I’ve moved my blog, Under Much Grace, into draft to allow myself the opportunity to consider the direction, if any, that I’d like to take with it. I’d like to pray about what elements of it I would like to keep or change. Much of it is no longer relevant in light of so many scandals, and I want to think about whether it hinders or helps those who refer to it.
In the interim, No Longer Quivering has expressed an interest in my unfolding response to the daughters of Geoffrey Botkin from whom I received a letter this past week, alleging that I’d basically ruined their lives and their livelihood as well as those of their whole extended family. The discussion that followed their misguided claim that I’ve wrongfully accused their father of a felony can be read here. Although I am willing to remove their name from some descriptors as an act of compassion, I am not willing to comply with most of their demands. I summarized my rationale for deleting some material as a kindness in a new blog post.
Their accusations have many barbs and thorns, and each of those have histories and theologies behind them that often prove to be like a burdock (or a sand burr that we had in abundance in Texas). They stick to everything as the jag and scrape, and sorting each element out so that readers here can understand will take some time. I’m grateful to those who commented and offered constructive feedback as well as the‘WT__?’ responses to some of the more outrageous claims. I look forward to more discussion and the opportunity to ‘unpack’ the most critical topics introduced by the daughters in their letter. (‘Jennny,’ I’ve commandeered your analogy of ‘unpacking’ as I realized just how much remains to be explained in a circumspect context.)
Disbelief, Ignorance or Differing Perspectives Do Not a Lie Make
More detail and links will be available at a later date after I’ve had an opportunity to review the original post “Who is Geoffrey Botkin?” The original version of the blog post at Under Much Grace of December 2008 is due for yet another revision, and I thought the the best measure I could take would be to write an addendum to attach on that post. I quickly discovered just how much I do need to unpack, and how many information sources that go unmentioned. I found myself writing to the letter’s authors in a less formal manner, partly in self defense, but partly because I’d started thinking of the many people with whom I’ve discussed material the the daughters view as both salacious and fallacious. I soon had a tome.
Here is a draft of that addendum that not gives some context to the sources I mention, For those who are unfamiliar with the players and what they represent, this should help. I switch in and out of compassion and into offense when I take time to consider these important sources. I struggle as I go, because though I’m personally offended, I’m far more offended that the charge also casts disparagement on the fine people who have told me about the history that they know about their own experiences and knowledge.
For those unfamiliar with the belief systems, histories and people mentioned in my addendum draft, I offer this introduction to my introduction in process! I would normally include more links, but they will reappear when I repost the pended material on my blog. Until then, here is a score sheet to help a little.
Most of the people that I’ve named herein participate in Christian Apologetics, a theological term of transliteration from New Testament Greek which describes the duty of a Christian to provide evidence about why they believe what they do. They teach others how to examine doctrine to determine whether or not the Bible supports an idea or teaching. It determines if a teaching or practice “falls within the pale of orthodoxy.” Most of these names should be easily recognizable to the Botkin Family, and I offer them specifically to persuade the Botkin daughters to rethink the charges that they’ve made.
The patriarchy movement claims Rousas Rushdoony as a major influence in the development of Quiverfull.. He was the original masthead of the Christian Reconstruction effort in the 1960s and ‘70s which still seeks to reclaim the influence that Christians once held in American society and government which it began to lose in the early 20th Century. They often appeal to the writings of Confederate Presbyterians because they argued for decentralized government, supported homeschooling, and opposed women’s suffrage as essential measures to preserve families who would then win society for Christ. For this reason, many of those who followed Christian Reconstruction grafted other elements of antebellum life into the culture of homeschooling (e.g., slavery, gold hoarding, etc.) turning to anachronisms as tools to advance their idealized way of life.
Gary Demar is a Christian Reconstructionist who I find to be more rational than the Gary North (evil genius) types or the Doug Phillips (privileged son of a superstar) types. Jim McCotter was a Christian Evangelical who recruited college students across the country, an effort which resulted in a denomination known as the Great Commission International. McCotter was also involved in the early efforts of Christian Reconstruction, pursing his own initiative to save the world for Jesus though both political action and the media in what he called his “Media Mandate.” McCotter was also a member of the Council for National Policy, a Right-wing, private society founded by Christian Reconstructionists to advance the influence of Evangelical Christianity in the political realm.
Larry Pile, a most excellent Christian apologist, and former member of the Great Commission wrote an excellent review of Hillary McFarland’s Quivering Daughters. He still works at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, a cult recovery program founded by the prestigious, accomplished psychologist Paul Martin as his own journey of healing unfolded after leaving the Great Commission denomination.
A Working Preface to “Who is Geoffrey Botkin?”
Originally published by Cynthia Kunsman on December 28, 2008 at Under Much Grace
(At the time of this writing, the post is in draft format for updating and format review.)
I once lived in Norman, Oklahoma. I wasn’t a native, and I viewed the State in something sort of like regional quadrants. Norman fell into the Oklahoma City region. The Tulsa region was the big city to the northwest. Tiny Enid was home to the Church of the Firstborn, a Christianesque group that rejected allopathic healthcare. In frustration over the comparatively large population of people from there who ended up at the State ME office, many called it the Church of the Stillborn. And there was the pig farm region in the panhandle. Geoffrey Botkin was raised out in Tulsa Country. (Let’s reference him here as GB for the sake of expediency.)
When I blogged regularly about the ‘visionary’ homeschooling family lifestyle, extended family and even pastors at the church that Geoff and Greg Botkin’s parents attended wrote to me to defend their honor. They read my quotes from GB’s materials wherein he claims to have been “raised in a Marxist home.” He wasn’t. His parents attended a church in prime Bible Belt territory that sounds much like the ones that my mother visited when she first became an Evangelical.
People who were ‘Saints’ along with GB and his brother (the nickname for followers of Jim McCotter in Norman who were recruited at The University of Oklahoma) contacted me as well. One fellow thought that GB might have borrowed some of the history of another member there whose parents came from Latvia. This precious man (of Latvian descent) has spoken with me many times, and we share close friends who moved to Norman after I moved away. He is also one of Greg Botkin’s closest friends, and Katie (Greg’s daughter) also speaks very highly of him. While GB stayed with the “Saints,” those who repented of involvement moved on, and many of them grew to truly embody what most of us think of when we hear the word. So many humble, kind and precious people wrote to me to attest to the history of the Botkin parents, and former members of the Great Commission of those days wrote to say that reading about GB’s history along with other material about spiritual abuse had helped them greatly.
I’ve also done much fact checking since I first posted the staggering number of links that follow GB from Norman to the DC Metro Area to New Zealand until he popped up among the leaders at Vision Form. I wish that I’d known about GB’s Great Commission roots when I shared lunch with Paul Martin. Upon leaving the The Great Commission Ministries, he went on to establish the first accredited inpatient recovery center for those who exited abusive religious/ideological groups and abusive relationships. I’d just finished my 2008 presentation at EMNR about the patriarchy movement, and my husband and I sat with Jhan Mucowitz and Paul to share a meal. Paul wrote about his experiences in the Great Commission specifically in his book, Cult Proofing Your Kids.
Since then, I have had discussions and cultivated relationships with Barb Martin, Paul’s brother Steve who authored this vital resource, and Larry Pile since then, too. I’ve talked with Larry about the history presented here and learned more about the articles that were published in New Zealand which place Botkin there with McCotter. I also learned in visiting with two of my exit counselor friends met with new followers of McCotter in Colorado a few years ago, as McCotter still culls religious followers and leaves the wounded in his wake. I’ve shared some correspondence with two different sets of former members of the Great Commission religious denomination, and a good bit of the material that I cite in my historical snippets about GB were preserved because of their efforts. My own (now aged and retired) exit counselor assisted many of the Great Commission group and visited young college students who were hospitalized when the group did heavy recruiting on campuses in Towson and College Park Maryland. She had much to add about their history during the 1980s.
I also have acquaintances and mutual friends in New Zealand who were present to meet members of the Botkin Family and Matt Chancey when they traveled there to appeal to the Kiwis to sponsor Americans who wanted to move there. The government required unskilled workers or those who had no skills in fields which would benefit the country to find NZ citizens who were willing to sponsor them with guaranteed jobs. That information did not come to me by way of strangers, and my mention of that effort online was not fictitious or unfounded.
An Open Message to the Botkin Daughters
In the letter that I received from the Botkin Daughters that reached me in early February 2019, among other charges and demands, they insisted that I repent of what they alleged were lies about their father, specifically mentioning this blog post from December 2008. I wanted to point out to them and to those who follow the Stay At Home Daughter movement that I very likely have access to information that they likely knew little to nothing about. I’m sure that they view their parents’ past religious affiliations in a positive light, considering that no one ever joins a cult. They figure out that they were in one as or after they leave. Former members learn that the social pressures and authority structures turned into a perfect storm on the road to good intentions.
While not necessarily a cult in terms of theology, at some point, groups and leaders that allow the end to justify utilitarian and less than Christian means share the same social dynamics that political and/or religious or other ideological groups. The beliefs of such groups often don’t meet the criteria of a cult in terms of theology, but all of such Christian groups allow some doctrine or concern to overshadow and eclipse the ‘main and plain’ or core teachings of the Christian faith. For this reason, in terms of theology, they are said to be aberrant.
Within at least two of the religious groups with which GB identified in the past, such hobby horses of special interest included interest in the American political system, preoccupation with apocalyptic catastrophe related fear, high demand behavior for women and children, and interest in the use of media as a tool of evangelism.
I hope that the daughters of GB will also consider that many other people have contacted me with personal accounts and other information that I don’t think is appropriate for public consumption. One could argue that it has some bearing on the overall spiritual testimony of GB, but it doesn’t relate directly to his theology or the related lifestyle that he used his family promotes. Had I truly been interested in using their name for personal gain, I would have written much more. I’m only interested in encouraging people to think critically about where the ‘Stay at Home Daughter’ movement came from and what it encompassed.
Informed Consent and Open Book Christians
Shouldn’t people have access to the history of the author of the book they’re reading or the host of a conference they’ve paid to attend? I am of the opinion, especially when dealing with people who view my Christianity as inferior, that I have no duty to contact a book author privately to discuss my critique. If I sat in the pew next to them at church and we embraced each other as brethren, it would be different. (For NLQ readers, this will be the subject of another post on this topic, and it is further qualified in a new post on my blog.)
With these considerations, instead of any retraction, I offer these words as my rationale for standing by this post about GB’s history in particular. I am more firmly persuaded of the need to preserve it.
If the Botkins now repudiate the teachings that they once sold, they need to do what Christians do. Repent. I remember hearing Gary DeMar talk about a book author who sought out people who bought his book and bought them back because he recanted what he wrote. At the very least, don’t we Christians have a duty to admit that we believed and evangelized for a cause that we now view much differently?
Asking others to pretend along with you that events of the past never happened denies God the glory of a person’s testimony. It thwarts the beauty of the stained glass masterpiece that He creates in us from all of our broken pieces. We saw them as irredeemable, but our Redeemer doesn’t.
Isn’t that one of the most powerful miracles that we get to take part in as Christians? We give our ashes to the Lord, and He transforms them into beauty. When we mourn, God redeems our sorrow for joy. The heaviness of what we wore becomes a light and delightful garment of praise. A PR campaign doesn’t do such things, and threatening others with legal threats doesn’t transform anything. However, when we repent and stop trying to cover the pain or the inconvenient elements of our past, God takes us and plants us to make us mighty oaks that are in right standing with Him, and He is glorified. What Child of God would want to rob Him of that?
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