Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Ask X-ATI Guy
DEAR X-ATI GUY: How can an x-ATI girl can get a guy? Not that she should initiate anything...but how does one respond? I am truly curious, totally serious, and definitely struggling under ATI "relationship strongholds."
DEAR TRULY CURIOUS: Your approach is all wrong. Three simple steps will help you in your (passive) pursuit.
1) Sign up on The Crossings. Post modest but complimentary pictures of yourself, and leave frequent comments in the forums about your general spirituality but growing worldliness. For example, start a thread entitled, "I like to drink Miller Lite while doing my devotions," or "What's the worst thing you ever did at a training center?"
You will immediately attract similarly-situated young men who, while still adhering to the basic truths of the Christian faith, have discarded unnecessary IBLP life restrictions and enjoy good times.
2) Upon attracting an appropriate victim, call him on the carpet. ATI guys -- even ex-ers like myself--are incredibly noncommittal. We know how to be gentlemen, we know how to engage in interesting conversations, and we know how to drive you wild with anticipation of love and marriage proposals. But our fatal flaw is our indecision. We struggle to take that bold step of sweeping a girl off her feet and taking her breath away with a soul-searching kiss. We'd rather just be friends.
You must shock your ATI guy from his platonic lethargy by demanding his intentions. Do not wait for your father to do this. If a young man hangs out with you, chats with you on IM, plays guitar until the wee hours of the morning and generally acts as if you are his best friend, do not settle for his uncommitted attentions. Advise him that you are in the market for a keeper and he can take his amateurish guitar strumming somewhere else if he has no plans beyond ungodly soul ties. You may lose a friend, but you may gain a husband.
3) Employ competition. Men have an insatiable appetite for the unique, the scarce, the coveted. Inform your victim that you admire some other guy, and would be open to this other guy's advances should he be interested in your father's phone number. Better yet, imply that he is engaged in preliminary negotiations with your parents. This will motivate the true object of your affection to act quickly. Of course, you may strike out if he appoints himself your relationship counselor and male guru. You'll then have to content yourself with his relational advice and emotional intimacy.
Friday, December 24, 2004
A Christmas Greeting
In this time of Christmas celebration, let us put aside our bitter disagreements and heal the hurts that have grown up in the ATI program. I hereby call on all people associated with ATI and IBLP, whether currently or formerly, to reach across the aisle in a spirit of holiday conviviality.
If we could all come together, and say what is truly in our hearts, I imagine our discussion would sound something like this:
It's time for you ex-ATI folks to get over your bitter little hurts. Just forgive ATI, even if they indentured you at an early age, imprisoned you in a Prayer Room and generally treated you like a juvenile delinquent. Put aside your quibbling over the definition of grace and the interpretation of scripture. Who cares about legalism? ATI actually accomplishes much good, such as prompting your parents to conceive you in the first place. Your violent aversion to navy and white is silly. Buy a blue suit (or skirt). Wear it. It looks good, even if Bill says so.
Take your eyes off the man. Because after all, it is possible to see all the good ATI does, as long as you remember that Mr. Gothard is just human. We cannot blame him for the mistakes an entire institution makes.
Stop thinking it is cool to be rebellious. You are silly, petty, and typically knock-off imitations of the truly revolutionary rebels out there. Wearing blue jeans or sneaking contraband into a training center does not make you hip. Even if you've rejected ATI standards, you still define yourself by those standards by always doing the exact opposite.
The sin you harbor in your lives causes you to reject the truths of the Basic Seminar. Purge the dross, and get rid of all idols that cause you to take your eyes off of Christ. Then you can experience freedom.
For you current ATI families, defenders, and Gothardites: get off your spiritual high horse. You have set the bar so high, none of us can possibly reach to your spiritual dedication and conviction. You win, game over. But in the process, many of you forgot the true spirit of Christianity: do not judge, love your neighbor, and other radical commands of Christ.
We're sorry to break this to you, but Mr. Gothard is not a modern-day prophet. He is no more inspired than any other speaker. Perhaps less. We say to you: it is impossible to take one's eyes off Mr. G and realistically view IBLP when his imprint is evident throughout the whole program, both because of his micromanaging and the insidious nature of his philosophy. You can immediately identify a department head or a dedicated family through their spiritual logic and use of Institute-approved buzzwords.
Just because it is the only program you've been affiliated with does not mean it is the best program out there. Eliminate from your vocabulary words such as 'rebel,' 'opportunity,' and 'encourage.' Try new words: 'love,' 'charity,' 'tolerance.' Better yet, 'single malt whiskey' and 'Absolut.'
If people could come together and express these revolutionary thoughts face-to-face, and not just over an online ATI dating service, imagine the power of healing! Our crying out against each other would rise to the heavens and bring down showers of blessing.
Imagine the reforms that would sweep through the Institute as students respectfully share their thoughts and leaders listen to criticism in order to make tangible changes.
Or...maybe I've just had too much eggnog....
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Character in Action
WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of the Spiritual Interior Bill Gothard hailed the Transportation Security Administration's modified guidelines on airport security pat-downs as a "triumph of character in action," while calling for additional reforms.
After hundreds of women complained about invasive bodily contact during airport security screenings, the TSA issued new guidelines for pat-down procedures, thereby eliminating the free access screeners previously enjoyed. New guidelines prohibit security personnel from patting down a passenger's breast area unless the handheld metal wand goes off.
"Airport security screeners are now required to exhibit the character quality of self control," said Secretary Gothard. "These new rules will keep things from getting out of hand."
While Secretary Gothard is pleased with the reforms, his agency is dedicated to raising higher standards. "Women should wear modest clothing while traveling in order to avoid defrauding male security personnel," he said.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Ask X-ATI Guy
DEAR X-ATI GUY: One year, two weeks before Knoxville, my family contracted a severe case of head lice. Due to the extremely bad case my parents were forced to cut my hair to a boyish length. Being a girl, that was frowned on during our time in Knoxville.
It all came to a head, no pun intended, when I attempted to visit the 'little nuns room' and was given the boot by other lady ATI conference attendees. The ladies in the restroom asked me to leave and refused to believe that I was, in fact, a girl. (I was wearing the blue and white uniform of ATI which included a skirt.)
I headed towards the mens room as I was approaching desperation at that point, but realized that I would get no where at that location as well.
My question to you, X-ATI Guy, is whats a girl to do in that situation? Is there a proper, non-defrauding protocol that one should follow under those circumstances? Any input would be most welcome.
DEAR PRINCESS LEIA: All dramatic testimonies follow a four-part format: 1) the problem, 2) how you tried to solve it in your own strength, 3) how you cried out to God, and 4) His supernatural solution.
Your problem, of course, was deeper than a momentary need; your problem was a result of your failure to appeal to your authorities in this situation. Rather than relying on your own human wisdom, you should have asked your father for his protection and guidance.
The ladies in the restroom no doubt saw past your close-cropped hair and sensed a spirit of rebellion. These stern women of rigid character did well to prevent you from fraternizing with other impressionable young ladies.
Please be assured, however, that your best interests were served when you refrained from entering the men's room. The humiliation of patronizing the 20-foot-long horse troughs was more than my tender, non-reprobate spirit could bear at the time.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Spiritual Gift Misdiagnosis Ruins Life
AKRON, Ohio - Chad Banker recently found out that his entire life has been a sham. Banker, who grew up believing his spiritual gift to be Giver, recently learned that he had been misdiagnosed.
After attending his first Advanced Seminar the year he turned thirteen, Chad sought counsel from his pastor, Rev. Spillman of Fifth Third Baptist, regarding what his spiritual gift might be. "Everyone in my family had an opinion, but I felt that I should seek counsel from my spiritual leader to discern which gift I had been given." As all ATIers know, one's spiritual gift is very important for choosing an accountability partner, picking teams for Volleyball, making friends, and influencing people.
Rev. Spillman informed Chad that he received a Rhema from God regarding Chad's spiritual gift. "He was convinced that I am a giver. He told me that I should be a giver, not a taker. I completely trusted his decision." Chad spent the past ten years giving his time, money, and old clothes to all the deserving IBLP charities. He extended himself to the point where his piggy bank was completely emaciated and he was indentured to various ministries for the next 32 years of his life.
Chad's world came crashing down when, last week, he found out that it had all been a mistake. Chad's father had been increasingly burdened about his son, and after fasting and praying for an unspecified period of time, he received a word from the Lord which said that Chad's true spiritual gift is Prophet.
Chad received the news with gratitude, but is left with a sense of sadness over all the time he spent fulfilling the wrong spiritual gift. "I mean, I spent all this time giving and giving and giving, when I really should have been discerning right from wrong, and passing judgment on people."
To add insult to injury, the father of the young lady Chad has been courting for the past three years has expressed concern about the change in Chad's spiritual gift. "I am concerned. Chad and Heather had complementary spiritual gifts, but now that Chad is a prophet, it throws their entire relationship out of whack. We need to seek counsel from our family coordinator to determine whether the two of them can ever minister together, and how this change may affect the genetic imprint of their future children."
In a related story, Big Boi from the Grammy-winning band Outkast was disappointed to learn that he has no spiritual gift. Last month, Big Boi called the Institute Headquarters to purchase some literature on discerning spiritual gifts. Big Boi, who is famous for such songs as "Hey Ya" and "Where Are My Panties" was informed by a fifteen-year-old female phone operator that it is impossible for him to have a spiritual gift since no one who profits from the moral destruction of America is allowed salvation.
Despite the refusal, Big Boi ended the call politely, telling the young lady, "Stank you very much." Big Boi's agent says he is considering making an appeal directly to Mr. Gothard.
-Submitted by a guest poster
Statue brings up awkward questions
"Mommy, why is the Greek god Poseidon wearing a tie?"
Thursday, December 16, 2004
IBLP | 2004 Year-in-Review
Watch IBLP's 2004 Year-in-Review. Count the uses of the word "opportunity."
Most ironic moment: construction of the Great Wall of China (built with slaves) cited as a metaphor for "the work of God through his people." The video goes on: "As we do the day-to-day tasks he gives to us [images of ATI students scurrying around training center], we don't know all that he's accomplishing..."
Unspoken truth: "Ministries like this don't continue to grow and expand without faithful people to undergird and support them..." (and a healthy population of
willing slaves enthusiastic students...)
Originality at work: "Families were blessed and encouraged..."
Maybe someone should tell them...
Delivered from Neanderthal restrictions on cinema attendance due to the sweeping popularity of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, liberated IBLP staffers are eagerly awaiting Hollywood's next big Jesus blockbuster: Constantine. Mr. Gothard has tentatively agreed to a premiere at the HQ Saturday night staff meeting....
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
ATI Students Seek Royalties
OAK BROOK, Illinois - Inspired by recent litigation, thousands of ATI students are joining a class action lawsuit against the Advanced Training Institute to recover unpaid royalties from Knoxville student choir performances.
Until recently, ATI conducted annual conferences at Knoxville for members of the popular home education group. The highlight of the week was a performance by the 5,000-strong student choir, composed entirely of navy-and-white-clad 12 to 25 year olds. Students sweatily rehearsed throughout the week and sang several renditions for parents in the audience. Performances were made available for purchase, and several recorded songs were included in later-compiled ATI audio tapes.
The lawsuit alleges that "said defendant did tape various performances of said student choir both by audio and video recording, and did also sell the performances, thereby making a significant profit." Students were never reimbursed for their time and effort in the recording process.
Matt Radimer, a former choir member, is representing the ATI students in the lawsuit. "It's fine to have kids sing in a choir," he said, "but if you're going to make money off it, they have to be paid."
Radimer rejected suggestions that students have already profited by developing character qualities during the experience. "I'm sure it will be worth it all when we see Christ, but for now ATI can just show us the money," he said.
Knoxville student attendees were excited to learn of the lawsuit. "I remember a choir director who yelled at us all the time," said one. "I'm also suing for emotional damages and pain and suffering."
Public Service Announcement
We've heard dozens of students use the standard disclaimer when they're about to affirm an IBLP tenet. You've probably heard it too:
I don't agree with everything Mr. Gothard teaches, but I believe that he has God's special blessing on his life and he certainly has a great insight into Scripture. Therefore, we should respect him, even if we don't agree.
We wondered why so many students feel compelled to offer this disclaimer -- usually accompanied by a "don't think I am a Gothardite," or "it's not like I sleep in my navy and white suit." We decided to investigate. After months of research (reading even the Wedding Covenant booklet), we struck upon the answer.
backtracks backmasks the standard disclaimer into every one of its musical tapes and CDs. Shocking, after years of hearing about the evils of rock music and backtracking backmasking, to think that the Institute has been using the devil's techniques all along.
Next time you hear someone preface something with the disclaimer, yank the Peace Be Still CD out of their player and set them free.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
X-er Fears Great Repercussions
Recently, we've been asked by many for an explanation of the site's anonymity. Why, they ask, if you believe what you say, do you not sign your name to it? Why not come out in the open? Who is that Masked Man?
First, I fear great repercussions should my identity be revealed. The IBLP staff could then cry out against my soul and deliver me over to the Evil One for the destruction of my body. Sounds bad. The Institute might call my pastor and ask for church discipline. They would write bad reports in my student profile. Worst yet, they may never allow me to visit Institute property. If they ban me from attending the Basic Seminar how would I get my spiritual nourishment? I don't want to torch my chances of ever coming back on staff.
Second, I have deep-rooted respect for the Institute. We should not speak against God's anointed. Perhaps deep down I mostly believe everything I've been lampooning for the past months? Subconsciously I must know the Institute is mostly good, despite their innocent, quite human mistakes.
The anonymity is indeed a cloak. In my real life, where people know me and I am identified, I have never said a word against IBLP. I am non-confrontational and very compliant. I have never spoken out against training center life, hypocrisy or spiritual abuse. You can be sure no one has any idea that I disagree with IBLP's teachings. But sign up for an anonymous blog, and damn, isn't it freeing.
We hope this blog has no effect on people. We hope it fails to dissuade people from joining ATI and causes no defections. Furthermore, we pray that people do not re-evaluate their distorted view of God learned through years of non-optional principles. The satire probably springs out of latent bitterness and sexual frustration, and is essentially harmless. We're not sure why we do it, but maybe those more insightful readers can explain for us why.
Friday, December 10, 2004
The Emperor's Clothes
Continuing in our non-satirical, substantive series on why I am an ex-ATI guy, here are some thoughts on the Institute's emphasis on appearance and the resulting false humility.
IBLP and ATI employ what members of the leadership have called the "Tool of Appearance." The Tool of Appearance is making use of appearance to expand one's ministry and to declare a particular set of standards and convictions. In other words, IBLP families stand out and ATI students are impressive because of their appearance: the appearance attracts the admiration of rock-music-deadened juveniles and government leaders (who were formerly rock-music-deadened juveniles themselves).
Accordingly, the appearance of ATI folks is specifically manipulated to have the maximum attraction factor. Not in a sexual way -- God forbid that we would inspire libidinous thoughts in the Russian government officials -- but to secure an audience and convey spiritual credibility.
Staff and students, therefore, are required to wear the uniform navy and white. An emphasis is placed on the brightness of the eyes and brilliance of the smile. Rock music is avoided, as well as excessive attention to the opposite gender. Other rules can be cited: no facial hair, no jeans, no t-shirts with brand names or messages displayed.
At a fundamental level, there is nothing wrong these standards. If a person has a genuine conviction about a specific behavior, by all means obey your conscience. But the Institute's method of adopting these standards in order to create the perception of spirituality is spiritual politics at its worst.
And it produces stupid results: feeling guilty if you hear rock music in a public place, refusing to sing in a church choir because they sing praise choruses, avoiding the opposite sex to the point of rudeness, etc. Young ladies have learned how to use carefully-applied mascara and eye drops to "brighten" their eyes. An IBLP supervisor once advised me that staff fellows should not remove their suit jackets when eating out at a restaurant after a seminar; seminar attendees might be eating there too, and they need to know that public anonymity does not change our high dress standards.
In all fairness, Gothard does not teach -- and most ATI folks do not expressly believe -- that perception is more important than reality. Instead, this attitude slowly invades the heart, so a person assumes that the "appearance" of spirituality is the evidence thereof.
This facade has its deleterious effects. You begin to think humility and other spiritual characteristics are "appearances" to create, rather than properly perceiving them as attitudes of the heart. This is why a person with significant moral failings can be placed in positions of leadership in the program, and why ATI students implode for (seemingly) unexplainable reasons. They've become very skilled in maintaining the facade.
The facade of spirituality is nothing more than false humility -- the 50th character quality in ATI circles, and is motivated by spiritual pomposity. It's all very mixed up.
Another related evil: many individuals in ATI filter their thoughts, words and behavior through the possible effect they will have on others, rather than evaluating things on the basis of their inherent value. You begin to develop character because it impresses others, not because it is good.
Governing human behavior by the result it produces in others is like trying to drive by always looking in the rearview mirror. In ATI thinking, if I smile at a girl and she experiences a defrauding flash of attraction toward me, I was wrong to have smiled at her, regardless of the purity my own intentions. Additionally, it becomes very easy to try to judge the inner thoughts and motivations of others -- another common ATI trait.
Those students who recognize and speak out against the incongruity of the Tool of Appearance are labeled as rebels: "Aha! You don't want to conform because you have a sinful heart. Your rock music has caused you to reject God-given authority!" Well, no, these students object to the stupidity of the "Tool," rather than disputing a particular conviction.
The little child has observed that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
ATI Pick-up Lines
- "Were you at Knoxville in [insert year]?"
- "Your non-eyetrapping scarf is a great encouragement to me."
- "So....what Wisdom Book is your family on?"
- Girl, coyly: "Have you ever thought about talking to my father?"
- "Psst: meet me in the elevator...."
- "Those poor orphans. We should pray for them right now."
- "I'm baking bread tonight. Wanna join me?"
- "Would you like to see a picture of my siblings?"
- "Uhhh....hello." [Big one for a lot of girl-fearing guys.]
- "I admire your good character. Can you show me how you learned your flexibility?"
It's never too late.
Concerned about plummeting attendance at IBLP conferences, Bill Gothard is taking public speaking lessons. The decision to pursue professional training came after his advisers observered several people sleeping at a Basic Seminar.
For years, close friends have urged him to take courses, but he has always refused, saying that basic principles govern the rules of public discourse, and new fads are not useful. "When you present truth, as I do, people don't care how you do it," is his common retort.
He finally relented when a speech trainer visited Oak Brook to speak to the headquarters staff. Mr. Gothard agreed to a few private lessons.
"These courses have been tremendously helpful for Mr. Gothard," said an IBLP spokeswoman. "He is learning speech techniques such as voice modulation, employing humor, and effective body language. He has discovered how to tell stories that actually illustrate his point. Most important, he is learning to speak convincingly on subjects he knows nothing about."
Friday, December 03, 2004
Boyfriend Forced to Attend Seminar
Peter, a 27 year old accountant, had never heard of Bill Gothard. Not until he asked an attractive co-worker out for a date, that is.
The young woman, Audrey Tapp, suggested that he come over to her family's house for dinner. During dessert, Mr. Tapp informed Peter that if he wished to continue developing a relationship with Audrey, he would need to attend IBLP's Basic Seminar, taught by Bill Gothard.
Peter causally agreed, not realizing he had just committed to a week-long, 32-hour event. "When I found out I had to take Friday off from work and attend all day Saturday...well, that was strange, but OK. At least Audrey was going."
Each night as they drove home after the session, Mr. Tapp looked at Peter and asked, "So, Peter, what did you think?"
On the first night, Peter openly discussed his opinion. "I enjoyed it. There may have been a couple of points I disagreed with, but overall it was good." These "couple of points" led to a three-hour discussion in which Mr. Tapp explained to Peter why he was wrong and how Scripture proved Mr. Gothard's teachings. After that, when asked what he thought, Peter relied on a safe "it was very interesting."
The next day at work, Audrey confided to Peter that she disagreed with most of what Gothard taught. "But if we want to see each other, we have to go along with my parents on this," she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Tapp often commented on the depth of Gothard's teaching. "Wasn't that session on strongholds amazing?" exclaimed Mr. Tapp. "And not exactly scriptural," Peter recalls thinking silently.
"Just wait until Friday when Mr. Gothard leads us in singing," said Mrs. Tapp. "It always ministers to my spirit."
Perhaps most strange, says Peter, was the session-ending ritual of making commitments. "Gothard would have us bow our heads, give a sort of challenge, and ask for a show of hands. That was weird. I mean, the whole seminar is a video, so people are raising their hands to a VCR and TV screen." Peter was certain Mr. Tapp covertly watched him during the commitment-making.
By the end of the week, Peter was relieved. "It was like when a Doberman Pinscher runs up toward you, barking. It sniffs around at your feet and if you stand very still, and remain calm, hopefully it'll go away."
As they walked out of the final session, Mr. Tapp put his arm around Peter. "Peter," he said, "you should come with us to Knoxville this summer."
Peter is evaluating his relational options.