up in temporary housing on Pine Street. Mr. Harrington was asked to pray about God's Will for his ministry at HQ's and was told to report to the kitchen the next morning. Mrs. Harrington was advised to unpack her sewing machine to assist in the staff's sewing needs.

After a few weeks of serving in miscellaneous capacities, Mr. Harrington approached his manager, a 17 year old young man, and asked about payday. "We need to pay a few bills and I'd like to take my wife out for our anniversary," he said.

His manager looked at him with an odd expression and said, "We were told that you were volunteering your time here. I don't think you're getting paid."

Mr. Harrington approached several key people in leadership who all confirmed that the Harrington's service was a blessed opportunity to give and not receive. "You should work on your gratefulness," said one. "After all, we're providing your housing!"

The Harringtons spent the night in prayer, and in the morning they announced that God's will was for them to move back to Lima.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Happy Birthday!
In honor of Bill Gothard's 70th birthday, we've temporarily changed our colors to blue and white. If we could, we'd include a slow chorus of Happy Birthday in 32-part harmony.

In related news, Mr. Gothard has announced that God will be taking the IBLP ministry into a "new phase" now that he has crossed this important milestone.

We eagerly anticipate this new phase, knowing that God's most mighty works always coincide with the birthdays of his favored leaders.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Staffers Risk Exposure to Rock Music
Three ATI staff members--Eric, Matthew, and Jared--were on the road recently and decided to get a bite to eat. As they entered a local Applebee's, they were assaulted by the evil strains of rock music. The three stepped out immediately and huddled for a quick conference. "We were very hungry and this was the only restaurant available," said Eric.

After some discussion, Matthew re-entered the restaurant and asked the hostess to turn down the music. She refused, saying company policy prohibited her from adjusting the music on the basis of customer discomfort.

"We probably should have left right then," said Matthew, "but the turkey croissant looked delicious."

The young men continued talking over the problem until Jared pulled out his New Testament. "I just read this in my morning Wisdom Search," he said. "'Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.' Perhaps God is stronger than the rock music there in Applebee's!"

The three young men agreed to enter the restaurant while crying out for God's protection. After a brief prayer session, they went in, asked for a table, and sat down to eat.

"It was very difficult," said Eric. "We weren't prepared for the level of spiritual warfare. Every song was a new battle." Matthew fought floods of impure thoughts toward their waitress, while Jared was weighed down with depression. Each time they heard some especially evil lyrics, they encouraged each other with spoken blessings.

Back in their car after eating, the three young men prayed through the Stronghold Diagram, asking God to reclaim any ground that may have been surrendered to Satan through their exposure to rock music.

Talking about the experience later, the three were shaken. Jared made a commitment not to patronize restaurants with rock music. Matthew went straight to Bill Gothard's office and confessed the experience. Eric publicly asked the IBLP staff to forgive him for his poor example.

"I hope the Spirit of God is able to overcome our exposure to this music," he said.




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