For shame, beautiful Botkins

With the very first issue of Patriarch magazine twenty years ago, my husband eschewed the Patriarchy Movement. Every since then, I’ve followed it from afar, often with concern, especially upon finding that some patriarchal churches wanted to keep unsaved people out, lest their children be tainted.

It was with grief that I saw recently that one of the Patriarchs of Patriarchy had fallen, and his organization, Vision Forum, along with it. I say grief, not because I thought of Doug Phillips as incapable of falling, but because I grieve for the many people who put so much faith in him, and especially for the women who have been genuinely victimized—spiritually, emotionally, physically—in the Patriarchy Movement.

Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin

In reading various websites recently, I came again to the Botkin sisters, the beautiful Botkins, who I knew had written their book So Much More eight years ago when they were around 20 and 22.  The “so much more” that they outlined and still espouse was for young unmarried girls like themselves—the way to achieve so much more than the modern culture is by staying at home until you marry. Until you marry, serve your father.

Now these young ladies are 28 and 30, staying at home and serving their father. How do they serve their father? Besides “submitting to his whims,” “reverencing and adoring him,” they serve him by speaking and writing on the importance of unmarried girls staying home and serving their father.

In many cases, for a young unmarried woman to stay home can be exactly the right thing (though the concept of serving the father can go to exaggerated and disturbing lengths). But it most certainly is not a Biblical mandate. The Botkin sisters—and all of Patriarchy along with them—teach that if a woman isn’t building the Kingdom of the Man in her life, she will be building her Own Kingdom. There is no other option.

I tossed and turned last night, thinking about all this again. I write missionary books. I wrote one about one of the very first missionaries to the Central African Republic, Margaret Nicholl, a young unmarried woman, who saw God do great things there (and incidentally, met her husband there).

Several of my missionary books have referenced the work of another woman, Joy Ridderhof, who in fact never married, but instead founded the ministry called Gospel Recordings, which has been of incalculable value to missionaries from the 1940s even to the present day.

According to the beautiful Botkins and the Patriarchy Movement as a whole, both of these missionary women, along with many others such as the intrepid Amy Carmichael (whom I also wrote a book about!), were outside the will of God. All of them should have stayed home under their fathers.

Yes, the Patriarchals do give a nod to missions. They teach in their two-hundred-year plan that Christianity will dominate the world. But this plan appears to me to be eerily similar to the way Muslims teach that Islam will dominate the world: by having a lot of children. Building their earthly dynasties.

Sorry to say, but the Kingdom of Islam has got us beat hands down on that one. By birth, Muslims are winning, and until Christians advocate polygamy, we won’t be able to catch up.

But do you know what religion is winning the growth race when it comes to conversions? Christianity. There is no contest here—Christianity is the clear winner. Through the opening of the eyes of the blind—yes, even Muslims—Jesus Christ is being glorified and His Kingdom is spreading throughout the earth. This is what I write books about.

However, for a young unmarried woman in Patriarchy, life is not about building the Kingdom of Jesus Christ through the powerful spread of His glorious Gospel of Grace. It can’t be, because then there might be a conflict between Christ and her Earthly Father. The Kingdom of her Earthly Father must be supreme.

This is not about “the world” that must never darken the doors of “the chosen.” It is not about feminism vs. true womanhood. This is a battle of kingdoms.

For shame, beautiful Botkins. Stop focusing on the Kingdom of Man, and focus instead on the Kingdom of the mighty Savior Jesus Christ, through His glorious Gospel of Grace.

He is the transformer of lives. His is the Kingdom that matters.

19 thoughts on “For shame, beautiful Botkins

  1. Thank you. I’ve read quite a bit on this as well, and it brings so many emotions into my heart, because of all the people I know and love who believe much of this, and also because I believed some of it up until probably 4-5 years ago, and it is sad to me to think of the way we bind ourselves to so many rules instead of to Christ alone, and then serve brothers and sisters out of that very solid foundation.

  2. Hello, thank you for your thoughts. As a member of the Botkin’s church, may I speak from experience for a moment? The Botkin ladies are often very misunderstood, the whole family actually. From personal experience, I have known these girls to be absolutely breathtaking examples of Biblical femininity, joy, and a peaceful and gentle spirit. They are constantly extending themselves to talk to and encourage those who are alone, will give you their full attention during conversation, and are a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to those around them. Funny thing is – the girls are actually quite introverted and terrified of public speaking!!!

    Anyway, this article addressed the few disagreements I DO have with the Botkins. They DO teach that women must absolutely stay home and “serve” their fathers until marriage, and that any sort of job or ambition outside of the family would be making another man their “head” and therefore would be disrespectful and rebellious. To this, I greatly disagree.

    HOWEVER – something that people might not understand also, is that while Elizabeth and Anna Sofia are in their upper-twenties, they are not rejecting marriage nor sitting at home, holed up. There really isn’t a better place for these girls to be right now than at home, considering their growing family business and in-depth church involvement. They’re not wasting their time away – actually, I would argue that they’re more productive than most women their age, married or single.

    (If you were to ask the girls today about what they wrote in their first book, “So Much More”, they wouldn’t support everything they wrote back then. They have matured, and their views on daughterhood have changed. )

    It would definitely be worthwhile for me to sit down and actually discuss with them what they mean by all these things they say and that people say about them. But, until then, I can tell you what I know and point others to what Scripture says on the issue, that “an unmarried woman is concerned with the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.” – 1 Cor. 7:34. If that means staying home and ministering to her family, then so be it. However, if it means leaving the home with the blessing of your father in order to serve the Lord in other capacities – I do not believe that is wrong.

  3. Hi Anonymous, and thank you for your perspective. Actually, nothing that you’ve written negates my point. You did add one bit of information that I didn’t know one way or the other, but it’s important: the Botkin ladies are not hypocrites, presenting one face to the public and another in private. (For that I’m very thankful, because that can’t be said of some of the leaders in the Patriarchy movement.) I certainly already knew that they were feminine, and that they highly regard marriage and desire it for themselves. I certainly knew that they weren’t holed up—that’s very evident not just from their books and blogs and podcasts and interactive programs but also from the conventions and other meetings that they attend with their father. However I’m so glad to learn that they’re also truly joyful, peaceful, gentle, kind, attentive, encouraging, helpful, and knowledgeable. I knew that they encourage young women to be that way, and I’m glad to know that they truly model what they teach.

    However, all that they do—if I understand them correctly—they do for the glory of their father, not for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. They may say, “But glorifying our father IS the way we glorify Christ.” But is it really? Some fathers begin to really enjoy having all the glory for themselves. Some fathers have been able to convince their children to submit to nightmarish horrors in the name of submitting to them as representatives of God. The two must be separated, especially as young women reach adulthood and develop their own relationship with their Savior, apart from their father (or mother) as intermediary.

    You mentioned that their views on daughterhood have changed since they wrote So Much More. But they have a blog, so they have the opportunity to elaborate on those changes publicly. I haven’t seen their new ideas, but I may have missed them, so if you could link me to their clarification, I would appreciate it.

    If the Botkins and their parents together decide that home is the best place for them to be during these years—that they can be the most productive and glorifying to God at home—then that is wonderful. (I absolutely love being at home—it’s my favorite place to be.) I applaud them. But in their teachings they go beyond telling young women that they might “consider” staying at home during their single years, to telling them that it is a Mandate. As far as I know, they would still say that women like Margaret Nicholl Laird, Joy Ridderhof, Elinor Young, Jeannine Brabon (all single missionaries in my missionary books who “did exploits”), as well as the more famous ones like Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael and Lottie Moon, should not have gone out as single missionaries. This is, in my mind, a tragedy.

    Anonymous, you talk about leaving home “with the blessing of your father.” Does the blessing of your mother seem insignificant or meaningless to you? Do you believe that a good wife will always reflect the views of her husband, so it doesn’t matter what she thinks as an individual? This is one of the aspects of Patriarchy that troubles me the most—stripping women of having a voice as an individual. I personally have a wonderful husband who is very easy to submit to, but he knows I have a voice, and he values my opinions.

    The most important word of wisdom the Botkins or I or anyone could give you is this: seek Jesus Christ through His Word, all of His Word but especially the New Testament that reveals Him clearly (not in shadow, as does the Old Testament). Seek to understand what His death and resurrection—which aren’t talked about all that much in Patriarchy, from what I understand—apply to your everyday life. Ask God to open your eyes and show you what He’s saying, and rely on His Holy Spirit to teach you. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re learning in the Scriptures, and ask questions about what you’re trying to understand. Refuse to take “you’re just a woman so you don’t need to think about that” (or any of its variants) for an answer. When you stand before God one day, that’s an answer that will be unacceptable to Him.

    Blessings to you, and prayers as you sort out the truth.

    Much love in our Savior,
    Rebecca

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  5. The most disturbing thing is the obey and submit, make no mistake, these girls along with the Duggar girls have one thing in their future, just being a help meet to their husbands.

    • Hi Buddy~ I want to emphasize that it’s a joy being a help to a kind husband who has a heart to honor the Lord first.

      Besides the obvious danger of making an idol out of her father, two of the other dangers I see in Patriarchy (which I’m sure aren’t true in all Patriarchal families) are that (1) Patriarchal girls are often kept from Biblically qualified suitors, because their fathers don’t approve for one reason or another, and (2) Patriarchal girls are submitting themselves to the potential for a very abusive relationship with their fathers and could then walk into an abusive relationship with a future husband.

  6. To “Anonymous”: The fact alone that you refer to these two women in their late 20s as “the girls”, says enough. I’m the same age as Anna Sophia and Elizabeth and I’m definitely not a “girl”.
    Rebecca, thank you for this piece that I hope will somehow find its way to the people who need to hear it the most, peole trapped in patriarchy.
    I do feel the need to ask you though, why it is so important for you to keep stressing the appearance of the Botkin sisters? Would this situation be okay if they were not perceived to be pretty? Isn’t the focus on female beauty one more aspect used against women in patrirachal thinking?
    Kind regrads,
    Iokaste

    • Hi Lokaste, and thanks for your comment and perceptive question. My take is that the Botkin sisters hold far greater sway in the Patriarchal system *because* of their beauty. If they were plain, then I believe the teenage girls in the Patriarchal system would be far less inclined to listen to them.

  7. Unfortunately the article drips with a degree of resentment and sarcasm. While the “patriarchy movement” is flawed, which is the story of mankind, the pure idea of patriarchy in God’s Word is very clear and has his backing. The illusion here is that obeying and submitting is bad… it actually helps bring freedom, when done out of obedience to the Lord. Think Daniel and Joseph. Their high degree of submission and obedience, to ungodly men, actually was a doorway to them becoming some of the most powerful people of their time. Women, and men, submitting in the authority structures as God ordained is actually a form of worship to the Lord and his protection. There is abuse to be sure, but just because the devil attacks us doesn’t mean that God’s way of doing things needs us to make some changes to it. Jesus was perfectly obedient, that’s our example. Unfortunately, not only has feminism pulled us off, but more importantly we men have not been good stewards and instead of being selfless and loving as Christ is… are often selfish, neglecting our families and others. The good news is that Jesus blood covers all our faults and failures if we allow him to, and humble ourselves. This article is deceptive, and it appears written out of hurt and resentment that hasn’t been dealt with. Through repentance yourself and forgiving those who hurt you, the Lord will bring freedom. On behalf of men and the “church” would you please forgive us? Wish you well. God bless.

    • Hi Todd~ I have no resentment; having never been in the circles of patriarchy, there’s nothing for me to resent. As far as I can see, I spoke with no sarcasm at all—I really do believe the Botkin sisters are beautiful, and I really do believe that beauty is a draw to the young women of patriarchy who are looking for someone to emulate.

      I’m sorry to see you compare the situations of young women in Christian families to the situations of Daniel and Joseph, both of whom were prisoners. The Christian home should not be modeled after a prison system, and Christian young women shouldn’t be kept prisoners, as far too many of them are.

      I’m in favor of submission, the mutual kind of Ephesians 5, which my husband and I practice all the time. (In almost thirty years of marriage, he has “pulled rank” on me only one time.) I’m opposed to blind and mindless submission that says “Whatever my authority says must be right” without allowing the Holy Spirit of God to speak to our own hearts, as exemplified by the many single women missionaries who have gone out to do exploits for the kingdom of God in foreign lands in spite of what their authorities told them, because they answered to a higher authority. This is not feminism—women were doing this long before feminism appeared on the scene. They weren’t asking to be considered “equal” with men; they were simply seeking to do what God had called them to do.

      I have seen evidence of the kinds of “not good steward” men you’re talking about, and worse—not just neglecting their families, but abusing them, in the name of being the unquestioned authority, who then flippantly give testimony to how glad they are that the blood of Jesus covers all their faults. If my friends gave me permission, I could tell you stories that would curl your toes.

      It looks as if the way you try to deal with the cognitive dissonance in your own mind is to decide that I’m writing out of hurt and resentment. I might be, if I had been hurt in patriarchy, but as I mentioned in the article, my wise husband had the perception to stay clear of it way back when I thought it was a good thing. I’m very thankful I submitted to his decision then.

      I was a little surprised, though, to see that at the end of your comment, you, after accusing me of sarcasm, sounded very sarcastic. I want to assure you, though, that I can’t forgive you, since none of the wrongs of Patriarchy have been committed against me personally. There are some actual real individuals who have been deeply hurt, wounded, nearly destroyed, in Patriarchy, who need to see a sincere repentance, which I certainly didn’t see in this comment.

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  11. Hi Mrs. Davis,

    Interesting post. I was doing a search on the Botkins, and your blog came up on the results page, so I was interested to read what you had to say. I can very much say I agree with you and share your feelings toward the patriarchy movement. I’m glad to know I’m not one of the only ones who saw there was something wrong with most of the viewpoints from Vision Forum and the like. Those sort of views left me very confused; I wasn’t sure if I was being selfish/sinful many times with what was preached. There were things such as women shouldn’t go to college and work outside the home (Not to say that your children shouldn’t be your first priority, but if you don’t have children, or the work doesn’t conflict with God/family, it can be unreasonable to expect that.), the very rigid ideas on modesty, very strict courtship rules (such as no alone dates together even in a public setting, and other such things that are a bit counterintuitive seeing how the parents seemed to have taught their children many things that should be able to prepare them for adulthood, yet when they are in a relationship, they’re treated as young children again who cannot make their own mistakes or even be trusted with the values instilled in them) pretty much having as many children as possible…it can leave your head spinning on what is wrong and what is right. I discovered later on, that most of these teachings aren’t even in the Bible, such as serving your father as if he is God; I knew there was something wrong there. It seems the patriarchy movement may be about control; the fathers are the masters, with wives and children serving them in an unhealthy way. I see a lot of pride and hypocrisy coming from that as well.

    I received the Botkin’s movie, Return of the Daughters a number of years ago and can say I wasn’t impressed. While I’m sure many of those young women are very godly, I can say the ideas were far out there and not what the Bible teaches.

    Oftentimes conflicting ideas can enter in. Is it selfish to pursue such-in-such? Am I being ungodly because I desire this? I remember the Botkin’s movie more or less teaching about how it was selfish to go to college, that a daughter should stay home. This can easily leave a young woman wondering if she’s being selfish for having dreams and goals and it can hinder her if she can’t leave the confines of her home. Of course, there are times when dreams and goals can become an idol and get in the way of serving God and others, but I don’t think wholesome dreams and goals are wrong in of themselves; they can be very healthy and teach structure, hard work, and values! Plus, God can use many different life paths for us to do His work. Often, there are many choices that would equally please Him, and every person is unique and has a different set of circumstances. While an earthly father could be a good representation of God if the father is trying his best to emulate Christ, an earthly father is still a man and this movement very much idolizes him. Plus, there are some homes that don’t have the best father figure or no father in the picture at all. This is where we remember our true father is in Heaven.

    So in all, I see through the false teachings of the movement, though that isn’t to say it’s always easy to always see through it after being taught a lot of their teachings. It seems a lot of damage comes from that way of thinking. Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips were both called out in sex scandals. Doug Phillips taught profusely about protecting daughters, keeping them at home, purity, etc., yet went again his own advice with another man’s daughter. Seeing how these scenarios happened more than once among people in those circles show that there is something very wrong with those teachings, that when law is focused on too hard, it’s difficult to enjoy freedom in Christ’s grace.

  12. Thank you for your comment, Jessica, and I apologize for taking a while to respond (I didn’t receive an email alert about it). You’ve made some wise observations here, and I believe that your last sentence is crucial: “When law is focused on too hard, it’s difficult to enjoy freedom in Christ’s grace.” The book of Galatians basically teaches that if a Christian—truly redeemed by Jesus Christ—then seeks to go back to live under the Old Covenant (under the Law), he’ll find that he is more susceptible than ever to the sins of the flesh. When I began to understand this truth through a study of Galatians in 1999, it was astonishing and ultimately life-changing. (Of course, it isn’t only Galatians, but all of the New Covenant that bears out this truth.) The Patriarchalists as a whole have very much sought to live under the Old Covenant. Explaining that would be another blog post, but it has probably already been done elsewhere.

  13. I read both the article and much of the commentary at the end, and I must say I think you misinterpret the Botkins and their mission and focus entirely. I know all of the Botkins personally (Mr. And Mrs., the young ladies, and all five sons), and I am in their home regularly. I can say from experience that neither the “girls” nor the “boys” in any way revere or idolize Mr. Botkin, though they do all place a high emphasis on his wishes and opinions (as any obedient child should do for both his mother and his father). They are not “building man’s kingdom”, the kingdom of their father, or any kingdom besides the kingdom of God. In fact, perhaps you should listen to more of Mr. Bokin’s messages— he talks often about following the Lord and building God’s kingdom instead of your own or anyone else’s.

    For the record, the Botkin ladies have a blog, write books, produce films, invest in the local church, help maintain their home, and do a host of other things. They are more productive than most of the other women I know (including those who went to college and have degrees).

    Much of what you are complaining about was never propagated by the Botkins themselves, but by others who misunderstood the message.

    I would also like to point out that no one used any scripture to back up their statements that the Botkin ladies are wrong about patriarchy, girls staying at home, or girls not attending college. The Botkins are fond of Scripture, and I do not see any place where they have misinterpreted it. Anyone care to back up their arguments from the Bible?

    -SK

    • Thank you, SK, and my apologies for a tardy response. I believe that “complaining” is an inappropriate word to use about a situation that I’m not personally affected by but am pointing out as detrimental to the church in general. Rather than reading what others said they said, I tried to base my conclusions on what the Botkin ladies said themselves.

      As I replied to Anonymous above (in December of 2013), I understand that the Botkin ladies are productive. I also honor their personal decision to stay at home. What I believe is wrong, however, is for them to give a mandate for all single young ladies to stay home.

      Yes, I’m also passionate about Scripture and its appropriate application, and I believe that the Botkin sisters should show Biblical support for their arguments about staying home and “submitting to [their father’s] whims,” “reverencing and adoring him” (their words, not mine). For this, I know of no Scriptural foundation, and I find it uniquely disturbing.

  14. To the crazy people calling these 30-ish-year-old women “girls”: Girls cease in being girls at 18. For the rest of their lives they are properly identified as women. A 30-year-old is most certainly a woman. Thank you.

I welcome your thoughts