Opinion | ‘Shiny Completely happy Individuals,’ Fundamentalism and the Poisonous Quest for Certainty


They discovered group within the individuals who flocked to the church buildings just like the one I visited in Louisville. Certainty, nonetheless, was elusive. The formulation they acquired from Gothard appeared to work for some, didn’t work for others, and deeply broken many, many individuals — particularly girls and kids. The Duggars are a first-rate instance. Because the Amazon collection recounts, even because the Duggar dad and mom, Jim Bob and Michelle, have been monumental celebrities in Gothard-world, extolling the virtues of his imaginative and prescient, they have been concealing horrible secrets and techniques about their household.

Their oldest son, Josh, had molested 4 of his sisters. Later, he admitted to dishonest on his spouse. And now he’s in jail for possessing youngster pornography. The Duggars weren’t the mannequin household they have been offered as. They have been in disaster. The Duggars’ guru, Gothard, was additionally disgraced. He has confronted dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct — he denies them — and in 2014 he resigned from the presidency of his ministry.

However that’s not the extent of the darkness. Gothard’s educating didn’t attain simply the tens of millions of Christians he claims have attended his seminars. As a result of he spoke to probably the most motivated and devoted cohort of evangelicals in America, his teachings unfold deep into American church buildings. Gothard’s ideas turned a part of the material of evangelical life even for individuals who’d by no means heard of the Primary Seminar.

In 2021, my spouse, Nancy, and I printed a report detailing years of horrific sexual abuse at one of many largest Christian camps in America, Kanakuk Kamps. The camp’s chief government, Joe White, wrote that the “best journey of my life” started at a Invoice Gothard convention in 1974, and most of the teachings on the camp mirrored the wedding and purity teachings within the Gothard seminars. A predator named Pete Newman exploited such teachings to realize entry to numerous younger boys. White supported and promoted him even after receiving repeated studies of Newman enjoying video games within the nude with children.

With authority so central to Gothardism (and so many different fundamentalist actions), the hunt for certainty become a quest for management. The explicitly patriarchal construction fed the desire to energy in troubled males. Failures within the household would result in tighter controls, extra guidelines, and an infinite quantity of guilt and disgrace. In any case, the rules Gothard taught have been presupposed to work. On the seminar I attended Gothard even taught that following his rules would make a younger lady extra stunning. Obedience would enhance her “countenance.” If a household struggled, the rules weren’t flawed — they have been.


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