Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Chiseling Into Perfection": Bill Gothard, ALERT Academy and the WCG

In the year 2000, the Worldwide Church of God finally sold the Big Sandy campus to Hobby Lobby for 8.5 million dollars.  Hobby Lobby is a craft's company owned by  David Green with over 450 stores in 39 states.  HL does not use bar codes on it's products and hand prices items (a fear that it is the mark of the beast?) Green later transferred ownership to Bill Gothard for ALERT Academy's use.

The Journal (COG) had this to say about the transaction:
BIG SANDY, Texas--The owner of the property that for 33 years was the campus of Ambassador College (which became a university in 1994) wants to sell the metal swan sculpture that graces the area in front of the administration building.

Ron Fuhrman of Big Sandy, director of Air-Land Emergency Response Team (ALERT), which has owned the grounds since Dec. 31, 2001, said ALERT would like to sell the sculpture and other items and wonders if anyone among the Churches of God would be interested in buying it.
. . .
The Worldwide Church of God sold the property in 2000 to the Green Family Trust, owner of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., of Oklahoma City, for an undisclosed sum.

Green in turn leased it to the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a nonprofit educational and service ministry based in Oak Brook, Ill., headed by Bill Gothard. The Big Sandy acquisition joined about 50 other IBLP schools in several states.

The ownership formally transferred Dec. 31, 2001, from Green to the IBLP, of which ALERT is a department.

Mr. Fuhrman said ALERT and the campus will soon become a "stand-alone" operation of the IBLP.

IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles) was started by Bill Gothard.  Gothard is from a Baptist background with deep ties into Dominionist theology. He is also an advocate for large families, home schooling, staying away from medicine, and for making women stay home from outside work. The Dugger Family with their 18 kids is an example of this. Men are the rulers of the household and it causes trouble when women work out in the world and are under authority of other men.  Christian Identity is also promoted.  He was famous for describing children as being "diamonds in the rough" that God was chiseling to perfection by the blows of flawed and sometimes abusive parents.

Alert Academy describes it's self as :

The Air Land Emergency Resource Team (ALERT) is a unique training and service organization for young men who desire to achieve maturity and fruitfulness in service as Christian men. The training young men receive at ALERT equips them with the discipline, character, and skills necessary to meet the needs of people in crisis. These ALERT Responders will then be deployed to disaster-stricken areas such as those affected by hurricanes, tornados, floods, and mud slides.

Many label the course as a paramilitary boot camp.  The instructors walk around in military style clothing  with military style badges and medals.

 They are groujped in "Unit's" and receive deployment orders when being sent out during natural disasters or other emergencies (hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, etc.).  Training includes some of the following:

Training Elements

Basic Training is structured around the eight callings of II Peter 1:5–7. Each week, one calling will be emphasized in devotions and other activities.

Recruits are challenged to establish the disciplines of personal devotions, Scripture memory, and Bible study while applying Biblical principles to life situations. ALERT proves to them that if they can have a daily time with God in the most extreme circumstances, then they can maintain this discipline throughout the rest of their lives and hopefully gain a vision for God’s kingdom.

Scriptural application is further refined in the pursuit of Godly character. The men gain emotional maturity as they wrestle with homesickness, youthful fears, and controlling emotional reactions. Their comfort limits and fear boundaries will be regularly tested to widen their horizons and to help them develop a healthy level of self-assurance. Specific fears addressed include being under authority, facing the unknown, homesickness, extended hiking, camping in the wilderness, and heights.

Learning how to respond to stressful situations increases a man’s faith in God, as well as his confidence in his own abilities. Basic Training is carefully balanced to control the tribulation necessary to stabilize fear, resignation, discouragement, anger, resentment, and other negative emotions. As men overcome increasingly difficult challenges, they are able to see God’s hand at work in their lives, and they grow in faith, discipline, motivation, and focus, all while combining training with a spiritual emphasis.

Character Training

ALERT provides a quality alternative to young men considering military service, as it imports the best features of the U.S. military. As such, ALERT should not be confused with church camp or recreational outdoor programs.

Training in Godly character is organized into clusters, the chief cluster encompassing the area of compliance. The principle of authority is taught with a view to differentiating between obedience, submission, honor, and loyalty.

Within the context of compliance training, recruits master the elements of basic obedience (rote compliance motivated by consequences) and balance that with responsible boldness in learning appeal techniques. Moving on to the second level, submission is learned in light of phileo (brotherly love) and mutual trust. The third and highest level of compliance, honor, is imbued with the agape (God’s love) understanding that we die to self as we strive for the success of a God-appointed authority.

The Basic Training environment is very effective in revealing resistant attitudes and rebellion in young men. Responsiveness is ALERT’s byword, and as an ALERT Responder, a good employee, or a faithful son, the recruit must demonstrate the qualities of dependability, diligence, and thoroughness. Meaningful projects allow men to develop these qualities along with punctuality and accountability, to achieve a mature level of responsiveness.

Similar qualities are clustered around persistence (endurance, determination, patience), confidence (boldness, initiative, decisiveness), and readiness (vigilance and attentiveness).

Physical Training
“PT” is an integral part of Basic Training. Although “…bodily exercise profiteth

Additionally, physical fitness training provides a convenient classroom in which to learn self-control and mastery over one’s physical body. Although ALERT deems physical training a lower priority than spiritual and character development, it may be an area of struggle for those not in the habit of physical training.

Skill Training
Skill training is threaded throughout Basic Training as a foundation for subsequent areas of training. Many of these training opportunities have an element of adventure and provide incentive to complete ALERT Basic Training. Among these are camping skills, survival skills, and outdoor skills.

The realm of search-and-rescue requires Responders who are competent in all varieties of outdoor terrain and who will not be liabilities to themselves or to the mission. Living off the land, group sheltering, and outdoor living have been proven elements to teach our men to thrive in austerity while delivering valuable services. Such conditions are useful in preparing men for foreign missions or the coming perilous times.

Introductions in map and compass skills support later training in search-and-rescue, diving, and aviation. Elementary ropework, practiced in river crossings and rappelling in Basic Training, leads to high-angle rescue. First Aid essentials covered in Basic Training eventually yield to instruction in emergency medicine in Advanced Training. Problem-solving exercises give a practical forum for team-building and leadership practice, and by the time Basic Training is completed, the young men have been knit together into a cohesive team that depends first on God’s strength. They are then ready to confront new challenges in ALERT Advanced Training.
 Response Training
Initial response training foundational to disaster response will begin in Basic Training. Classes in Evangelism and Search-and-Rescue will equip Responders to deploy immediately upon promotion, if required. Many times international travel is required, and a valid passport is necessary prior to the start of Emergency Response Training (ERT). These skills provide confidence in ministering to
people in need and equip the Responders in their goal of service to others. This initial response training will also provide the building blocks for further training during Emergency Response Training.
Discipleship is what the Christian life is all about. But how do we know when we are true disciples? And how do we know when we have trained someone else to be a disciple? The answer is found in the Great Commission: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). So what were all the commands of Jesus? A survey of the Gospels will produce about forty-nine general commands that every believer should follow. This, then, is the curriculum for carrying out the Great Commission and being a disciple. We will attempt to cover 8–9 foundational qualities needed in the life of an ALERT Responder.

At first glance all of this may seem "ok", particularly to those trained in Armstrongism.  However, ALERT is labeled in many cult recovery circles as a legalistic cult.

I find it interesting that the Worldwide Church of God sold both of it's properties to other 'sects" that are looked upon by many as "aberrant."

Harvest Rock Church, who bought the Auditorium, in Pasadena, is a charismatic personality cult centered around a charismatic religious leader who has legions of volunteers catereing to his every need.  They regularly hold conferences where internationally known men like Benny Hinn, leaders from Toronto Blessing, Brownsville Blessing show up and hold week long conferences on "fruits of the spirit." This includes speaking in tongues, being over come by the "spirit" so as to bark like dogs, have hysterical fits of laughter, pogoing in place for long periods of time, being slain in the spirit where they lay on the floor of the Auditorium in 'frozen" states for hours on end and much much more.

ALERT is considered a cult because of it's legalistic tendencies, paramilitary training,  and other attributes.  While I hesitate to give them publicity, the Daily Kos has an interesting background on ALERT. and the WCG.  Although I do wonder where they find a link of WCG to "Oneness Pentecostalism."  I assume they tied the name Church of God to the other Church of God branch that is into pentecostal/charismatic hysteria.

What spurred all of this on tonight was an email from a person who sent this link to a web site that is filled  with testimonies of people who have suffered under Gothard's principles.  Recovering Grace: A Gothard Generation Shines Light on the Teachings if IBLP and ATI

Their goal is:

Recovering Grace is an online organization devoted to helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Recovering Grace provides a unique perspective in that it was founded and is operated entirely by adults who were raised as children in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. We all have attended Bill Gothard’s seminars, and most of us served within the IBLP organization in some form or fashion. Among the members of our team are pastors, lawyer, teachers, accountants, businessmen, and stay-at-home moms. We have all taken different journeys, but we all have one thing in common: We survived ATI.

Some of us had pretty great parents who, by the mercy of God, were able to bring balance to Bill Gothard’s legalism. To this group, survival means that they graduated high school and moved on. However, many of those involved with our site survived physical and/or sexual abuse that causes nightmares and trauma even today. Some survived spiritual abuse at home or training centers that has left them with years of untangling who God is, whether faith is worth having, and whether church and religion are anything more than a cosmic joke. Others have survived emotional abuse, being told that they weren’t good enough, weren’t pretty enough, didn’t look right, or whatever. To these people, survival means a lot more. It means there is a lot of hurt, guilt, and pain that is dealt with every day.

Together, we have decided it is time to speak out. Others have done so before in books, magazine articles, and websites. Still, they couldn’t speak from the perspective we can. They wrote about Bill Gothard’s ministry from the outside. We write about it from the inside. They observed our legalism and tried to warn our families. We lived in legalism and wish we’d listened sooner.

It's quit obvious that these people are just like those of us who were trapped in Armstrognism were.  They/we see a need to speak out, to expose, and to let the world know what is going on.  Lives have been scarred, damaged and sometimes destroyed.  Accountability is the name of the game now.

For more information:

Child abuse and abuse of women:  "Christian" Child Abuse

An irreverent guide to Gill Gothard: A Beginners Guide to Bill Gothard

A Guide to Bill Gothard

The Basic Life Principles of Bill Gothard: Benevolent Ministry or Bondage Making?

Stop Spiritual Abuse


Hard-to-read said...

This is a long and attention-straining article.

It needed a preparatory introduction, rather than thinking we would read along blindly through the many boring pages of details...

If someone wants to start at the end first, you might can read most of the extended content.

Good luck. Please rewrite.

Going blind said...

Yes, I have no idea what I'm reading about for the first seven or eight pages.

Needs an SPS to start and then shaping up.

Anonymous said...

Hard-to-read n going blind must belong to one of these groups and are offended.

Anonymous said...

People as Livestock

In dim antiquity millennia ago, someone got the idea that they could live the good life by reducing entropy for themselves by increasing it for others by making them slaves. Unlike animals, people can have fears of death and future pain which can be turned into profitable threats. Cow people into slaves and you can own them as livestock.

Unfortunately, physical slavery is resource intensive. It is better to enslave minds with virtual threats rendered in an abstract way. Threaten people with an ever burning hell, convince them of the horrors of it and then provide the priest class to give them what they perceive as freedom from it, or if not freedom, relief. At that point, people are so grateful, they are willing to give their lives and their money to the Nimrod strong man who made it all possible.

Governments, religions, movements of various kinds and stripes managed to cash in on this cash cow: Make people slaves through the stick and the carrot. Once established, set up your prison with Guards and Prisoners so that "order" will be maintained. Add another layer where your prisoners keep order by attacking anyone who gets out of line out of fear of losing what little they think they still have. Taxes and tithes -- it's all the same domination.

We have so little freedom that in most of the states of the United States, there is property tax. You don't own your own real estate: The state owns it. If you don't belief it, then refuse to pay your property taxes and watch the property disappear at a Sheriff's sale.

We have no freedom. We are all livestock.

So now we have yet another abusive religion promising freedom through discipline -- albeit their own brand of discipline with the threats and fears attendent with their own particular branding.

Some people look around and go, "Hey, I'm a slave!". Then they go about leaving that slavery and attend to finding another less restrictive.

More power to them.

Steve said...

I appreciate "Banned By HWA", but I must say that some of the articles, especially this one and Diehl's "religion"(not to say I don't enjoy reading some of Diehl's repeated philosophy), get a touch long-winded. Might be better to provide a link. If anyone is truly interested in spending a couple hours reading about this stuff, they can go to the link. I read a couple paragraphs, got bored, went to the end of the article, read a couple more paragraphs, and that was it for me.A person could go stir crazy reading the whole thing!

Allen C. Dexter said...

I, too, didn't read the whole thing. Too wordy. But, don't lump it together with Dennis' articles. They're interesting all the way through.

One of the earliest things I had to learn in writing was paring it down and discarding the unnecessary verbiage. Whole paragraphs can often be reduced to a single sentence.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the contiuing dumbing down of the masses by the Internet, as addressed by a number of studies and reported in various places, such as the March 2011 Asimov's in the "On the Net: New Brains for Old" article. Here is the Nicolas Carr perspective:

When he first began to notice that it was difficult to pay attention for more than a few minutes, he wrote it off to "middle-age mind rot." But now he attributes the greater part of his lack of concentration, his tendency to skip and skim and most important, his strugle to read and comprehend entire books, to what the internet is doing to his brain. The internet is transforming us into multitaskers and "heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set" according to a 2009 Stanford University Study. Clifford Nass, lead researcher on the study, put it into layman's terms in an NPR interview. "It's very frightening to us, and I think the reason it's so frightening is we actually didn't study people while they were multitasking. We studied people who were chronic multitaskers, and even when we did not ask them to do anything close to the level of multitasking they were doing, their cognitive processes were impaired. So basically, they are worse at most of the kinds of thinking not only required for multitasking but what we generally think of as involving deep thought.

Deep reading has become a lost skill. Analytical thinking has disappeared. People become instantly visceral in responses. We've gone from reading books, to picture books, to the Internet, to blogs and finally twits tweeting on Twitter.

It should be no surprise that with this mental decline -- a real advantage to those who keep us in slavery as livestock -- that few have patience to even read the little I've posted here.

Sad really.

And what is worse is that it is now the problem of the one who took just a little too long in explaining the facts. It takes so much less time to express a factless opinion and move on without realizing that it makes no sense and the mind is shot.

Free At Last said...

I for one appreciated this. Sure it's long, but sometimes things have to be in order to expose things. In this internet age people are so dumbed down that they have to have itty-bittty sound bites because their brain can't handle lots of information.

I have always had my suspension about ALERT, as well as with Harvest Rock. WCG (a cult) sold it's two major parcels of lands to similar cults. At least they had sense to not sell to the Church of Scientology who was originally interested in the Pasadena property.

The internet age has allowed abused people from all kinds of chruches and organizations to have their voice heard. Abused people will no longer be silent.

Anonymous said...

Douglas: The problem with the simple cut and paste job about these folks is, it doesn't demonstrate factually the organization is similiar to Armstrong.

We could say the same thing about the Boy Scouts or a military academy or a private boarding school, or a succesfull football program etc.

You talk about facts as if they are lying around somewhere; if only we were to go collect and
classify them.

Anonymous said...

It seems the general trajectory of this site is to identify instances and techniques of mind control by other people, and then claim Armstrong or Armstongism, or the COG's satsify the critera.

That might be fine for kids who grew up with parents in the church or for kids who went to Ambassador College, but it leaves out a whole group of people who simply thougth what the COG's said about x,y, and z were true.

Steve said...

Allen C. Dexter said...
I, too, didn't read the whole thing. Too wordy. But, don't lump it together with Dennis' articles. They're interesting all the way through.

MY COMMENT: Yes, Dennis writes interesting articles, but he seems to repeat himself over and over again. No matter what the subject is, he goes back to the astrology aspect, or Paul being a fake. Ok, so you told me. I got it!

Allen C. Dexter said...

"No matter what the subject is, he goes back to the astrology aspect, or Paul being a fake. Ok, so you told me. I got it!"

The "astrology aspect" and Paul being a fake is where you find the root of the tree so you can pull it up and cast it away.

I don't want to waste time arguing theological fine points that have no basis in reality because of those astrological aspects and the fact that Paul was a fake.

Thank you, Dennis, for continuing to drive those points home so new visitors to this site will get it firmly in mind. Saying it once, to let in get buried in the archives, gets nowhere and allows the old nonsense which gets repeated season after season and year after year to get even more deeply rooted so it becomes an automatic way of thinking. Rather insidious, really.

Anonymous said...


What is the point Dennis is driving home?

Apollo is the son of zeus and the sun god the Greco-Roman tradition; so, Jesus as the son of God is astrologized as a Hebrew equivalent of Apollo or the new Apollo, or what?

Byker Bob said...

What the??? Do you guys who are complaining think you have to eat everything on the dinner table, or read every book in the library? Or convert to prolific posters' agendas? As if this is a new version of the WCG???

This site consists of material intended to be thought provoking. You can take it or leave it, read it or not. The human mind was designed to be a tool of discernment. You're allowed to skim and even to skip, based on disposable time available, and level of interest.


NO2HWA said...

Thanks BB.

I facilitate a four year course in Old and New Testament study, church history and theologians and biblical criticism.

I tell every group when we start the year out (in two weeks - oy!) that I hope they do not find the answers they are seeking. Rather I want them to find more questions that lead to more questions.

I tell them they do not have to agree with things or how other people have interpreted it over the centuries, but to look at it as an opportunity to say, "hey, I never thought of it that way before" and then to use their own mind to accept it or reject it.

People walk into chruches, organizations, cults, and thought processes, and think they have to agree with everything they hear or read.

The Rector at the church I attend knows that I tell people to never take what he says as gospel truth. Just because he said it, does't mean it is so. He enjoys the questions, and enjoys living in the gray areas of life.

I prefer not having the answers, and enjoy the mystery.

Like Dennis, religion/spirituality fascinates me. Armstrongism was not able to kill that fascination off, thankfully!

Anonymous said...

BB, Dennis wanted comments we gave him comments. And, I think my responses are thought provoking too.

Anonymous said...

No2HWA: Are you a former COG minister and Ambassdor grad?

Allen C. Dexter said...

"What is the point Dennis is driving home?"

I'll let Dennis be specific, but to me, he's driving home the point that the whole thing people believe is astrological nonsense that has no relationship to what people think the New Testament is about. Jesus is astro-mythological fiction.

Thus, Christianity is a gigantic fraud invented by Constantine and the squabbling bishops, etc. at the Council of Nicea.

Mickey said...

So back to the article:) which I did skim but got the gist of it. All the weirdos show up at the fire sales when the other other weirdos go belly up, eh?

Unknown said...

They raise great kids! Healthy, contributing members of society. Power to them, maybe we can all learn something from them.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to prove to yourself that God is imaginary. The evidence is all around you. Here are 50 simple proofs:

Anonymous said...

I was hired to do some construction work there. We would see women ages 15 to 23 id guess be brought out into the yard around noon. some had very young children with them. There would be 4 or 5 older men looking over them. after about 30 min they would hustle them all back in the building. We wouldnt see them again for the rest of the day. very creepy place. Alot of red flags