The Unfundamental Conversion

Bill Gothard Told Me Not to Go to College

January 4th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Homeschool | Patriarchy
Please Don't Go

By now, a lot of people around America, secular and non-secular, have heard about the darker side of homeschooling, the Christian Patriarchy Movement. These have come from websites where the homeschool generation speaks out, such as Recovering Grace, Quivering Daughters, and NoLongerQuivering as well as personal blogs of many homeschool alumni.

Yet the homeschool leaders and many parents still under the Patriarchy spell would insist that either 1)  that we, the homeschool alumni, are crazy, and nothing ever happened 2) something did happen, but it was the result of a few parents taking these teachings to the extreme 3) we are just whining and making it out to be worse than it was.

The truth is a lot happened. And a lot of bad happened just by following the homeschool leaders Bill Gothard, Michael Pearl, and Doug Philips’s rules to a godly marriage, godly parenting, godly courtship step-by-step. (Some people may have taken it a step further than Gothard said, but that’s incidental to the fact that the 999 previous steps directed by the leaders were insane.) And truth is, we aren’t exaggerating.

So to give a sample of what I mean, here is a photo of Gothard’s Newsletter instructing ATI (then ATIA Advance Training Institute of America) students not to go to college.  (I was a toddler back then. My family joined when I was in 2nd grade.)


Epic homeschool Patriarchy in this. Gothard’s ideas in black.

1. Don’t go to college. Also, we need to teach our kids how to have an answer for “why we aren’t going to college.”

2.  If you get strange looks, remember, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. Try telling that to my friend who played the piano good enough to get into Julliard, but whose parents wouldn’t let her leave home. Everyone said she should go to Julliard, but she had it drilled into her that it didn’t matter what everyone else in society thought.

3. Purpose of your lives is to strengthen the family. What if someone doesn’t want to get married and is instead an international news reporter? What about a non-traditional family with no dad? What if someone’s job in life is to hold babies in Africa as they die of AIDS? (I do not disagree that building the family is important, only disagre that its more important than many other important things.)

4. Rome fell because it wasn’t a family unit, or godly. This is another example, like evolution, of where the homeschool curriculum just decided to reinvent reality. I quote Libby Anne.

I grew up hearing America’s “decline” compared to the decline of the Roman empire. The argument went that declining birth rates, the rise of homosexuality, and increasing luxury and decadence were present in the Roman Empire and brought about its collapse, and that our nation today is at risk of collapse due to these same forces (I should note that historians no longer accept this interpretation for the Roman Empire’s collapse). Religion, though, was something that was rarely mentioned when making this sort of comparison.

The greatest Roman persecutions of Christians occurred during times of great instability and threats from outside the borders. The leaders argued that these terrible things were happening because the country had turned from its foundation – its faith in its national gods. They therefore responded to the calamities by ordering everyone in the Roman Empire to sacrifice to the national gods in hope that they would return their favor to the empire and restore peace. When the Christians refused to sacrifice to the national gods, they were persecuted.


I think the reason I never heard religion mentioned when comparing the decline of the Roman Empire and the (supposed) decline of the United States is that it erodes the particularity of Christianity. Whenever a nation faces challenges or violence, it’s a natural tendency for those of the majority religion, or the historically dominant religion, to blame these problems on the religious minority, or on religious change.

In other words, today we blame the economic decline and violence in America on people not believing in our God. The Roman empire blamed their problems on Christians not believing in their god. Suspicious, huh?

Homeschool parents following Bill Gothard and others simply followed the rules when everything went wrong. The rules said don’t go send your kids to college, don’t let your kids date, dads approve who your kids marry, don’t let rock music in the house, and many others. When suddenly, a kid wanted to go to college,  a duaghter wanted to marry a guy dad didn’t like, a son listened to rock music, etc, the result was family dynamics. Don’t look at me. Look at articles like this.

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  • Lana – The Patriarchy Movement within Christianity is so troubling. The truth is, for people who look to Scripture for guidance and as the ultimate authority in their lives, there is no doubt about it, God teaches that men should be the leaders in their homes and a wife should submit to her husband’s authority and children should submit to their parents’ authority.

    What has happened is that one thing has led to another, and movements like Vision Forum (Doug Phillips) and No Greater Joy (Michael and Debbie Pearl), ATI (Bill Gothard, etc.) have taken the word and the meaning behind the word “patriarchy” added to it, and then substituted it for the Biblical instruction for woment to,

    “Be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1Peter 3:1-2)


    “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives outght to be to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:1-24.

    And for those women who say, “But what about Ephesians 5:25, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” and Ephesians 5:28, ‘So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies,” those women are faithfully and stoicly referred back to 1Peter 3:1-2.

    What does Vision Forum, No Greater Joy (the Pearls) and ATI look like in practice? This is what I have seen: A wife is merely the babysitter being delegated the role of authority in the absence of the father. If a diaper needs changing, a meal needs cooking, a bath needs to be given, a child needs to be educated or supervised, the burden is on her; yet Daddy-O claims the rights to make all decisions he cares to make concerning the children and the wife, be it dress, doctrine, music, diet, discipline, how money is spent, etc. (Some men are more interested in making these decisions than others.) Can you say control?

    Patriarchy is defined as “(rule by fathers) is a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage. The female equivalent is matriarchy.” – Quoted from

    Patriarchy in the absence of marital partnership and self-sacrifical servant leadership does not equal the Biblical mandate for wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives. Patriarchy seems to be the model shown in the Old Testament but not in the New; and it is contrary to the teachings of Christ and other New Testament teaching as far as servant leadership, the inclusion of female church leaders, and the equality set out in Galatians 3:24-28, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    With equality comes responsibility. I was chastized recently for questioning doctrine that was being shared with my husband. The person’s spouse instructed me that as a Christian woman I am to accept doctrine from my husband, “period,” as she put it. My response to her was that someday I will have to stand before God and account for what I have chosen to believe, and I don’t think God is going to accept the excuse that I believed something and taught it to my children simply because my husband told me to. Kinda reminds me of Adam in the garden, “But SHE told me to.” Didn’t work for Adam, it ain’t gonna work for me.

    True, it can be devastating to a family when mom and dad don’t believe the same doctrine, but not nearly as devastating as it can be for children to be brought up with foundational errors in their understanding of God. (By foundational, I mean things like denying the deity of Christ or relinquishing responsibility to “make a decision about Christ” by believing that if you are a Christian, God will let you know of that fact.

    Here’s the deal: Any, and I mean ANY religion that teaches that as an adult our unquestioning devotion, obedience and service belongs to anyone before Jesus Christ, is in opposition to Christ’s teachings. Being a Christian means our lives revolve around the Son (Jesus), not our husbands or our fathers like much of the Vision Forum, No Greater Joy and ATI literature seems to teach. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit I am a No Greater Joy fan; they’ve got a lot of good writing in the midst of some bad. “Created to be His Helpmeet” is a disaster in the making, in my humble opinion.

    We are to care about our relationships with our spouses and what pleases them, but we are not to substitute a spouse for Christ on the throne of our lives. And women are not supposed to do it to a higher degree than men are.

    In a Christian marriage, Christ leads us to devote ourselves to, obey and serve our husbands and our children, not the other way around, and not to the extent that we abandon our own working relationship with the Lord or the truths that we know about Him.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a theologian, and I don’t claim to be. I reserve the right to change my mind about any of this at the Lord’s leading. There are certainly some Scriptures I didn’t bring up here that would bust some of these arguments wide open. Many of them would support my stances, some could be used to argue against them. I didn’t leave them out because I don’t want to talk about them; I left them out because you can only talk about so much at a time when your life is as hectic as mine.

    Until today, I didn’t mind asserting our family’s adherence to patriarchy, distinguishing our family from the controversy by labeling “them” as hyper-patriarchy. But as my stomach turned while I read over the Wikipedia definition of Patriarchy and then Noah Webster’s, I realized, No, I don’t support patriarchy.

    Thanks for opening this up for discussion. I am tempted to copy my response and blog it – maybe next week.

    • good idea on reblogging the comment. 🙂 Enjoyed your thoughts.

      I agree that Christian Patriarchy crosses the line into a woman being a doormat. Debi Pearl pretty much encourages it. That said, I am not complementarian, haven’t been for a long time. I don’t see the passages about women as timeless.

      As to doctrine and disagreeing with a spouse, totally agree with you. You know what, my husband/your husband/whoevers husband can think differently about Calvinism, speaking in tongues, etc, etc, and still be a Christian and love Jesus as Lord. We aren’t cookie cutters, and truth is, we are all on this journey together. I have different beliefs today than I did five years ago. Likely I will think different things five from now. That’s life. One thing I appreciated about my dad was that in my last couple years of high school, he decided it was more important that I learn to think for myself than I agree with him. That’s when I became a Calvinists (I am not one anymore) among other things.

      Keep up the thinking!

    • Fern

      Alternate interpretations of verses on female submission suggest that they are advice for women dealing with an unjust culture, which is actually really comforting to me. When I feel forced by someone with power to submit to something that they want to do to me (e.g., unneeded medical procedures no matter how small), I start to panic due to my past. Knowing the injustice of one human controlling another was acknowledged rather than accepted in the Bible is healing.

      I used to think those verses were clear, and that my rebelliousness couldn’t accept them. I understood all the nuances of a “loving husband considering his wife” and “Someone in the marriage has to have the 51% vote to break ties,” etc. I could repeat many more of the explanations for why it’s right for women to submit. It always bothered me that there was a female judge in Israel. How could that possibly support women submitting? Understanding that the verses on submission are advice for dealing with a sinful culture makes everything align for me.

      • I’d love to jump on that wagon, but I don’t see scriptural support for it. What I do see is that within God’s plan for marriage a man’s love for his wife is expected to be selfless, sacrificial and with a servant’s heart; in that context a wife’s submission would be easy bit most of all it would be spiritually, emotionally and physically safe. Unfortunately, ESPECIALLY in the patriarchal circles, I have not seen it work like that. The Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands even if the husband is not a believer, that they might be won over. I would think more so for a woman who is married to a believer.

        • Right, that’s why I held onto complementarianism for so long. I just couldn’t see the scripture support for it. But I think there’s a lot less clear than most people realize. For example, we know women prophesied in the church. We know of women disciples. We know a female judge. We know Jesus told the Samaritan woman to go and be an evangelist. And then on the contrary, we have very few scripture verses where women are told to submit. The word submit is not in Ephesians 5 Greek text. The verse actually says, “women be to your husbands as to the Lord.” The Greek text used to make the KJV has the word, but the other older transcripts do not. In contact, the verse all tells everyone to submit to each other. The context in Peter is very similar.

          That leaves us with two more verses. First 2 Timothy, which was probably forgred in Paul’s name for several reasons (first, in Paul’s day they didn’t have a structured church like we see in Timothy. Read Corinthians. Second, the Greek vocabulary is very advanced and different. The world “authority” in Timothy in the verse that says, “I do not permit women to have authority over men,” is not the Greek word Exosia used throughout Paul and Jesus’ gospels. The word used in that verse is only used one time in the NT, in that verse. In Aristotle’s works it referred to a sexual dominance in one place. So many people feel perhaps this letter was written as a response to the newly converted prostitutes.) The second verse where submission is used is in Colossians. This is another book some scholars debate whether Paul wrote because Col in chapter 3 says we are seated in the heavily places with Christ and that we have already experienced the Resurrection. In Paul’s other letters, he is clear that the Resurrection of the believers has not yet taken place. However, for arguments sake I will assume that verse in Colossians was inspired and that the Biblical authors don’t contradict themselves. Still, there is only about two or three verses in the Bible suggesting submission, and in context, they could mean a number of things. The Bible also mentions that we should submit to one another several times. Also, Paul still lived in the Greek culture and had to live with social rules. I don’t think God wants us to read the Bible without the culture. Anyway, as always, I enjoy your thoughts, Alyson.

          • But yikes. To replace “submission” with the phrase “as to the Lord” doesn’t lessen the burden on the woman to submit and be subservient, it would increase it, don’t you think?

            And when you say “for arguement’s sake, you’ll assume that verse in Colossians was inspired,” are you insinuating that you don’t believe the Bible in its entirety is the very word of God?


          • No, I’m not saying its not the word of God. I am saying that the authors of the Bible have different ideas about doctrine just as denominations today have different ideas. This does not mean we can’t learn from the books, I do, but the authors have different ideas about doctrine or church leadership. In Titus we see a hierarchy like we do today. In Paul we see people who were eating and drinking in the house, and Paul doesn’t address the church leaders in Corinthians because there clearly wasn’t a hierarchy today like we have with pastors/elders/deacons.I use to read the Bible as if I could take a all of it and live by all of it, but in reality, I can’t do that because the authors themselves have different ideas. That’s what I’m saying.

            To put it another way, at the Counsel of Nicea, it was determined that a Christian was someone who believed in the Orthodox teachings. that is that Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered, died, rose again, and is both God and man. They did not say that a Christian was one who believed in the Bible. The cannon was not closed for another half a century. Again, this is not to say the Bible isn’t God’s word. This is to say that a Christian is one who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ, not one who has placed their faith in the Bible.

          • Ah, interesting point. I’m so glad to be in today where we have Scripture to measure man’s teachings up to.

            Blessings …

  • I like the thing you wrote about what people still under the christian patriarchy spell say. It’s so true and totally maddening for those of us who lived it. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about these “bystanders” who make excuses or do nothing and how they are perpetuating harm. Also, in your mention of issues and major players in the movement, I agree with you but noticed Michael Farris wasn’t on the list. I think he’s still one of the biggest ones, particularly due to his founding of HSLDA, his political work, his advocacy of parental rights to the detriment of children’s rights, and the successful weakening of protections and sensible oversight of homeschooling he started the year I was born.

    • Your right. I forget about him since I never studied his work. But my parents and everyone else were certain influenced by him.

  • Another erudite and informed post…THANKS for writing what you know!

  • Sue

    Hi, I am from Australia. We dont have anything like this in Australia as far as I know – at least on such a scale. Although we do have a growing number of back to the past “father knows best” conservative Christians
    Please find some references which are not directly related to what you write about and describe, but have a deep historical and cultural resonance with the kind of toxic patriarchy that you describe.
    Plus Google Between Jesus & the Market Place – The Emotions That Matter In Right Wing America by Linda Kintz. The Reading Rhetoric review is excellent.

    • Sue, thanks a lot for the links. Per the link Waking Up, I cannot disagree that schooling hasn’t harmed America and other countries (good example in one of the links about t-land. Been there). Schooling and education are not the same thing. But the thing is, some homeschoolers, I’d argue most, are not educated but rather schooled. I often tell parents, “don’t bring school home.” Education requires a mindset for education just as inquiring a lot of money requires a rich mindset (not saying everyone with a rich mindset has money, but unless you get an inheritance or win the lottery, a poor mindset will probably never make you rich). I’ll save the links. Thanks.

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  • You know, one thing that really bothers me about the Patriarchy/Full Quiver rebellion is that the rebellers have now created a culture that rejects a whole subsection (in varying degrees) of Christianity which is EXACTLY what their parents did and what they are rebelling against. I think the protest is a good one, but when phrases like “so-called Christians” and “Patriarchy spell” etc. start spilling out, it’s hard to tell the heart difference between the children and the parents. It’s SOOO human nature, but I’m just seeing the same song second verse when it comes to self-righteousness, judgment, hypocracy, etc. in some of the backlash. We’ve got the Patriarchy movement in love with that phrase “so-called Christians, he claims to be a Christian, etc.”, their children grow up and resent all the put downs they heard growing up along those lines, and now those same phrases are being recycled by the grown children but directed back at the Patriarchy people. Where does it stop?

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