It’s been a few weeks since Homeschoolers Anonymous posted a worksheet from Bill Gothard’s Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) titled “Why Did God Let A Four Year Old Boy Be Molested By A Fifteen Year Old Neighbor?” I think I’ve been avoiding writing about it because it’s really more of the same—it’s been well established that neither Gothard nor IBLP understand the dynamics of abuse—and writing about this stuff gets draining after a time. But, here goes.
The idea that everything happens for a reason isn’t limited to Christianity, but it does end up being a thornier question within a worldview centered around an all-powerful God. After all, God could prevent your son from getting Leukemia, your uncle from being hit by a drunk driver, and your home from burning down—so why does he sometimes let these things happen? Theologians have answered these questions in a variety of ways. Some argue that God lets these things happen to teach us things and to help us grow; others suggest that God allows evil to run free to a certain extent, not to teach us anything specific but simply because Adam let sin into the world through his sin and devil is out there roaming and will not be chained until the end of this age.
Gothard clearly ascribes to the former way of thinking—that God lets bad things happen for a reason. That way of thinking creates an interesting problem—how do you explain the heinous or unthinkable? Or, how do you explain to abuse survivors why they suffered what they did? Remember that childhood abuse often leaves life-long scars. It’s not something you just “get over.” Why would God allow such things to happen, and to innocent children? For what reason?
Have a look at IBLP’s explanation:
I’m going to go through this briefly, point by point. The question, remember, is why God let a four-year-old boy be molested by a fifteen-year-old neighbor. Consider this in the context I provided above—if God is all-powerful, he could have stopped it. Why didn’t he? That is the question IBLP is seeking to answer. This sheet, remember, came from an IBLP training center. As Homeschoolers Anonymous explains:
Most of these training centers were used for all ATI students, offering “apprenticeship opportunities” and training. However, this piece of literature (dated around 1994-1995) came from the Indianapolis Training Center, which was special. This training center was used for for troubled teens and juvenile delinquents. This literature, while old, reflects the current beliefs of the Institute of Biblical Life Principles.
Why, according to IBLP, does God allow child sexual abuse to occur?
1. To Teach him his responsibility to cry out to God.
In our fallen world with all its evil men and women, there will be attacks by a stronger upon a weaker. When this happens, the law of God is very clear that the weaker must cry out for help or he will be equally guilty. This principle is found in Deuteronomy 21:23, 24. When a ‘victim’ does not cry out or immediately tell his authority he will carry around a sense of guilt which Satan will then use for condemnation and further defeat. It would therefore be important for your son to confess his failure to do this and ask God to forgive him.
Yes, you read that right. The very first item blames the victim—the four-year-old boy—for not “crying out” when sexually abused by his teenage neighbor. IBLP materials tend to communicate a complete ignorance of the various dynamics involved in such abuse or the reasons victims often remain silent. Also? Note the square quotes around the word “victim” above, and remember that the child is four.
2. To motivate him to dedicate his body to God.
Romans 12:2 explains the importance of every believer presenting his body as a living sacrifice to God. Once this is done, our body no longer belongs to us, it belongs to God. This concept is important in order to avoid bitterness. Your son is able to then say, ‘That neighbor did not molest my body, he molested God’s body and God’s judgement is upon him for doing that’.
I’ve seen this before in IBLP materials—this idea that God didn’t molest your body, he molested God’s body, because your body belongs to God. I’ve never experienced sexual abuse, but I get the feeling that this might not actually provide the comfort IBLP thinks it would. There’s something else, too—teaching children that they own their bodies is key to most predator prevention efforts. “Your body is yours,” these programs advise me to tell my kids. “Your body belongs to you and no one else.”
3. To give him a ‘moral vaccination’ against future temptations.
God will severely judge the fifteen year old boy for the evil that he did. However, your son can turn what was meant for evil into good. The vaccinations we receive for various diseases contains a small amount of the actual disease. Our immune system builds up a reaction to it so that if our body is exposed to the disease, it is prepared to fight it off. A similar result can occur in the life of your son if this matter handled in a Scriptural way.
Somehow I do not think it works this way.
4. To transform aroused desires to Spiritual power.
When molestation takes place, sexual desires are often awakened. Sexual energy however can be transformed into spiritual power as we yield up the members of our body to the Lord on a daily basis and hide God’s Word in our heart. Scripture refers to sexual drives as coming from our innermost being and the apostle John states ‘Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’.
Whaaaat. No, it definitely does not work this way.
5. To motivate him to write God’s word on his heart.
In order to transform this event into spiritual power, your son must begin to memorize large portions of Scripture and meditate on them day and night. As he keeps the Law of God before his spiritual eyes, he will fulfill the requirement of John 14:21. ‘He that hath my commandments and keepeth them [before his eyes] he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father and I will love him and manifest myself unto him’. See also James 1: 21
The kid is four, and regardless, he needs therapy, not scripture memorization.
Wait. Don’t many conservatives also argue that being sexually abused can make someone gay? That aside, we once again see conservatives’ frequent blurring of lines between consensual and nonconsensual sexual activity. Also, what would IBLP say of young girls molested by men (which is far more common)?
6. To concentrate on God’s hatred of sodomy.
Since this offense would be in the area of sodomy, it would be very important for your son to memorize the law and testimonies which speak of this abomination. He should study the account in Genesis about Sodom and Gomorrah and he should memorize Romans 1 and all the other passages that directly refer to the sin of sodomy.
7. To confirm the importance of avoiding evil companions.
The book of Proverbs is filled with warnings to avoid evil companions, ‘Be not deceived, evil companions corrupt good manners’. ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed’. God wants us to have contempt for the wicked as explained in such passages as Psalm 15, ‘In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoreth them that fear the Lord’.
That’s all well and good, but how was a four-year-old to know that his teenage neighbor was an “evil companion”? How are children to know the difference, especially when abuse frequently happens within the family, or within the church?
8. To learn how to discern evil companions.
When a person is molested, he develops a new sensitivity to people with wrong motives. This awareness is for future protection and must be developed into the quality of discernment instead of fear. Your son should now have a natural resistance to any person who has impure motives.
Actually, this doesn’t come automatically. It’s not uncommon for individuals to be abused by more than one perpetrator over time, in part because perpetrators often look for individuals who are vulnerable or defenseless. Also, again, the kid is four.
9. To work out justice and mercy.
It is important that justice be carried out in this situation. This means proper punishment should be administered to the offending neighbor. As a preparation for this, it is vital to make diligent inquiry with each boy to find out all the facts. Any hidden aspects of this molestation will give the enemy authority and will be used by him in the further defeat of both boys. Once the full facts are known and repented of, mercy may be extended.
Wait, wait, wait. This makes it sound like secular authorities won’t be involved. Instead, it sounds as though the parents or church elders are supposed to grill both boys to make sure they aren’t holding anything back—which frankly, could be scarring to the victim. Then what? Repentance and then mercy? And that’s justice?
I’m so confused.
10. To help the parents understand the basis of ‘genius’.
In a study by the Smithsonian Institute, 40 men considered geniuses were studied in order to find common denominators. The three common denominators were 1. Parents protected them from contact with other children. 2. They were continually around caring adults who taught them what they knew. 3. The were taught how to creatively solve problems. Based on this, your son should not have been with the other boy but rather with the adults so that he could learn from them.
I question whether this study ever took place. I can’t find any mention of it online. Regardless though, the vast, vast majority of people aren’t geniuses, and you can’t just become a genius. Individuals who are in fact geniuses often find it very difficult to fit in with other children, because they’re that different. Suffice it to say, none of this is applicable to your average four-year-old boy.
11. To see the need for a daily schedule for the best use of time.
‘Free time’ is a dangerous and unwise commodity. The phrase ‘Idle hands are the devils workshop.’ is true. The wise parent will schedule productive activities throughout the day so that a child does not have time to get into trouble.
Actually, “free time” is extremely important to children’s development. I’ve seen concern that today’s children are “over-scheduled” with their activities and sports, and even “over-supervised,” deprived of the creative free time they need to explore, have adventures, and develop their natural curiosity.
Now obviously, four-year-olds do need parental supervision. Parents, too, need training in recognizing signs of sexual abuse. It is absolutely parents’ responsibility to protect their children. But the problem here isn’t “free time.” The problem may actually be that the mother in question has nine other children and doesn’t have time to keep an eye on the four-year-old.
Remember that IBLP encourages families to let God control their fertility. Remember the the ideal IBLP family has nine or more children. Consider that IBLP discusses large families as though they only have upsides, and never gets into their downsides. Consider that sibling incest is more common in large families where older children are given responsibility over the younger ones—exactly the family model IBLP promotes. Consider that IBLP never tells parents that there are risks to the high level of responsibility they advise them to give their older children over the younger ones.
12. To remind the father to pray a daily hedge of protection.
Each day it is important for the father to pray a hedge of protection around each member of the family and to ask God to rebuke the principality over the family in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because praying a hedge of protection around your family will work better than learning the signs of abuse and empowering your children to speak out and to recognize warning signs through predator prevention programs. Totally.
The truly sick thing here is that IBLP has taught and advised thousands of families over the past three decades, and continues to advise families today, with these same messages. This is sick. I can only hope that the ongoing lawsuit against Gothard and IBLP brings greater attention to the fundamental underlying grime that is IBLP. Gothard, as you may remember, has been accused of sexually harassing and molesting several dozen teenage girls and women who worked for him through IBLP. For its part, IBLP is being sued for doing too little to protect these women, and of allowing this abuse to occur and continue.
I don’t often feel vindictive, but in this case, I most definitely do.