PODCAST: How Submission “Cults” Groom for Abuse–One Woman’s Story

by | Apr 11, 2024 | Abuse, Podcasts | 26 comments

Lauren Rose from Called to Peace ministries joins to talk about how submission grooms for abuse

When you’ve been raised to submit, will you even recognize abuse?

With thanks to the NIV Kingdom Girls Bible for sponsoring this podcast!

Today on the Bare Marriage podcast, we’ve got such a compelling interview with Lauren Rose from Called to Peace Ministries. She’s telling her story–and it’s a mesmerizing one–of what happened as her family got more and more into the Bill Gothard movement (and she was eventually one of the ones he allegedly abused, and was part of the lawsuit).

But when you grow up feeling like your main role is to submit, are you even able to recognize abuse?

Lauren tells her story of being in an abusive marriage, and how she eventually realized something was wrong and came out of it.

I think you’ll love it!

Plus I open the podcast with a round-up of what’s happened in the last two weeks since we talked about the Josh Howerton wedding night “joke”. So stay stuned for my statement there!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Lauren Rose tells her story

This is such a great (and heartbreaking) story of how a family got deeper and deeper into fundamentalism, and a girl who originally had a lot of spark and independence ended up being groomed to be a super submissive wife, putting up with abuse.

Plus Bill Gothard even targeted her!

I’m so grateful that Lauren took the time to share her story with us. The more we recognize these patterns, the more we can stop other people from getting into these same situations.

Meet our Sponsor–The Kingdom Girls Bible

Kingdom Girls Bible NIV

I am so excited about this Bible! I first found out about it in our Patreon group when people were sharing pictures and talking about it, and when I looked into it, I knew this was something I could get behind. And I wanted to spread the word!

Zondervan created this Bible designed for girls, but really great for anybody! It’s filled with beautiful pictures and a bio of every woman you come across in Scripture. It’s time to read a Bible that helps girls and women feel included in the story. It’s healing, and it’s wonderful.

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Our Sponsor:

The Kingdom Girls NIV Bible. Meet the women in God’s story! Designed for girls, but honestly–it’s awesome for every woman! And it makes a great Easter gift. The Bible includes beautiful photos and write-ups on every woman who is mentioned in Scripture. Finally, a Bible that highlights God’s story for women. 
View a 
sample of the Bible here!

To Support Us:

About Lauren Rose and Called to Peace:

Things Mentioned in the Podcast: 

Can you identify with Lauren’s story? How can we stop families from getting sucked in to fundamentalism like this? How can we help the Laurens in our midst? Let’s talk in the comments! 


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage.  And I have an amazing interview coming up with Lauren Rose from Called to Peace Ministries.  And when I’ve done these interviews in the past of women’s stories who were in abusive marriages and then they found freedom in Christ and they just underwent so many horrible things especially with the Gothard cult, people have really resonated.  They’re some of my most listened to podcasts, and you are going to want to listen to this interview.  It is just awesome.  So I’m so pleased she could join us.  But before we get to her, I need to talk about something that’s been going on since our podcast two weeks ago.  So two weeks ago, Jay Stringer and I were analyzing a clip from a sermon that mega church Pastor Josh Howerton gave.  Josh Howerton is the senior pastor of Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, near Dallas.  It’s a SBC church.  Mega church with, I believe, seven sites.  And he opened his sermon back in February with a two-minute anecdote, which he framed as a golden nugget of marriage advice which summarized the marriage night that they had just had in church.  And Jay Stringer and I talked about it.  It was really problematic.  Howerton told women that on his wedding night—so on the husband’s wedding night, women were supposed to stand where he tells you to stand, wear what he tells you to wear, and do what he tells you to do.  And Jay and I talked about why that was problematic as well as why other things that Howerton said was problematic.  Well, I shared that clip on social media, and it went totally viral seen by over two million people over all of my platforms.  It’s been covered in the news on salon.com, in the Dallas and Houston papers, in several Christian papers, and big news sites.  And people were just really revolted which made me super happy.  It’s one of the few times that I have seen the Internet erupt in absolute disgust at the same things that we’ve been calling out for years.  So when I think about the things that have encouraged me in the past two years because we’ve done several podcasts on how discouraged I feel, it was the fact that people got it.  When they saw him say that and they understood, yeah, this is what Sheila’s been talking about, this is why she wrote The Great Sex Rescue, because these messages are so ingrained in our culture.  But what I really want to talk about is what happened after that because Josh Howerton put out a statement saying that we had taken him out of context.  That it was just a joke.  But he never said it was a joke.  He said it was a golden nugget of marriage advice, and he never said, “So don’t do this.  Now don’t try this at home.  Now, obviously, we’re just laughing about it.”  No.  He said that, and everybody laughed.  And then he went on with his sermon about something totally different.  The context doesn’t make it any better.  And the thing about a joke, if you want to call it that, is that it’s only funny if people agree with the underlying premise.  And the underlying premise there is that women don’t like sex and that women are obligated to act like sex blow up dolls while their husbands like porn directors.  It’s a pornified way of seeing sex.  It is not a biblical way of seeing sex.  And we know from our research in The Great Sex Rescue that these types of messages that Josh gave are one of the huge reasons why evangelical women suffer from two to two and half times the rate of sexual pain disorders as the general population.  That’s what the obligation sex message does.  We know that doing the wedding night this way is one of the reasons, again, that women have higher rates of sexual pain disorders.  We know that these things are also linked to lower orgasm rates.  And so this matters.  This has real world effects, and that’s the point that we have been trying to make over and over again for years is that our words matter.  And even if the women in his congregation laughed, even if they believed those underlying assumptions, it doesn’t mean that they’re not being harmed by it.  This is what we found in our research is that when you believe that these things are true it has effects on your body.  So even if the women laughed, it still can definitely have an effect.  Last Sunday Josh Howerton issued an apology of sorts at his church.  He began this apology by railing against me, not by name, but, again, saying that I had taken him out of context and that I hadn’t said that it was a joke and that he frequently just jokes.  But then he did say, “If you were hurt, he apologized because he shouldn’t have hurt you,” which—okay.  But a real apology looks like this.  I know that what I said caused harm to people and what I said was wrong.  What I said normalized the pornified style of relating.  It normalized seeing women as obligated to have sex with their husbands.  It normalized men being sex—crazy sex monsters while women don’t want sex.  It normalized the idea that men don’t have to do anything for the wedding but can leave all of the mental load and labor to her.  All they have to do is show up.  It normalized really harmful gender dynamics.  And as a pastor, I should not have done that.  And I am now going to take some time to listen and to learn and to pray about this because I made a misstep that hurt people and that hurt the cause of Christ in the eyes of the world.  And I am sorry for that.  That’s not what we heard.  Instead, he spent the rest of the sermon explaining that Jesus offended people, and so we should expect pastors to also offend people.  And that that is the way that Josh operates is he tells jokes that people find offensive because that way people enjoy the church service and they aren’t bored.  I’m going to put a link to the sermon so that you can see the whole thing and a link to a Twitter thread I did where you can see just part of it.  But I want to focus in on a couple of the arguments he made, and then we’ll get to our interview because I think this is important.  Here’s the big thing.  Josh Howerton failed to note in that apology sermon that Jesus offended because He was fighting injustice, not because he was perpetuating it.  In that sermon, Josh says that Jesus called people lots of bad names like a dog.  He called Gentiles dogs.  He called other people broods of vipers.  And so if Jesus used this kind of hyperbolic language and if Jesus was rude, then it should be obvious that pastors might do that as well, and we shouldn’t think that that’s necessarily bad.  But let’s zero in on what actually happened in these two instances that Josh is naming.  The calling Gentiles dogs comes from the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28.  And it’s a little bit unclear what Jesus is actually saying.  There’s some debate about how the word that Jesus used was more like puppy.  And I don’t want to go into all that.  What I want to go into is the result of that conversation.  Because after that, this woman asserts her desire to be part of the blessing, to be included in what Jesus is doing, to receive a miracle.  And even though she was from a racial group that was generally excluded and she was a woman, Jesus praises her to the skies for wanting to be included.  And He elevates her, and He grants her her request.  And so in the end after this encounter, a member of a marginalized group was given full equality and inclusion rather than excluded.  What did Josh do in his sermon though?  He took a group that was often abused, women, and he told a joke giving golden nuggets of marriage advice that further objectified and marginalized women.  Not that included them or lifted them up.  Now what about the brood of vipers?  Jesus called out the Pharisees using this term as well as white washed tombs.  Lots of other things.  The religious teachers.  Because they were acting unjustly.  They were excluding people from God’s blessings.  They were piling burdens and not lifting a finger to help them.  And in both cases, Jesus was pleading the case of the marginalized and trying to stop people from being excluded.  He was stopping injustice.  Jesus offended power structures.  Josh offends when he reinforces those same power structures.  Josh asked us to laugh at women being pornified.  Jesus called out the people objectifying women.  Both Jesus and Josh offended people.  But one did it to free them, and the other did it to further oppress them.  Josh then went on to say that there are people who are actually offended on behalf of others who aren’t even being offended and that this is terrible.  He treats this as if it’s a bad thing for people to be offended on behalf of others, who may not even mind.  And I just want to say very clearly.  That, yes, Josh, I am offended.  I am offended on behalf of the women in your congregation, even if they laughed, because I know what effect hearing these sorts of things for years has on women.  We have studied it.  We have seen higher rates of sexual pain, lower orgasm rates, and higher rates of abuse.  To be offended on behalf of those who are being oppressed even if you are not being oppressed yourself is part of fulfilling Jesus’ calling to set the captives free.  It’s part of being His hands and feet in the world.  In this sermon, Josh consistently uses Jesus as a comparison to himself.  He talks about how Jesus was often taken out of context and how the demonic cancel mob came after him because of that.  But Jesus was acting for exactly the opposite motives and aims as what Josh was in his sermon.  Jesus did not offend to make the Gospel seem cool.  Jesus offended because He was fighting injustice.  I hope that Josh goes back and reads the Gospels again and really looks at why Jesus offended people and looks at who it was that Jesus actually called out because if Josh humbles himself he may see himself in those stories.  But it won’t be as the Jesus character.  And I hope that the pastors who have been really hounding me on social media about this—and it’s really only been pastors and men from Lakepointe.  That’s about it.  Who have been trying to defend Josh.  I hope they do some introspection to because it is about time that the men in evangelicalism, and especially the pastors, start realizing that women are not the punch line of your pornified joke.  And I just wanted to say that.  So thank you, everybody, for encouraging me by helping this thing go viral and by seeing along with me how horrible this was.  Please keep speaking out though because it’s going to be a long fight.  But people are seeing it, and that’s what’s important.  And now I want to turn to Lauren Rose, who is a product of this kind of teaching in the church, and let’s see how it affected her.  Well, I am thrilled to welcome on the podcast today someone who just has such a great heart for what we do because she’s in a very similar work.  So this is Lauren Rose from Called to Peace Ministries. 

Lauren Rose: Hi.  I’m so happy to be here today.  We are grateful for your work as well.  So it’s fun to be here. 

Sheila: Yeah.  And I’ve done a lot of podcasts for you, and I’ve met you before on your side of things.  And now you’re coming to my side of things.  But before we start in with your story, tell us what Called to Peace is.

Lauren Rose: Yeah.  So Called to Peace exists to provide a compassionate, comprehensive, Christ-centered response to those impacted by domestic abuse.  We provide advocacy support, support groups, and practical assistance, and we also help churches and other organizations learn how to better respond to those impacted by domestic abuse.  

Sheila: Yeah.  So that’s great.  So you do so much advocacy and education work too as well as really coming alongside victims and—yeah.  I really appreciate your work.  But I know when I was on a podcast with you awhile ago you were telling me a little bit about your story, and I’m like oh my goodness.  My listeners need to hear this because there’s so many similarities to what I hear every day.  So can you tell us how you got sucked in to really negative relationship dynamics and abuse?  And that started even as a kid, didn’t it?

Lauren Rose: It started more as a teenager more so.  But yes.  My family became Christians when I was 12.  And so from there, I was homeschooled.  And then we joined the Bill Gothard program when I was almost 17 years old.  So before then, I was kind of a normal teenager going through normal struggles and everything like that.  And then I entered into this world.  I was like this is a cult.  I want nothing to do with this.  Absolutely nothing.  But in that world, if you respond like that, you’re further shamed, and you’re told that you’re rebellious.  And I actually met Bill Gothard when I was 17.  And I learned that girls weren’t allowed to be educated.  We weren’t allowed to have friends.  We weren’t allowed to listen to anything other than classical hymns.  And I was like this is—I’m so mad.  This man is ruining my life.  I’m going to get education.  I’m going to be successful.  I don’t want anything to do with this.  So I met him.  I just could tell he was just so excited.  Thought he was going to win me over.  And he was like, “Yeah.  What do you want to do with your life?  How would you like to work with troubled youth?”  And I said, “Oh no.  I’m going,”—and I named the school.  And I said, “This is what I’m going to do.”  And he was like, “Well, what are you going to get?”  And I said, “Well, I’m getting my degree in business management.”  And this is what I told him what I’m going to do.  And he looked me, and he’s like, “Well, how would you like to go here and be able to really be successful?”  And he names what I can do.  And I’m like, “No.”  And I was like nothing to do with him.  So he actually announced on the stage that evening in front of 20,000 people that I was the most hardhearted, rebellious individual he had ever met.  More hardhearted than (cross talk).

Sheila: Oh my goodness.

Lauren Rose: Oh yeah.  So I was very shamed and made to feel horrible that I wanted nothing to do with this program.  I thought the education was horrible.  I was like I don’t understand how reading Matthew 5 through 7 is an education.  I was like this is not education.  You’re making me study the Bible.  This is going to mess me up getting into college.  So I saved money.  And I was like I’m going to college, and I’m out.  So that was my heart.  I wanted nothing to do with it.  Something funny too is when he met me at 17 the other thing he said with that is that I was a type of girl that would destroy his whole program.  He just did not like me at all.  Sensed a lot of defiance.  

Sheila: And he was right.  

Lauren Rose: I was a very strong willed kid.  And I was like I’m going to tell you like it is, and I want nothing to do with this.  And if you put me in here, I was like—my attitude was I will literally destroy you.  Nothing to do with this.  So I became a Christian at 17 and really started—I loved the Lord and really wanted to know Him.  We went to a conference, and I began to believe that—and it was put more pressure on me that I had to go into this program to be a godly Christian.  And if I wasn’t going into this program, I no longer love Jesus.  So I wanted to be—I felt like God was calling me into the mission field, and I wanted to be a missionary.  I had a really radical change and started to get to know God and still wanted nothing to do with IBLP.  But I was told, “No.  You need to go here first because you will be a better Christian.”  So I gave up my college education acceptance and went right into the IBLP program at 18 years old.

Sheila: Oh, did you really?  Oh, that’s so sad.  Yeah.  And for those of you who are listening, remember, IBLP—that’s Shiny, Happy People.  So if you saw the documentary Shiny, Happy People, that’s what we’re talking about.  So yeah. 

Lauren Rose: It is not—I was in a program for six weeks where I had to—I was really brainwashed.  I had to listen to their teachings every single day.  I could only talk to my parents 15 minutes a day, was not allowed any outside influences, and was really, really shamed.  I actually met another person you interviewed, Elisa Welch, her parents—no, not parents.  Her parents-in-laws were there.  And yeah.  They made me feel like I was a really horrible person.  I began to carry a lot of shame in my life, and they made me feel really afraid of the world and afraid of (inaudible).  And somehow that if I didn’t follow all their programs, I was going to marry a really abusive man, who was into porn and that I was just going to be not precious.  I walked away feeling so low.  And I bought into their program in order to find my identity and worth.  And I am gung ho, so I went all out.  I got to their second phase of their program that you also had to be isolated from the world for five weeks and then went into their college.  They have a Bible college.  And so I got my degree in their Bible college in biblical counseling and had planned to be a missionary in Romania.  So yeah.  I got very brainwashed into it, went gung ho into it, and just was searching for value and worth after really being beat down and made to feel that I was worth nothing unless I did all of their principles and did everything right.  And nobody would want me in marriage unless I did everything they said.

Sheila: Right.  And people think this is fringe.  And I mean IBLP was fringe.  But the thing is the people got into it got into it from normal churches because friends were going to it.  It was all in—all throughout churches.  We had people in our homeschooling group, in my town, that my kids grew up with who were in IBLP.  So I know friends who were in it.  So it seems fringe.  But if you were in evangelical circles, it was actually quite common.  

Lauren Rose: Yes.  And you get sucked in very slowly.  We still went to a normal church in the beginning.  And then you get so sucked in, you can’t even attend a normal church anymore.  Most of them did home church or end up going to an ATI church because you no longer could even fit in with normal Christians.  It was just you were hymns.  You wore long skirts.  You were courtship.  And you were no youth group.  And anybody who believes in youth group was very secular, worldly, so we were very sheltered, very secluded.  So you get sucked in very slowly.  And then eventually before you know it, you’re isolated from the whole entire world.  

Sheila: Right.  Okay.  So you’re taking a biblical counseling course.  And looking back, what do you think of what you were taught?

Lauren Rose: Oh goodness.  Well, I read a lot of the Pearl’s book.  I read a lot of the Ezzo’s books.  I did take Law 101 and 102 from Oakbrook College of Law, and I loved it which I’ll talk about later which was actually instrumental in—when I faced Bill Gothard in court.  I took a medical course.  It was very interesting.  But everything was very from the Bible.  I did take some theology courses, and I hired a tutor from the seminary—local Southeastern Seminary—Bible seminary.  And I got education there, so that was good.  But it was a lot of studying their material.  I studied literally their financial seminar, their Basic seminar, their Advanced.  I have done their counseling seminar.  I studied every piece of material ever written by them and wrote on it.  So I memorized all of it and then had to write how I made it applicable to my life.  But yeah.  I would say it further shifted my mental thinking to be very brainwashed as this is the right way to go.  You don’t really know anything else at this point.  This is all you’re learning.  This is all you’re reading.  You have your own language, your own way of communicating in the Christian community.

Sheila: Yeah.  And it’s all about you need to follow our exact rules or else you’re not under the umbrella of protection and Satan can get at you.  So it’s not really Christian.  It’s not about Jesus.  It’s not about living out with the Holy Spirit.  It really is just about following these rules.

Lauren Rose: Yes.  And it just makes you feel—it’s a fear based.  If you don’t do these things, Satan will destroy you.  If you don’t do this, then this is how you’re going to end up in marriage.  If you don’t this, this is how your friends are going to make you be destroyed and the pain you’re going to have in your life and the suffering.  So it was called the true success to life is basically what their model was.  A new approach for true success.  And so it was basically avoiding suffering.  He even retold the story of Job.  He says that Job actually—he was punished because his children cursed God.  And the reason why his children cursed God is because Job wasn’t a very involved father.  So there is always—oh, and Joseph was—the reason why he was put in the pit is because he was bragging.  So there’s always an explanation to why these people suffer because they did something wrong.  So any suffering like cancer, anything, is all your fault.  Everything is on you.  If you do these things, you will have success.  There’s no divorce.  There is no suffering.  There is no infertility.  You don’t walk through these things.  You are getting good health through their health program.  They have this.  They’re literally taking control to avoid any aspect of suffering.  And so it’s—when you’re young, it puts a lot of fear in you to think of, “Oh, wow.  If I do these things, I’m going to be destroyed.”  You don’t have enough life experience to even understand it.  Yeah.  So that would be my view of that.

Sheila: Right.  Right.  Okay.  So then after the counseling program, how soon after that before you met the guy that you were going to marry?   

Lauren Rose: Well, so that’s—I’ll guess I’ll get farther into my story, but I guess kind of part of that is I really started—like I say became a Christian at 17.  And God kept me through this which I think is really amazing.  I’m seeing all these things.  But at the same time, my spirit is ringing out something is not right.  It was a lot of frustration over this stuff.  This world that felt like it was conflicting with each other.  And so I don’t describe it any other way than the Holy Spirit was starting to speak to me, “Something is wrong.  This isn’t right.”  But yet, I’m being told something is wrong with me to even feel this way, so I began to suppress my cautions and suppress anything the Holy Spirit was saying to me because I can’t fully live it all out without hearing the Holy Spirit.  And then I began spending an hour in prayer every day.  It was what God told me to do.  And I don’t regret that.  I’m actually really happy I did that.  And so I began seeking God and experiencing God in this time and really getting to know His heart.  And part of my story is I had blocked memories from a childhood sexual assault.  Really horrific event.  Went into four-stage trauma, disassociation, amnesia, and blocked it from my mind.  And through prayer and fasting, the Lord is like—brought it to my mind.  And then the Lord is like, “I’m ready for you to know you’ve got to go fast and pray.”  And so I fasted and prayed.  And I was like, “Okay, God.  I’m ready for this.”  And so I had my first flashback and started to deal with this.  Nobody believed me.  Nobody understands it.  And counseling is considered horrible in this organization.  Horrible.  It will destroy you.  You’re not allowed to get any counseling outside of these people.  Don’t go that way.  So I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody.  I had to spend my whole entire time in prayer.  That’s how I learned to work through these horrific flashbacks.  It was terrible.  I had PTS, and I literally spent hours in prayer every day just trying to figure out and letting the Lord speak truth and bring healing to my heart and life.  So I began to know God’s heart.  I began to believe and know that He is good, and He is loving and kind.  And so I was very conflicted in things.  And that’s kind of what happened there.  And so I met Bill Gothard.  Okay.  So I was sitting in a conference, and we go to this yearly conference.  And it’s like 5,000 people now, at this point.  It’s no longer 20,000 because we’re doing it in four different separate—it’s all over the nation.  And I am sitting there, and he’s talking about the Romanian government.  And I wanted to be a missionary.  And I just felt like God was speaking to my heart and saying, “I want you to work with them.”  And I was like, “Okay, God.  If it’s really your will for me to work with them, why don’t You make Bill Gothard come find me and ask me?  Because if it’s Your will, You can move heaven and earth to make it happen.”  So randomly, I see him and my sisters saying hello to him.  I think he scouted out my sister.  I walk up to him, and I say, “Hi.  I’m Lauren.  It’s nice to meet you.”  And he said—and he just says, “Hello.”  And he starts staring at me.  And he said, “How would you like to come work with the Romanian government?”  And I was like, “I would.  I would like to go.”  So that’s how I ended up with Bill Gothard is I—that whole incident.  And then I worked for him, and he really took a liking to me from the very beginning.  And he would—basically, he started asking us for stories and testimonies.  And I loved talking.  He’s like, “Does anybody have a testimony on this?”  And I’m like, “Oh yeah.”  Commands of Christ.  I’m raising my hand.  I’ve studied all this material inside and out.  I can tell you a story of how it applies to my life for every area he talked about.  And so he started noticing those things.  And he’s like, “Oh my goodness.”  So he pulls me aside, and he’s like, “I’m extremely impressed with you.  I want you to stay here.  And I want you to be actually my assistant.”  He’s like, “I want this to be our ministry.  This is no longer my ministry.”  And I’m like, “Oh, wow.”  This is considered elite of elite.  When you’re selected by him like that, I must be worth something.  I really must be worth something because I felt like I was worth nothing still compared to this organization that beat me down all the time with legalism.  And so he asked me to pray together.  And I prayed with him.  And we get up.  He looks at me, and he’s like, “I can tell you really know God.  When you pray, I felt the Holy Spirit come.  And I felt like you just touched Heaven.  I felt like I was at God’s throne.”  I was like, “Well, yeah.  I do know God.  I’ve walked through deep, hard things in my life.  And I know Him.  I walk with God.”  And he’s like, “You remind me of an old staff girl, and I haven’t had this much fellowship with a girl in a long, long time.”  And I was like, “Who is she?”  And he wouldn’t tell me her name.  And he said, “She’s from the nineties.  You wouldn’t know her.”  And I was like, “Okay.”  And he’s like, “Well, she and I had fellowship together, and I just never had that fellowship with anybody else since.”  Oh, okay.  

Sheila: And then, for context here, Bill Gothard is not married.  And at this point, you were how old?

Lauren Rose: I was 21, and he was 72.

Sheila: 21 and 72.  Okay.  Mm-hmm.

Lauren Rose:   So he invites me to ride up in his little blue car, which is a big deal, and hands me an opened letter and says, “Read this.”  And I start to read it.  And it was a from a girl.  Something inside of me screamed.  It’s the Holy Spirit.  I was like, “This is inappropriate.”  I was like, “Something is going on between this man and the woman, and I don’t know what it is.”  I was like, “But something is wrong.”  So I looked at him, and I said, “Do you want me to rip this letter to shreds for you?”  And he’s like, “No.”  And he takes it, and he snatches it out of my hand.  And before he did, though, I looked at the back, and I see that name.  And it says Meg.  And I was like, “Meg, Meg, Meg, Meg.  Who is Meg?”  So two days I’m in his office again.  And I’m watching him flirt with all these young girls.  He flirts with them.  He delights in them.  And I’m screaming out, “This is wrong.  This is not okay.”  And I say, “God, I don’t know what is going on here.  But what’s happening?”  And I hear the Lord speak to me in my heart.  And God says, “I’ve seen everything here.   And some day I will use you in court to testify against him.”  And I was like, “What?”  So I just hid that in my heart.  I did confess to Bill Gothard that I am actually a childhood sexual survivor.  At that point, I can go home, that I no longer remind him of this old staff girl, and is going to send me home.  But I end up staying.  And he decides he’s going to do counseling with me over sexual abuse.  And it was horrific.  Horrific.  He told me I sinned against God when I was sexually abused and made me get down on my knees and confess my sin in being abused.  He would spread his legs and make me tell details of my story.  But in my spirit, I sensed that he was lusting after me.  And I was like, “This isn’t right.  He’s lusting after me.”  And he would say to me as I’m sensing that because I’m guessing he can tell I’m sensing this and I’m uncomfortable and he’s like, “You should never tell people details of these stories.  But the way you heal is by telling details.”  He’s like, “See?  I don’t have,”—he told me.  He said he is not triggered by them.  He doesn’t think bad thoughts, and he can handle it.  He’s like, “Because I’ve never had sex with a woman.  And because of that, I don’t ever have sexual thoughts.”  

Sheila: Oh my gosh.        

Lauren Rose: Yes.  Oh, and it gets terrible.  He tells me the reason I feel pain in my heart is because I am—because remember?  They don’t believe in suffering.  Is because it means I had not made a list of gratefulness.  So I have to make a list of ten benefits of being abused as a child.  I told that I was—had a worldly mindset because I was more concerned with the things of the world, and that’s why the pain hurt.  If I didn’t—had a spiritual mindset, it wouldn’t hurt to be in my heart to remember these things.  Because a spiritual mindset would say that I am so focused on Christ and what He has given me through that, I wouldn’t feel pain.

Sheila: Now I want to just pause here for a minute because this is horrific what Gothard said to you.  And this is over the top.  But I have also heard so many pastoral and biblical counselors saying similar things to women.  

Lauren Rose: Oh, it’s terrible.

Sheila: Not maybe to this level, but to say the reason that you can’t get over what happened is because you don’t have a grateful spirit.  It’s because you haven’t fully forgiven.  It’s because you’re carrying bitterness around.  The problem is always on you.  The reason that you’re still upset is because there is something wrong with you.  So even though Gothard was over the top, this is very common when people go to unlicensed counseling.   

Lauren Rose:   Yes.  Absolutely.  It’s because they can’t deal with suffering, and they don’t have an accurate perception of suffering.  And it’s wrong because it denies the fact that we life in a fallen world, and there is physiological effects of going through abuse.  It does hurt our heart because we weren’t designed to live in this world.  It does hurt you and prove that you are human, and it’s actually—I love Rebecca Davis.  One of her books that she uses and teaches false teachings is about how that we were accused of bitterness when actually Job and everybody else cried and wept too.  Even Jesus wept.  It’s normal to sit in suffering and feel pain.  That’s part of finding Jesus.  And we, as Christians, want to wipe out pain and say, “Oh, no.  You can’t feel pain from that.  You should be over it.  If you’re a strong Christian, you won’t feel pain still from your divorce.  You’ll be moved on.  What’s wrong with you?  Just bless them and move on.”  No.  You shove it down.  I’m going to tell you what happened to me.  I’m going to get there, but it will destroy your life.  It will because you have to feel the pain.  You have to walk through suffering to get over it and to grieve it all out and to move forward in healing and wholeness.  And if you don’t, you will stay stuck in a horrific mindset.  So it drove me to believe that all pain and suffering is my fault.  And Bill Gothard worse.  I stopped counseling with him because one night he grabbed me, pulled me under his suit jacket, and tried to kiss me.  I froze in my tracks, backed out.  I was like I’m out of here.  And I thought because I’m taught this man is godly and because that horrific book—which one is it?  It’s the one that tells us we’re all—Every Man’s Battle.  I read that at 19.  I thought that I was responsible for tempting a godly man, and I felt horrific.  So I left and prayed all that night.  And I said, “God, I just need you to take away this pain.”  I prayed for four hours, and I just felt like the Lord spoke to me and said, “The pain is gone.”  And I never felt pain in my heart again, and I don’t believe that’s God’s way of always healing people.  But I was stuck in a situation.  I was trapped here.  I made a two-year vow to stay at headquarters because he told me to make vows, and God would destroy the work of my hands if I leave.  So I made my vow to God to stay here for two years.  So I’m trapped.  If I don’t get rid of this pain and can’t function and I am just going to be destroyed, so he’s going to punish me.  He has ways of punishing you and sending you to the mailroom and all this type stuff.  So God healed me, and I moved forward.  But the psychological damage of that remained in my life for years too.  Yeah.  Then I met my now then husband there.  And at this point, I’m so brainwashed by principles, and I just start feeling caution that this isn’t God’s person for me.  And I start seeing evidences of things that I’m like this isn’t going to be good.  This indicating there is lust issues.  This is indicating that when this man is upset and doesn’t get his way he’s going to yell at me and get angry.  I just started seeing all these things.  And I was like, “Well, I have to end this.”  So I tried.  And then I was basically told that I need to follow biblical principles, and that’s why I have anxiety and fear.  And if I just let go of my anxiety and fear and follow all these principles, I’ll be successful in marriage.  I had been taught that there is no suffering coming for me if I do all the right things.

Sheila: And who is teaching you this while you’re seeing these red flags from this guy?  Is it the guy telling you this?  Or is it just the community that you’re in?  

Lauren Rose: Yeah.  The community.  Everything.  I mean it’s just my whole culture, my world that I live in.  That’s how we live.  We don’t believe in suffering.  We believe in just suppressing it all and doing all the right things, and God will bless you and reward you.  As long as I had my parents’ blessing and did everything they say, the Bible promises it will go well for me.

Sheila: And did your parents know him?  They saw him, and they didn’t see the red flags?

Lauren Rose: No.  They didn’t.  I mean I told them, but no.  You don’t believe in long courtships, and you get married very quickly.  So by the time I was engaged, I only had seen him—got together six times.  So yeah.  It was a quick courtship, got married very quickly, and began noticing something was wrong immediately.  At this point, divorce is not an option.  Not at all.  It’s just not.  And I don’t even understand the word abuse or anything was happening in the home.  But in our organization, we were taught submission and to obey in all things.  All things at all times.  So when I didn’t do what that person said, I was threatened.  Physically threatened, called vulgar names.  Sex is—you never say no.  No matter if you’re recovering from childbirth, no matter what.  That’s not an option.  And then I would have Scripture read to me to tell me that it’s my fault.  And I just don’t love God.  And it’s always my fault and that I just don’t love God enough.  And my heart is dying inside.  I just literally want to die.  I don’t want to live in this anymore.  It’s so horrifically painful.  And I’m like how comes there’s so much pain in my life if I’ve done everything right?  Why is this so painful?  And I’m not going through details of the abuse, but it was basically about power and control.  Everything had to be about them being the upper person, and they controlled every aspect of my life.  They had the final say.  I had no voice.  I wasn’t allowed to work outside the home.  I mean I wasn’t even allowed to volunteer really outside the home without his permission.  Everything is controlled.  Friends, everything.  And there’s punishment given if you don’t do the right things.  I’m Googling.  I’m like help for my marriage.  And I find the domestic violence and power and control wheel, and I’m like, well, every single one of these things are in my life and in my marriage.  All of them are there.  I was like but they’re supposed to be controlled.  I was taught by Bill Gothard that sometimes your authority may slap you across the face as a way to punish you, and you were a chisel.  He was a hammer, and I was the diamond is what I was taught.  And so he’s basically beating me, not physically but I’ve been through physical abuse.  But to bring out the character of Christ in me.  So I’m thinking as a good Christian I’m supposed to just take this and let—God can form to the image of Christ.  And I did for about three years.  And I was like, “I can’t do this anymore, God.  I just can’t.  I want to die.”  I was like, “I’m ready to just die.  I’m done.  Nobody will believe me.  I don’t even know what to do.  This is not normal.”  And so that’s when my face just—I just fell on the floor.  I remember I’m just crying out to Jesus.  And I was like, “Jesus, just help me.  I don’t know what to do.”  God spoke to me again, and God said to me, “Go to recoveringgrace.org.”  And I was like, “Okay.  That’s weird.  I don’t like this site.”  And there was part one of Meg’s story.  Remember Meg?  The girl that he told me I reminded him of.  He asked to marry her when she was 21 and he was 62.  So I got in touch with her.  I said, “Get me in touch with that girl.”  I was like I know her.  I’ve read her letters.  I know who this girl is.  And in that point, I knew within me everything I had heard—all that caution was true because all that caution I felt towards my husband and my marriage was true.  Everything I felt about Bill Gothard and seeing  him flirt with young girls was true.  I wasn’t just a rebellious, defiant, messed up individual.  Maybe it was I saw the truth, and I no longer can remain silent anymore.  It just screamed out so loudly.  It was either death or life.  I was like I’m going to die if I continue to suppress all this.  I can’t live in this anymore.  So Meg and I connected along with several others.  And she’s like, “You’ve got to get in therapy.  You’ve got to get in therapy right now.”  And so I went to therapy just to deal with the sexual abuse memories that—of Bill Gothard counseling me.  And that’s all I dealt with.  I was like Bill Gothard never abused me.  I walked in there.  I was like only a male counselor and in his seventies because I’m very against therapy.  And I’m like he had had a—he has his MDiv.  And I was like okay.  I’ll be okay.  Because at this point, I don’t like—Bill Gothard told me a therapist would have ruined me and actually asked me to thank my parents for never getting me therapy.  So I was very afraid.  But I walked in, and I was like, “I’m desperate for healing.  So I’m here.”  But I was like, “Bill Gothard abused me.  We’re just going to talk about what he did to me in counseling.”  And so we started unraveling that.  And after six months of unraveling that, it was just all of a sudden the light bulbs went off, and I was like oh my goodness.  I’m being sexually abused in my marriage.  Sexual abuse is occurring.  And I don’t have the exact words.  I just described an incidents.  And he’s like, “You never told me,”—he’s like, “These things happen in your marriage.”  And I was like, “I never knew they were wrong.  But if what Bill Gothard did to me and said to me is wrong, then these things are wrong.”  And he’s like, “Well, what’s the truth?”  And I was like, “My marriage is abusive.”  I was like, “But I have to save it.  I can’t—divorce isn’t an option.”  So I was like, “I’m going to save it.  I’m going to do everything I can, and I’m going to save and fix this.  I can’t do this to my child.”  And so yeah.  I worked through that.  I began doing a lot more therapy and doing a lot more work along the lines of being sexually abused, my marriage, and just processing through that because Bill Gothard taught me in my brain that I’m responsible for all this.  So when my husband abuses me, I believe I’m responsible.  I’m responsible for a man’s lust and never to say no.  I’m supposed to be available whenever they want.  If I don’t know any difference, it’s written on my heart.  It’s not supposed to be this way because it’s not God’s design.  But I don’t have words to say this is wrong because Scripture and all these Christian teachings are telling me this is right.  Something is wrong with you.  But it’s eventually you’re so miserable inside you’re like I can’t live in this anymore.  And so I just kept doing that.  In the meantime, I joined the lawsuit against Bill Gothard.  I was Jane Doe number four.  And then I ended up leaving my marriage finally.  I showed up at my counselor’s office with a bruise.  I went to my medical doctor, and I’m like I’m done.  I need help.  And my church, at this point, had me in marriage counseling and was still trying to save the marriage because I said I wanted to save the marriage.  And he’s not even repentant.  It’s all justified.  And it’s escalating.  And I’m like I can’t.  And so my therapist, at the time, puts me in touch with Joy—we’re in (inaudible) where she lives.  Joy Forrest, the founder and executive director of Called to Peace, is who I met.  And so I went into her teeny, tiny office, and I showed—she—I told her what was happening.  And she showed me the power and control wheel.  And I’m like, “But these things are supposed to be controlled by God and by your authorities.”  And she was like, “No, they’re not.  Not in a Christian marriage.  Not at all.”   And she starts taking Scripture and showing me God’s heart and God’s heart for marriage.  And she started validating that what I had been through is abuse and that I’m living in fear and that these things are not okay.  And she’s believing me.  And she’s asking me questions about it.  For the first time, I was like I finally feel like somebody believes me, and I have words to say this is abuse.  And this is not okay.  This is not God’s heart.  And according to Scripture, these things shouldn’t be happening.  So I got in touch—she got in touch with my church.  And she met with my pastors and began explaining to them abuse.  My therapist met with them.  And they’re like, “This is abuse.  We’re getting her out of here.”  So they got me out of my marriage and helped me get to safety.

Sheila: The church?  The church or the—oh good.

Lauren Rose:   Yes.  And so my pastor said to me—he’s like, “I know men have abused you in life.  But I want you to know that not all men are abusive and desire to hurt you.  And we, as a church, are going to stand by you and walk with you and keep you safe.”  And I was like wow.  In the moment, I really felt the mercy and love of God.  And I was like it was amazing because I would have never even left unless my church told me too.  I didn’t know how to listen to anything unless an authority told me to do so.  And so I then—the lawsuit was dropped and there were complications.  And then I had a judgment put on me.  It was after I left.  Or sanctions put on me.  Excuse me.  Of $220,000 by Gothard.  I testified against him in court.  And then I went home and filed for divorce a week later.  So then I began working for Called to Peace.  But it’s been a long journey.  We can untangle all of that.  That’s the story of coming to a place of freedom after such abuse and just being told this is God’s heart.  It was really challenging walking through all this because I was like there are certain points—even though I knew God.  I was like I don’t think I want to be a Christian.  I was like if this is Christianity I don’t want anything to do with this.  Why does God give us license to—men to abuse women?  Why did God even create something so horrible as marriage?  Why did God create men?  I started asking and questioning those things.  And it was through people and men that were good that spoke truth to my life like the pastor and through Joy saying, “This is not God’s heart.  Jesus was put on the cross by religious people.  Religious people destroyed and killed Jesus.  It wasn’t the sinners out there.  It was the Pharisees and the Sadducees slew Him.  So He understands suffering, and He understands being betrayed by those who profess to know God but live nothing of it behind closed doors.”  And so it was—I was like, “Okay, God.  I’m going to cling to you.”  And so through that, finding His heart and finding that Jesus understood, He understood what it feels like to be betrayed by those who use the word of God to suppress you and to control you and use it as a sword to literally slay you.  I mean that’s what they did to Jesus.  They used the word of God against Him.  And so it’s been a journey of me for finding God’s heart, and I appreciate your book so much because it’s so rooted in Scripture and so rooted in God’s heart.  And so much of our teachings—Bill Gothard’s seminar—I think 2.5 million people have been through it.  Mostly counselors and Christian leaders and things like that and pastors.  And so many people are taking on these views, and it created such amazing, wonderful young people.  I was that shining star on the stage all the time giving my testimony and telling about these things.  But they never thought where this would end up in life for me.  Eventually, it destroyed me because that’s not—

Sheila: I think they knew.  I think they knew, and they didn’t care.  

Lauren Rose:   They didn’t care.  Those men didn’t care either.  They just sat there (cross talk) with their tails tucked under them and refused to say anything.  They didn’t.  And they just watched it all happen.  But yeah.  Yeah.  Christian teachings.  People just don’t evaluate them and look at them and say, “Where does this leave women?  What is God’s heart for women?  What is God’s heart for marriage,” instead of looking at the truth of Scripture and what God really meant because God is a God of love.  Nothing should make us feel oppressed and like we hate God because of His word.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Okay.  Just for our listeners, we had Emily from Thriving Forward on last year.  A year and a half ago?  About the Bill Gothard lawsuit too.  So I will link to that podcast, so you can listen more to her story about involved in that lawsuit.  But that was thrown out because the statute of limitations, wasn’t it?    

Lauren Rose: No.  It was other complications due to the lawsuit.  It wasn’t statute of limitations.  It was a very complicated thing, and so we withdrew.  It was a lot.  A lot was happening.  A lot was going on.  Inside stuff with the lawyers were just like, “Hey, this man is going to—it’s going to be a really rough ride.  And this is how we’re doing things.”  And so we chose to drop the lawsuit due to complications.

Sheila: And then he countersued you.

Lauren Rose: Well, he actually put sanctions on us.  So that’s—it wasn’t a counter suit.  But basically, if you got—it was a sanction saying that we had lied.  And so he was trying to prove defamation, and the $220,000 was to pay him back for his lawyers.  So he put the sanctions demanding that we pay him back.  And so there was 18 of us in the lawsuit, but he chose 7 of us—from the number of perfection.  So he went after 7 of us in the lawsuit to—yeah.  Have us testify in court.

Sheila: And then that was—Emily said that was a very healing experience was testifying in court.  

Lauren Rose: It was.  For me, I was very traumatized.  I’ll be honest.  I was tapping like this before I went up there.  Emily went right before me.  She was Jane Doe number three.  I was Jane Doe number 4, so the Jane Does went first.  And then that’s when the Oakbrook College of Law courses I took came in handy because I started using all of those methods I learned in there hit my mind on the witness stand.  And I was like oh yeah.  This is how you do this.  So it was interesting because his representative was a legal defense attorney and was really vicious.  And he wasn’t prepared.  And he kept saying things.  And then I remember he said something, and he thought he was going to hook me.  And then I remembered the part in the lawsuit where it says—it lists sympathy.  Because to show that he doesn’t understand it and tell your life story, he asked me, “Do you really believe this is sexual abuse?  Do you understand sexual abuse?”  I was like, “Oh boy.  I got you,” because I said, “Yes, sir.  I do.”  I was like, “I’m a childhood sexual abuse survivor, so I know darn well what sexual abuse is.”  I was like, “This was sexual abuse by Bill Gothard because it was unwanted and unconsented.  So, therefore, by the very definition, I’m like it is abuse.”  So he was asking me things like that and then trying to hook me in in other stuff.  And along the lines of saying that I was trying to expose Bill Gothard for the lawsuit.  It was like, but wait, he would catch stuff that was off guard.  There was one point where he just like, “I found this in a private support group, and so you said this.  So, therefore, you’re trying to expose him.”  I was like, “In that private support group.  Do I ever state who I am and my name?”  And I was like, “Does that statement that?”  And he was reading it again.  I was like, “No, sir.”  I was like, “How about you answer me?”  I was like, “Does that statement state that?”  And he kept going at me.  And I was like, “Does it state it?  Read it.”  So the judge had him read it.  At that point, he got so mad he started yelling at the judge.  And then the judge threatened to end the whole thing.  So it was great.  I mean I was like this is interesting.  It was very nerve wracking.  I was like this guy is not prepared.  And so basically, I just tried to show that I knew what I was talking about and was prepared and trying to make him look dumb because he was.  I knew I had the truth, and I knew the truth was stronger than a lie.  And so then I just feel like the Holy Spirit hit me, and I was like I’m prepared to fight whatsoever.  I think I  felt good because I felt like I stood for others.  I stood for what was right.  I had two people in the back of my mind.  Actually, one was Alyssa Welch and another person I’m not going to name.  And I knew them.  And I was like they experienced the worst of it, so I got to fight for them.  And I have to fight for my daughter  because she’s not growing up in this environment.  I was like I’m going to fight, and I’m going to fight you with everything I have.  So every time he started coming at me that’s when I was like okay.  It’s my turn to go back at you.  So yeah.  At the end, I felt good, and I was like—I went into Bill Gothard’s office the next day or looked in.  And I saw the boxes all the way over there, and I was like yeah.  This is what God means when He says I’ve seen everything, and somebody I’ll use you in court to testify against Him.  The Lord is good.  The Lord has seen.  And yeah.  It took ten years.  Yeah.  Ten years to get there.  But God saw.  He has a plan the whole time to expose this and to show the truth.  And so my heart is to show God’s heart that this is not Him.  This is not God at all.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And you guys did not have to pay Bill Gothard anything either.  Just want to make that clear.  

Lauren Rose:   No.  He appealed us like four times.  He had to hire an appellate lawyer.  But yeah.  Then it was going to go to the Supreme Court of Justice in Washington D.C. was the next level, and that’s when he dropped it and decided he would move on.  So he fought for a long time.  But nope.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  All right.  Well, I will put a link to our podcast with Alyssa as well, so both with Emily and Alyssa so you can hear their stories, our listeners.  So today you’re divorced.  And you’re raising your child by yourself.  And you are finding this new God that you always knew but you could never quite understand and things that you knew in your heart didn’t measure up with what was being taught to you.  And now you’ve found this freedom, and you’re involved in this organization that helps others.  And I want to give our listeners an insight into some of the commonalities of the stories that you hear because you’re involved in Called to Peace.  And so you talk to abuse victims all the time.  And so many of them come in, and they’re confused like you were.  They were like I didn’t realize this was abuse.  I was taught I was just supposed to submit.  And so can you tell us how the teachings that are so common in church are really, really keeping women trapped?

Lauren Rose: Right.  Well, it’s basically I feel like always we’re taught to look within ourselves and to never question anybody else and to never really think—and so much we’re taught too is that to be really afraid of separation.  And I’m not divorce gung ho and telling people that they need to do that.  But we’re so afraid that this is such a bad thing or that it’s going to destroy our family that we won’t even consider that or we—yeah.  I think a lot of that happens, and so we’re very afraid.  And we feel like we have to stick with this.  We have to endure it.  And I feel like a lot of people when they do finally reach out for help they’re told—given a longer to-do list like have more sex.  Pray more.  Go fast.  Try to be kinder.  Have better meals.  And so I think it’s important to understand that abuse is about power and control.  And it’s about one person maintaining power and control over the other.  And their expectations shift all the time.  So one day it may be you need to have dinner ready at 6:00, or else they’re upset.  The next day it may be—I was coming home early at 5:30.  And I didn’t want this side.  And they’re upset here.  And so it’s always shifting, and you’re always trying to achieve this sense of approval by them.  But it’s really never enough.  And it’s never really about being enough because it, to them, is about power and control.  It’s them breaking you down.  It’s them making you think if you could try just a little bit harder it would be better.  Everything is always your fault.  I think one thing to understand about abusers is they never take responsibility and accountability.  Abusers don’t.  They may cry, and they may say they’re going to change.  But do they ever really take accountability for their sins?  Do they ever really repent and begin a changed path?  No.  They don’t.  They just find new ways to manipulate and new ways to control.  And so that’s where, at Called to Peace, we do offer advocates where it’s free of charge where we’ll sit down with you at an intake and help you understand.  The most women that come to us are just confused.  They’re very confused about the relationship.  They don’t have words to say they feel like they’re going crazy.  They feel like nobody would believe them.  They feel off kilter.  They feel like they can’t stay another day or they’re going to die.  That’s very common, and they’re just like I can’t take this pain anymore.  Please help me.  Understand I’m just so confused.  And usually, they live in fear of their partner.  That’s the most common thing to look for is they are afraid of their partner.  They’re afraid of disappointing them.  They’re afraid of not being home on time.  What will happen ? They’re afraid of not having this done right or saying this thing wrong or not pleasing him in this way.  It’s a constant need to please and a constant fear of not pleasing.  And so then we help them walk through the process of understanding do you stay or do you go.  And what does that look like?  Because you can’t just really—you can flee.  But you really have to do that very strategically and know what you’re doing when you get to safety because it’s—you have to be prepared for court and all types of things.  So we just kind of help them process through that.  But I would see how a lot of those teachings is they just—it makes them feel very confused about themselves.  Am I responsible for my husband’s lust?  I’m responsible for—to meet his sexual needs.  So therefore, when I’m not meeting his sexual needs, it’s okay for him to get angry because this is normal, Christian man.  No.  That’s not.  That’s not God’s heart.  That’s not God’s heart at all.  And submission.  If you’re a complementarian or egalitarian, should never be used—no matter what your beliefs are—it is never, ever wielded as a weapon to control you.  It does not mean somebody has the final say in everything about your life when it comes to abuse.  They don’t get to control your finances.  They don’t get to control and isolate you if you can’t go to the gym or you can’t go see a friend or you can’t go out to dinner or do something with your friends.  I don’t know what—kind of an isolation type thing.  It’s not about controlling everything about the kids and making you feel like a bad parent.  That’s not it.  That’s not Christianity because they’re going to use your children as pawns.  They’re used as weapons to control you usually in abusive marriage.  And you’re made to feel like usually you’re the bad parent.  Or they’re very absent.  It’s a stream between two, I guess.  That’s not submission.  It’s not about power and control.  One person does not have all the power to tell you what to do in every area of your life.  That is taking your God-given autonomy from you to be able to follow the Holy Spirit and being able to be led by Him.  They have stripped that from you, and that’s not okay.  That does not make God happy and does not please His heart.  And I think so many times we—in churches, we’ve come to believe that and that women are just sex objects.  And that’s not true. 

Sheila: Yeah.  Have you ever seen a marriage where just have more sex actually works?

Lauren Rose: No.  Actually, an abuser—usually, well, then demand even more sex.  It’s like feeding a bottomless pit with an abuser.  It’s rooted in entitlement.  And so everything is about control.  And they’ll be like, “Oh, you had sex with me in the morning here.  But you have to do it now at the night too.”  And I know women that were having sex with men three times a day and still being abused.  Actually, statistics state if you’re having sex daily—they demand it daily you more than likely in an abusive marriage.

Sheila: Yeah.  We found that too that, in general, the more often you have sex the happier your marriage is until it becomes daily or almost daily.  And then there’s a huge drop off because people who are having sex daily—there’s something else going on.  That’s not normal, in general.  In general.  Yeah.  Yeah.  Someone left a comment on my Facebook page about a friend of theirs.  And this friend has been married 40 years.  She and her husband teach marriage classes at their church.  And one day she was with her friend, and they were driving the friend’s husband’s car just a short distance to go meet them.  So she was in her husband’s car, and it was raining.  And she noticed that the back window was open.  And so she told her friend, “Hey, you should close the back window.”  And the friend laughed and said, “Oh, no.  No.  I know enough not to ever touch anything of Peter’s,” or whatever his name was.  And so she didn’t close the window.  And she was laughing like this was normal.  You know enough never, ever to touch anything of your husband’s.  

Lauren Rose: Mm-hmm.  Yes.

Sheila: And this woman was saying, “I was trying to explain to my friend that that isn’t normal, but she just had—she couldn’t even understand what I was saying.  She just thought no.  This is just the way it is.”

Lauren Rose: It’s their normal until they begin to question it and to look inside and say is this my normal or not.  And I think it’s really important for parents to understand.  And this is not to make anybody feel guilty or bad.  But children who grow up in this type of environment where there is abuse present are more likely to end up in abusive relationships or become abusers themselves.  And so many times we think we’re saving our children by staying together.  And I’m not advocating over here, please, go get divorced.  Please don’t hear me as saying that.  By staying together, it’s better for their children.  And it’s better for them to stay together and to watch their dad abuse their mother, tear her down in front of them, rip her to shreds, make her feel like a terrible individual as a wife, as a mother, that’s better for the children than going through a divorce.  And it’s sad because a lot of women we work with find it’s absolutely not.  The children more likely are going to identify with the abuser because children identify with the person with the most power and then begin abusing the mothers themselves as they become teenagers.  That is more likely the common pattern or they have nothing to do with them later in life.  And usually they have nothing to do with Christianity because when you live in a home—because children are smart.  This is why I think it’s so important for pastors to understand this.  Because if you don’t get it and you don’t begin advocating for women in your church, this is a generational cycle.  Children who grow up in homes with domestic abuse and their dads sit front row in church every Sunday and is all involved and they watch their dad abuse their mother behind closed doors, you think those children will love God when they grow up?  No.  They’re going to want nothing to do with God.  They’re going to want nothing to do with church because they’re going to think that God is an abusive person.  And so when we don’t stand up for this—and churches, I think so many times, are so afraid it’s going to come out of the woodwork.  Or they’re going to destroy marriages or whatever.  No.  When we hold abusers, oppressors accountable, we are stopping the generational cycle of abuse.  We are saving families by saving children from seeing a God that is abusive.  And it’s really important to know too is that it’s not best to stay in a relationship that’s abusive.  And don’t seek marriage counseling either.  And now I’m not saying don’t get marriage counseling when you need it because marriage counseling is wonderful if you’re in a nonabusive marriage.  But if you’re seeking marriage counseling in an abusive marriage, counseling will be used as a weapon against you.  You will have to tell all your faults because most marriage counselors are not aware of domestic violence.  They’re not trained in it.  They’re not going to be looking for the pattern of power and control over, looking for fear in relationship.  He’s going to be like tell all her faults.  And then it’s going to be like, now, you try this, and you do this.  And then he’s controlling everything you’re saying when you go to marriage counseling, and you can’t say these things.  And now it’s—most people I talk to it gets a lot worse if you’re in abuse and you seek marriage counseling.  And so that’s where we do work really heavily with churches and even starting to work heavily with counselors and offer training to be able to understand the dynamics of abuse.  Because once you see it, you can’t unsee it.  And it’s so important for ministry leaders and people helpers like counselors to be aware.  But for the most part, they are not.  And it’s going to get worse if you try to do that.  The best thing to do and the best chance to save it is to separate and to begin to hold him accountable for the way he is treating his wife.

Sheila: Yeah.  Amen.  So Lauren, where can people find Called to Peace?

Lauren Rose: You can go to calledtopeace.org, and you can request an advocate there.  Or you can reach out to us on our Facebook page, or you can go to info@calledtopeace.org and contact us.  And we are happy to talk with any woman that thinks they might be in abuse and help you evaluate if it’s a marriage problem or abuse issue. 

Sheila: Awesome.  And I will put those links as well as the link to the power and control wheel that Lauren was talking about because that’s very interesting and very eye opening.  So thank you so much for sharing your story.  I’m so glad that you’re free now and that you’re thriving and that you’re able to help others with the help that you received too.  I think that’s beautiful.

Lauren Rose:   Oh, thank you.  Well, I’m grateful for you and your books.  They were so healing.  I was saying the first time I read your marriage book, The Great Sex Rescue, I literally started crying because—I mean I’m single.  I’ve been single for seven—well, six and a half years.  But I felt so much relief to hear that God’s word state that this was not okay.  It brought healing to my heart to know that this was never God’s heart to endure sexual abuse in marriage, and so I’m really grateful for that because God’s truth sets us free.  And I’m grateful for your heart in setting others free and seeking to share His truth with other people.  And so thank you.  

Sheila: Amen.  Thank you so much.  I appreciate you being here.

Lauren Rose: Yes.  Thank you.

Sheila: Oh, I’m so glad that Lauren could come and share her story with us.  It’s heart breaking what she went through, but it’s also so healing to see how well she’s doing now and how when you have a real encounter with the God who sees you, who cares about you, who doesn’t see you as the punch line for jokes, how such wonderful healing can happen.  And so thank you, Lauren, for joining us.  Again, Called to Peace is in the podcast notes.  And I also want to do another shout out for our sponsor, The Kingdom Girl’s Bible.  It honestly is so amazing.  I just love how it covers all the different stories of the women in the Bible.  Some that we might not even know like the midwives in Exodus.  They’re some of my favorite characters.  It’s about time that we paid attention to the women in Scripture and realize that just as Jesus doesn’t consider women a joke but included them it’s great to see a Bible that does that too.  And this would make such a wonderful gift for your daughters to know that they are important, to know that they are included in the blessing, so that maybe in the future they won’t end up getting swindled by a pastor who doesn’t respect them but also they won’t end up in an abusive marriage because they’ll know that they have value and that Jesus cares.  So check out the NIV Kingdom Girl’s Bible and join us again next week on the Bare Marriage podcast when we celebrate one year of our book, She Deserves Better.  It turns a year next week, and we’ve got some fun things coming.  So we’ll see you then.  Bye-bye.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Codec

    Wait Gothard thought Job suffered because his children cursed God? Didn’t Job do sacrifices because he feared his children might have cursed God? I find that weird.

    More so how can you really understand Jesus without delving into suffering? Part of the central message of Christianity is the passion of Christ. The God Man suffering to death on a cross for humanity. Some of the most profound Christian works I have ever read have been about people who continued to love in the face of horrible suffering.

    C.S Lewis watched his wife die of cancer and the experience drove him to wrote A grief observed. Corrie Ten Boom went through Ravensbruck and lost people she loved. God understands suffering.

    Also with the chisel thing Gothard isn’t God. No one is. You can’t hope to really say that you can discipline people as God does. Saint Paul said he let people go not so he could discipline them but so God could. Saint Paul the man who wrote a large part of the new testament understood he couldn’t force repentance so why can’t Gothard?

    The lord is good and he is holy.

    • Nessie

      Gothard really didn’t pay much attention to Job then! He believed the same things as Job’s friends believed which was erroneous and kind of gaslighty. It amazes me how much these guys get wrong about scripture while claiming that they are the ones with the correct, clear views of it. e.g. EE in L&R saying that Eve went and found Adam and had him eat when scripture is abundantly clear that Adam was right next to her.

      Even much of the New Testament is God’s letter to us after suffering/watching Jesus suffer on the cross. (I’d likely have gone radio-silent and wanted to hide away after watching my child suffer and die, not continue to reach out in love to everyone who was the reason for it…) We really do learn so much through the suffering and grieving process, and I think it honestly brings us a bit closer to God’s heart when we go through things like that.

  2. Nessie

    Towards the end of the podcast, you both mention some behaviors aren’t “normal.” I would actually argue that, by definition, those abusive behaviors actually *are* quite normal to those in these type of church cultures… I would fully be on board with using another word, such as “unhealthy.”

    I guess I just worry that there’s a lot of subjectivity around a word such as “normal.” I grew up with a psychologically and verbally abusive mom, and it took me years to realize it was as unhealthy as it was precisely *because* it was my “normal.”

    Other than my nit-pickiness about a word, I appreciated this. I particularly like getting to know some of the JH stuff since I don’t use social media- this is about the only place I hear of such things. It truly is so sad and disappointing that he cannot humble himself enough nor love his sisters in Christ enough to offer a true apology backed by repentance, but instead malligns others through his process.

    • Angharad

      Nessie, I understand what you mean, but for someone who has been raised to believe certain behaviours are ‘normal’, it can be a real wake-up call to be told they are NOT ‘normal’.

      I clearly remember the first time a friend looked at me quizzically and said ‘you do realise this is not normal?’ (about my abusive grandfather). My mother’s insistence that I put up with it (and hide it from my father – who would have put a stop to it – because ‘good girls’ didn’t talk about that kind of thing to men) made me view it as ‘normal’. It was one of those nasty things that were just part of life as a girl. Telling me that it was ‘unhealthy’ or ‘bad’ or ‘unpleasant’ would have made no difference at all because I already knew that. But telling me it was not normal…game changer. If abnormality is your normality from a young enough age, you grow up thinking that it is everyone’s normality, and you need to hear that it isn’t.

      • Nessie

        I totally see this side of it, too, and I know it’s a nit-picky thing. For me, it just made me feel like I was a freak hearing my life/circumstances weren’t normal and that it was my fault that I didn’t get or deserve what would be considered normal. I didn’t have the realization that what I was experiencing was not healthy, and that would have been really helpful for me to hear. If I had heard that earlier, I might have looked into getting help sooner. For me, it made sense that people deserved healthy; it didn’t make sense that people deserved “normal.

        I think it’s interesting how different words can hit people differently based on their experiences, etc.

        • Angharad

          I guess the key is how the message is conveyed. I heard it as “what you are being asked to put up with is not normal – you don’t have to keep living this way.” But I can see how, with less sensitive communication, it could have come across as “your life is abnormal” which would have felt much more like my fault.

          The ‘wakeup calls’ I had were from people who would have had no experience of dealing with abusive or controlling people – they tended to be quite shocked when I casually referred to this kind of behaviour as if it were everyone’s day-to-day experience. I guess for those who are better informed about abuse, and/or whose role involves helping people in abnormal/unhealthy situations, the key is not to make assumptions and to keep adjusting the wording of the message until you know it has been received and understood the right way, because a message that will work for one person may bypass another.

  3. CMT

    “Women aren’t the punchline for your jokes”


    I see a common thread between misogynistic sermon “jokes” by male pastors and the more extreme patriarchy that Lauren Rose talked about. Not that someone like JH would necessarily condone the control Gothard taught. But in both cases the expectations for women, as women, are set from the outside, by a man. Not just the overt “stand where he tells you to stand” nonsense, but the very idea that a man on a stage has the right to tell all women what is true about them as people, what is appropriate for their lives and relationships, and how God sees them. It’s patronizing, dismissive and frankly stupid. I have no patience with mansplaining from a pulpit anymore.

    • Willow

      In the secular world, it’s called the “continuum of harm.”

      Once you start dehumanizing someone with mean jokes, comments, harassment, you are on the path to physical and sexual abuse, rape, even murder.

      It is all part of the dehumanization of another God-created being. Once they are no longer “human” and are “othered,” people find it far easier, even justified, to harm them.

      So yes – mean jokes are just the start.

  4. Jo R

    Josh Howerton seems to exemplify what happens when men believe that as husbands, they literally are like Jesus, so these men assume they’re omniscient, sinless, and 100 percent correct no matter what they do. They cannot err, they cannot be corrected, they cannot be questioned.

    As for his apology, I’d like to be in the room when a mere woman “apologizes” to him in the exact same way he did. I’m guessing he’d feel disrespected by her non-apology apology, and that he’d let her know in no uncertain terms. 🙄

    There are a whole bunch of men who need to self-isolate for three years like Paul did, so that they can get these crap teachings and beliefs out of their systems before they ever even think about speaking in public again.

    • Angharad

      It’s saying something when the “apology” is worse than the thing he is “apologising” for!

      Although I’m almost more worried by his wife’s take. The whole ‘if you throw a rock at a dog, it gets hurt, so if you’re feeling hurt by something the pastor says then you need to repent of your pride because your feelings don’t change the truth of God’s word’ thing is disturbing on many levels. If you hit a dog with a rock, it gets INJURED. Is it just me, or is it super-weird that she is using physical pain/injury as an analogy for hurt feelings and saying ‘if you get hurt like this, you need to repent of your pride’? And also, the assumption that anything the pastor says is automatically ‘the truth of God’s word’… Like pastors are totally infallible…

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, that was really, really weird what Jana said. Why are you throwing rocks?

    • CMT


      The headline basically says it. Apparently JH used this “joke” in a sermon a few years ago and was called out on it by a female congregant and her friend. When the current controversy arose, those women contacted Julie Roys. They raised the same concerns at the time and got the same “sorry if your feelings were hurt, it was just a joke,” non-apology. They have receipts.

      • JG

        Sounds like the non apology I got a few years ago from a family member once. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” What Josh H. said was offensive, and he needs to own it. You don’t treat people that way.

      • Jo R

        Awesome, thanks for sharing that.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Actually, she contacted me and I put her in touch with Julie! 🙂

      • Angharad

        Also, got to love the way he claims the clip was ‘edited’ to make him look bad and hide the fact that it was ‘obviously’ a joke. I watched the whole thing from the beginning. Far from making him look better, the advice to men just made it worse. And I watched the first few minutes of the sermon too, and still didn’t see any reference to his advice being a ‘joke’. If he apologises or makes it clear that his ‘advice’ was a joke at the end of the service, maybe someone can share that clip, but even if he did, it’s too late. If you say something as a joke, you need to make it clear that it was a joke AS SOON AS YOU FINISH TELLING THE JOKE. Telling folk an hour later “oh, by the way, that thing I said at the beginning wasn’t serious, right?” is far too late to do any good.

    • Erica Tate

      Three years? I thought it was fourteen… which would be even more beneficial for the JH’s of this world, and their congregants.

  5. Wild Honey

    Regarding Josh Howerton’s response of well-Jesus-offends-people-so-I-can-offend-people blather… This misappropriate of scripture really ticks me off.

    Here are excerpts from a sermon my pastor coincidentally preached mid-March on the lust passage of the Sermon on the Mount. THIS is the type of preaching that offends wrongdoers. NOT that preached by Josh Howerton.

    “He [Jesus] is addressing something very common in that culture… Many people were following the law. They were NOT committing adultery. They were sexually pure, they were upright. But on the inside they were not clean. They were dirty. You see, Jesus knew their heart.”

    “Jesus is calling these people out. He’s saying, ‘Don’t fake it. I can see what’s really going on in here.’ And this points to a troubling reality in some way. It’s possible to follow the law… to consider yourself righteous but at the same time to be in denial.”

    “It [lust] is objectifying others. It is not admiring beauty but viewing people as an object through a lens that they are there to satisfy your sexual desires. In doing so, you rob them of their dignity. They are no longer made in the image of God. They are there to gratify your fantasy.”

    “Jesus clarifies the person who is responsible for the lust… Jesus flips the script, here… The responsibility is on the person who lusts. The responsibility is on the person who engages in the fantasy.”

    “We often give ourselves a free pass to do the things that are inside of us. We tell ourselves certain lies. No one will ever know about this… It’s not harming anyone. At least I’m not cheating on my spouse… But Jesus seems to say otherwise. He seems to say there is no free pass. He says, this is adultery. What you do in your mind, what you do on your computer, what you do on your phone matters… Jesus is casting a different vision for a different kind of kingdom. And it goes against the grain of the culture at the time. And it stands in contrast to our culture too, right? In the kingdom of God, people are treated with dignity and respect. They are made in the image of God. We are called to live differently. To relate to each other with a different way of loving each other.”

    “Why are we going there [to lust and porn]? Is it is a desire for intimacy? Is it hiding the pain? Are you running away from something? So I’d encourage you to think about those root causes. And maybe some of us might need to go to counseling or therapy to find the root causes. I think that can be very helpful for our spiritual lives.”

  6. Hurting

    Thank you for quantifying that in most cases daily sex it’s unbalanced (I was actually told by a Christian counsellor that most marriages had at least one partner that needed to have sex daily). I have tried to rescue my husband from his porn addiction by being sexually available daily. Trying to actually address the porn issue head on was so emotionally abusive and painful (he at one point had literally said, “if you went to the gym I wouldn’t have to use porn”. I was 120lbs. 5’4” and 20 years old). After following the typical Christian advice, I provided sex at least once daily in an attempt to limit his porn (and yes I did end up at the gym) and lust issues as I noticed he was much less critical of me and the kids if he got daily sex. Even that was not enough and was pressuring for more than once a day but I was literally plagued with chronic bacterial infections if I did that which then resulted in less sex so he eventually agreed to daily sex but would still often pressure me to provide more. I was a zombie, completely devoid of emotional connection but thinking this is what was expected of me. He seemed completely unphased to use the lifeless body before him, and I did end up telling him I felt used but didn’t seem to matter to him.

    After reading GSR I have put up the boundary of no more non-consensual sex and stating we need to address his porn addiction but I carry so much pain from being caught in this for 25 years I’m not sure I will ever really recover. This entitlement mindset spread to every other part of our marriage except for finances as well. It’s been so, so hurtful.

    • Lisa Johns

      Dear sister, you never deserved this. And Jesus does not require you to live like this. I pray you find a way to get yourself to a safe and healthy place so you can heal and begin to know yourself as the beautiful and beloved daughter that God created you to be.

  7. Cyndi

    I’m so sorry for what Lauren Rose went through…grotesque and horrifying beyond words…though she put her story so eloquently. Thank you Sheila for giving more of a voice to these survivors. I was homeschooled in the 90’s and in a fringe local group of the ATI. It was and is psychological and spiritual abuse and those words aren’t strong enough. Gothard will have another day in the highest court and he won’t have the last word.

    In regards to last week’s subject matter and Josh Howerton- I also want to say it is SO important to speak up for those who don’t yet know how to speak on their behalf. Brainwashing is REAL. Just because someone doesn’t know what is happening to them is wrong, doesn’t mean it isn’t. When it comes to sexuality…there is nothing more physically sacred for a woman (maybe that’s just me, but I will attest to that). I’m horrified to think someone would equate the 2 situations as even remotely similar. The groom- gets to stay dressed, is not looked at like a piece of meat, and nobody touches his body by doing what the wife says for the wedding. On the other hand, by theoretically doing what the groom says…a wife will be wearing something risque, she will be gawked at, she will be required to remove her clothes, and she will be sexually penetrated. She will be reduced to complete submission- body and soul, he, in contrast will wear a scratchy suit and stand presumably by his bride he presumably asked to marry him and do what he wants to do- marry her. The two situations are so beyond not even comparable when you unwrap them for what is actually happening. Just wanted to get that out! Getting back on my original track a little here…I was brainwashed about a certain situation from the time I was around 8 to almost 40. I don’t remember what caused my mother’s rage, but she begin hitting me with a ruler and eventually it broke on me. She began over the years to recount this story and laugh about it when she would retell it…trying to show how stubborn of a child I was. It wasn’t until my late thirties, when I sat with my therapist doing IFS work that we went back to that room and I was able to see the truth for the first time when a knowledgeable witness didn’t laugh, when she didn’t let me by it because I didn’t have words for the harm. Even now, I sit with a blurry mental picture…not about what happened, but am I allowed to view this as harm? And then the question we fear most…where does this leave me? What will me looking at the truth cost? For some of us, everything we once held dear, letting go of our deepest unmet desires, letting go of certainty…but like Lauren Rose…going to who we have always belonged- our Savior, Source, and Creator.

    • Lisa Johns

      I hear you and I can feel the pain of that. I had been going to therapy for nine months before had a revelation and was able to state that I grew up in an abusive household, and I was 54! Brainwashing is a real issue for so many of us, and I am glad we are in a season where people are feeling more and more free to call a spade a spade.

  8. Janey

    Where can I find the link to the power and control wheel mentioned at the end of the podcast?

  9. Curt

    After listening to your podcast on April 11, I’d like to respond to your comments that the only men who are commenting in Josh’s defense are from Lakepointe church and pastors from other churches. As a man from Lakepointe Church, I want to let you know that I agree with you. I wanted to briefly point out that Lakepointe Church was not built by Josh Howerton. My wife and I started going to this Church several years before he was a pastor there. We are now members of another Church in the community, although we do continue to visit occasionally since our child enjoys the LakePointe Youth ministry and enjoys fellowshipping with friends there. However, because of a number of startling comments from the pulpit and red flags emerging over the years, we got to a point where we could no longer sit through Josh’s sermons. Noticing a long-term pattern of underlying arrogance and lack of humility in his sermons, we began to question over and over again where Josh is coming from. As a man who has attended many sermons with Josh in the pulpit, I wanted you to know that others have been aware of his problematic teachings for some time. Regarding the recent videos and podcasts concerning the wedding night joke, false apology and plagiarism issues: these things that have come into the light are, sadly, just a drop in the bucket of concerns. When Josh gets any negative feedback he’s quick to defend himself, using scripture to justify his actions. I feel sad that this type of behavior happens in the Church, and that it hurts many people, but I appreciate you providing a platform to allow these issues to be brought into the light.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Curt, this is so good to know. thank you for speaking up!


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