Origins of Botkin Syndrome

Because I find that very little of what Vision Forum produces proves to be original, I believe that though they may be among the contemporary promoters of their twist on the concept, I do not believe that it originated with them.  What I see in a broader perspective is a rehashing and repackaging of ideas and sometimes intellectual property drawn from other sources and from authors from periods in history that they idealize and venerate.  Where I believe Geoff Botkin developed his basic concepts came through what I believe are related but different channels that adapt themselves well to Vision Forum’s system as branches off of the main concepts of aberrant submission doctrine that developed from the Shepherding Discipleship Movement, something that many see as a response to both societal change and the experientialism of the Charismatic Renewal.

Such of Doug Phillips’ concepts are drawn and borrowed directly from men like Bill Gothard, Jonathan Lindvall, and Michael Farris.  Gothard, far and above his contemporaries, deserves the highest recognition as the first to develop a formulaic approach to Christian living which promises a safe, Biblical plan for raising children who will remain devoted to Christianity.  Add discipline and stir.   Other influences on other ideologues such as Douglas Wilson, for example, also include those with gender concerns such as John R. Rice, George Knight, Wayne Grudem, and those affiliated with the Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  Though they seem to differ in emphasis and certain salient points, the primary foundations of Doug Phillips’ ideas have generally been presented by others but are packaged and mixed with marketing in modern, epicurean fashion.  In terms of homeschooling, all of these men stand on the shoulders of the true pioneers in homeschooling outside of their religious group including the Seventh Day Adventist Raymond Moore and the secular John Holt.  They do make some appeal and reference to Rousas J. Rushdoony, but I see more credit and laud bestowed upon Gothard than upon Rushdoony within Vision Forum circles.

I believe that Phillips also borrows from other circles that were fostered by the Chalcedon Foundation, the organization that Rushdoony founded.  Rushdoony encouraged publishers and others to draw from previous eras in order to borrow from their arguments for the defense of homeschooling and religious liberty in the United States.  Rushdoony who has been referred to as the “ultimate decentralist” used examples and insights from both the Confederate Period and from the Medieval Period to advance decentralization of our top-heavy federal government in order to give power back to individual states and local municipalities.  But I believe that many missed his point and venerated too much the periods themselves, drawing more from them than Rushdoony ever intended.  Doug Phillips is notable among these individuals who seeks or has sought to advance societal elements and practices from these time periods within aspects of his own religious practice which he then tends to advance and promote as ideal if not non-optional aspects of responsible Christianity.  I believe that his paradigm concerning women draws from both of these time periods, something that ironically also corresponds to the paterfamilias that were part of the secular culture in Rome during the First Century.  As Solomon wisely put it, there is nothing new under the sun, but there is little but packaging that is new at Vision Forum.

Vision Forum has made some claims that their traditions are, in part, taken from Scripture, but the “Bride’s Price” which Moses set forth describes the price required of a man to be paid to a father if he has dishonored her by damaging her reputation or by forcing a sexual relationship.  In Vision Forum style weddings, I am told that Phillips prefers that a gold coin be used which the groom pays to the bride’s father.  I certainly hope that this is not an admission of the daughters impurity per the passage found in Chapter 22 of Deuteronomy.  I believe that it likely derives from the Germanic Medieval tradition that existed for a time wherein the groom did pay the bride’s father a dowry, which reinforces the message within the Vision Forum system which suggests indirectly that the wife is a commodity.  It is notable that the German tradition of the “morning gift” which the groom offers the bride after their wedding to ensure for her provision is notably absent, in my understanding, from the traditions created by Vision Forum.

I believe that more of the Vision Forum traditions and preferred social conventions derive from the Confederate Presbyterian literature concerning women as well as other beliefs and goals.  The writings of Robert L. Dabney and Benjamin M. Palmer, and the revival of their literature within circles related to both Chalcedon and people also affiliated with the League of the South (a secessionist organization) have been cited and celebrated for their formulas and supposed solutions to contemporary problems in both society and church.  Douglas Wilson and Doug Phillips both pay notable attention to RL Dabney in publications such as “Slavery: As It Was” and “Robert Lewis Dabney:  The Prophet Speaks.”  Though it appears that others who promote the Stay At Home Daughter Paradigm have derived many of their concepts from Eric Wallace, he also borrowed from Benjamin Palmer for his own version of a formulaic paradigm, citing this Confederate Presbyterian in his book, “Uniting Church and Home:  A Blueprint for Rebuilding Church Community.”

During the mid-sixties, within the same time frame when Bill Gothard started his ministry, Jim McCotter launched his concept of a New Testament Church, and both of these then parachurch organizations followed the concepts of submission that were stressed with in the Shepherding Discipleship Movement.  Both movements emphasized a strict chain of command, unquestioned submission to authority figures, and formulas governing proper conduct which correspond to what is now termed Spiritual Abuse.  Spiritual Abuse manifests and employs a network of behavioral techniques which surreptitiously manipulate and coerce followers with out informed consent through a process that is also described as Thought Reform.  McCotter channeled his evangelism efforts through newspapers that his ministry owned and through Bible-based communities that he established on several college campuses into which he successfully recruited large numbers of students.  Geoffrey and Victoria (then “Vicki”) Botkin became active members when recruited at the University of Oklahoma in the Seventies.
The campus ministry later became the Evangelical Christian Denomination known as “The Great Commission,” though it was known by other variants of that name.  For a time, the group at Oklahoma where the Botkins participated was referred to as “The Saints.”  These very organized groups followed very stringent courtship practices which were governed by house parents who monitored the activities of the recruits under their care.  Dating was forbidden and treated as a “faction,” and factions were seen as highly sinful and cause for shunning, a potent means of maintaining control over followers (a loaded language term).  Marriages and courtships were arranged by leadership in the group, and Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin’s marriage resulted from a match made by group leadership in Norman.  Though a great deal of courtship concepts and the preaching of the” evils of emotional attachment” have been popularized by Gothard and Lindvall, the concepts and teachings were also a significant part of the early years within the Great Commission while the Botkins were active members.  It was a very significant element of all of the Discipleship Shepherding Teachings which many unsuspecting parents today fail to realize.

Jim McCotter’s group expanded to several college campuses in several states, and during the 1980’s made an attempt to establish a political presence in local and federal government, moving their headquarters to Silver Spring, Maryland.  It is also instructive to note that McCotter advanced what he called the “Media Mandate” wherein he taught that Christians had a responsibility to take control of major media outlets in order to best influence the culture for Christ.  There was a sense of urgency, because it was believed that the Great Commission issued by Jesus to His disciples in the New Testament to carry the Gospel throughout the earth would be accomplished and completed in McCotter’s generation.  Geoff Botkin was noted in the press in Maryland as the administrative assistant for the Great Commission in 1986 when they practiced lobbying for Right Wing causes and ran nearly twenty members in political races.  The group practiced very aggressive recruiting on many college campuses in the area, particularly the University of Maryland and what is now Towson University, something to which Geoffrey Botkin alludes in Vision Forum related audio downloads that are available online.  In addition to rivaling the aggressive child discipline practices of Michael Pearl, the Great Commission’s aggressive authoritarian practices among college students sent many into inpatient psychiatric care because of their heavy-handed abusive cultic manipulation.

When McCotter left his position as the formal leader of the Great Commission group and after other failed attempts at realizing his Media Mandate in the US, both he and Geoff Botkin moved to New Zealand to pursue their end.  They owned a failing newspaper, a Christian television station, and they launched a more successful style magazine but disbanded after a short period of time.  The newspapers in New Zealand document Geoff Botkin’s resignation in 2001, and shortly thereafter, he appeared in the ranks at Vision Forum.  According to my last note, the Botkins sought to lead an Exodus of faithful and elite homeschoolers from the US to New Zealand to live in order to save themselves from economic hardship and a decaying culture.

That said, I believe that it is appropriate to say that the major influences responsible for the paradigm of Stay At Home Daughters advanced by the Botkins and Vision Forum primarily arises from the Shepherding Discipleship Movement from a synergy of the branches of Jim McCotter’s Great Commission denomination and Bill Gothard’s influence through his Institute of Basic Life Principles organization.

Revised Aug 2010