Finding Freedom from My Demons: Nicholas Ducote’s Story, Part Two

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

< Part One

You’re just “spiritually sensitive,” they told me at six years old, my young mind racing with anxiety. As my parents entered further into the labyrinthian maze of fundamentalism, they took my mind with them.  My parents were convinced that Gothardism held the solution to my issues. If religious options and doctrines were a grocery store, my parents plopped down on the Gothard Aisle and expected me to also enjoy their strict diet of Gothardism.  Instead, the doctrines on spiritual warfare, the Umbrella of Authority, and Strongholds increased my anxieties – sending me into a state of hyper-vigilance at night as I waited for the demons.

For years, I confused invasive thoughts, which everyone has, with a Satanic assault on my mind.

I began conceptualizing my mental illness as spiritual warfare very early on, probably by the time I was 7 or 8. Recently converted, it was the only paradigm my parents accepted so they explained things to me through that lens. When I had nightmares night after night, my parents told me it was the rock music I could hear through the walls that my sister listened to – certainly not our rapidly changing family dynamic as my parents tried to apply fundamentalism to my older sisters when they had already begun high school.

I remember one night, perhaps after attending the Basic Seminar a second time, my parents decided we should burn all the things in our house that possessed “demons” or a “demonic influence.”  This included books and movies and music – especially my dad’s vast collection of rock and roll from his youth.   We had to purge our home.  As time went on, I was sucked further into this idea of spiritual warfare causing mental, and even spiritual, issues.  My education in creationism only further complicated science and confused me about how my body worked.  It was not until college at a public university that I began to understand how the brain worked.  I slowly realized that many “mysterious” feelings and thoughts, which supposedly originated from God or Satan, were really my own brain simply working.

There were a number of Gothard’s doctrines that caused a great deal of fear.

One of the most problematic doctrines is the Umbrella of Authority. 

In this model of communication with God, divine inspiration and guidance flows from God, to the male parent, then to the female parent. It’s clear in this model that wives are subordinate to their husbands and ATI leaders preach that a woman’s first duty is to submit to the male leadership in her life. For wives, that means their husband. For daughters it means their fathers. In this model, the father is the only person in the family unit that has a sort of “direct connection with God.”  By this, I mean that if a child believed God was calling them in a certain direction, the child could only pursue that option if their father “confirmed” it with God. This model profoundly impacts a child’s conception of themselves.

If you disagree with your parents, you are disobeying God.

If you are outside of your parents’ Umbrella of Authority, then you are literally opening your mind to Satan and demons.

This brings me to what, in my life, was the most abusive and damaging belief. Gothard rejected the idea of mental illness and replaced it with a concept of “Strongholds” in your mind. Gothard preached that when humans disobeyed God, or their earthly authorities, they allowed Satan to “build a stronghold in your mind.”  From this Stronghold, Satan could tempt you and further lead you down the path to darkness and evil. One of the most common weaknesses for teenagers was rock music and dating, which Gothard believed was one of the fundamental reasons why teenagers rebelled and became perverse. In another giant leap of logic, Gothard argued that physical ailments could be caused by Strongholds. Literally almost every cause in your universe stemmed from your spirituality, which included everything from Christian Contemporary music, to apparently demonic Cabbage Patch dolls, and of course Disney.

So over my teenage years, I gradually developed intense anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. I would lay awake in my bed, staring at my door waiting for demons to come and get me.  This very real fear was stoked by Jim Logan, who would tell his Real Life Ghost Stories. Logan would preach about his many exorcisms, how African masks would literally scream and cry out if lit on fire, and how children’s misdeeds attracted demons into a Christian home. Especially rock music! I prayed incessantly, sometimes screaming with eyes filled with tears, for God to take away my fear and anxiety – but nothing ever happened.

It was because the cause of my mental anguish was not demons and spiritual warfare.

In fact, the further I get away from my internalized fear of demons and possession (taught to me exclusively through ATI), the better I sleep, the less afraid I am of what’s behind the shower curtain, the more confident I am to walk through a room with the light off, and it is because my brain no longer feels like its survival is threatened by the invisible forces of evil.

In my teenage years, some of the only relief I could manage to muster came from listening to a local modern rock radio station.  First, it connected me with the outside world and gave me hope that one day I could be in that world and not the one I was trapped in.  Second, it allowed me to enter all the conversations my peers had about their favorite music. Third, it gave me something to focus on that took my mind off spiritual warfare, demons, etc.  Unfortunately, I was also taught to believe that rock music would open my mind to Satan. I struggled with the cognitive dissonance for a year or two until I decided that the peace I received from rock music was far more important than risking demonic possession (which I was starting to believe less and less).  I figured, with all my rebelling as a teenager, if I hadn’t been attacked by demons yet I was probably alright.

It’s not uncommon for precocious, smart children to develop anxiety – as I now know my “sensitivity” is really just anxiety – but my parents only worsened it by focusing on solely spiritual causes and solutions.  When we prayed, when I prayed, when we “cried out” – whatever Gothardist ritual we preformed – it never made me feel any less anxious.  As a result, I felt like I must not be a real Christian or must have some sin in my life stopping God from helping me.  I don’t know how many times I prayed the sinner’s prayer, afraid that whatever I had done before wasn’t “sticking.”   I started finding a way out of the anxiety, and sometimes intense panic attacks, by learning about my brain. Not from fundamentalists, but from scientists who studied the brain – neuroscientists.

In the back of my mind, after I left the house, was always a voice warning me that my actions would attract Satan – that he would ruin my life because I chose to live outside my father’s Umbrella, to reject the concept of Strongholds, and I listened to rock music.  For quite awhile, I struggled to find out who I was, beyond my fearful subordination to a fundamentalist God.

I now know that I have a form of complex PTSD, which is triggered by my parents and their fundamentalism, especially when they judge my “sinful lifestyle.” 

For the longest time, I didn’t know why certain things they said or did would “launch” me into an irrational, emotional state.  Sometimes it was something inanimate, like the American flag covering my old bedroom wall or the library of fundamentalist literature I was pressured to read and apply to my life.  It doesn’t affect my life much anymore, but it did quite a bit into my early-20s.  Part of the reason is because I rarely communicate with my parents anymore.  Despite my best efforts, most of our interactions end with me being triggered by their lack of acceptance or the cultic doctrines they still try to evangelize me about.  This isn’t a story that takes place wholly in my past.

The third and final part of my story discusses how (as a 25 year old) I am still impacted by my parents’ fundamentalism.

Part Three >

Jim Logan, the Stephen King of Fundamentalism: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland  on November 14, 2013. It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations”, “Of Isolation and Community”“His Quiver Full of Them”“David Noebel, Summit Ministries, and the Evil of Rock”“The Political Reach of Bill Gothard”, and “Bill Gothard on Education”, and “Ken Ham: The Evolution of a Bully“, and “In Which the Pieces Come Together.”

Did you know that demons can be sexually transmitted? That many Vietnam veterans’ problems are caused by demons picked up from prostitutes? That a person can be “demonized” through listening to music, watching TV, or by playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Welcome to the world of Dr. James Logan, “the demon whisperer”, “the Stephen King of ATI“, pastor, adviser to missionaries, and conservative fundamentalist exorcist.

Logan told one audience that he gets calls about house hauntings every day: “We dedicate the ground. Many people miss the ground.” He tells about a missionary in Vienna, Austria who had to leave Europe because his “fourteen-year-old son got full of demons from listening to rock music”. Logan claims parents in Missouri are teaching fourth and fifth graders to call up demons in the mirror and he believes government officials have demons assigned to them to influence them to oppose Christianity.

Jim Logan.
Jim Logan.

I would not know Jim Logan’s name were it not for Bill Gothard. Gothard’s signature teaching on the “Umbrella of Authority” taught followers that obedience and submission to the will of “authorities” (husbands, parents, employers, pastors, law enforcement officers, and government officials) would protect them from the attacks of Satan, which could not penetrate the “umbrella”. Thinking for one’s self or acting against the wishes of authorities was venturing beyond the safety of the umbrella and would expose one to the invisible danger of demonic influences.

But the Umbrella of Authority teaching would have had no teeth if we had not been convinced that demons were real, and scary. And that‘s where Jim Logan comes in.

Jim grew up in an “ungodly” home; years later his stomach still knotted at the sight of his father. Logan was drafted during the Korean War; he converted to Christianity when he was 19, through the ministry of Dawson Trotman and the Navigators. He attended Biola University, and then Biola’s seminary, Talbot School of Theology. But he received his training in “deliverance” straight from Fred Dickason at Moody Bible Institute. Dickason, a professor and theologian, authored Angels: Elect and Evil and other books on demonology and “warfare”.

Jim Logan spent over seven years with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Warrenton, Missouri where he served as a vice president. He also pastored at least two churches.

In 1987, Dr. Mark Bubeck founded the International Center for Biblical Counseling (ICBC International) in Sioux City, Iowa. (Read more about Bubeck’s belief in demons here.) Jim Logan joined the ICBC staff in 1989 and stayed for sixteen years. Eventually, new centers were started in Indiana, Colorado, and Texas, becoming independent over time. (ICBC International has since merged with Deeper Walk Ministries to become Deeper Walk International.) Logan started his own Biblical Restoration Ministries in Sioux City in 2005. According to Logan’s website, none of the counseling staff or their associates are “professional or licensed counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, medical or psychological practitioners.” Logan has carried his “expertise” to numerous countries counseling missionaries, working especially with CEF, Navigators, and J.A.A.R.S.

Somewhere along the way, Logan became pals with Bill Gothard. Gothard was stuffy compared to the irrepressible Logan. Logan liked to tell how he was the last member of his family to give up television, watching his favorite shows alone in the garage after his wife and kids refused to have anything to do with it anymore. Logan like to joke and tease (behavior that would earn IBLP staff a rebuke for “folly”), and he would frequently interrupt himself with loud laughter, releasing the tension in an auditorium made anxious by tales of noises in shadowy rooms and men’s voices coming out of small children.

The two men had at least one thing in common: a love of stories. Gothard soon invited Logan to speak at numerous Institute in Basic Life Principles seminars around the country, addressing homeschooling parents and pastors. Logan and Gothard frequently told each other’s stories and recommended each other’s teachings and materials. Logan helped Gothard write an IBLP publication (Life Purpose Journal Vol. III) that is no longer available. More recently, Logan helped lead IMI, an IBLP program developed to train young men to be pastors.

Gothard and Logan shared similar views of “iniquity”, “warfare”, and “ancestral spirits”.

A fetus conceived out of wedlock, for example, had to be prayed over to break the ancestral demons passed on by his/her conception. The brightness of the eyes were supposed to reveal an individual’s spiritual state: “The eyes show me if Satan’s clouding your mind” (Logan). While Gothard tended to avoid talking about demons directly, he had a lexicon of coded terminology hewas comfortable with: carnality, evil, spirit of rebellion, heaviness, darkness, principalities, ground, hedge, attacks, tormentors, protection, and deception. Logan didn’t beat around the bush; he was matter-of-fact about strange voices coming out Christian missionaries who had been invaded by demons.

Logan became a fixture at Gothard’s ATI conferences. After listening to his tales of hallucinations, seizures, and demons being let loose in homes because of Cabbage Patch Kids or evil art objects received as white elephant gifts, or even “twin beds gotten from homosexuals”, families would go home frightened. Some parents burned their children’s toys, even putting dolls on barbecue grills while the kids watched in anguished terror. Parents like mine cleansed our home of Winnie-the-Pooh and all other “talking animals”. Others banished Cabbage Patch dolls, My Little Ponies, clowns, superheroes. We knew our parents were dead-serious about our welfare: they were willing to make burnt offerings to keep us safe.

Notes from a lecture by Gothard, 1992
Notes from a lecture by Gothard, 1992

Despite having no credentials, Logan was frequently sought out by ATI parents at a loss to “fix” their rebellious or depressed sons and daughters, who must be affected by demonic influences. But he could be contradictory. Despite recommending Gothard’s book against Christian rock music, calling it “awesome“, Logan still found some Christian artists acceptable. He told one family that he listened to Amy Grant, and recommended Michael Card’s “Sleep Sound in Jesus” album of lullabies at an ICBC conference, saying that the songs would keep children from having nightmares. Far more disturbing is the allegation that he failed to report claims of sexual abuse made by those he “counseled”.

Gothard had been teaching his “Umbrella of Authority” for decades, when he had a new breakthrough. In 1992, Gothard introduced his Strongholds concept. He soon developed it into a fancy new package complete with diagram illustrations explaining how any sin or disobedience or “bitterness” could “give ground” to Satan in a person’s soul. And if Satan had enough “ground” on this imaginary chessboard in the mind/heart, the victim would be plagued by temptations and troubles.

For years, Logan says, he helped people gain freedom from demons using the “direct confrontational method”: he would speak to the evil spirits and command them to speak back. With the discovery of Strongholds, he could switch to a “less invasive” approach, helping people pinpoint the acts of disobedience whereby “the enemy” had been given permission to invade their inner being. By confessing and renouncing these “sins”, a Christian could be “freed” from cross-dressing, anorexia, depression, “bondage” to masturbation, or any number of “torments”.

In 1995, Moody Press released a book by Jim Logan entitled Reclaiming Surrendered GroundThough written by a ghostwriter (provided by Moody), it was based on Logan’s messages, with a foreword by Baptist preacher Charles Stanley. The book, along with some of Neil Anderson‘s writings, is still a standard resource recommended by Gothard for those who want to conquer “lust”. It also received endorsements from Erwin Lutzer and Warren Wiersbe.

In 1995, Moody Press released a book by Jim Logan entitled Reclaiming Surrendered Ground.
In 1995, Moody Press released a book by Jim Logan entitled Reclaiming Surrendered Ground.

That same year, Dr. Kenneth Copley joined Jim Logan and Mark Bubeck to open an ICBC branch in Carmel, Indiana. In 2001, Moody published Copley’s book on spiritual warfare, The Great Deceiver. Jim Logan himself wrote the foreword. Besides offering “counsel” in spiritual warfare, Copley was an instructor for teenagers in Gothard’s EQUIP program at the Indianapolis Training Center. The ITC worked closely with Judge James Payne of the Marion County Juvenile Court, who sent young offenders to the ITC to be mentored by graduates of the EQUIP training.*

In one talk available on YouTube, Logan addresses a group of young people at an unspecified IBLP Training Center. Uninhibited as usual, he rambles about “helping” counselees with anorexia, who can never have “victory” as long as they have pride in their life, because God resists the proud. “If God himself is resisting you, you’re doomed.” Likewise with rebellion: “When I push away authorities, God will push me away,” says Logan. However, Logan then turns to complaining about the food served at the training center, seeking support from his listeners who dare not express their  “rebellion” for fear of unpleasant consequences.

“If I’m nasty, it’s for fun. If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t be nasty… I’ve earned it,” Logan bluntly reassures his nervous audience. 

One minute he is claiming that he came upon an altar where human sacrifices had been made in the woods on on the JAARS campus (“human bones, that used to have meat on them”), and minutes later he is mocking the modesty of Islamic women.

Logan seems to find Hell particularly amusing. At one point he chuckles, “Look at all the brilliant people going to hell”. At another conference he breaks out in a loud belly laugh describing a small child being threatened with eternal torment in flames. Could it be that, deep down, this “good news of the Gospel” is just a joke?

The people who come to Logan may be suicidal, homicidal, depressed, or mentally ill. His office provides a data sheet where they are instructed to mark if they have hostility toward those in “deliverance work”, if they gossip, if they have practiced any martial arts, and if they have desires for bestiality or premarital or lesbian sex.

While he may not come across as especially bright, Logan captivates audiences with his rambling yet spellbinding yarns of what he describes as encounters with demons.  And far from being politically correct, Logan can sound downright racist, warning against the “animism” inherent in native American, African, and Filipino culture. He has a story of demons “throwing dishes out of cupboards” because a house was built over an Indian burial ground and another of an African musical instrument causing a child to threaten a sibling with a butcher knife. The sister of the Ambassador from Togo asked Logan to come pray for her children and bless their new home. Logan says his interpreter saw Chinese spirits in the house, which had formerly housed a family from China.

Sometimes, Logan progresses from simply rambling to incoherent, weaving yarns that don’t even make sense. For example:

In Indiana, they wrap an egg with yarn and put the egg in fire but the yarn doesn’t burn and they bury it; “…and that group of people has the highest suicide rate of teenagers in America”.

“The same spirits that stalked the Philippines walk in the Caribbean and terrorize the people on the island of Maui.”

Logan claims one of his CEF missionaries, Larry, was a “self-styled Satanist” before converting and going to Indonesia. To break ties with his old life, Larry got rid of a glass pendulum he had used in Satanism, throwing it into a city dump near Seattle–but it beat him home, sitting back in its box at his house when he returned. So Larry and his family took it back in the dump and prayed that God would keep it there and this time it stayed. According to Logan, Larry still has “spooky eyes” from his previous occult involvement even though he is “clean”.

These stories, and many others like them, are what I grew up on.

When I ask myself how I could ever have accepted some of Gothard’s most egregious “principles”, I think of Logan. That’s how. Because Logan claimed to have evidence that the spirit world existed, that Satan wanted to kill me, that there were real unseen dangers I needed to be kept safe from, that obeying my parents would keep strange voices from coming out of my mouth, or books from flying off my shelves. That the name of Jesus was my talisman against evil (unless God wanted me to learn a larger lesson from suffering).

My parents believed it, too. To them, Logan was just another Christian voice telling the truth, like Hal Lindsey (author of Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth) and Mel Tari (author of Like a Mighty Wind). That’s why we turned the placemats upside down when we ate at a Chinese restaurant (don’t read the zodiac!) and asked the waiter for almond cookies instead of fortune cookies. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary that I’ve owned since I was twelve, the chart of zodiac signs is scribbled out in black marker. We never took a newspaper because it would be too easy for someone to read a horoscope.

Mom chose to give birth without assistance rather than trust midwives who might be into “Eastern religions”. We left church services when demonic music was played under the guise of worship. We did not acknowledge Halloween.We said a prayer for safety before each and every road trip, even we were only headed to the post office.  And Mom refused to consider using the Saxon math curriculum (popular with other homeschoolers) because she had seen “ghouls” in a word problem.

So it was huge for me to reconsider the nature of Satan. Ultimately, my faith in God required a cosmic enemy–an evil being trying to snatch my soul and longing to drag me into hell. My theism rested on a belief in a “personal” devil, and when I lost my fear of the demonic, my fear of god went tumbling after! My husband, who sat under Ken Copley’s instruction for an entire week in the EQUIP program, lost a lifelong fear of the dark after finally reaching the conclusion that the “spirit world” is nothing more than a fantasy of human imagination.

Jim Logan has spent his life alternately frightening people of, and presuming to rescue people from, a phantom menace.

Despite his lack of credentials, many badly hurting individuals have unfortunately been led to believe that Jim Logan’s teaching could provide the help they sorely needed, and many more children and teens were further scarred in the process.

*****

*Last year Dr. Copley’s adopted daughter came forward, accusing him of sexually abusing her even while the family lived at the Training Center. Another victim has come forward accusing Copley of sexually abusing her while she was seeing him for counseling at ICBC. By the time Copley’s daughter decided to seek legal action, Indiana’s Department of Child Services was being run by Judge James Payne himself. Dr. Copley is currently a pastor at The Cross in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Finding Freedom from My Demons: Nicholas Ducote’s Story, Part One

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

Friends of mine and readers of Homeschoolers Anonymous may notice that, despite my involvement in HA from the beginning, I’ve yet to tell “my story.”

At first, I wasn’t sure what my story was or what information I wanted to make public, so I waited.  I also hoped my gentle public criticisms of homeschooling would start a dialogue with my parents.  Quite the opposite: they talk to everyone but me about HA.

I do not want a bad relationship with my parents, but I am no longer willing to limit my expression in an effort to try and appease them.

It’s sad because my parents no longer participate in ATI, but they still hold to the most radical and cultic beliefs promoted exclusively through Gothard and his allies in IBLP and ATI. Sometimes I see glimpses of the loving, fun people that my parents are, but the religious fundamentalism preached by ATI hijacked our relationship.

To put it simply, I was raised in a homeschooling cult (ATI) and my parents were/are emotionally manipulative and spiritually abusive. It has taken me a long time to be able to write that, and for the longest time I didn’t want it to be true.  But my time reading others’ stories and talking about our complicated parental relationships, patterns began to emerge. I hope that telling my story can help other troubled young adults to find ways to assert, defend, and express themselves with their parents.  As for me, I’ve given up waiting for the fun, loving version of my parents to take over the fundamentalist version.

Many people will call me embittered, angry, or any number of pejorative terms to delegitimize my story, but I am not telling my story in an attempt to lash out and hurt my parents. I am telling my story because I now know that my story is not unique. All across America, former homeschoolers are dealing with convoluted and dysfunctional relationships with their parents. Sometimes parents give up the rigid legalism of Gothardism as they age. But my parents did not.

All too often I see the scared little boy (me) that my parents created — cowering in fear of reprisal, instead of confidently asserting my thoughts and beliefs.

This may seem odd to the people that know me because I am far from meek in debates about politics and religion. I debated competitively for eight years, which makes me good at finely tuning my advocacy to avoid conflict.  Over the past few years, I’ve carefully avoided answering questions about my religion because I was too afraid of the reactions my immediate family would have.

It was easier to lie to them than to deal with being their “project.” 

So for all the people who wonder where I am coming from — and I know religion is prima facie to many Christians when weighing an argument’s or source’s validity — here is it all laid out.

I am a non-Christian Theist.

I believe that there is something in the universe that is omnipresent and supernatural — unexplainable by modern scientific knowledge — but it certainly is not some father-God-Lord-Universe-Creator. I believe the universe originated at the Big Bang, which may have been triggered by aforementioned supernatural being, and life evolved. I believe humans have consciousness that is equivalent to a soul.  I arrived at these beliefs through years of study, exegesis, and weighing of all sides. I don’t need evangelizing.

As far as the Old Testament of the Christian holy scriptures, I view them as a typical ancient history where a cultural group claims some supernatural justification for their conquest. I do not believe a loving God would order genocides, but I believe a group would commit genocide in the name of God and defend their actions with “God told us so.” I view Muslims, Christians, and Jews as essentially the same monotheistic religion, relying on ancient incorrect history to prop up a modern religion. That said, I believe the modern forms of these religions look nothing like they did in their original form. All religions evolve substantially over time, often changing core tenants or relying on arbitrary man-made decisions as Divine Truth (i.e. Council of Nicea, Papal Ex Cathedra, etc.).

When it comes to the New Testament, I believe that the historical Jesus was nothing like he was portrayed in the epistles and NT outside of the Gospels. Jesus was likely a real person, but the historical Jesus and verifiable source texts do not reflect the modern Biblical interpretation of Jesus’ divinity. That said, I believe Christianity, like Islam, Judaism, and many other religions, introduced many great moral codes to humanity.

When I traveled to Afghanistan to teach debate, I could not believe how similar the rural orthodox Muslims were to patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers.  (I’m sure some of you are incensed reading that, but remember I’m just being honest).  Women were treated as second-class citizens, many were forced into a form of “stay-at-home daughter,” and laws discriminated against them.  It was the exception for a young Afghan girl to attend as much school as her male peers, and certainly to attend a university.

Modesty is also rigidly enforced in both cultures, to an obsessive degree.  Only in Afghanistan and American homeschooling have I seen so many arbitrary rules regarding modesty only for women.  Granted, the level of modesty required of American homeschoolers does not reach the level of the burqa, but the philosophy and its outcome is relatively the same thing.

Just like many of the rural Orthodox Muslims, patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers want their version of Christianity enforced through the government.  Afghans also revere and respect their elders – a tradition that thrives in patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschooling.  Even as a married adult, my advocacy in America faces the “you’re just a rebellious bitter child” line all too often.

The similarities were haunting and during my month there I started writing what would become a catalyst for the stories that built HA.

My mind made so many connections and being in the repressive atmosphere brought back so many memories. Even teaching Afghans debate mirrored my experience teaching patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers.  At first, they could not grasp the idea of arguing both sides — since they had been raised to only believe in one side. But as the light bulbs went off they lit up and they were so excited by debate.  One thing that struck me was how religiously devout the Muslim students of the universities remained.  Although they were among a very small cohort of their peers who attended secular universities, they all left the debate tournament after lunch to pray.  The entire tournament halted because they needed time to pray.

Something like that would never happen at an NCFCA tournament!

My next essay will focus on the impact of ATI on my childhood and teenage years.  And the terminal third essay will explain how ATI’s toxic teachings continue to poison my relationship with my parents.

Part Two >

A Call for Stories for HA’s Upcoming Series on Gothardism and ATI

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

*****

It is time for Homeschoolers Anonymous to talk about Bill Gothard.

It is time to speak up about Gothard, the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and Gothard’s homeschooling cult, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). 

IBLP was founded in 1961 and it grew consistently over the next two decades as hundreds of thousands were exposed to Gothardism.  At first, the seminar was called Basic Youth Conflicts and Gothard focused on the causes of, and solutions to, teenage rebellion.  He expanded with the Institute of Basic Life Principles (often called the Basic Seminar), which covered more general life advice and expanded on themes of forgiveness, the wrath of God, and other ways to apply fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture to your life. Gothard told stories about wooden “African masks” screaming when families to burned them (to release the demons). Bill Gothard built a vast multi-million dollar ministry with many facilities and programs across the United States, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Some Terminology

IBLP is the parent organization, headquartered in Illinois on a vast campus.  IBLP has a plethora of different organizations within it. I will explain some of the terminology that you will see in this series.  IBLP refers to Bill Gothard’s seminar series — usually given in churches or in home for those who cannot access a conference.

Gothard founded a series of training centers, youth “retreats,” and international orphanages (in Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Ukraine – usually on property gifted to him by devoted followers, and thousands of young people in ATI spent months – sometimes years – volunteering or serving at these “ministries.”

ATI was Gothard’s homeschooling cult, founded in  1984, sold Wisdom Booklets as the primary curriculum.  Wisdom Booklets were a set of 54 booklets with sections on science, math, history, English, and course, ancient Greek.  ATI describes the Wisdom Booklets like this on their website:

In most educational systems today, the curriculum divides learning into academic subjects that are studied independently of one another. In some schools, the Bible is added as merely another subject to be studied. The ATI curriculum however, begins with Scripture and then combines valuable information with character training and life principles.

Each of the fifty-four Wisdom Booklets was based on a verse from Matthew chapters five through seven.  The Wisdom Booklets were divided into linguistics, history, science, law, and medicine sections, the subjects were not taught in any sort of order.  Rather, the subject or issue being covered was related back to the Bible verse. Jeri Lofland wrote a fantastic article about Gothard’s philosophy on education, available here.

Jim Logan, one of Gothard’s closest friends and ideological allies, told stories (at all sorts of IBLP events and programs) of exorcisms and demonic possessions, which bolstered Gothard’s message about spiritual warfare.  If you want to see the sort of thing he teaches, watch this sermon about the “Manifestations of Demons.”

One of the most troubling IBLP affiliations is Joel’s Army, which uses a disturbingly militaristic tone (there are two good investigative features here and here).

But not all of Gothard’s non-profits organizations are strictly focused on promoting Gothard’s brand of fundamentalism.  In fact, he has made a concerted effort to gain influence in secular circles domestically and internationally (especially in Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine).

The Character First! program, which I helped lead in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, taught character qualities to public school children gathered in an auditorium.  The sessions were never overtly religious.

Through the Character City program Gothard succeeded in bringing his message to a wider audience – municipal employees.   For more information you can check out this training manual for “How to Build a Character City.”

Jeri Lofland published another great article on the political reach and influence of Bill Gothard available here.  Mike Huckabee is one of the most prominent politicians adhering to Gothardism.

The Umbrella of Authority

Central to Gothardism is the “Umbrella of Authority,” which explains how God reveals his will and why people can be exposed to evil.

Gothard believed the nuclear family unit to be the central unit in proper Christian living and all divine inspiration flowed through the male head of household – typically the father.  All members of the household should subordinate themselves to the male head, or risk attack from Satan.  Because if you stray outside the Umbrella of Authority, God allows Satan to have his way with you.  If it was God’s will for you to, say go and be a missionary, your father would agree with you.  His disagreement would be a sign that it was not God’s will.  Gothard also preached that music with a “backbeat” was literally opening up young people’s minds to Satan and causing rebellion, which he justified with some creative racism.

Through the IBLP video seminar, the Advanced Seminar, the preaching of Bill Gothard and his disciples, hundreds of thousands were exposed to his teachings.  In the early-1980s, Parents who wished to apply Gothardism in a more radical manner to their lives could enroll in the Advanced Training Institute.  There was a yearly conference in Knoxville, which eventually spread to half a dozen satellite locations across the US, and all the youth were required to wear navy and white. Once a year the people of Knoxville would joke about the cult that descended on the University of Tennessee campus

My family joined ATI in the mid-1990s and we quickly became eager devotees to the teachings of Bill Gothard. My parents were first exposed to Gothard’s teachings at an IBLP seminar, which consisted of Bill Gothard covering all the things you needed to know to live happy and healthy.  Nuggets of wisdom like most mental health problems were caused by Satan building strongholds in your mind, that Rock and Roll music especially opened up young people to Satanic influence because the African-Americans brought their demon-worshipping beats from Africa, or that spiritual authority in a house flowed through the father, then to other members of the family.

To summarize Gothard’s view on music, when the Africans were brought to America as slaves, they brought with them their music. The African music was built around complex beats and rhythms, which Gothard claimed were used in their Satanic rituals.  The African-American slaves continued their tradition of “rhythmic demon worship,” but it slowly morphed into what we know as the blues. Gothard argued that early blues musicians literally “sold their soul to the devil” to expertly play the guitar. Gothard traced these Demon Beats through their development into Elvis’ rock and roll. He made it very clear that the Africans corrupted “white music” with their Demon Beats.

In my discussion with alumni of Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute and reading through stories of alumni, I have discovered a number of troubling patterns and trends in parent-child relationships. I believe that ATIs doctrines and ideology promote spiritual abuse and dysfunctional families.

HA’s Current Stories on Gothard and ATI

HA has featured some stories about ATI and the impact on families of involvement in Gothardism. Ralph discussed his experience with ALERT, the quasi-paramilitary force trained in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Big Sandy, TX.  One of our most shocking stories of physical and sexual abuse, Mary’s “Home is Where the Hurt Is,” occurred in a well-known ATI family.

Two of our anonymous posters, “Cain” and “Thomas” (friends during their time in ATI), wrote about some of their spiritual and emotional abuse as a members of ATI, which included book burnings.  Cain recalled an instance of when a specific rock and roll song stopped him from considering suicide, despite the depression and desperation imposed by ATI’s ideolgies. “Esperanza” wrote about how the forced veneer of being a “perfect ATI girl” led her to self-injury. “George,” raised in ATI, tells of his journey to homosexuality and freedom. “Susannah” wrote about her complex PTSD and how ATI’s toxic teachings on mental health impacted her life.

Jeri Lofland discussed the impacts on her life of ATI’s teachings on her life.   Adam O’Connor published two poems about ATI’s encouraged book burning and their miseducation through the Wisdom Booklets (“Bonfire Chorus,” and “homeskooled )q.e.d.)”    Lana Hope wrote about ATI’s arcane doctrines on sexuality and why she rejected them.

Submit Your Story!

You might think, “Wow! HA already has a lot of stories about ATI, why have more?”  Trust me — we have only scratched the surface. I have been blown away by the response to my initial discussion among our alumni community. People are excited to tell their ATI stories.  If you want to contribute, but don’t know what to write, simply read through these stories and let the memories come back to you.  Try to capture the memories, and your more mature perspective now, in writing. Not all of your memories may be negative, so feel free to submit positive stories.  We do not want to present a one-sided story, just the truth.

The deadline for submission is Sunday, December 8, 2013.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.