The recent revelations about ATI’s Bill Gothard have been extremely divisive to the Christian Homeschooling community for a whole plethora of reasons that vary from person to person. This is unavoidable I suppose given the nature of the accusations and the passionate feelings on both side of the dispute. However, I had hoped that the internal discussion of these issues among Christians would remain calm and civil. I had hoped that, given the serious nature of these accusations, we would all agree, at the very least, that this was a discussion we ought to be having. Of course people disagree on fact. Of course people disagree on the interpretation of that fact. I believe that there is room for honest disagreement and I have good Christian friends on both sides of the issue.
What grieves me is to see otherwise sweet Christian friends, who I have deep respect for, doing everything short of anathematizing anyone who does not accept Mr. Gothard’s limited confession at face value. I have, on a number of occasions, heard supporters of Mr. Gothard arguing that from first principles, if you are against Bill Gothard you must have a spiritual problem. Now that may be so – in fact, if you want my honest opinion, I suspect that a lot of folks at Recovering Grace are motivated by rebellion. The thing is we can’t claim that only because an individual believes that Bill Gothard has not yet come clean.
Apart from the injustice of leveling such accusations merely because of a difference of opinion, these ad hominem attacks have little place in a discussion among Christians. Not only do they stray and distract from the topic in question, but they do little to convince the hearer. I can think of little use for them even for the individual who makes them since they seem to me much more likely to anger and alienate a brother than to win him.
As I said before, due to the grave nature of these accusations this is definitely a discussion we ought to be having. I hope and trust that we all take it very seriously, but I am puzzled that some feel the need to spiritually malign anyone who expresses skepticism or concern about Mr. Gothard’s sincerity. The principle question we ought always to be asking is then “is it true?” (And be sure that we will be guilty if we don’t do our best to find out.) But while we are asking that question we might as well face up to the fact that some folks will take longer to convince than others. Some people may come to different conclusions altogether. We’re going to have to keep getting along though. (After all, we’re supposed to be on the same side.) If we’re going to do that we should stop talking about each other and start talking about what is true and why we think it is true. In other words, we’re going to have to be civil and charitable to people who don’t agree with us while we try to bring them to our point of view. If you have an argument to make, if you have facts that you feel should be considered or brought to light, then by all means, bring them to the table, but for the sake of our testimony before the world and even for the sake of your own cause, refrain from castigating those who came to a different conclusion than you did as spiritually flawed.
If you’re still with me, thank you for reading this and please consider what I have said.