That was creepy and disturbing television. I am referring to the documentary on Prime about the Duggars but also Bill Gothard — Shiny Happy People.
We have never really watched Reality TV, so we didn’t know the Duggars. Of course, we have heard of them and knew the basics: evangelical, big family, and a kid who is in jail for possessing child porn.
The character with whom we were familiar was Bill Gothard — the other guy who was featured. It was his teachings which seemed to have much to do with the creepy beliefs of the Duggar clan.
You see, in the late 70s and very early 80s, we attended his Basic Youth Conflicts seminar on three separate occasions. After a day at work, we would motor down to Detroit every weeknight (for a week) and all day Saturday. The third time around was to take friends to the seminar.
Then we lost touch with Gothard. For one thing, I stepped away from the faith. That makes it sound like I must have fallen into sin and depravity, but the reality is that I simply stopped believing.
Four decades later, Sue and I were shocked to see what happened to Gothard soon after we were exposed to his teachings.
It’s the old story. A religious man has some success. He gains power and wealth. It goes to his head, and he becomes more extreme. Gothard was preaching a brand of misogyny although he wouldn’t have called it that, for you see, my dear, he just wanted to protect women (poor brainless things) under the umbrella of their husbands’ righteous authority. There were, allegedly, even inappropriate sexual occurrences.
I won’t try to précis the four episodes, but I was appalled at the treatment of both women and children. A girl belonged to her father until the day of her wedding, and then she belonged to her husband. The punishment of children was sickening. The group seemed to be obsessed with spanking in order to break the childrens’ willful spirits.
It was pretty riveting and upsetting to us, especially because of our past connection with Gothard. Now, I am happy with being a humanitarian free-thinker. Indeed, those who say that religion poisons almost everything, do have a point.
Power, money, misogyny and sex. It’s where all the cults seem to fall . . . and fail.