So fast forward several months to November, 2010. The VF catalog shows up in my mailbox and I realize that getting the “free book” from them means that I’m on their mailing list. I have no desire to be on their list, and throw the catalog away, summarily.
Then, as life is wont to do, I end up having a random discussion with a friend in Kentucky about VF. As I start putting two-and-two together (inevitably arriving at four), I realize why it is that VF rubs me the wrong way. It’s not just because it’s patriarchal and sets up situations that are ripe for (and with) abuse, it’s not even that they twist Scripture passages to suit their needs. It’s that they are oddly reminiscent of Bill Gothard (of Basic Life Principles fame).Gothard enjoyed something of a “fad status” in the 60s and 70s (I was too young to know this at the time), and had some really strange ideas about music (stating that the beat of the music can be “good” or “evil” – huh?), about why the flood took place when Noah was on earth (it was because people were dating. Yeah, not because “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5, NASB), but because they went on dates. <insert raised eyebrow here>), and more.What I object to the most is that Gothard (along with his followers) tends to take one or two passages out of the Bible and apply them hard-and-fast across life. Sometimes this is ok – there’s no Christ-follower who would deny the validity of Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”) across the board. But on other issues such as infant circumcision, medical care, homeschooling, even having a plethora of children… caution must be exercised. What Gothard and others end up doing is creating an enormously large, legalistic burden for those who take the message seriously. There is only ONE way, and if you don’t do it THIS way, you are doomed. Contrast that to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Such a difference!
Additionally, I dislike the lack of accountability Gothard has built in to his organization, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s simply a personal dislike because I really do believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
So how does this link back to VF and patriarchy? Gothard has morphed his material over the years and is now teaching things about “perfect obedience” for children and their mothers (both have to obey both God and the father/husband in the family perfectly) that dovetails with VF. Doug Phillips has been speaking at Gothard events (a seminar called Advanced Training Institute or ATI) and is closely linked to Bill Gothard himself.