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Just Curious - Why Convert to ATI?


nikegirl

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I am looking for former ATI members or people that grew up as Fundamental Christians (aka FUNDIES) that they they may have an idea how to answer the following questions:

 

:?: What makes a person convert to being a fundie or ATI? (especially ATI and the whole Bill Gothard scheme)... I've been wondering how someone like the Duggars decided after examining ATI it would be good for them.

 

Of course, this question is sort of self explanatory but I just want others opinion on this matter.

 

:?

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:?: What makes a person convert to being a fundie or ATI? (especially ATI and the whole Bill Gothard scheme)... I've been wondering how someone like the Duggars decided after examining ATI it would be good for them.

Though I did not grow up under that, or anything similar, I have known many people who have/have "converted" to it later on... And from my experience, the most common reason is control. If you have rules for what you say and do (control the outside), then that is the measure for what you think and feel (control the inside). Basically, that if you can control the actions, you can control the heart. A lot of it seemed to stem from parents who grew up as a "wild child". They were promiscuous, or ran with bad crowds, or whatever, and because they don't want their kids to do the same, they think going to the opposite extreme (legalism) will solve that problem.

Also, my mom started homeschooling about 25 years ago, more or less at the beginning of the movement. She was pretty strict (and readily admits, rather abusive) with my oldest sister especially and pretty into bad child-training "techniques". Anyhow, she said that back at the beginning, a lot of Christians were homeschooling their kids because they thought it would be like training them to be Christians for sure. She said they thought they would create essentially "super Christians" by "training/teaching" their kids right, and homeschooling was the way to do that.

So that also might be the reasoning a lot of parents have... they want a way to ensure their kids will always make right decisions, always follow the path/faith they were taught and grew up with, essentially be as perfect as people can be.

The only problem is...that's impossible. No matter the parent's decisions for their kids, once they are adults they will MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS. And there is really nothing the parents can do about it, and no way to prevent it.

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When I was just growing up, our family was less fundie. Then we became pretty majorly fundie, then we became less fundie. With us , it was always a Stars 'n Stripes/George Washington and Apple Pie sort of motivation. It was, 'we need to be true to what we the people are all about', and that included Little House on the Prairie as the ideal of Christian happiness and life. The people are mostly great, so it's very easy to stay fundie and not want to rock the boat. I figure about 1 in 20 fundies actually has a crazy conviction, but the rest don't want to make anyone mad so they stay with it at least in public. At home everybody is a lot looser in ATI culture.

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It's a prepackaged lifestyle. You don't really have to think critically or study scripture of sort things out for yourself because somebody has already done that for you and is there to tell you all the answers. It's easy to pick up on the "rules", both stated and unstated and to feel like everything will be ok as long as you follow them, because all those other people can't be wrong, too. Even when you start doubting your own faith or belief, or the whole system, it is easy to keep fitting in since it's so focused on externals like appearance and saying/doing the same thing as everybody else.

If you already have low self esteem or are not confident in your own decision making or ability to guide your life and make the right choices, it makes things seem really simple and looks like the easy way to go.

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My mil (widow) was ATI for awhile. I think she was drawn to it because it validated her own desires to have ultimate control over her children. She is now out if the movement mostly because she felt their views on submission stifled her own power, but she still holds to the views that even adult children should be obedient to parents, that children should live on the family compound, that people should "be their own boss", and so on. So for her, it was the biblical validation for her own selfish desire to control.

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Though I did not grow up under that, or anything similar, I have known many people who have/have "converted" to it later on... And from my experience, the most common reason is control. If you have rules for what you say and do (control the outside), then that is the measure for what you think and feel (control the inside). Basically, that if you can control the actions, you can control the heart. A lot of it seemed to stem from parents who grew up as a "wild child". They were promiscuous, or ran with bad crowds, or whatever, and because they don't want their kids to do the same, they think going to the opposite extreme (legalism) will solve that problem.

Also, my mom started homeschooling about 25 years ago, more or less at the beginning of the movement. She was pretty strict (and readily admits, rather abusive) with my oldest sister especially and pretty into bad child-training "techniques". Anyhow, she said that back at the beginning, a lot of Christians were homeschooling their kids because they thought it would be like training them to be Christians for sure. She said they thought they would create essentially "super Christians" by "training/teaching" their kids right, and homeschooling was the way to do that.

So that also might be the reasoning a lot of parents have... they want a way to ensure their kids will always make right decisions, always follow the path/faith they were taught and grew up with, essentially be as perfect as people can be.

The only problem is...that's impossible. No matter the parent's decisions for their kids, once they are adults they will MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS. And there is really nothing the parents can do about it, and no way to prevent it.

I wish there was a "like" button at this site like on Facebook, cuz I really like your post. I've seen so many people who were "wild" go to the other extreme of being a hard-core Christian. They don't seem to understand that there's a middle. I don't see the point in isolating children either and then being so overly strict with them. If anything, it may make them dislike religion instead of drawing them to God. You have to offer religion to a child, then let them make their own decisions. My son told me: "You planted the seed, it's up to me to water it." I liked the way he phrased that and I backed off trying to get him to go to church with me. He usually ends up going 3x a year, so I'm happy for that. (He's in college, so he's pretty busy too.) I think some parents need to realize that children are people too, with opinions, likes and dislikes. They can't be forced to be as overly religious as some of their parents are. Worshiping God is definitely something that can only be chosen, not forced.

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Not ATI, but another cult. Ours was a weird, weird group with anabaptist roots and radical leftist politics, so not on the FJ radar.

IMO, a good bit of the motivation is safety/community. To be deeply connected with people who want the same things you do, for your family, for your kids, for the future.

Many people who end up in (or pass through) cults are intelligent, well-read, well-educated, and reasonable people. Cults hook them by touching a very deep need for something, whether that's community, or security, or affirmation, or love.

Not all fundamentalist Christianity is like ATI, or cultic. So what draws a person to "the five fundamentals" and what draws a person to ATI may be totally different.

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I can't comment on this from personal experience, but I have to believe there is a real draw to groups like ATI and VF that tell you that you are a special person, one of God's chosen people, that you are somehow more than other human beings. I think that would be easy to fall prey to for many people.

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Well, we were already homeschooling and in a fundie church. Alot of the ATI families in the church were "sheparding" us and we were enjoying being a part of something and a part of their lives. We moved alot and we were very lonely. Their kids seemed so sweet and genuine and their family relationships were so close. We began to look at some of the ATI materials, but backed off when we saw the extreme legalism. Had we gone forward we would have retained friends for awhile, but like emeraldskull said earlier, it doesn't work. Each of those families we know in that church have abandoned the whole ATI thing. Some of their kids are living in extreme rebellion of what their families put them through, some are in serious need of therapy after abuse, and the lucky ones just went back to fundie lite. So I think alot of it is the same as why people join cults...because ATI is a cult...you just want to belong and the people in the cult seem like they have it together and are happy. You don't find out for awhile it is all a facade.

Thankfully we never joined. The people I met and the heartache I suffered when I didn't conform did influence my leaving Christianity. I will admit that.

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For my parents, it was the whole "If you follow all these steps your kids will turn into wonderful adults with shining eyes that cause people on the street to stop and mention them" idea that Gothard teaches. Seriously, he claims that if you are following his teachings your kids have traffic stopping, shiny eyes. My parents had had trouble with my two older siblings getting into drugs, alcohol and in general being rebellous, so they were looking for a way to avoid that with the other kids. It doesn't work, by the way.

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