This book does have some fun side-effects. My sister-in-law offered to lend me any and all books from her house to stop me from continuing to read this book. The offer was tempting, but inflicting this book on my family is sweet. (Reading chunks aloud….it’s a twisted pleasure for me.)
Well, we get a glimpse into the teenage Botkin sisters.
The Botkin Sisters had the desires and dreams of normal teenagers…..
I thought I was awkward teenager. I was nervous around boys, not very sure how to dress for my figure, and never really sure what the hell I was doing.
In hindsight, I was exactly as awkward as every teenager is.
The saving grace for me was that my parents always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. They supported my academic strengths and let me choose my extracurricular activities which is how they ended up with a daughter who earned varsity letters in theater, choir, and academics, participated in district and state level choir competitions, and was on a math competition team that earned 3rd place at states. (My only “regret” is that varsity jackets/sweaters were out of style when I was in HS; otherwise I would have had a near-perfect geek jacket. Oh, well….)
Because of my upbringing, I feel bad for the Botkin Sisters.
“As we first entered our teen years, we both knew that we needed to strive for maturity and mightiness in the faith. We knew what we wanted to be when we grew up – we wanted to be spiritual warriors who would change the world by doing important things for Christ. We wanted to be on the front lines, doing the big, hard jobs that no one else wanted to do.” (pg. 53)
“…doing “spiritual” things, like studying New Testament Greek, reading theology or writing articles about spiritual matters.” (pg. 53)
” … we wanted to fixing this problem [e.g., the lack of good men] to be our personal ministry. Our strategy was to write about the feminism that was causing this problem. We jumped in with both feet doing copious research, interviewing college students, and talking to members of conservative think tanks on gender issues. We even started writing a book, with the blustery and pretentious title of “Where Have All the Men Gone? A Young Woman’s Handbook on the Rebuilding of Christendom After the Gender Holocaust That Has Robbed Us of Our Identity and Our Men.” (pg. 58)
This sounds real. I went to a Catholic school and there were definitely young teenager who were ready and willing to train to be “spiritual warriors”. It’s a wonderful and generally transient type of optimism found in adolescents.
The flip side of this exuberant optimism is the absolute lack of life experience to help ground expectations in reality. I had several friends who were writing books or making films or nursing athletic dreams that were as unrealistic and absurd as the Botkin Sisters teenage dreams.
Why do I feel bad for the Botkin Sisters? Well, their parents convinced them of the next big point.
…and were taught that “loving your brothers” requires the same amount of stretch and growth as doing real acts of charity in the community.
“And what was worse, [Anna Sophia and Elizabeth’s younger brothers’s] interruptions, annoyingness, and under-foot-ness kept bring out a side of us that was not very, um, Christian. They were sabotaging our very best Christ-like efforts! If all people have their burdens to bear, we thought, ours would be named Ben, Luke and Noah. We loved them, of course, but felt like they strangled the fruits of the Spirit in us and made us act like heathens. There were times where we felt like we could be much better Christians somewhere else.” (pg. 53)
“There are plenty of ways that young people try to show their dedication for God. But although you can go on charity walks, you can sleep in a cardboard box to end world poverty, you can go to missions trips to Mexico – if you’re failing your own irritating little brother at home, your dedication is empty, and God is not fooled.” (pg. 54)
“You know it’s true: it’s easier to love a starving orphan than to love your little brother. It’s easier to dish out soup at a soup kitchen than to set aside what you’re doing to make your brother breakfast. There are helpful voices out there inspiring us to do hard things for Christ; but for most of us, loving our own family is the hardest thing we can do. There is challenge (and merit) in raising money for good Christian causes, starting ministries, making movies, putting on conferences – but this is easy Christian work compared to really loving our brothers.” (pg. 54)
“The desire to make a dent in the world’s suffering is a very popular cause these days. (…) It’s true that there is suffering in the world from lack of food, lack of shelter, lack of education, lack of medical attention. But every country in the world right now is suffering from a lack of real men.” (pg. 57)
I’ve been pruning cherry trees on our farm. Pruning is as much an art as an agricultural science. The first step – always – is to look at the entire natural shape of the tree. Each tree grows differently. A pruner can force a tree to grow into nearly any shape – but the resulting tree will be weak and susceptible to injury. A wise pruner augments the natural shape of the tree to guide the tree into the strongest shape possible so the tree will bear fruit for years.
Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin used homeschooling and literalistic Bible interpretations to warp the natural inclinations of their daughters. Anna Sophia and Elizabeth as young teenagers wanted to lead projects that changed their community and their world. Instead of shaping those inclinations into the community outreach activities they so badly wanted to do, the Botkin parents obliterated the strongest portions of their daughters personalities and desires and instead tried to force them backwards into the family cult.
The results show in the poisonous cankers that ooze out throughout the book. The swipes that the Botkin sisters take at women who accomplished goals, the petulant dismissal of traditional acts of charity and education, the sad attempts to equate loss of “men” to starvation – this is the result of the pruning that Geoffrey and Victoria Botkins did to their daughters as young teens. Geoffrey and Victoria Botkins be ashamed; their daughters have been crippled by their parents’ choices.
Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide She is also an very valuable source of scientific information for us here at NLQ. Mel is also blessed with the ability to look at the issues of Quiverfull with a rational mind and break them down to their most basic of elements.
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