Saturday, 2/8/14

    1. Willie Sutton Gothard
    2. Olympic coverage Day 1
    3. Giving Theological Cover to the enemy
    4. Superstition
    5. Falling into the ring of fire


I’m almost at a loss for what to say, but feel obliged to say something from a long-ago personal connection to this story.

Before he became a homeschooling guru, Bill Gothard was given almost complete freedom with 250 guinea pigs at an Evangelical Boarding school in the Chicago area for, as I recall, at least a semester. I think he was given the Chapel pulpit at least weekly.

From the perspective of a lifelong serious Christian and now father and grandfather, reminded of him by growing criticism and concern, I’m shocked that the school’s administration (and Board?) abdicated so much control to a weird little bachelor who really was just trying out stuff on kids entrusted to them. He must have some very special ability, then as now, to spin a convincing yarn about how all his weird ideas are really just The Biblical Way, rigorously realized. Or how unprecedented the threat, for which he had the only solution.

I was a senior at that school, who listened to him with about as much attention as an earnest Evangelical 18-year-old could muster for anything other than girls and music. I tried some of his techniques (e.g., praying myself to sleep rather than … well, see the prior sentence – tried it a few times at least). It’s tempting to insert more smart-aleck remarks here, but it has been 46+ years, and my memory of details is weak.

I’m pleased to report, though, no apparent harm, short- or long-term. Then again, I’ve never seen the guy (except in photos) since 1967.

Young women – and I mean young women – who have been entrusted to his tutelage by their Gothard Groupie parents have not always fared as well as I. Take Charlotte, for example. The behavior she describes strikes me as oddly plausible precisely because it’s the behavior not of a rank hypocrite, but of a sexual fetishist, the kind of man who would remain unmarried into what must be his mid- to late-seventies, yet “minister” to kids with a claim of special expertise because of that PhD after his name.

Make no mistake: like her preacher father, who she cruelly seduced when she was sevenGothard sexually violated this woman who was young enough to be his granddaughter. He did her real harm even if he never put tab A in slot B.

Willie Sutton famously said (or didn’t) that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” Willie Sutton Gothard ministers to youth why? Because that’s where the cute girls are to play footsie with?

If he gave a damn about kids, he’d discreetly confess, retire, liquidate ATI’s assets to assist victims [UPDATE: I cannot justify that if pressed; I don’t know how much ATI is more than his personal fiefdom], and spend the rest of his life in some intentional community where there are no adolescents to tempt him abuse because of his perversion (however he, in turn, acquired it).

I feel sleazy dwelling on it. But although Gothard’s 46 years behind in my personal rearview mirror, I feel as if I dodged a bullet. My Evangelical alma mater inadvertently set up me and 249 others to be early recruits to the seminal Gothard cult (then called “Institute on Basic Youth Conflicts”) – and from what I read, I use the term “cult” advisedly.

Billy Graham’s grandson argu[es] that the Protestant abuse problem is probably much worse, because of structural reasons. Here is what Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse, said:

“While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, ‘I think we are worse,’ he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, saying too many evangelicals had ‘sacrificed the souls’ of young victims…

‘The Protestant culture is defined by independence,’ Tchividjian said. Evangelicals often frown upon transparency and accountability, he said, as many Protestants rely on Scripture more than religious leaders, compared to Catholics.

Abusers discourage whistle-blowing by condemning gossip to try to keep people from reporting abuse, he said. Victims are also told to protect the reputation of Jesus.”

In other words, the “natural” Catholic trust of institutions and hierarchies, as much as they might whine about them, means that there is an accountability structure that ensures the buck will stop somewhere.

(From Cosmos the In Lost)

I’m so glad to have found a tradition with roots deeper than some weird little bachelor pervert’s alluring Biblicist novelties and charisma. How timely is this:

Today, counterfeit christs abound. These charlatans approach us in many guises, appearing as friends, wise teachers, renowned authorities with impeccable credentials. Many carry a “Christian” conviction in their messages, “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Ti 3:13). So how may we take heed and not lose the true Christ?  The answer is that we find strength, as the Holy Spirit provides, through the Church. In Her liturgy, Scriptures, sacred icons, and the prayers of Her saints, we find tested modes and methods of life.

(Dynamis devotional for 2/7/14)

But Orthodoxy is not a “solution” for sexual predation. “Solutions” are for problems. Sexual predation has the marks not of a problem, but of an evil. And as I’ve alluded to before, promises to cure evil are delusional.


Mirabile dictu! The New York Times had several Olympics stories on its digital front page when I visited Friday, and none of them was focused the sexuality of the competitors!

Amid the furore, it’s easy to overlook some simple facts. Homosexuality in Russia – unlike more than 40 countries in the Commonwealth and 70 worldwide – is not illegal. To date, over six months since the law came into force, fewer than a dozen people have been fined for “gay propaganda”. Not a single person has been jailed. Russian police do not have powers to detain people they suspect of simply being gay or lesbian, as a New York Times leader erroneously stated last year. If this were so, then how do we explain the fact that gay clubs are able to advertise and operate in Moscow and other big cities?

(Russia’s anti-gay law is wrong – but so is some of the criticism from the west)


As if taking a clue from Patrick Deneen (i.e., wanting to corroborate that the press is clueless about what’s going on of real and lasting meaning within the Roman Catholic Church), the Wall Street Journal fervently hopes that liberal Pope Francis won’t appoint another liberal like Cardinal Bernardin to Chicago when Cardinal George finally takes his overdue retirement. Why? Because Bernardin inspired Obama:

When Notre Dame University bestowed an honorary degree on President Barack Obama in May 2009, the veteran community organizer told graduates that the “saintly” Cardinal Bernardin inspired him to become an activist.
As Phyllis Schlafly and George Neumayr noted in “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom” (2012), much of Mr. Obama’s education in public policy came in the rectories of Chicago’s South Side churches and, in part, on Cardinal Bernardin’s dime. The archdiocese in 1986 paid for Mr. Obama to attend a community-organizing training session with a Saul Alinsky-founded group in Los Angeles.
Cardinal Bernardin, who led the archdiocese from 1982 until his death in 1996, espoused a liberal line that has helped give pro-abortion Catholic supporters of the Obama administration theological cover. Mr. Obama told reporters in July 2009 that “his encounters with the cardinal continue to influence him, particularly his ‘seamless garment’ approach to a multitude of social justice issues.

Well, one certainly would not want a rounded social ethics if it would ever give nominal Catholics “theological cover” to vote for someone like Obama against hawkish cranks like McCain or elitist lackeys like Romney, now, would one?


Poking around for related material for the first item, I came across this gem from G.K. Chesterton (H/T Cosmos the In Lost):

If it be profane that the miraculous should descend to the plane of matter, then certainly Catholicism is profane; and Protestantism is profane; and Christianity is profane. Of all human creeds or concepts, in that sense, Christianity is the most utterly profane. But why a man should accept a Creator who was a carpenter, and then worry about holy water, why he should accept a local Protestant tradition that God was born in some particular place mentioned in the Bible, merely because the Bible had been left lying about in England, and then say it is incredible that a blessing should linger on the bones of a saint: why he should accept the first and most stupendous part of the story of Heaven on Earth, and then furiously deny a few small but obvious deductions from it—that is a thing I do not understand; I never could understand. I have come to the conclusion that I shall never understand. I can only attribute it to Superstition.


Some guy took my blog of a few days ago and passed it off to the Journal & Courier, which duly published it on Thursday.

My Friday lunch companion (cursed be he) reminded me that this esteemed journal has an online version, where people go to free associate, without moderation (in any sense of that word), about opinions they find suspect. I’m not sure what circle of hell unmoderated small-town newspaper comment boxes are in, but like a moth to the flame, I fell into the burning ring of fire.

It’s particularly amusing to see folk who confess they have no idea what was meant nevertheless deducing from it:

… I am well educated [we shall see], and have no idea what point they (sic) were making. What I can deduce (sic) is that they (sic) believe that only Christianity matters in America. Just as two atheists can marry, religion has no purpose for being marriage as a civil contract (sic), which is all that matters in this case. If a church wants to deny same-gender marriage, so be it But do no prevent equal rights upon (sic) tax-paying citizens …

and to find no opponent actually engaging the argument. (One furriner jumped on “Marx, Darwin, Dewey and Freud” as oddly chosen and incommensurable, but I called them “convenient stand-ins for whoever his real guiding lights are,” so I don’t count that as engaging the argument.) I wish I could flatter myself that I made it iron-clad, as I tried, but surely some worthy opponent could find an eensy-weensy nonsequitur or the whiff of a fallacy.

Like I say: what circle of hell is this when I can’t even get an honest interlocutor?

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.