[The below quotation is excerpted from the full article at The New Republic, which exposes Bill Gothard (IBLP, ATI) and the network of fundamentalist institutions and “leaders” that I write against in My Story: Entrenchment in & Escape from an IFB Cult and Breaking Silence on Indiana’s Racism]
As a generation of ATI students have grown into adults, they’ve fled the program en masse. Some have found a more liberating form of the Christian faith, while others have left religion altogether. If Gothard were given the keys to IBLP tomorrow, he would find a dwindling number of true believers left. IBLP, meanwhile, is frantically selling off its properties to make ends meet.
Other Christian fundamentalist organizations are in similar straits. Paige Patterson, long lauded for saving Christianity from the clutches of liberalism (and who once wrote positively on Gothard’s doctrine of authority), was fired this past May as president of the influential Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for a series of misogynistic comments and his dismissive, allegedly abusive handling of sexual assault claims. Patterson was a pillar of the old guard Southern Baptist movement, one of the Moral Majority’s most powerful cultural influencers. But this legacy is being rejected by a new generation of Southern Baptist pastors. New SBC President J.D. Greear is the youngest president in 40 years, and has publicly stated that the SBC’s history of political involvement was a damaging distraction from the church’s mission to preach about Jesus.
While Bob Jones University continues to be a fundamentalist hub at the intersection of conservative politics and Christian movements—both Ted Cruz and Ben Carson spoke there in 2015—attendance has dropped 26 percent since 2001, and a $4.5 million budget shortfall led BJU to lay off 50 employees in 2018. Meanwhile, students at Liberty University, headed by Donald Trump enthusiast Jerry Falwell Jr., have publicly expressed their disgust with Falwell’s surrogacy.
While data on the spirituality of millennials suggests that younger generations still gravitate toward religious belief, including personal spiritual practices such as prayer, there is an increasing abhorrence toward religious authoritarianism. For Christians like myself, who have rejected the Moral Majority’s approach to the culture wars as well as Gothard’s repugnant twisting of Jesus’s teachings, this is a hopeful trend.