Salon magazine today notes that Sarah Palin's mayorship of her home town reveals connections to an old name among Evangelical heavies. Before there was Family guru James Dobson, there was... Bill Gothard. While the article focuses on Palin's usage of a "secular" (though maybe not so secular) spin off from Gothard's organization, my own interest is in what depth of connection exists between Palin and Gothard... and / or his teachings on family and women.
Remember Bill Gothard and his Institute on Basic Youth Conflicts? Today, the organization is called Institute in Basic Life Principles, though the former name is still used as part of the "Basic" curriculum. The materials Gothard's group churned out in the 1960s and 1970s featured micro-management of every aspect of a Christian family's existence. I recall, and this may upset some folks, literally laughing until I cried over various illustrations regarding the exact way a woman's blouse should look, her hair should look, and her make-up (or lack thereof, actually) should look. I'd reproduce one of these drawings here, except that Gothard doesn't take kindly to folks reproducing any of his materials without paying for them.
I wouldn't laugh today as I did then, knowing more about what women have suffered at the hands of such male arrogance in the Church. In fact, I'd probably shred the pamphlet. That's me exercising my own Christian authority, Mr. Gothard. I authoritatively say that your treatment of women is not the work of Christ, nor in keeping with the heart of Christ, and that you have gravely injured not only women but the men who love them.
But I would laugh still over Gothard's music lessons, where he with all seriousness warns against rock music's evilness and then -- I kid you not -- suggests that certain chords on the scale are bad. Like, for instance, the augmented seventh! For real. Oh, and also any sort of syncopation is bad. Try this... tap out four beats on a table. Then tap them again, emphasizing the first and third. Then do it again emphasizing the second and forth. Well, the latter is really not good, according to Gothard. Why? 'Cuz that's syncopation, man! You might feel your body or something! WHOA!
What again isn't funny is how Gothard conceptualizes the Family. His ultra-militarist, top-down, male-centric model bears no discernable resemblance at all to the family I (and I pray most other!) Christians see in Scripture. Bill apparently channeled this stuff direct from the throne of God, because it has zero biblical or theological backing, despite his continual usage of verses with little to no application to the topic he's touting. For instance...
He fervently claims that a couple who marry without their parents' permission cannot be blessed by God. Note, this refers to a couple regardless of that couple's age, and also regardless of what the parents' set of beliefs is! I suppose a racist set of parents could, under Gothard's teaching, permanently prevent their Anglo daughter from marrying an African-American. Or, one might suggest, an Atheist parent with a mean streak could forbid her born-again daughter from marrying a fellow Christian. Did anyone ever, I wonder, mention to Bill that sometimes honoring someone requires disobeying them, not baaaing like a sheep and doing what one's told? Example: Suicidal parent telling the child to get the gun from the cupboard, the child obeying but of course hoping the parent doesn't decide to make suicide homocide as well... BANG!
The obtuseness of what "honoring" one's parents means vs. an adult obeying their parent's every whim should be obvious. Unfortunately for Gothard, it is not. Willful ignorance, it is called. And how does such a man get the authority he still, after all this time, wields? Ask the Republicans.
I hope and pray Evangelicals ponder deeply the parallels between Bill Gothard's blind self-referential teachings and the Republicans' blind self-referential approach to governance. For me, the parallels are screaming to be noticed.
Meanwhile, the question here is if Sarah Palin, being pitched to us as an empowered woman, believes the viciously anti-woman lies Gothard is spreading? Sigh...