Posts Tagged ‘Dear X-ATI Girl’

Where to draw the line

November 23, 2010

 

Dear X-ATI Girl,

I feel a little bit ridiculous even writing to you about this.  Here’s what’s going on.  In the past several years of my life, I’ve been transitioning to the “real world” or what people always told me was the “real world.”  I know that you know what I mean.  For your readers, I will elaborate.  I now wear pants, I live outside the home, I have a job, cut my hair, etc.  I need to discuss with you one of my issues with adjusting to this hedonistic lifestyle.

For most of our lives we listened to a short, unmarried, constantly-smiling man (whose remaining hairs were of a shade not found in nature – even before the fall) who still lived with his parents (well past age 60) and yet gave advice on subjects like marriage, children, vasectomies,  yeast infections, and how you could lose your virginity to a tampon (?!?) even though he {clearly} had no experience in any of these areas.  He dispensed pearls of wisdom on subjects that he was completely unqualified to speak on.  Gosh, I’m surprised that he didn’t start dispensing pills.  Oh wait…and then he started a medical school…  For purposes of this letter, I should not even broach that particular subject.

One of my chief complaints about Mr. Gothard was his writing 3,000 pages of his thoughts on three relatively short chapters of the new testament.  When I was a child, I secretly asked myself, “Why does this man take 3,000 pages to say what Jesus said in 111 short verses of scripture?”  Of course I never spoke this out loud because to even dare think it was clearly, clearly sheer blasphemy.  Now that I’m older and looking back…why the dickens did he write 54 “Wisdom Booklets” on what it took Christ only several minutes to say?

I digress.  Here is my present quandary: my very cool Bible study group has decided to study a book written by an author who met her husband at youth camp, was married young, has three children, and suddenly has figured out a way to help women achieve their full potential in Christ, if only they can truly understand and apply these 4 verses that she has helpfully expanded into a 241 page book.  I understand that I can learn something from everyone, but do I really need to spend 12 weeks searching for a needle of wisdom in this daunting haystack?

Here is my problem: if I have a dilemma with work, I do not ask advice from someone who has never held a job.  If I have a problem with my car, I don’t drive it to the hair salon.  Nor would I ask my mechanic to fill a cavity.  I also admit – freely now – that when I am ill, I do not consult an herbalist anymore (thank you, God).  I think we can all agree that these are fairly practical things.  So why if in my daily life I seek advice from professionals who are truly qualified to give me an educated opinion, why would I entrust my spiritual life to someone who has never dealt with the issues that I face on a daily basis.  I wouldn’t ask a woman who had less than 1/4th of the amount of children of my own mother, “how do you manage it all?” I would ask my mother.  And when it comes to singleville, why would I ask someone who has never come home to an empty apartment and had to cook dinner for one.

I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I am very wary of people dispensing advice that they are unqualified to give, and expanding scripture to meet their publisher’s quotas.  Where do I draw the line?  When they start a medical school?

 

Lovingly,

Bewildered in Birmingham

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What was it really?

July 27, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl,

Please advise.  Recently someone asked me the question: what is ATI?

It’s hard for me to ponder the question ‘what is ATI’ because I guess I really don’t know myself.  (Why, it’s the Advanced Training Institute.  Training in what?  Well I’m not sure actually…)

Whether it’s because I grew up so closely associated with this organization and way of life, or because the majority of my friends grew up in it as well thus rarely requiring me to explain it to another, but I always find it difficult to successfully place words in any order that could describe such a ‘way of life.’

After fumbling for words and getting them all mixed up for a few minutes, this individual asked the shocking question: is ATI a cult?



I gasped.  I stopped.  All the wind was knocked out of me.  What?  Was ATI a cult?  Was he serious?  Why yes, unfortunately he was.

I didn’t know how to respond.  I still don’t know how to respond.  Here is a loose narrative of my mixed up and jumbled response:

Well, ATI was started by Bill Gothard, a guy who worked with intercity youth and then his car broke down on the interstate one day and he ran leaping for joy because he was so happy.

Can I pause here and ask a question?  My family always had vehicles that broke down.  As in they broke down all the time – all the time with all of us 12 siblings and my expectant mother.  No one was leaping for joy in those moments, hours, eternities of being stuck on the side of the road.  I digress.

Mr. Gothard lived with his parents until his father died and then he just lived with his mother.  He began courting a nice widow when he was in his 50’s, but his mother told him that she didn’t feel it was God’s will for him to court this nice lady so he never saw her again.

Mr. Gothard still lives in his parent’s house – as far as I know – and has a cabin in the woods on some land that ATI owns.

Mr. Gothard started the Institute in Basic Life Principles in the 1970s.  It was a basic seminar, an advanced seminar, a men’s seminar, a bunch of seminars.  In the 1980s he started ATI – which was at that time ATIA.  This was his Homeschooling limb that wrote Wisdom Booklets, Character Sketches, journals of all types, etc.  (The Wisdom Booklet is my most prevailing and perhaps painful memory.  Oh, and the monthly newsletter they sent out – those were prevailing and painful as well.)

He built a Headquarters (proper noun) for the organization and most of my siblings went there for trainings and to work for free.  Kids went there when they did rebellious things like told their parents they didn’t want to read the Wisdom Booklets or that they couldn’t memorize the Sermon on the Mount.

He started an auctioneering school, a chalk talk school, a law school, and even the Medical Training Institute of America (MTIA).  The irony is that none of us went to school…

Later I got to thinking about some of the things that I learned while in the program:

  • How to conquer the addiction of rock music

  • How to sew and wear skirts that glorified the Lord
  • How to honor my parent’s authority

  • How formal schooling would kill me
  • How sugar was the drug that Satan could use to control us
  • How some people believe in head coverings and some don’t, but lets not fight about it

  • How if you have an impure thought at lunch, you should confess it just before a Knoxville session
  • How you should wear light makeup and your hair in flowing curls
  • How sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell (wait…wait, now I’m getting confused.  I think that was a song, not Gothard.)
  • That beards are bad, bad, bad

  • You should always use CharacterLink to protect yourself from the evil influences of the internet (did this make anyone else suspicious?)

  • The only approved college was Verity College
  • That I was to be a keeper at home

  • How ATI was “Giving the world a new approach to life!”
  • Try to stay away from the flaming darts of Lucifer, ie. get back under that umbrella
  • How to tear down the strong holds in your life ie. my desire to wear pants (gasp)
  • Letters we were supposed to write that started out like this: “Dear Dad, I love you.  I want to give you my heart.”
  • Something about rhemas
  • Al Smith approved music

Do you have similar experiences?

I’ve given this a lot of thought.  I’m going to go ahead and make this bold statement:

ATI was and is a cult.

Here’s just a part of my reasoning:

Dictionary: Cult n.

  1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
  2. The followers of such a religion or sect.
  3. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
  4. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
  5. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
    1. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
    2. The object of such devotion.
    3. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

Wasn’t that umbrella a little extreme and false?

Come on, those blue and white outfits were unconventional.

So was learning medicine from a Wisdom Booklet written by a man who lived with his parents.

Nonscientific guide to medicine – check.

Obsessive, faddish devotion to a person, principle, and thing

Being told to write a letter to your dad giving him your heart.

I’m stopping here with my argument because this letter is long.  Please advise.  What in the world am I going to do with the bomb-shell realization that…that…I was raised in a cult?

I thank you in advance for your time,

Cliqued out in Clairmont


Who Knew It Could Be So Easy?

March 12, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl,

I never knew that diseases could be healed through a step-by-step guide that leads us to recognizing the lies in our lives.  If only doctors knew just how easy it is to truly cure a person!  Please consider buying this book in bulk; see the quantity pricing below.

When decisions are made, whether good or bad, there are always consequences. When a person makes an unwise choice, it can often be traced back to a fear, such as the fear of rejection, or a fear of failure. These fears are rooted in lies. Because of these lies, we experience painful memories caused by individuals or circumstances. Unresolved painful memories lead to stress and disease.

This study guide will help you identify and denounce the lies you may believe: “I’m ugly,” “I’m a failure,” etc. Follow the step-by-step instructions to overcome your fears and transform painful memories. Discover the liberty to forgive your offender and anticipate the freedom that comes from a transformed spirit, soul, and body!

Quantity Pricing:
1–4 copies: $9.00 each
5–9 copies: $7.00 each
10 or more copies: $6.00 each

By Bill Gothard, PH.D.
Paperback; 33 pages

Blessings!

Stepping in Stanton

Why Men Leave Women

March 11, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl,

Thank you for reading my letter.  

I am writing you to ask your opinion on the real reason that men leave women.  I am pondering carefully why men leave young ladies after my seven month courtship ended three weeks ago.  I have done a little research on the library computer, and this is what I have found:

1. Men have a fear of commitment and when they feel the gates of matrimony are closing in, they bolt.

2. Men begin to feel stifled when women focus on them too much.

3. Men feel that the women become the dominate person in the relationship. 

I am not supposed to use the library computer because it does not have any protection for my heart or my eyes, but every Wednesday when I take my younger siblings on our weekly outing I use the library computer to explore subjects such as the one mentioned above. 

At home we only use Character Link when going online.  When I type in “why men leave women” on CharacterQuest, this is the one-line answer the search produces: 

“The number one reason that marriages fail can be directly attributed to women deciding to go to college.” 

Is this true?  My grandmother always told me that men don’t like stupid women.  I was allowed to opt out of all school subjects beyond the 8th grade because my dear mother assures me that every woman should stay dependent on her husband so that she is not tempted to leave her home.  The Internet tells me that men feel stifled when women are too devoted, but Character Link tells me that men leave women because they go to college.  Please help me sort this out before I make any more life decisions.

Very sincerely yours,

Quest for Success in Syracuse

P.S.

Could you also give me your comments/opinions on this book?

What is the language of love?

February 17, 2010

This is a joint letter that we received this week.  Please bear with the writers as they try to sort through what they are trying to say.

Dear X-ATI Girl, 

I have to admit that I am a little confused about your blog.  I was never in ATI so I cannot claim to be an X-ATI guy or claim any real knowledge of the Advanced Training Institute.  While I am a Christian, and I was homeschooled, I do not understand the realm of ATI’s impact on lives. 

I am now trying to develop a friendship with an X-ATI girl such as yourself, and your blog has shed some light on some of the struggles that she is facing.  Since reading some of the letters that people have written to you, I have begun to put some of her comments into context and my heart breaks to comfort her broken heart.  

I do not really know where to begin our story.  Our “relationship” (or lack thereof) is like a roller coaster ride where she’s on the first hill, and I’m still standing somewhere in line.  Every 3 days she has a need to question the sincerity of my efforts and whether I do really like her.  X-ATI girl, I do.  Please tell me how I can get her to understand this.  

She begins to speak about a rain shower, an umbrella, the 10 unchangeables, and my being a spiritual leader, and I get lost in her language while I try desperately to understand what she means.    I do not understand courtship.  I do not understand her parent’s authority in her life (she is 28).  I do not understand the guilt that she faces daily.  All that I see when I look at her is this wonderful, independent, strong, Christian girl whose wholesome morals and positive outlook on life have changed mine for the better. 

X-ATI Girl, please tell me how I can get this message across to her: I am in love with this woman.  I need her to trust that I love her more than anything in life.  I do not care what her past was, I do not care what her present is, it doesn’t matter to me who her parents are or how many siblings she has.  I love her and I just want her to let me love her. 

Sincerely, 

Hopeful in Halifax

Dear X-ATI Girl, 

I do not know how to explain to the non-X-ATI guy where I am coming from.  Of course he must be trying to deceive me; I have never had anyone “love” me like this before now.  I doubt his sincerity daily because his actions are so out of the ordinary for me.  He sends me flowers on a regular basis.  He buys my dinner every time we spend time together.  He cooks for me (and cleans without making any “that’s a girl’s job” jokes).  He calls me just to check in and see if I’m okay.  He always comments on my being able to do anything in life that I want to do even when it is a career that I have always believed to be un-lady-like.  He tells me all of the time that he feels so lucky to have met me.  (Isn’t the fact that he’s even using the word “luck” a bad sign?) 

The only relationship I have had previously was when I was 15 and a man approached my father about the possibility of courting me.  This man had been previously married, his wife had left in a terrible act of defiance, and he desperately needed my help to raise his 5 children…oh yeah, and he felt it was God’s will that he court me, too.  After 5 hours of careful consideration, my parents granted him permission to court me, and we began sitting together in church.  From the onset of our relationship, he did everything that I had grown to expect in a man.  When one of the children got upset in church, I took them out.  He never changed a diaper while he was in my presence.  He never cooked a meal (that was a girl’s job after all).  He began to believe that it was not God’s will that I be allowed to drive, and after sharing this conviction with my father, my car was quickly sold to the highest ATI bidder.  This man was 18 years my senior and eager to share his thoughts on my life actions, making sure that I did not make the same mistakes that he did in his youth.  It was during this time that most outside influences were removed from my life.  

We courted for 3 years before he told me one day that God had clearly shown him that he should not marry me and our courtship should end.  I felt used and abused by both him and my parents.  How could this have ever been God’s will?  Who was faking it?  Who was lying?  Who just didn’t care what happened to me?  While I was relieved that I did not have to marry him, my emotional attachment to his children and his life ran deep.  The separation felt like the tearing apart of a cloth that had been woven together.  My parents felt as if the end had been my fault – if only I had been able to be more submissive, maybe he would have married me. 

 One of the things that I find most confusing about the non-ATI-guy is that he just doesn’t care what my past was.  In fact, he tells me often that he can’t imagine my being with anyone else, and that my talking about past relationships is hard for him to listen to.  While he will and does listen to me, he asks me that I not tell him details because it pains him too much.  Does he not care that I am now a broken woman?  Doesn’t he need to know what he’s getting into?  I feel like I am betraying him.

I have now moved out of my parent’s home and have my own small apartment in my hometown.  The thought of giving up my freedom scares me terribly.  I know that the non-X-ATI guy tells me that he is sincere, but how can I believe this?  How can I trust that he too is not just using me?  Granted he has no children, he does have a job, and he is only two years from my own age, but I still have nightmares about letting my heart go to him.  

Have you experienced any of this?  Can you help me?

Praying for God’s blessings and freedom,

Hurting in Halifax

Tug-Of-War

January 20, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl –

I know in comparison to many others out there, my problem is small.

Over the past few years, my parents have mellowed. I have been allowed to work outside the home, wear pants, live in an apartment, and most recently my parents graciously gave me permission to acquire a boyfriend.

Here is my problem: My mother and I are in a constant tug-of-war over my clothing. Literally. TUG-OF-WAR.

Imagine this: my boyfriend and I are at my parents for dinner. I am wearing a perfectly modest tank-sweater-jeans combination. Even as my mother is greeting him, she is forcibly pulling on the bottom and top of my shirt. Yank down that tank, yank up that sweater neckline. Even as I mutter “MOM STOP!!!!”, she stage whispers at me “not to let my bottom hang out” or “you had better not ever lean over”. It’s beyond embarrassing. I can’t be comfortable, and my boyfriend just looks on in horror and confusion as my mother attempts to power-staple my shirt to my chest with her eyes.

And it doesn’t stop there. She does it at the grocery store, at church, and in front of my boss. I swear if I ever get married we’ll have to edit the wedding tapes to splice out the part where my mother climbs on-stage and tries to forcibly pull-up my wedding dress.

I dress modestly! I don’t wear pants that look painted on, shop at Wet Seal or attempt to let people know what color my bra is. It really doesn’t even matter what I have on. She will find a place to tug on it.

I really think that my only option is to start wearing spandex bodysuits that are so tight she can’t get a grip on them anywhere.

Please, just tell me I’m not the only one having to live with this.

Yours Truly,

Frustrated in Fairfax

The List

January 11, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl, 

I started writing The List when I was around six years old.  It has now grown to 240 items representing the man that I (and my mother and father) believe will be only God’s best for me.  My mother has told me that I should settle for no less than everything on the list.  If “broccoli lover” is present, broccoli lover God will provide.  After all, there really should be no exceptions to the list if you remain in God’s constant will and under your father’s guidance and protection. 

 I have met a few nice men in the past year during which my family was attending a home church hosted by a fellow Gothard disciple.  All of these men come from ATI families.  I met one very nice young man 11 months ago who constantly shows humility before God and our church by confessing his sins before the congregation.   I am moved by his obedience to the Lord and his parents.  I rush home from church every Sunday afternoon, excitedly pull The List from my hope chest, and begin to examine whether this could the man that God has sent to ask my father for courtship.  

  1. Male – yes! CHECK!
  2. Humble – yes! Check again!
  3. Compassionate – oh yes
  4. Strong – we’re on a roll
  5. Under his parent’s authority – definitely
  6. Building a barn – wow, I’ve never gotten this far before
  7. Pure –there is no way that this man could be anything but pure
  8. Respectful to his mother – he was holding her hand when they walked in!
  9. Wants kids – already overheard his dreams of raising mighty sons
  10. Respects me – of course!  He hasn’t even looked at me yet!
  11. Respects my father – he didn’t even shake his hand he is so scared of him
  12. Goes to church – faithfully 

And so down the list my pen has flown, checking off each ever-so-important item, and getting more and more confident that God has given me the willingness to be his wife.  The young man did ask my father for permission to court me!  My father prayed about this matter for 4 months before telling me (and the young man) that while the answer is not a decided ‘no,’ it is a definite ‘not at this time.’  This is item 57 on my list – I know that God will send me a young man who my father will immediately love and I should not accept a waiting period. 

I knew I should have used a pencil this time when marking off my list, but it just seemed so very sure.  X-ATI Girl, have you had a similar experience?  An older woman in our church suggested that I stop my list at 200 items, what are your thoughts on that?  Would that be settling for something that is less than God’s will? 

May you find a rhema this very day,

Waiting in Wisconsin

Dear X-ATI Girl, Where Did I Stray?

January 8, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl,

Please advise.

The life of blissful marriage and non-stop childbearing is the one that good, obedient ATIers live. 

Although things were supposed to supernaturally fall into place for me around the age of 14 {when a fellow would come along and ask my father for permission to court me}, the days of grinding wheat and teaching children to read are nowhere nearer for me now than they were when I was a teen.

Faith {and Wisdom Booklet #23} told me that by now I would more than likely have approximately 5.2 children with that number rising rapidly with each passing month. 

Around 5:00 am each morning, I should be able to expect my “quiver full” of “dear sons and dear daughters” (DSs and DDs) to cheerfully and enthusiastically rise to meet the sun which would appear over the crest of the furthest hill of our family farm.  They would gleefully run to the barn {through any and all weather}, which my husband had built bare handedly, and milk the goats which were, of course, the price of the field.  The lambs would not be milked, however, but would be sheared by my DSs and their wool would be spun into yarn by my DDs who would then knit them into our clothing. 

I somehow feel guilty for not achieving this life {wait, is achieving the correct word?}.  I thought that some fellow would have already proposed matrimony and swept me off to live in the barn on his parent’s property which he had begun building in his early teens, even then preparing for his chosen bride. 

What happened? 

There’s no barn around here anywhere. 

Do you think it could be because I’m not debt free?

– Barnless in Beulah