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The Benham Brothers, Evangelicals, and Bill Gothard

Earlier this month, I wrote about the deep connections between ousted cult leader Bill Gothard and high-profile Christians such as the Duggars and the family behind Hobby Lobby.

Some people have asked why I continue to write about Gothard’s web, considering as he has resigned and those who had supported him previously probably didn’t know about his alleged ongoing sexual misconduct.

Unfortunately, though Gothard has resigned from IBLP, his ideas have not disappeared. Instead, they continue to seep into broader Christian Evangelicalism. Here, many who would loudly denounce Bill Gothard’s teachings outright embrace and support those who are carrying on his torch of fundamentalism.

I’ve seen enough of Gothard to know that his teachings are toxic. So, while I’m happy that he no longer occupies the position of power and influence he once did, I’m concerned that his particular strain of hyper-biblical religion is still being disseminated throughout Evangelicalism by Christians today.

In today’s installment of “Evangelical darlings who are also poster-children of Gothardism”…

The Benham Brothers

Earlier this year, David and Jason Benham’s upcoming HGTV reality show was cancelled after Right Wing Watch detailed their conservative religious and political views. The Benham’s considered Right Wing Watch’s report “a smear campaign” and the narrative quickly took the shape of “Bible-believing Christians being persecuted by intolerant left-wing bullies.”

In a statement, the Benhams said it was their “faith” that had cost them their show:

“Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying..

With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it”

Christianity Today described the Benham brothers as “Evangelical Christians” who are committed to follow Christ, rhetorically asking whether they were “Too Christian for Cable?

While many Christians supported the Benhams for being “true to their beliefs”, a glance at the Benham brothers’ views seems to suggest that they are not simply the conservative, traditional marriage, pro-life religious beliefs like held by many Christians.

Rather, the “faith” they promote seems much closer to the fundamentalism of Bill Gothard as well as the ultra-right-wing political views of their father Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America. (Flip Benham believes that 9/11 was God’s judgment on America for abortion and homosexuality, and that he is doing the Lord’s work by picketing abortion clinics and publicly burning copies of the Quran and “homosexual flags.”)

operationsaveamerica[ Operation Save America. Image: Sunsara ]

 The Benhams and Bill Gothard

Like the founders of Hobby Lobby, the Benhams cite Bill Gothard’s teachings as foundational to both their families and their business:

“My brother and I learned numerous lessons from our dad as young boys growing up in Texas.  Several of the principles he taught us he learned himself from Dr. Bill Gothard. Today, our families and companies are built upon many of these timeless principles taught by Dr. Gothard.”

The principles that the Benham brothers were raised with are nothing short of Christian Patriarchalism. Their father Flip Benham eloquently made the case for the Quiverfull movement, saying:

“It is the devil who hates the idea of large families unless, of course, the offspring can be raised up to be God-hating adults i.e. Islam, or children raised up in broken homes with no Godly heritage.”

This is remarkably similar to Bill Gothard’s teachings from the Advanced Seminar, where he states:

“Satan’s goal [is] pleasure without responsibility… The hidden agenda of secular humanism is to reduce the size and strength of the family.

As adults, the Benham brothers have been so encouraged by Gothard’s teachings that have shared them on their company’s Facebook page. They are subscribers to Gothard’s “Daily Success” e-mails, which they have reposted on their website several times.

As recently as 2013, the Benham brothers took the stage at Gothard’s annual conferences to speak to homeschool students and families. Their videos also appear on Gothard’s Embassy Institute, where the brothers share “governing principles for business” which apply “to all of life”.

benhams[ Image: IBLP ]

The news that “Gothard resigned amid sexual harassment allegations” this spring apparently did not deter the Benhams from reading and sharing his teachings as recently as last month.

 The Benhams and the Billy Graham Evangelisic Association

When I saw news of the Benham’s show cancellation in May and the media tour that followed, I pointed out their connection with Bill Gothard. At the time, I assumed that Evangelicals would decline to claim the Benham’s as heroes of the faith, due to their ultra-right views and the often-ugly ways they express those views.

I was wrong.

Today I saw that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association profiled the Benham brothers in the latest issue of Decision Magazine – a publication that bills itself as “the evangelical voice of today”.

Decision Magazine[ image: Christian Nightmares ]

The featured article praises the brothers for standing firm on their Biblical values, portraying them as modern day Davids against the Goliaths of the liberal agenda:

“At a time when many Christians—pastors and laypeople alike—are caving to cowardice, the Benhams are being as bold as lions, as stated in Proverbs 28:1.

Their controversial dismissal gave them a national platform to stand strong for Christ. They’ve appeared on ABC’s Nightline and Good Morning America, Fox News, CNN and CBN, speaking uncompromisingly about biblical values and exhorting the church to rise out of its slumber…

Like today’s liberal agenda, Goliath’s intimidating tactics were intended to stifle the people of God from advancing His Kingdom… The Benhams, who are planning to release a book next fall, say the same evil that fueled Goliath is trying to demolish Christianity today…

Two of the foremost ways evangelicals have caved to culture is by failing to courageously stand for religious liberties and failing to vigorously resist the same-sex marriage movement…

‘Our goal was never to get our show back,’ David said. ‘Our goal was to go and bring down this stronghold.'”

With Evangelicals like these, who needs Fundamentalists?

I’ve written before about my uneasy relationship with American Evangelicalism. More and more, I fear that Evangelicalism is embracing fundamentalism with open arms. This, right here, is why.

When I see the Benham brothers being spotlighted by Christianity Today and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assocaition as “Evangelical Chrstians” who are “bold as lions”, I wonder if fundamentalism has in fact become the new Evangelicalism.

When the people who grace the stage at Bill Gothard’s conferences — the Duggars, the Benhams, the Hobby Lobby family — are elevated as heroes of “Biblical Christianity”, I have to wonder if fundamentalist ideology has become completely enmeshed with Evangelicalism today.

I don’t believe that the teachings of Bill Gothard have any place in Christianity.

Not only because they are inherently abusive and unbiblical, but also because they come from a man with decades of detailed allegations of grooming, harassment, and abuse of young women under the guise of “ministry”.

Though Bill Gothard has resigned, his teachings are still being spread and accepted second-hand by Christians who would never accept them from Gothard himself.

Can we stop elevating these poster-children of Gothardism as examples of faithful Christianity?

I’m tired of seeing this version of “faith” parroted from “Evangelicals” and supported by Christians today – even if the spokespeople are ridiculously handsome construction workers.


further reading:

Dear Mr. Gothard

Growing up in Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult

What the Christian Right Gets Wrong About Sin

published July 16, 2014

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