Some time ago, after I reviewed the Botkins’ “Ready for Real Life” webinar series, a reader pointed me to a 2013 sermon by Geoffrey Botkin. On September 29th, 2013, Botkin delivered a sermon at Christ the King Church in Centerville, Tennessee (where he serves as an elder) entitled “How Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals, Part III”, available at Sermon Audio. Geoffrey Botkin is the head of the Western Conservatory of the Arts, a ministry that promotes Christian homeschooling and Christian Patriarchy.
I regret that I put the sermon on the back burner for a long time, but I finally sat down and listened to Botkin’s talk. Now I realize why my reader encouraged me to listen.
The sermon offered a disturbing glimpse into Geoffrey Botkin’s world, a world in which outsiders are to be hated, five year-olds can be “false prophets”, and rape victims who don’t cry out for help are deserving of death. Botkin’s world is one of us-verses-them thinking and unforgiving legalism, with little room for tolerance or empathy. Since Botkin is a respected figure in some Christian homeschooling and Christian Patriarchy Movement circles, I wonder how many others in those movements share his disconcerting opinions.
Botkin began his sermon by emphasizing the importance of teaching children morals. He quoted Proverbs 28:4, telling listeners that it encapsulates Christian life. In Botkin’s eyes, Christians are engaged in an ongoing conflict with the “bad guys”, as he explained at the 2:46 mark.
“This is the essence of the Christian life. This is the essence of every life on earth. Either we’re on one side of a conflict, an eternal conflict … There is an enmity placed by God between the good guys and the bad guys, and it never stops. It never sleeps, ever.”
At the 3:41 mark, he stressed that the struggle between the righteous and the wicked has no middle ground.
“There’s no middle ground. There’s no no-man’s land ever in this conflict, in any generation at any time. And so when we speak at Christ the King Church about the church militant, and you’ve heard that term, and the church since the reformers has used that term — the church militant — the church has to be involved on one side or the other of this conflict. And churches can get on the wrong side of it and be fighting against God, or they can retreat and pretend that there is no conflict … They are praising the wicked. They are cooperating with the wicked.”
Parents must be part of a “family militant” alongside the “church militant” as part of the Great Commission. Parents must know where the dividing lines are in this conflict, Botkin said, adding that they must define sin for their children living in the midst of an “irreverent” culture. Words such as pornia, “sodomy”, “treason”, “idolatry”, and others must be defined so that children understand what sin is, he stressed.
Botkin repeatedly depicted the outside world as a dangerous, corrupting influence. We urged his audience to avoid “friendship with the world”, reminding listeners not to be unevenly yoked with unbelievers. Even small children can be “false prophets” and “stumbling blocks” to one’s children, he warned at the 25:01 mark, telling parents that their children should not play with “covenant breakers”.
Satan deploys evil five year-olds to corrupt the righteous? Did Botkin watch The Omen too many times? I thought.
“There’s such a thing as false prophets who come enticing your children, and they can be very, very young. They can be four years old. They can be five years old. Jesus said woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks. Did you know little children can be a stumbling block to your children in the twinkling of an eye in things that they say to your children, things that they show to your children, things that they introduce to your children? It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come. Jesus Christ has said this, and so parents, this is our warning. We’ve been warned! … There will be stumbling blocks. Plan on it. There will be stumbling blocks at the church, at the meeting of the church, driving to church, in your own home there will be stumbling blocks … The one that is used by Satan to be the stumbling block, he’s in big trouble, even if he’s five years old.”
Botkin’s talk grew even more disturbing as he segued into a discussion of sin, correction, and punishment. If someone sins or strays from the Bible, believers should admonish them and try to lead them back to God, Botkin said. However, Christians must not be passive bystanders when they encounter unrepentant evil-doers, citing Deuteronomy 13:6-11 (in which God commands believers to execute idolaters, even among their loved ones) as an example of steadfast justice. “This is how the law of God prescribes that this kind of enticement be handled,” he insisted.
This is madness, I thought. We know better in the 21st century. It is not moral to attack others just because they follow a different belief system. This is barbaric.
Concealment of a crime is itself a crime, he explained, warning listeners against being party to crimes through inaction. People have an obligation to intervene when they witness crimes, or at the very least let out a hue and cry, Botkin argued. Shockingly, he even applied this line of thinking to rape victims. Quoting Deuteronomy 22:23-27, Botkin observed that in Biblical times, a rape victim was to be executed if she didn’t cry out. “Why? Because it was in the city and she didn’t cry out and a crime was committed. And so, the cry is very important here,” he said at the 59:31 mark. In a chilling segment at the 1:00:11 mark, Botkin argued that a rape victim deserves death “if she goes along with the crime”.
“She cried out. She was not going to conceal a crime being committed. She cried out for help, and there was no one to help her. She’s not guilty, but the man who committed the crime is. But if she goes along with the crime and does not cry out, then she’s guilty too and is worthy of death because it’s a capital crime.”
First, an ancient legal code that sees women as chattel is not a sane blueprint for 21st century moral behavior. Second, it never occurs to Botkin that a rape victim might have legitimate reasons for staying silent during an assault. What if the attacker covered the victim’s mouth? What if the attacker threatened to kill the victim if he or she made noise? What if the victim experienced tonic immobility? What if the victim was incapacitated due to date rape drugs? What if a vast power differential existed between the perpetrator and victim (i.e., a prison guard attacking an inmate)? What if the victim was too young to understand what was happening? What if the victim was just scared?
This is all beside the point, however. A sexual assault victim is never culpable for his or her victimization. Responsibility for the crime lies with the perpetrator alone. Executing a rape victim is the height of barbarism, which is why enlightened societies no longer do so. Botkin’s cold adherence to iron age edicts leaves little room for empathy or justice. Given the Christian Patriarchy Movement’s low opinion of women, celebration of male dominance, and scandals, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at Botkin’s views.
Botkin’s 2013 sermon reminds us that fundamentalist legalism can be taken to chilling extremes. In Botkin’s world, an inerrant interpretation of scripture must be preserved at all costs. Those who do not adhere to said doctrines are demonized as “bad guys” with whom one is at war. According to such thinking, even when the doctrines are cruel and unjust, they must be followed implicitly. In Botkin’s black-and-white world, obedience to the doctrine trumps empathy, justice, or brotherhood.