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Famous Fundies: Bill Gothard

In 1961, a fundamentalist named Bill Gothard founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles and later masterminded the Advanced Training Institute home study program. These programs have forever changed the lives of thousands of people. Some of them have since managed to piece back together some shreds of their sanity; many more have not.

Gothard is not only embraced by IFB types, he has more than his share of charismatic type followers as well, but there has been a significant part of fundyland that venerates him as a prophet — while some like David Cloud think he’s the devil. Such is the way of fundyland.

If you’ve ever been told that your children’s Cabbage Patch doll was causing them to suffer Satanic attack and mental illness (which may or may not really exist), you’ve probably met either Gothard or one of his followers. He also subscribes to many standard fundy themes such as rock music being able to damage your heart with its ‘unnatural rhythms.’

Having never been married or had children, Gothard is, of course, a self-proclaimed expert on both marriage and children — lots and lots of children. The Quiverfull movement finds strong support in Gothard circles with the celebrated Duggar family as its most visible followers. Bill’s teaching is that families should pop out as many children as physically possible without regard for health risks or economic improbability. However, it should be noted that according to Bachelor Bill sex itself should not be had during the wife’s menstrual cycle; seven days after the cycles; 40 days after the birth of a son; 80 days after the birth of a daughter; and the evening prior to worship1. Animal sacrifices after childbirth are evidently optional although one might imagine highly encouraged if coming in the form of fried chicken.

The key word to understanding Gothard is “Authority.” He has it. Your pastor has it. Your dad has it. You don’t. Sucks to be you. In the Gothard world Authority isn’t given in different spheres but is structured like military ranks. Therefore in an ideal home the dad will have the authority over his children (even if they’re 43), but the dad takes orders from the pastor who can by spirit-led fiat decide what’s best for you and yourn. It’s for your own good. No, really.

One can only imagine the years of deprogramming that it takes to free people from his teaching.

$3 bill picture found at midwestoutreach.org