We are diamonds in the rough, spiritual-advice lecturer Bill Gothard tells his audiences. God uses others, he goes on, to chip away our rough edges and thus accomplish his purpose. Gothard illustrates his point on page three of the “Chain of Command” chapter in the big red loose-leaf notebook that is the heart of his six-day, thirty-two-hour “Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.” On that page parents are depicted as one version of God’s hammer and chisel.

Last month Gothard found himself cast in the painful role of the diamond as The Wittenberg Door, a 2,200-circulation evangelical bi-monthly, chipped away in a fifteen-page spread.

Actually, its critical views aside, the Door scored one of the journalistic triumphs of the year in the evangelical scene simply because the press-shy Gothard is one of the hottest stories around. Editor Denny Rydberg, 28, a Seattle Pacific College graduate and former youth and Christian-education director, says his small part-time staff worked months to nail the story down. (The magazine, less than three years old, is published by Youth Specialties, 861 Sixth Avenue, San Diego, Ca. 92101. With wry humor and stabbing satire it has probed critically into a number of sacrosanct evangelical institutions and personalities. “We lose almost $1,000 an issue,” Rydberg acknowledges baldly. Sales of program idea books help keep the Door open.)

Rydberg isn’t the only one who’s had trouble sleuthing the story. An Eternity editor was barred from the Gothard premises (Gothard says he didn’t know this happened and is sorry about it). Moody Monthly was persuaded to kill a story it had prepared. Reporters of major secular newspapers are told they must attend the entire course if they wish to know what Gothard teaches, ...

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