Explaining Botkin Syndrome
I present this information here to those who have some interest in the Botkin Daughters and Family because I believe their model, promoted by patriarchy/patriocentricity and groups such as Vision Forum is destructive and unhealthy, but the nature of the dysfunction is not so apparent. For those who are interested in the Botkin concept, I hope that you will benefit from my experience and the experience of the study of families who struggle to cope with the inevitable frustrations of life.
We have unavoidable tensions in life, many painful realities that even concern religion. The Apostle Paul said that we “see through a glass darkly” so that we do not know everything that we would like to know about God, the world and ourselves. That can be painful at times and leaves us with many unanswered questions. The so-called “Biblical patriarchy” in Evangelical Christianity has been termed more succinctly as “patriocentricity” because the practicalities or the daily working out of it describes all family life as centered around the father. His considerations and protections and wisdom comes first and it therefore the functional center. I believe that this father centered model is just another construct or tool that Christians developed in order to deal with the unavoidable pains in life, but it actually does more harm to people as opposed to helping them.
I grew up in a wonderful home, an only child with two wonderful parents that have been married 45 years, at the time of this writing. We went to church and I was a devoted Christian that loved God for as long as I can remember. I grew up and entered a helping profession as a nurse (though the available choices for me were very limited by my parents), then got married. But there were many problems along the way (which you can read about in greater detail by selecting the “personal testimony” tag). We didn’t have alcoholics or drug addictions, but we had other things that we did in order to cope, one of which was religion.
I was shocked to realize that though there was no substance use or gambling, we had all of the characteristics of an alcoholic family (centered around depression instead of substances or debachery). For some time, I followed two different religious alternatives in an attempt to cope with the pain of life: (1) the Word of Faith teachings that I shared with my family, and (2) a formulaic and rule-oriented Christianity through my church’s eclectic combination of Bill Gothardism, shepherding/discipleship from the Charismatic movement in the ‘70s, and through a misapplication of Theonomy (introduced to us through the Bob Mumford connections to Chalcedon through the shepherding movement). I believe that patriocentricity, the Botkin Model, is just another type of religious means of coping with life, and they differ little from the religious means that I used myself.
The Botkin Model
The patriocentric model, the Botkin model, describes and prescribes ways by which a person can hopefully avoid many of the pains, pressures and unpredictability in life through following the wisest plan of living: the Bible. But the Bible is not so specific, and application to our age must be clarified for us. In the process of making application of those principles to our daily lives, there is a great deal of our own ideology worked in as a part of the process. We select elements from our culture that have worked for us in the past. We work in our own personal beliefs as a consequence as well, since we are the ones who are working out the plan. We use what we grew up to interpret as “normal” as a guide for us. And for our family, this constitutes a good guide. For us, the effort has been noble and worthy.
But herein lies the problem. Those who grow up in a less effective family generally grow up coping with the struggles of the other members in the family. This need not be alcoholism. In my own family, it was depression. You stand on your head and move mountains to help the depressed person survive, through constant acts of self-sacrifice and service. This is not different than how the alcoholic family operates, and it is far from healthy. In my own family, I did everything I could to “enable” the depression itself. As a consequence, I developed and LEARNED my own similar ways of coping by being both depressed and sickly. Instead of being the bad kid, I was the very good kid but also the sick child because that was the only thing that pulled my other family members out of their depression. And while I was a child, it worked. And I learned very unhealthy and destructive ways of coping, and to me, they were “normal.” But I grew up, and none of it worked anymore.
I believe that the Botkins are perpetuating the same type of system. I do not know what the original problems were (addictions or a smothering parent or through some abandonment of some type) that produced the dysfunctions in the family systems of those who have constructed patriocentricity. What I can readily recognize is the pattern and the rules, both written and unwritten. I did not grow up with an understanding of “multi-generational faithfulness” in the terms that the Botkins now profess, but I did grow up with a devotion to my depressed and dysfunctional family that needed me to perpetuate it in order to survive the pains of life. I can spot the patterns a mile away. And I know well, along with every other adult child of a family trying to survive some pain of life, the destructive outcomes that the patterns produce. Those who hold the power benefit from those who support them, and I know well the role of the enabler (as well as the pleasure of the benefits of that role – the secondary gain).
(Read more under the "triangulation" tag from the label list for more information.)
What the Botkins declare to be a Biblical model -- that outlines the wisest way to live the Christian life -- I see as the die-hard attempt to make religion work to avoid the unavoidable and inevitable unpredictability and pain of living.
The Botkin model, that of patriocentricity, contains many Christian elements and concepts that are Christianly in general, but it also has the dysfunction of the addicted family rules woven in it. From my vantage, it is obvious to me that those who drafted the specifics of it have not dealt with the grief and pain of elements of their own past, and have made patriocentricity their drug of choice.
The tragedy is that they claim that their potpourri of preference (Christianity, Old Testament Legalism, Victorian and Medieval culture, the cult of domesticity, American Nationalism, and the dynamics of dysfunctional and addicted families) is the only Biblical alternative for effective Christian living. In reality, they are preaching the family dynamics of addiction, representing them as faithful Christianity.
They are using the integrity of Word of God to legitimize (and market!) their own emotional and psychological disease processes.