The Many Valuable Lessons I Learned in ATI: Laura’s Story

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Laura” is a pseudonym.

The 14 years I spent as a student in ATI taught me many valuable lessons for my life. Here are some of the highlights:

* Parents are always right.

* Men are always right. Therefore, your father is double-right.

* Getting out from under the “umbrella of authority” means you will have many problems, including being raped. (Not sure what the warning is for boys who get out from under their umbrellas. I’m a girl so always heard the rape thing.) The fiery darts of Satan will have nothing to stop them from hitting you. We all know that an umbrella is the best possible analogy because their thin, flammable fabric is the perfect substance with which to stop fiery darts.

* If your umbrella – dad or husband – has holes, then Satan will get you unless you pray really hard that they’ll patch up their holes. If you don’t, you’ll probably get raped.

* Family is everything. Except when young people go to a Training Center or Headquarters. Then it’s okay to not be together as a family unit. Or when young people go to Apprenticeship Sessions at Knoxville and make binding vows that their parents know nothing about. That’s okay. You do not need to seek your father’s permission to make such vows that will control what you do the rest of your life. Your father’s permission is implied because he sent you to this Apprenticeship Session.

* Young people, given the option, will always choose the wrong spouse. Therefore, their parents – most of whom chose their own spouse – will choose or at least approve their spouse for them.

* If you date, you’ll have all sorts of problems and can never have a happy marriage. Dating is practice for divorce. Courtship is practice for marriage. If your parents dated and have a happy marriage anyway, it doesn’t matter – dating is still bad and you will get divorced if you date.

* You should court (aka “let your parents pick or approve your spouse”) so you don’t get divorced.

* Talking to a boy is dating him. Especially if either of you have romantic thoughts about the other one. To be on the safe side, it’s best never to talk with young men. (At some Training Centers, talking with a person of the opposite sex for longer than a few seconds, unless it was obviously work-related, was grounds for discipline and/or being sent home.)

* Even thinking about a boy is probably dating him. You should immediately confess any such stray thoughts to your father, ask his forgiveness, and make yourself accountable to him lest you be tempted to have any more thoughts about boys

* If it happens that the boy you are thinking about has already asked your father for your hand, or does so in the future, you will not be informed of this until your father deems it the appropriate time. This means you could spend years fighting attraction to the man you will eventually marry, but it’s still a sin to think these thoughts.

* If you marry the “wrong person,” then after you’re married they become the “right person,” aka God’s new will for your life. You’re stuck. Deal with it. You shouldn’t have dated him anyway, or married him without your parents’ permission. We know you either dated or married without parental blessing or both, because duh, you married the “wrong person” and you would never have done that if you’d courted and gotten your parents’ blessing!

* If your parents lead you to marry a guy who’s in the Mafia (yes, this example is in the Basic Seminar, or maybe the Advanced Seminar… it’s been a few years since I watched either of them) then you need to be submissive anyway. Because your parents chose him for you, God will bless your marriage even though he’s in organized crime and likes to beat you when he gets home. You still can’t divorce him.

* Not only should you NEVER EVER EVER marry someone who’s divorced, but you probably shouldn’t marry the *child* of divorced parents.

* The sins of the fathers will be passed down to the children unless a very specific prayer is prayed over said children. We are very blessed to live in a time when we have Bill Gothard to teach us such things. Thousands of years’ worth of Christians simply had to fight inherited sins on their own, without Mr. Gothard to show them the RIGHT way to overcome such things!

* Adoption is bad. You don’t know what “sins of the fathers” are being introduced into your home.

* Birth control is bad. God will give you as many children as you deserve. Susanna Wesley was a favorite example – she had 19 children although less than half of them survived infancy.

* If you can’t have children, then something must be wrong in your life. Clearly God gives many children to those whom he favors. He really loves Mrs. McKim. (Now I’m showing my age… these days it would be Mrs. Duggar!)

* Only have sex between days 15 and 28 of the wife’s menstrual cycle. Days 8-14 are maybe okay, but if you’re trying to be ultra-Godly, or get pregnant, wait until day 15. You want the “seed” as strong as possible.

* It’s not awkward to talk about periods and sex in mixed company when single “fellas” and single “girls” are present in the room, as long as it’s in the Advanced Seminar. Plus, we use terms like “relations” and “monthly cycle” instead of “sex” and “periods,” so we’ll all just pretend we don’t know what we’re talking about so it’s less awkward.

* Tampons will kill you. Toxic shock syndrome and all that. They’re bad. Follow God’s design for your monthly cycle and wear pads.

* Rock music is bad. It will kill your plants and cause you to be demon-possessed. It will also cause you to drink, take drugs, have sex with anyone and everyone, wear jeans, and generally rebel against everything Godly. Rock music with Christian words is even worse.

* If your family visits a restaurant or store that is playing ungodly music, you must ask the server or store employee to turn the music off. If they refuse, then the most Godly thing would be to leave the premises immediately so that your family is not harmed by the ungodly music. Plus, you’ll be a testimony of God’s principles.

* The only okay music is hymns. Classical music is okay as long as it doesn’t have a back beat. But if you’re really Godly, you’ll listen to hymns. Preferably played on a harp. The harp is the most Godly of instruments. After all, David used it to charm the demon out of King Saul. Until King Saul threw a javelin at him. Twice. During harp music. Somehow that part never got talked about when I was in ATI. Forget that. Just listen to harp music anyway.

* Cabbage Patch Kid dolls will cause you to be demon-possessed. They will also cause your mom to have her labor stall, until the doll is found & burned, at which moment, labor will resume and the baby will be born within minutes. (Another anecdote, told in the Basic Seminar I believe.)

* To be on the safe side, better not have My Little Pony, Care Bears, troll dolls, and definitely no souvenirs from Africa such as masks or figurines. You will be demon-possessed. They must be burned. Simply throwing them away is not good enough to break the demon’s power over you. It doesn’t matter if such toys are your child’s favorite toy(s), they must be burned anyway.

* Denim is bad. It’s a sign of rebellion. Even boys should wear Dockers, etc., not denim jeans.

* T-shirts are bad. They’re a sign of rebellion. Only collared shirts are allowed. Therefore, a polo shirt is acceptable attire for “fellas” or girls. A t-shirt is not. (How a girl wearing a polo shirt is not “wearing that which pertaineth to a man,” I don’t know. I never heard that addressed.)

* If you are going to rebel and wear a t-shirt, don’t ever wear one with words or a design on the front. Girls, don’t you know what when a man’s eyes are reading the words or looking at the picture, they’re really checking out your body? You’re going to get raped if you encourage men to read your chest – I mean, shirt – instead of focusing on your bright, Godly countenance.

* Beards are bad. They’re signs of rebellion. (During the 1980’s and part of the 1990’s, if the dad had facial hair, the family would not be allowed to join ATIA/ATI.)

* Men must have short hair that is obviously masculine in style. The best hairstyle for a “fella” causes you to look like your photo – complete with a navy suit – could fit right in to a high school yearbook from the 1950’s.

* Women should have long hair, with gentle curls. If God made your hair straight, then you must curl it. If God made your hair ultra-curly, then you must straighten it. Blonde is the best color. The Principle of Design (accepting your body as God made it) is suspended for hair. Mr. Gothard dyes his hair so apparently hair dye doesn’t violate the 10 Unchangeables regarding physical features or aging.

* Pants or jeans or shorts on women are so bad that I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. Men will lust after your body. You will get raped. (Girls can’t wear pants because they pertaineth to a man, even though men in Bible times wore “dresses” or robes. That was okay, though, because their robes were distinctly masculine in style, so it was still easy to tell at a distance if you were looking at a man or a woman. But pants are never okay on women because they’re too much like men’s garments so you can’t tell from a distance if it’s a man or a woman.)

* Hosiery should be skin-toned and should never have a pattern woven into it. This is an eye trap, and will draw rapists’ – I mean, men’s – eyes from your bright and shining coutenance down to your legs. He will be so busy looking at your patterned hosiery that he may very well rape you without even realizing what he’s doing, and it won’t be his fault, because you were the one wearing the eyetrap.

* The most modest attire for a woman is a navy skirt, a white blouse, and a navy neckbow. Or in later years and/or if you or a close friend have been to Russia, you may wear a black painted Russian pin at your neckline, as the ATI version of a status symbol. (Just don’t let it rain while you’re wearing your modest white blouse, or it becomes… um… less modest and more see-through… maybe *that* is why were were always supposed to be under an umbrella… and Heaven help the full-chested girl whose blouse kept wanting to gap or pop buttons in the wrong place…!)

* You must vow (not promise, but VOW) to never go to a movie theater. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You should also commit to fasting regularly, at least on Sundays. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You must also vow to read your Bible every day for the rest of your life. At least 5 minutes a day. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You must also memorize Scripture. Preferaby by the chapter. Or the book. The most Godly of Godly people memorize the whole New Testament, *and* Psalms, *and* Proverbs. But at least start on Matthew 5, 6, & 7. And Romans 6, 7, 8, & 12. And James 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5. If you memorize random scattered verses, you aren’t Godly enough.

* Simply reading the Bible isn’t enough. You must also *meditate* on Scripture. If you meditate on Scripture, then you will get good grades in school. You will breeze through college. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* Public school is bad. Christian school is almost as bad as public school. Homeschooling is good. Bill Gothard attended public school, and look how… oh, wait, never mind.

* Sunday School is bad. Children’s Institutes are good. Groups of peers are bad. Young people must spend time in groups of all ages. If you insist on attending Sunday School at your church, then you should attend a class as a family, because then your children won’t be tempted to make friends with people their own age.

* Character is the most important thing in life. Education doesn’t matter – just have character. Just have good character and employers will hunt you down and beg you to come work for them. Unless you’re a girl. In which case you’d better not work for anyone but Bill Gothard or your dad, or you will have sex with a co-worker or boss. Or get raped.

* College is bad. Public school is bad. Christian school is bad. Normal homeschooling is okay but less Godly than enrolling in ATI. If a girl goes to college, she’ll almost certainly get raped. Boys who go to college will be taught about how great Satan is. After all, Bill Gothard went to college, and look how… oh, wait. Never mind again.

* The most Godly homes have Scripture posted on the walls. Generic pictures of landscapes or portraits of people were never forbidden, but if you’re *really* Godly, you’ll have Scripture on your walls. Or CharacterFirst! posters.

* It’s okay to teach in public schools, but only if you are teaching the CharacterFirst! materials. Otherwise you should avoid any and all contact with the public schooled, sex-crazed, denim-wearing, rock-music-listening, rebellious youths of the world.

* TV is bad. Horribly, horribly bad.

* The Interent is bad. But since so many of you insist on having it in your home, you should buy protection from CharacterLink. It will cost you a bunch of money every month, and won’t let you see half of the perfectly-legitimate sites you want to visit, but you must spend the money on it anyway. Especially if you have men or boys in the home. Men or boys who are allowed to touch a computer without CharacterLink installed on it will become addicted to porn and will probably become rapists. (Bet this one’s really hard to enforce nowadays, since CharacterLink is no longer owned by ATI, and iPods and iPhones and iPads and their cousins would be incredibly hard to control. I suppose ATI kids these days aren’t allowed access to such technology.)

* If you are visiting friends or relatives who turn on a TV or a computer or do anything else that goes against your Scriptural convictions, including the ones for which you have no Scriptural basis, you must stand alone. You must say, “I’ve given my life to Jesus and I can’t do that.” Sleepovers are probably not a good idea because it’s almost certain that someone will do something to offend you, at which time you must stand alone, and probably call your parents to come pick you up from said sleepover. (A sleepover where the mom decided to hold a seance was the example given. As a mother, I don’t send my children to sleepovers unless I know the parents well enough to trust my child to their care. However, in the example, the parents who sent the child there were never criticized. Rather, the child was praised for refusing to participate in a seance.)

* Whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs. It only counts if the wheat was ground *that morning,* the bread was made *that day,* and you eat it *that day.* After all, “give us this day our daily bread” definitely does NOT refer to bread purchased at the grocery store, or even made the day before. White flour will kill you. Whole wheat flour will save your life. Eat lots of whole wheat bread every day. (We have to assume that Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are the figments of evil people’s imaginations. We’ll never know, since Celiac & gluten intolerance were unheard-of back then. I suppose that if those people were eating whole wheat bread, then they wouldn’t have Celiac Disease. ‘Cause whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs.)

* A desire for white bread was a major factor in beginning the French Revolution.

* You’ll know you’re getting enough fiber when your, um, bathroom business floats. (During that Wisdom Booklet and for a time thereafter, our family announced our results to each other after leaving the bathroom.)

* Don’t eat pork. Ever. It’s bad.

* Don’t eat dairy and meat together. It’s bad. No more cheeseburgers, ever. Or milkshakes with a burger. But sometimes we’ll order pizza at our Training Centers, with pepperoni toppings. That’s okay.

* Don’t chew gum. It’s a sign of rebellion since that’s what rebellious teen-agers do.

* Games are a waste of time. Unless it’s Character Clues or Commands of Christ.

* You should avoid any game that teaches you about demons or hell. Except Commands of Christ. Its picture of hell is okay.

* Dungeons and Dragons is a game that must be avoided at all costs. It will cause you to be demon-possessed.

* Folly of any kind is a waste of time and damages your testimony. Avoid all practical jokes. Avoid loud laughter. Your time would be more productively spent reading your Bible, memorizing character qualities, or fasting and praying.

* If you memorize all 49 character quality definitions, including the ones that are so similar that no one but Bill Gothard can differentiate them, then you will not only have such great character that you don’t need college to be successful in life, but you will also beat everyone else in Character Clues. Every time. Just don’t be proud of that fact, or you obviously don’t have Humility. Since very character quality has a Bible verse reference on its card, you know they came straight from the Bible.

* There are seven non-optional principles of life. Aren’t we lucky – oops, can’t say “lucky” – fortunate – no, can’t say that either – BLESSED to live in this time of history when Bill Gothard has figured out what these seven non-optional principles are? We are so much better off than people like the Apostle Paul, becuase he didn’t have Bill Gothard to help him know how to live.

* If you reject the way God made you – any of the 10 Unchangeables – then you will be bitter and have a horrible life. (“Principle of Design”)

* If you get out from under your umbrella of authority, the boogeyman will get you and you will be either demon-possessed, raped, or both. (“Principle of Authority”)

* If you don’t meditate on Scripture, your life will be mediocre at best. (“Principle of Success”)

* If you zone out during most of the Basic Seminar and fifteen years later can only remember three of the seven non-optional principles of life, then you are surely doomed!!

* Bitterness is the root problem in this world. You need to learn how to draw little checkerboard diagrams with castles, so you can remove the strongholds of bitterness that Satan has in your life, and so that you can then teach other people how to clear their checkboard souls of Satan’s castles.

* If I, as a 12-year-old student, followed these principles in my life, then not only was I qualified to teach adults how to solve their marriage and financial and business problems, but the leaders of Russia would practically fall on their faces to worship me as a Godly young lady attired in modest navy and white with a navy neckbow. Or I might even be given a walkie-talkie to carry around at Knoxville!

* “Bright eyes” are the ultimate expression of one’s spirituality. One can accurately gauge the depths of another person’s commitment to Christ by looking at their eyes. If their eyes are “dark,” then they clearly listen to rock music and therefore have given all sorts of ground to Satan and have strongholds all over their checkerboard soul. (Note: native Russian speakers have since clarified that “bright eyes” is the translation of a Russian idiom meaning that a person is happy. It has much more to do with one’s emotional state than with one’s spiritual state.)

* If someone compliments you on anything, from having “bright eyes” to playing the violin in church, you must deflect the praise. The best praise-deflectors can turn every compliment into an opportunity to thank God (for the musical talent), but of course one must also praise one’s parents (for paying for the violin lessons) and one’s teacher (for teaching so skillfully and diligently). No compliment is ever to be answered with a simple “Thank you.” That would be prideful.

* If you’re enrolled in ATI and have learned all of these Godly principles, then you don’t really need to go to church. The only reason you would go to church is to minister to others. Or be a testimony to them. Since you can’t subject your family to the evils of rock music, if your church has compromised to the point of allowing such music, you must either stand up and leave as soon as a rock beat starts, or if this is a regular occurrence, you must time your arrival at church to coincide with the end of the song service so that your family will not be exposed to the evil rock beat. If a rock beat is used during the invitation time as well, then you must leave at the end of the sermon. Because a large, floral-jumper- or navy-suit-clad family parading in and out of church to avoid the back beat is a definite testimony of God’s principles at work in your life.

* When you are in church, you don’t really need to listen to the sermon, because you know all of these non-optional principles, therefore you are wise – wiser than your teachers, which includes the pastor of your church. Anything your pastor or anyone else says that is in opposition to the teachings of IBLP/ATI is clearly wrong. If possible, such a preacher or teacher should be lovingly confronted with the truth, as taught in the big red textbooks and/or Wisdom Booklets. (Presumably one never becomes wiser than their primary teachers, their parents. Because parents are always right.)

* If you are persecuted for your Godly testimony or standards and/or for shoving such testimony or standards down other people’s throats, rejoice! And be exceeding glad! For great is your reward in Heaven.

109 thoughts on “The Many Valuable Lessons I Learned in ATI: Laura’s Story

  1. Lana February 13, 2014 / 1:22 am

    This post is AWESOmE.

    And this: “Not only should you NEVER EVER EVER marry someone who’s divorced, but you probably shouldn’t marry the *child* of divorced parents.”

    I remember a couple homeschool moms I knew, whose parents were divorced, say how much they had to rebuke the curse and all this. So YES


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 8:02 am

      Thank you, Lana. It took several days to write it, because I kept thinking of *more* wacky rules to include! They were so “normal” for so many years that it’s hard to remember them all.

      I’m divorced now myself – after a marriage begun through courtship, naturally – so the divorce teachings are very personal to me now!


      • Lana February 13, 2014 / 10:53 am

        You are not alone.


    • Tiph February 18, 2014 / 8:30 pm

      “…you probably shouldn’t marry the *child* of divorced parents.”

      ^Yes to this! Though people in ATI never outwardly shunned/judged me… I remember how differently people would act, once they found out I was from a single-mom home. I also remember thinking “Great, if all these “godly” young men are aiming toward a future with a girl without that label… then I’m doomed!” Thankfully I found a man who loved me for me… not the selfish and foolish choices of my father!


  2. Lauren February 13, 2014 / 5:53 am

    This is a hoot to read. It just shows how ridiculous the seminar material really is. I’m embarrassed to think how I swallowed the whole thing.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:06 pm

      Mr. Gothard is a very convincing salesman! Also, this information was delivered in bits & pieces over the 14 years I was in ATI. Had most of us been handed a list of rules like this, we would’ve run away screaming. But bit by bit, the proverbial frog sits in the frying pan and cooks himself!

      So – don’t feel embarrassed about swallowing the whole thing. You didn’t have to swallow all of it at once or you probably would have noticed!


      • Jonathan March 3, 2014 / 5:31 am

        Couldn’t have said it better myself! Our church was torn apart by this regime — and partly because it was so cleverly delivered (bit by bit — and the best/worst lies always have some truth to them). Fortunately, we escaped from it — and while the legacy lives on, the love of God is so much stronger! There is hope for anyone dealing with this kind of spiritual abuse! Thank you for posting this up! It is both enlightening and amusing!


  3. Linnea February 13, 2014 / 6:10 am

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this. I remember all of these rules, even though we weren’t in ATI–both of my parents were divorced/remarried/with an adopted stepchild. Unfortunately, being excluded from ATI just made my parents work even harder at trying to prove their worthiness. They did the seminars, went through the Rebuilders Guide, and tried to make our family over in the image of Gothard. Spoiler: it backfired LOL.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 8:05 am

      Wow, Linnea, I’m sorry to hear that even though you weren’t in ATI, the teachings still affected your life!

      I have a copy of the Rebuilder’s Guide. I started to go through it around the time I divorced, to see if I could do some sort of “book review” or rebuttal, and I couldn’t stand to even read it. Ick!

      Now you have a handy list of ATI rules you can follow in your own life. Or not! LOL


  4. Jeri February 13, 2014 / 7:55 am

    Absolutely. This was Gothard’s “new approach to Life”. We tried it, too! What were my parents thinking??


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 8:07 am

      I guess they were thinking they had a guarantee of successful, “Godly” children? It seems so easy: Follow rules A, B, & C, and your children will turn out perfectly. Too bad it doesn’t work like that!


    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 13, 2014 / 1:43 pm

      The same Gothard who kept a constantly-changing harem of young female “volunteers”? Hot and Cold Running Girls? (But no actual Tab A in Slot B so It Wasn’t Really Fornication(TM)…)

      Elron Hubbard had his “Commodore’s Assistants”, all 16 years old and in string bikinis, waiting on him hand and foot.


  5. Chantelle February 13, 2014 / 8:37 am

    Best article about ATI ever! I was raised in ATI Grades 1 – 12, went to all the seminars, HQ, Training Centers, Etc. This author is not exaggerating, even though to a normal person these teachings are ridiculous, they were taught to us as truth. Our parents may have had the best intentions but that doesn’t change the fact that I am still messed up because of it. My advice to parents out there: It is dangerous to follow a particular religious person. Question everything. If you must choose a religion to teach your kids, follow Jesus’s words and example and be kind to others including your kids.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:12 pm

      I was in ATI from the 5th grade until I married out of it at 24! I am definitely raising my children differently, so I really appreciate your comments about parenting.


    • Melody December 20, 2015 / 12:04 am

      This… I am speechless… Your words reflect my thoughts exactly….


  6. Rose February 13, 2014 / 8:45 am

    Lol i love the part about the large family parading in and out of church to avoid rock music! That was totally us! We’d absolutely have to sit at the front of the churches we visited on holidays and such (because the back seats are for the backsliders of course) and we’d file in after the music service and then towards the end of the preaching, my dad would realize the invitation was about to start with more “bad” music, so he’d pinch whichever sibling had the misfortune of sitting next to him and tell them to tell the person next to them that we were going to leave the room. So there’d be this long, embarrassingly loud “pass the message” along to all thirteen kids. Then once the (usually very scrambled) message reached the last child, we would all stand up in unison and file out down the aisle in the wrong direction just as the very confused song leader would up the invitation. Some of the most embarrassing moments of my life!

    We had it easy tho. I know a family who would shuffle in and out before and after every song so that they could still get the important church announcements and bible readings and all.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 13, 2014 / 1:44 pm

      Then once the (usually very scrambled) message reached the last child, we would all stand up in unison and file out down the aisle in the wrong direction just as the very confused song leader would up the invitation.

      That sounds like something out of a cartoon.
      Or a fast-motion sequence in Benny Hill.


      • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:31 pm

        Jeri, your family’s experience, as related on your blog, was what I had in mind when I wrote the part about parading in and out of church! I had forgotten about ATI’s encouragement to “stand alone” in that way until I read your account on your blog. So in that way, you contributed to this article. 🙂


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:34 pm

      Rose – before and after *every song?* How embarrassing! And what a spectacle they made of themselves!

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience. How awful for you! Rather humorous now to picture the “telephone game” being played at the end of every service, but I know it wasn’t humorous at the time!


      • Headless Unicorn Guy February 13, 2014 / 9:17 pm

        Rose – before and after *every song?* How embarrassing! And what a spectacle they made of themselves!

        If I’d been in charge of the music, I’d have struck up “Yakity Sax” every time they stood up and filed out.


      • Jemima May 24, 2015 / 10:21 am

        If I was in charge of music? I’d have an unholy amount of fun and be tempted to strike up “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”.

        Speaking of which, I’m always confused when ATI people say a “beat” is bad. Technically, even the most saintly of classical music has a steady beat. Sousa marches have a big bass drum pounding out the beat. Hymns have a steady beat. Angels playing harps keep a steady beat. What exactly do you mean by “beat”? Snare drum on the offbeat? They do that anyway even in classical music. Rock-beat?


  7. Yeshua Hineni February 13, 2014 / 10:56 am

    I remember all of these rules and I was never ATI. This was prevalent at several churches we attended and every single homeschool group that we were in. My parents might not have heard it, but all the girls talked about it.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:28 pm

      These and similar teachings have also been adopted by other organizations. Any time someone tries to make a list of rules in order to get close to God, you’ve got big problems!

      It’s interesting that these teachings have affected “every single homeschool group that [you] were in.” As an ATI student around mostly non-ATI families, I always felt like the oddball, even in a homeschool group. Now I’m wondering how much my parents’ adherence to ATI teachings may have affected the group.


      • Yeshua Hineni February 13, 2014 / 6:20 pm

        Well, considering our first 3 years were in Spain and the church with all the homeschoolers was IFB…. then the homeschool group in the Corpus Christi area and after that Birmingham. Corpus and Birmingham were *huge* ATI hot spots. In fact, I didn’t realize several of my good friends at the time were actually related to/children of people rather well connected in the HSLDA, ATI and VF groups until about 2 months ago. Several went on to continue that very close bond with those groups, which is why we still do not have contact with each other and likely won’t again.

        My brother in law and his entire family went through years and years of ATI/IBLP. While my he no longer goes through everything, he strictly adheres to 90% of what he was brought up to believe, including belief that our chronic health issues are just sin issues. (Generational, personal – you name it)

        It may have helped/hurt that all of our homeschool groups were strictly Christian umbrella groups.


      • Jonathan March 3, 2014 / 5:49 am

        Sooo true!

        Both my family and my wife’s were treated as ‘oddballs’ because we didn’t ‘look the part’ (my father-in-law is a war-veteran, and a very down-to-earth man who enjoys fixing cars and the farm life. My own parents come from a more Charismatic church experience — and neither of our families used ATI for our home-schooling curriculum). Our backgrounds cursed us (apparently), as did our refusal to change our source material to ATI. Rejection of ATI was considered rejection of “God’s best” (i.e. “sin, but not sin”)

        Then we both ended up in secular universities, colleges etc… and no one from the ATI families would talk to us. So we have turned from the “path of righteousness”, but at least both our parents are still together, as are my beloved wife and I.

        And no one was raped or demon-possessed. That we know of.


      • Anon February 26, 2015 / 6:16 am

        I was public-schooled, preschool through college, and I’m familiar with most (if not all) of these rules. I blame purity culture (and everyone’s favorite courtship poster boy) for sucking me in to fundyland. Even though I was only in via the web for a few years (attended a fairly typical evangelical church the whole time), I got in pretty deep, and it did a lot of damage that I now get to undo.


  8. Sara February 13, 2014 / 11:27 am

    Absolutely Priceless!!! How well I remember those days. Thank God my parents were not as bad as most. I do recall having a die-hard ATIA family in our church (who might I add is now the “poster family” for ATIA) who would get up and very piously file out from the front of the church every time there was special music. Dad would get so upset with them! They would march back in as soon as the song was over. As if they couldn’t hear the entire song from behind the swinging doors… Really???
    Ah well, thanks for the laugh! I was all but doubled over and snorting this was so funny. It just seems so ludicrous now!!! We were all so stinking gullible! On a serious note though, it is really sobering that decades later those teachings still adversely affect my life and the lives of my children.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:24 pm

      Most churches have some sort of speakers in the foyer, or you can hear enough through the doors to know when it’s over. 🙂 Unless you’re going to make the family stand outside, with one parent at the door to alert the others when it’s “safe” to go back inside, then parading out doesn’t accomplish much! It really just makes the family look like weirdos.

      One of the reasons I started this list was to see just how many of the old teachings I could remember. Identifying them is the first step toward making sure I don’t repeat any of them or pass them along to my children!


    • Jonathan March 3, 2014 / 6:00 am

      Seeing just how much of this we can remember, and how it makes us feel all these years later, has been a very… enlightening experience for my wife and I. The legacy lives on — affecting us more than we might want to admit, and affecting those “poster families” we still meet every so often. I am continually surprised (and dismayed) and just how much damage these teachings have done, and still continue to do.

      You’re not alone!

      You’re also not without hope! We still bear the pain of dear friends who have refused to have anything to do with us since we left IBLP/ATI behind — but many of those broken relationships have been restored, too. God is still good, despite the harm that regimes like this have done to the cause.


  9. Sally February 13, 2014 / 1:09 pm



    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:17 pm

      Thank you. It was both fun and healing to write.


  10. Giselle February 13, 2014 / 3:51 pm

    Haha….I remember A LOT of these. And also this catch phrase from one seminar or another: “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead!”


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 4:17 pm

      YES – I had forgotten that phrase, but now I remember it!

      I buy only white bread now. I know that whole grains are better for you (as generally accepted by much of the medical community) but I have a hard time forcing myself to eat it after it was such a big deal in my ATI days.


    • Jonathan March 3, 2014 / 6:18 am

      Hahaha! I remember that one too! We were also warned against “defiled wine” (i.e. non-alcoholic wine that was once alcoholic — as the taint had been there before, so the ‘after-product’ was still untouchable).


  11. Adriana February 13, 2014 / 5:15 pm

    A couple additions to your list:

    Novels are a waste of time. Except for Anne of Green Gables. Mr. Gothard watched the movie and approved it, so the novel is probably OK.

    And, “Young ladies should not run.” (I heard this in Indianapolis.) Unless — as one young woman meekly pointed out by reading to Mr. Gothard directly from the Bible — you are running from the empty tomb to proclaim that Christ is risen. That was the only time in history when it was OK.

    AWESOME list, Laura. (It’s OK to say “awesome”, right?)

    P.S. I’m so glad I held on to my Russian pins.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 10:08 pm

      Can’t believe I totally forgot the novel thing! I never heard the “no running” thing, but some of my friends did. Maybe I zoned out during that session, just like I apparently did through most of the Basic??

      “Awesome” is cool with me, as is “cool.” 🙂

      I also have my Russian pins. They are beautiful, and special because I bought them in Moscow!


  12. Holly February 13, 2014 / 6:30 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! I feel so validated to see others write down the things I remember, the teachings that caused me so much damage. Many people in my life deny that these things happened. The power of collective memory is healing.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 10:14 pm

      “The power of collective memory is healing.”

      It absolutely is!


  13. Courtney February 13, 2014 / 6:40 pm

    I tend to blame my parents for falling for this stuff more than the actual ministry itself. I can’t understand how educated people could decide that this was OK to teach their child. However, I love my parents and I think they were just trying to do their best raising their only child, which I always felt so shameful saying in front of ATI mega families.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 10:25 pm

      I’m not sure how much I blame my parents. They were duped along with me, although they still choose to follow Mr. Gothard. At the same time, many of these teachings came to me through Apprenticeship Sessions, Counseling Seminars, Excel, etc., so my parents weren’t even aware of what I was being taught.

      I’m one of only two siblings, so I know the embarrassment of coming from a small family – it must have been even more awkward for you as an only! With all the emphasis on letting God plan your family, little to nothing was said about families to whom God only gave one or two children… or none! I’m sure that families who *chose* to have only one or two children felt horribly shamed, which was also very wrong. The whole system was (is?) out of whack in regards to family size!


  14. Ms. FranklinRoberson (@Mommy2Sammy) February 13, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    OMG!!! This was HILARIOUS!!! I am researching the teaching and effects of Bill Gothard’s organization. This stuff just gets crazier and crazier!! LOL!!!


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 10:28 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad I’ve been able to laugh at many of these… some still hurt a little too much to be completely funny, but at least I’m able to see the insanity in them!


  15. Christina Lusk February 13, 2014 / 8:04 pm

    THANK YOU, “Laura”…. I printed the whole thing out and took it to my appointment with my therapist. We read the whole thing out loud…I have been trying to explain the whole ATI/IBLP/BG thing to her, with limited success. She finally got it today. I laughed like a hyena, and cried a bit too. What a hilarious, sad, spot-on explanation of a wasted half-lifetime of ridiculousness and SHAME. I just want to throw UP — all the wasted years and effort and FALSE GUILT.


    • Laura February 13, 2014 / 10:30 pm

      I’m amazed – and humbled (to use a good old Gothard word! LOL) – that my words helped you, and helped your therapist to understand you better! I’m also glad that I could help you laugh… and cry… both are healing. 🙂


      • Kin September 13, 2015 / 6:37 pm

        Do you know anything about “Whatever It Takes” ministry? Are the Speed’s as off base as Bill Gothard?


      • Laura September 13, 2015 / 11:09 pm

        Yes, the Speeds are associated with Gothard. However, unlike Gothard, they are very big on “tell your spouse EVERYTHING” rather than keeping things under wraps. Whether such a tell-all policy helps or harms a marriage depends on a lot on the people involved. I can see how it could be very damaging, but in my case, it was very freeing as my now-ex-husband confessed things to me that he’d kept secret for years. The things he told me solidified my decision to divorce, a decision I had already been considering for a while. (Note that the Speeds advocate telling your *spouse* everything, not the world in general. Some of my friends have said that their fathers went to a “Whatever It Takes” or “4 Days 2 Freedom” event, came home, and shared things with their *children* that were inappropriate. I don’t know if the Speeds encouraged *that* but I do know that they urge husbands to be completely transparent with their wives about their struggles.)

        I sense that the Speeds are very method-based. By that, I mean, “Follow our steps/program/advice and your marriage will be FIXED!” That part definitely reminds me of Gothard!


  16. susan vaughn shelton February 13, 2014 / 10:53 pm

    I have laughed so hard from reading all these, now that I’m on the other side of it, that I can almost not breathe. I cannot remember when I’ve laughed so hard. Every single one of these my parents lived by and we followed. Seeing them through others eyes and ears now is just so stinking hilarious. You did an amazing job!!


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:01 am

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂 I’m glad that we can laugh now at some of this stuff!


  17. Kara February 13, 2014 / 11:55 pm

    I usually don’t comment on these sort of posts, but this one I could not just leave and walk away from after reading it through in entirety. I was never an ATI student, but I was homeschooled right from day one til I graduated from grade 12. My dad was a pastor for 27 years and I very well remember 90% of what you mentioned in your blog, Laura, being taught to me and my siblings as truth! My dad attended several Bill Gothard seminars and I remember a lot of times after he came home things changing for our family in one way or another. I definitely remember the one about Rock music, lol!!! My life is and has been music (its definitely a gift that God has blessed me with, definitely an outlet and something very creative that I am passionate about). Back then, though, I was only allowed to listen to Hymns and Classical Music. I distinctly remember dad saying a study had been done on music with plants. (The intent was to teach us kids how evil rock music really was.) Plants were put in two separate rooms…one with rock music, the others with classical music. The plants that had Classical music played to them thrived and these plants grew towards and entwined themselves around the speakers the music was coming from! The other plants which had rock music played to them grew away from the speakers in the room and started to shrivel up. What a thing to teach people!!! This just makes me want to mention David dancing in the streets with a tambourine (oh, wait, how dare we even mention the tambourine, its so close to the drum family, which is evil, too…) lol I now can definitely see the insanity of so many of these teachings…and to think back then I was never allowed to question dad’s rules or authority, so therefore any thoughts I had of my own or questions I knew would go against what dad wanted me to believe were stifled. Its no wonder I turned out the way I did and today have the issues that I still do. I am still blown out of the water with some of the beliefs I was taught as a child that clearly were not Biblical or true. One other funny thing. I can definitely relate to the father choosing his child’s marriage partner thing. I am currently marred 5 years to a man my dad clearly DIDN’T want me even being involved with–my dad was so strongly against my marrying this man that he flatly refused to attend our wedding and forbade any of my family members still living at home to go…ie my youngest brother and sister and mom. So no one from my side of the family attended my own wedding. That really hurt back then, and sometimes still does. But I have gotten over most of it and have forgiven my dad. What crazy and insane things some people do… Thank you for giving me something to relate to, and helping me see the hilarity in these teachings! I could keep going, but will leave it at this for now, lol. 🙂 Before this turns into a mini novella! I think I will have to post this to my fb page…maybe someone else will find this hilarious and healing, too! 🙂


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 8:18 pm

      Regarding the music, this “experiment” was similar, trying to prove a similar point. I think you’ll find it interesting!

      I’m sorry to hear that your own family didn’t attend your wedding. 😦 So many of these teachings are so destructive to relationships! I’m glad you were strong enough to marry the man you loved anyway!!


  18. Loris Metzinger February 14, 2014 / 1:16 am

    This article is so on point!! So many crazy things i remember hearing and being shoved down my throat, and so many new things i’m discovering, but can sadly believe that these things were actually said. For example, ” A desire for white bread was a major factor in beginning the French Revolution.” I mean, really?!? Who comes up with these types of shenanigans?!?! I’m so glad i wasn’t brain washed by the ridiculous teachings of this place and feel bad for the people who were and those that were affected by Mr. Gothard’s sexual advances. This man is clearly not the “god” that everyone made him out to be. Thanks for sharing and writing this, makes me feel like I’m not as “rebellious” as I thought I was.


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 8:06 pm

      Loris, the French Revolution tidbit was printed in a Wisdom Booklet. I can’t remember which one right now, but I saw it with my own eyes just a month or two ago. I couldn’t believe it, either! I was so shocked that I took a picture of it with my phone. It should still be on my phone somewhere. Let me see if I can find the exact source.


      • Laura February 14, 2014 / 8:13 pm

        Wisdom Booklet 34, Preliminary Edition, page 1680. (The page numbers were sequential from WB 1 through 54.)

        “How was white bread a cause of the French Revolution?

        “Throughout history white bread has been a symbol of the rich man’s food. French peasants envied the rich and rose up in arms when grain became scarce. In 1789 thousands marched on the palace demanding flour. They soon discovered that the King had none either.

        “Do Resource C.”

        What’s odd to me is that the teaser question says it was *white* flour, but the paragraph below it just mentions *flour.* So it seems to contradict itself right away! But there it is. White flour was a cause of the French Revolution! Now you know. 🙂


    • Patricia July 23, 2014 / 1:11 pm

      While never involved in ATI, I also remember a reference somewhere in the IBLP materials citing the use of white flour as a likely cause of the destruction of Pompeii. Guess I’m just lucky a volcano never slammed me while chowing down my PB&J on Wonder Bread.


  19. Michael D February 14, 2014 / 4:38 am

    Laura, this is great. I was never in ATI but highly influenced by Bill Gothard and tried my best to follow all the principles through high school. Then after my first year attending a Christian college, I decided to leave and work at a Training Center. I left college because it was “too liberal” and some of the music in choir had a back beat. Thankfully, by the end of one year at the Training Center, I realized how ridiculous these rules can become when a new Director (of the Training Center) began to constantly criticize me for rules that were completely ridiculous and I could never seem to measure up to (even though I was a fully committed IBLP staffer). Your post reminds me of all these Gothard rules I had placed on myself.


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:58 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your experiences, but glad that you noticed the problems before you spent too many years living by all those rules!


  20. Sara February 14, 2014 / 7:04 am

    Don’t forget that romance novels (and any other novel that might contain anything that could be construed to be romance) are obviously hard-core pornography just for girls!


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:57 pm

      Yes, I wish I’d remembered that in time to include in my article! I used to feel *so* guilty for reading Jeanette Oke books.

      I do agree that certain authors are “porn” for girls, and there are some books that even now I prefer not to read. But Christian authors like Jeanette Oke, or good classic authors like Lucy Maud Montgomery? I loved those books, but after hearing the teaching against “romance novels,” felt guilty about enjoying them for many years. 😦 I no longer feel guilty enjoying those books, and in fact, enjoy introducing my daughter to them! 🙂


  21. Katherine February 14, 2014 / 10:25 am

    Gosh…I remember every single one of these. My family didn’t have an issue with christian rock, but I heard all the teaching. We left churches, but it was only if a woman stood up to say/read something. Weird to look back on it all! Thanks, this was fantastic and beautiful and very, very funny.


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:47 pm

      Right, because leaving a service because a woman stood up there is a good testimony, too! LOL At least that’s one thing that my parents didn’t mind, as long as a woman wasn’t *preaching.* Whew, dodged one bullet! 🙂


  22. Lily February 14, 2014 / 11:19 am

    Oh my word! I have been dying laughing reading and re-reading this article! Everything you wrote is so spot on…I remember hearing all these things at EXCEL and in Indianapolis. My parents got a hoot out of it as well. Thanks 🙂


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:45 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for your comment. 🙂


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:41 pm

      I’ve been following that story on Recovering Grace and elsewhere. It’s horribly sad. 😦


  23. Susanna February 14, 2014 / 3:53 pm

    Ding ding ding ding!!!

    Lived for 25 years in ATI. YOU HIT IT ALL. Wow!!!


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:37 pm

      My hat’s off to you – 25 years is impressive! 🙂 I’m sure you could add one or two that I’ve forgotten!


  24. Kristen February 14, 2014 / 6:22 pm

    How about open toe or heeled shoes causing sin in guys?


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:36 pm

      I think I’ve heard that one, too, but don’t remember it specifically from my ATI days. I don’t doubt it was warned against at some point, somewhere!


  25. Kay February 14, 2014 / 6:29 pm

    So sad. No man is God other than Jesus Christ. He brought both grace and truth; grace to redeem us from the rigid law that we couldn’t live up to, grace that is so ignored in this religious, judgemental legalism. The Bible has so many things that seem to contradict itself – I believe to show that there needs to be a balance between the extremes. I’ve learned that sometimes our character defects are our assets taken to such an extreme that they become defects because of lack of balance. Only God can bring that balance. Some of these teachings may have been reactions to the mistakes of the 60s, but reactions tend to be out of balance to the same extent as what they’re reacting to – just in the opposite direction. Neither is of God, but there is a balance that He can bring. I attended Basic Seminars 2 or 3 times and maybe an advanced seminar, but took a “take what you like and leave the rest” attitude. Maybe that protected me from some of the extremes of the teachings. I still believe there were some truths in the teaching that were valuable if approached with that kind of discernment and testing them against all of scripture, not just selected passages.


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:32 pm

      I’ve also noticed that many of the teachings seemed to be in reaction to the 1960’s! Rock music, movies, pants on women, etc.

      I envy those of you who were adults when introduced to the Institute, or at least were barely subjected to the teachings. I was immersed in ATI from a young age, so it was all I knew for many years. It’s been a challenge to assimilate myself into normal society! I think I can pass for a “normal” person now, at least most of the time. I often have to consciously choose to react in a “normal” way, not an ATI way.

      I do have a hard time finding “good” in the teachings. It’s hard to sort through the piles of garbage to find the treasures!

      I would love to see someone do a study of the Basic Seminar. It would have to be watched in one’s home, so that you could pause the video every time a Bible verse is reference. The person doing the study would actually look up every Bible reference, whether given in the Seminar notes, or listed in the back of the book. I would love to see just how many of the Bible verses actually fit what’s being taught, and how many were stretched and/or totally taken out of context. *I* can’t stand to watch the Basic long enough to do such a study, but I’d love for someone else to do so! 🙂 It would be much more difficult, but it would also be very interesting to chase down the originals of all the anecdotes he shares. It would be interesting to see how many of those are related as they really happened, and how many of those he changed to fit his teaching.


  26. Kristen February 14, 2014 / 7:27 pm

    And, if we girls didn’t walk fast enough then guys would see it as a sign that we were available for unspeakable acts.


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 7:34 pm

      What the…?! I never heard that one! Yikes!

      I do tend to walk fast, but I thought it’s just because I’m impatient and always have more to do than time to do it in. Guess I’m also protecting myself from unspeakable acts, according to this logic! LOL


  27. Kristen February 14, 2014 / 7:39 pm



  28. Kristen February 14, 2014 / 7:41 pm

    These were taught in the hours of girls only meetings on how to dress in ITS.


    • Laura February 14, 2014 / 9:53 pm

      I only spent 3 months at the ITC (saw your correction 🙂 ) although I did attend a girls-only Counseling Seminar there. I must confess that my memories of that Counseling Seminar are approximately… ZERO! I remember my roommates (one of them was my sister so I hope I remember her! LOL) and that’s all.

      Vague memory coming back: I do believe that’s where I first heard/saw the checkerboard soul “bitterness” diagram.

      Oddly enough, to this day I could draw a checkerboard soul “bitterness” diagram, and convince you that your soul is covered with cute little castles… but I don’t remember the steps needed to regain that “ground” from Satan! LOL I guess I got hung up on drawing cute little castles as “strongholds” and forgot to listen to the rest of the session?! It’s a good thing that I now believe in processing through stuff between yourself & God without getting all hung up on following certain steps or drawing diagrams. 🙂


  29. Kristen February 14, 2014 / 7:42 pm

    ITC (auto correct)


  30. Bethany February 15, 2014 / 6:28 am

    I hated the fact we had to wake up to hymns & bible versus every morning at the crack of dawn through those speakers in the hotel rooms at the training center. Also, what did “demin” ever do to Bill Gothard? Lol!! If you had a demin skirt/pants at the center, you might as well just announce you were addicted to “pot”.


    • Laura February 15, 2014 / 3:18 pm

      Ugh, wasn’t that Indy that did the music over the speakers? I think that at one time, they even took the volume knobs off all the in-room speakers because it didn’t take people long to figure out how to turn the music down!

      I’ve been told that the Duggar family wears denim on their TV show, so apparently it’s okay now? I never even tried to take a denim skirt to a Training Center. I had one that was very full and loose and didn’t even have the “jeans” styling look, but I still had to leave it at home because it was made of denim.

      Don’t you know? Denim = rock music = beards = drugs (like pot!) = promiscuity. 😉 Seriously, though, I think it was a reaction to the 1960’s and the rock & roll culture?


    • Eva February 20, 2014 / 10:11 am

      Our daughter went to the Indianapolic center for a possible ATI program. Even though they had 5 children and were adults, those speakers came on every morning at 5:30. She had a nursing baby with her and it woke him up ever morning. Her husband finally was able to muffle it with a pillow. They hated it. ANd they did not do the ATI after all. Thankfully. As to the jeans maybe it has something to do with the saying that was around in the 1950s (we are only 4 years younger than Gothard so he probably was familiar with it)…it went something like this : “the girls are wise to the rise in your Levis!” I never heard that but my husband said it was a common saying among guys in high school back then.


  31. mary February 15, 2014 / 11:35 am

    Laura, I found your account very amusing too. I am a former ATI mom with two twenty-something children that we homeschooled in ATI. We tried not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and glean the good and our children came through relatively unscathed with pretty good memories of going to Knoxville, etc. We all laughed together over your article. I think *I* suffered more from the expectations than they did ;-).
    I have come to the conclusion that we all love *law* and struggle with the freedom of grace. We want a “list” that tells how we are measuring up and how we compare to others. I was always looking for the “list” for how to be the perfect wife, perfect mother, etc. and, when I was able to check off most of the items, I felt pretty good. When I wasn’t, I felt pretty bad. Bill Gothard provided a “list”.
    It is very liberating to accept that there is no “formula”. That Jesus deals with us all as individuals on different paths. That God is very loving and only requires faith–belief and trust in Him — not “works” or particular behavior.
    Thanks for the laugh!


    • Laura February 15, 2014 / 3:13 pm

      YES – no “works,” no lists, no steps! Just a relationship!! That’s what I’ve learned over the last few years. 🙂


  32. Freefire777 February 15, 2014 / 11:02 pm

    How about if someone is in sin(fornification), do not even sit at the table to eat with them. Or how about the creepy audio of that guy reciting Scripture (Proverbs) to wake you up every morning.


    • Laura February 16, 2014 / 9:58 am

      Wow… what a great way to show a “sinner” that you love them like Jesus does! 😛

      I still have a hard time reading Proverbs, which is sad because it really is a good book of the Bible. I guess I overdosed on it while in ATI!


  33. Lindsay February 18, 2014 / 11:44 am

    Great article Laura, and funny as “heck”. 🙂 You pretty much summed up my childhood! I think each family added or subtracted from these rules as they saw fit. For instance, in our family, not only could the girls not wear t-shirts but we had the added protection of making sure there was a “double covering” (shirt + vest, blouse + sweater, t-shirt + jumper, etc). Also, no slits whatsoever (this rule was broken often when we’d buy things and promise to sew the slit – which never happened, and then at random times our parents would rid the closets of all “slitty” clothing.)

    What about movies? You mentioned TV but…all I know is in our family movies like the Sound of Music had too much romance and all of us kids had the Preacher Sheffey movie MEMORIZED (on the short list of approved movies).

    Wasn’t there something about sugar too? Like it wasn’t just whole wheat bread but HONEY whole wheat bread…maybe this was just an addition my parents made too…

    I don’t know if this was another addition by my parents but we weren’t even allowed to say “oh my goodness” or “darn” or “heck” because of course these were derivatives of some very evil phrases!!

    Anyway, so much fun reading and reminiscing on my crazy, dysfunctional past life! Thanks for taking the time to write it!


    • Laura February 18, 2014 / 2:12 pm

      You’re right – parents would add to the list as they chose, or sometimes ignore certain rules.

      We rarely watched Sound of Music, and when we did, we had to fast-forward (this was back in the VHS days! LOL) “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” and “Something Good.” Sometimes we had to fast-forward the scene in Maria’s bedroom with the Baroness, because – OH NO, SLIP! We had “Treasures of the Snow” and “Red Runs the River” (from Bob Jones) and a few of the Moody science videos. That was about it!

      I still don’t say “darn” or “heck.” Maybe once in a great while but I feel horribly rebellious when I do! I’m also more likely to say “Oh my word” instead of “goodness,” so that must have ATI roots, too. Words like “cool” were banned as well.

      Thanks for commenting – it’s good to connect with other people who understand the craziness. 🙂


      • Tiph February 21, 2014 / 11:05 am

        Weren’t phrases like “darn” “oh my gosh” and “heck” labeled as Minced Oaths… or was that just coined by the families in our circles?


      • Anon February 26, 2015 / 6:30 am

        I say “Oh my word” out of habit…and I’ve honestly had debates with myself about it because isn’t Jesus the Word? I’ve yet to come up with an alternate expression that doesn’t seem to be taking the Lord’s name in vain and doesn’t ascribe any goodness to me…And I’m a public schooler that was never involved in ATI, but got sucked into fundyland in college. I’m finally making my escape now. This stuff is so insiduous, it’s terrifying.


  34. TheDarkness February 18, 2014 / 9:52 pm

    I have to say this is awesome, my family was not this bad, but a lot of it I have seen or heard from friends. This kind of teaching tore the church we were in apart. almost all the kids went off the deep end for a while, myself included but most have evened out now. I have to say reading some of this to my non homeschooled wife I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breath! loved it!


    • Laura February 20, 2014 / 12:15 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about the results of these teachings in your church, and especially in the lives of the young people. I’m glad you’ve made it through & found some kind of balance in your life. 🙂 I’m also glad you & your wife enjoyed my article!


  35. Melanie February 19, 2014 / 6:41 pm

    I was never in ATI, but my grandparents were heavily involvoled from when it was still Institute in Youth Conflicts. They sent me to the seminar as a teen and later my then husband was sent as a wedding gift. I remember BG teaching and saying “Others may, but I may not,” when asked to participate in something disapproving. I also remember reading some literature from one of the seminars that said if a man wasn’t circumcised, he had a tendency to be promiscuous, and his wife would be at a higher risk of cervical cancer.
    Does this ring a bell for anyone?


    • Laura February 20, 2014 / 12:11 pm

      YES – I remember both the “Others may, but I may not” phrase and the circumcision thing.


    • Tiph February 21, 2014 / 11:01 am

      Yes! The circumcision topic was one of the first major red flags to my hubby (who also grew up in the program) that things were majorly skewed and not right!


    • Tamra February 28, 2014 / 5:34 pm

      The circumcision stuff was in the medical bulletins. It was one of the first things that clued me in to the idea that this material was way off. I also sent my son to the training center in Indi. The application asked me personal questions about whether I, my husband, or our parents or grandparents had been involved in adultery. They needed to know this so that if you answered “yes” they could be on the look out for such visiting sins in the life of my son. I told them the question did not need to be answered because it’s presumptions were unbiblical and the information was N/A concerning my son. They accepted him anyway!


  36. Krissy Higgins (@Krissy_r) February 24, 2014 / 12:25 pm

    Though we never belonged to ATI, we attended a church where EVERYONE did. I went to public school until 9th grade when my parents ‘discovered’ this church and Bill Gothard and my life was flipped upside down – (switched churches, started homeschooling, and NO TALKING WITH BOYS!)
    I blame my social backwardness and inability to ‘date’ like a normal person on being raised in this until I was 18.
    The church kicked me out for having sex (I was a rebel!), and honestly, that was the best thing that could of happened to our family. We are finally back to our ‘home’ church I spent most of my years growing up in, but I tell you going into my teenage years around people like that nearly made me crazy. I find it funny that the particular church now is no longer a part of ATI, and *GASP* listens to secular music and allows their women to wear PANTS, and *BIGGER GASP* talk to those of the opposite sex. (I almost want to run in and yell “WHY DID YOU TORTURE ALL OF US?!) 90% of the ‘kids’ that were forced into this type of lifestyle,have relationship issues, most ending in divorce.
    I pray for those poor kids being taught these things right now – how could anyone do research on this man and still subject their family to the cult like teachings?


    • Laura February 26, 2014 / 6:12 pm

      Your last question is very interesting to me – I don’t think that many parents actually *did* research on Mr. Gothard. Even if they did, his Wikipedia page is *very* closely monitored and *any* negative info is removed. (Last time I looked, there is an extremely brief comment about how he’s been the subject of some debate, but that’s it.) All negative posts & comments on his Facebook and Google Plus pages are also removed. Until Recovering Grace came along, and sites like this one, there was little to no negative information about Mr. Gothard on the web. I know of one newspaper article from around 1980, but almost everything else on the web about Mr. Gothard is positive.

      I’m sorry to hear about the trauma from your church. It’s good that they’ve changed and loosened up now, but so much pain was already inflicted that I totally understand your frustration there!

      I’m divorced myself, and I got married through courtship. Many of my friends who married through courtship are also divorced. It’s definitely not the “magic formula” that Mr. Gothard & others claimed it was!


  37. Tamra February 28, 2014 / 5:23 pm

    I first found some of the most rediculous teachings when I bought and read the medical bulletins. He had ideas on circumcision that were clearly not New Testament Biblical. He promoted fasting for morning sickness–the absolute backwards thing to do! Those wacky medical bulletins were my first clue that things needed to be questioned.

    When I took my sons to Headquarters to do a roofing project, I heard Mr. Gothard say at the dinnerr table that he was going to stop letting the young people in Indi and at Headquarters call home because as soon as they did they came up “home sick” and wanted to leave. That was it for me! It was not okay to send them to college or to any other ministry, but it was okay for him to decide if kids could talk to their parents or not!


    • Laura March 7, 2014 / 5:10 pm

      Wow – I remember being told not to tell my parents anything “bad,” but at least I was allowed to *call* home! I can’t imagine not being allowed to call home at all. 😦 Hopefully that was just a “rant” and never made it to actual policy… surely parents would have objected to that??

      I’ve been pregnant 4 times, and yes – fasting to “cure” morning sickness won’t work!! Plus, you need nutrition to feed Baby, even when Baby is that tiny.

      I do remember the circumcision teachings, kind of. I had sisters, not brothers, so didn’t pay much attention back then. Plus, I was so sheltered that I didn’t know exactly what “circumcision” was until after I’d had my son!


  38. Barbara March 13, 2014 / 1:26 pm

    We knew people who went to the Bill Gothard seminars, but fortunately, as parents, we never went ourselves. I remember hearing about music….I could have never adhered to that one!! I love Skillet….went to my fifth concert of theirs the other week!! And I’m definitely over 50….lol….


    • Laura March 24, 2014 / 12:53 pm

      I’ve heard of Skillet, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard their music. I’m trying to “catch up” on movies, music, & other cultural literacy areas that I missed as a child & teen & young adult. It’s taking me a while, though!

      I went to my first “real” concert a couple of years ago. It was awesome. I wish I had the money to go to concerts more often!


  39. random reader March 19, 2014 / 4:07 am

    Very accurate article. Let me add another point that i never understood: young men are to buy a house DEBT-FREE, but must do so only by devoting their life to serving others……sounds great, but exactly how do i earn all this money if all i do is work for free?!!


    • Laura March 24, 2014 / 12:51 pm

      As a girl, I was never expected to own property anyway (unless I inherited it when my husband died, I guess?) but I did wonder how that was supposed to work!


  40. Caleb April 4, 2014 / 6:41 am

    My mom had good memories of some BG conference she went to long before we were born so she decided to drag me along as a 14 or so year old when they had the basic seminar at a church in our city.

    I was considering everything he said with an open mind until he got to his evidence for the supposed evils of rock music. Unidentified missionaries to a nameless country in Africa were told by unidentified natives that an unidentified “rock music” song sounded like their pagan drum music. I was left thinking “if you expect me to trust your ideas you’re going to have to give me names, dates, and places and point me to somewhere that I can verify this story.” After there was no attempt to support it I added BG to my mental category of people lacking in wisdom and discernment and chose to ignore everything he said.


  41. Theresa April 5, 2014 / 6:36 pm

    Wow! I hear echos of my past in this blog post! Well written. My parents used to go to the seminars back in the 1970s. Scary now to read about it in this format. So glad I strayed away from this stuff. It was a process tho. Had to de-program! I certainly haven’t brought up my child in this fashion. Thanks for this blog Laura! Eye-opening and healing.


  42. Colleen G December 2, 2014 / 5:08 pm

    This is so humorously written that I had to keep reminding myself that this is real garbage taught and believed. My parents almost bought into it( I was exposed enough via the seminar and a family based Sunday school class)and I bought into something similar once I had a family of my own. Thankfully my husband didn’t buy much of what swayed me and a health crisis shook my faith enough to clear the crud out but it took years and I was only moderately influenced. I can’t imagine a full blown immersion. You have both my thanks for the article and my sympathy for having gone through all that.


  43. Kate December 16, 2014 / 12:17 pm

    LOL! While there is a little truth in some of the ATI stuff, all it really is is someone calling something the “right” or “Christian” way of doing something.
    One thing I think they are missing is this:
    How can you be a light to the secular world without being part of it? I have raised my kids in the culture, yet set apart. Ya, there’s a risk that they will be rotten eggs with the bad kids, but the reward is so great.


  44. RC July 13, 2015 / 6:29 pm

    I don’t know if this thread is dead yet, but I couldn’t help but write a response after what I have read. So the scene is: I am a guy in my 30’s with a 2-year-old girl and one on the way. I never “did” ATI. I have never attended one of these conferences and I didn’t know who BG was until last week. However, I wanted to write to say that, indeed, the teachings of ATI had gone far and wide in the 1980’s when I was in grade school – and I grew up with them without even knowing it until now. Surely others are in the same boat.

    I wish that maybe I could write an entire article for this website for my own cleansing of my schooling past, but I guess for now a mere comment will help. Maybe the mods will let me some day. 🙂

    I attended K-8 at a private Christian school in Salem, Oregon. There’s only one and it’s still there so you can figure out which one it is if you are curious. They weren’t really “fundy,” but more charismatic. This is in the heyday of Benny Hinn and company on tv, though I’m not sure how you were allowed to watch it. But certainly “fundy” in the sense that the Principal could administer spankings after going through certain steps. Even I got one.

    In reading Laura’s article above, I see that MANY things that were taught (either formally or informally) to us as “Christian” school kids have their clear roots in ATI literature, as many did come from homeschooling backgrounds. Not all of them (like the “white bread” thing), but many were hinted at, some explicitly.

    I then had a sad realization that the “Character Sketches” books that we used in 5th grade “devotionals” in the middle of the day is published by IBLP and can still be bought on their website today for $140. I never knew who IBLP was until last month. That started me down a path that led to this website.

    I guess I wanted to mention my observations of the damage that BG-type teaching did to “generic” Christian education by categorizing them in 3 categories:

    1) The silly.

    If there was one thing I could add to the list above it would be this: I was involved in athletics (and who wasn’t) because no better way to be a man than to be strong and fit and conquer stuff. Track was huge, and I was doing that and basketball. They taught that it was ungodly to make noise while the visiting team was shooting free throws, and certainly to “boo” if they made a basket, or cheer if they missed one. So it was weird – every team to score got a cheer. I once blocked a kid’s shot so strongly (it went into the bleachers) that I was pulled out of the game because it’s wasn’t Christian-like. Our mascot was the “Crusader.” Really? Was that one really thought through very carefully?

    We were also forced to do marches around the school to stamp out rebellion. If you walked “in” the “out” door or “out” the “in” door you forced the entire class to repeat the marches around the campus until you did it correctly. If you made a peep, everybody did it again in total silence until you “passed.” I could give more of these.

    2) The sad.

    One of the teachings was the racist view that God never intended inter-marrying. Black people and white people were separated and therefore to marry across racial or national lines was to undo what God did at the tower of Babel. Whether or not that’s right, all I know is the one black kid in our school, a gentle kid named Kasper, always got the most amount of punishment for infractions that he never even understood. Even in 5th grade I felt bad for the guy because I knew teachers punished him way more than everybody else.

    3) The tragic.

    Unfortunately, I believe that this strict homeschooling culture and the ATI overtones that we witnessed made people go crazy. My sister was classmates with the student who, along with his dad (who was the maintenance guy at the school) decided to blow up a bank and somewhat succeeded. If you Google “2008 Woodburn, Oregon bank bombing” you can read all about it. They were sentenced to death. Even if there were a bunch of other contributing factors, it goes to show that if you go follow the “rules,” people don’t turn out perfect, and they probably get screwed up trying.

    Additionally, one of my 6th grade teachers is in jail for sexual exploitation of minors, i.e., little boys. We went to parties at his house where they would have boys first, and then later, girls, have fun in the hot tub, complete with adult supervision. What I didn’t know what that these were “feelers” for later parties that were unsupervised where the boys were made to play dodgeball naked and other things like being taught how to masturbate. If you doubt it, just google “Silverton, Oregon school teacher naked dodgeball parties” and read all about the guy with whom I shared a hot tub as a 11 year old boy but escaped unharmed by God’s grace. And that’s in addition to the usual suicides and teenage pregnancies and the such. Another classmate later murdered somebody.

    And if this were a more graphic forum, I could add

    4) The sexual.

    But maybe that’s for another place. Describing how some people who live under such strictness develop sexual fetishes to deal with having been made a Christian “slave” their whole lives.

    But all things considered, I escaped okay. 🙂

    Love to all.


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