Thursday, November 28, 2013

Right-Wing Groups Sneer at Global Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference recently took place in Warsaw, Poland from November 11-23. The recurring conference provides an opportunity for global leaders to cooperatively address climate change and its impact across multiple sectors of society. An array of workshops discussed the relationship between climate change and urbanization, agriculture, gender issues, and multilateral environmental agreements. Stakeholders, including religious groups observed the conference with great interest, according to Religion News Service.

The conference was not without controversy. On November 21st, humanitarian and environmental groups walked out of the conference in protest of its insufficient agenda, according to the Guardian. In a collective statement, thirteen organizations (including ActionAid, Greenpeace, Oxfam International, and WWF) accused wealthy countries at the conference of "directly undermining the UNFCCC itself". The statement accused conference participants of valuing energy company interests over the needs of global citizens, criticizing Japan, Australia, and Canada by name for their environmental policies.  Representatives from Christian Aid and SCIAF lamented missed opportunities for progress, according to Christianity Today.

After a long deadlock, delegates paved the way for a global climate treaty in Paris in 2015, reported BBC News. According to a November 23rd press release, the conference decided to create an international mechanism to protect vulnerable populations from climate change impacts, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events. The conference also arrived at decisions to address greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

While the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw was flawed, such gatherings are necessary if the world is to confront climate change. Climate change is very real, and it continues to have a significant impact on public health, food security, and migration. Vulnerable populations such as people in poverty, females, and children are disproportionately affected and deserve special attention. Even if global gatherings such as the Warsaw conference experience problems, climate change is still an urgent problem, and global conversations are still vital.

Unfortunately, some observers think otherwise. Voices from the Eagle Forum and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow blasted the Warsaw conference for its alleged attacks on developed nations and favoritism toward poor countries. In their caricatures of the conference, eco-imperialists spouted junk science, delegates urged rich countries to give hand-outs to poor ones, and women were relegated to poverty.

In a November 20th commentary, Schlafly blasts the conference with her usual venom. Schlafly claims that the UN climate change conference is a ploy to get more money from the U.S. She insists that the idea that Americans are part of a global economy is "a deceitful message to con us into a plan to add the poor countries around the earth to our list of welfare handout recipients."

Schlafly accuses the UN of piling blame on the U.S. and other developed nations for the state of the environment. She caricatures arguments made by environmentalists and development voices, claiming that the UN is scapegoating developed nations for benefiting from industrialization.

"The UN talks are about blame. The UN has made the case that developed nations (i.e., the United States) are to blame because we enjoy the fruits of the industrial revolution in our lifestyles by polluting a finite atmosphere and that causes global warming.

Our standard of living is supposed to be cheating developing nations from achieving lifestyles like ours. The UN calls it our “historical responsibility” to pay reparations in money and technology."
Instead of acknowledging the reality of global warming and the need for global conclaves (no matter how imperfect), Schlafly dismisses global warning outright.
"These talks started with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. These pompous globalists have convinced themselves, and now want to convince the world, they can both predict and control the weather.

The UN persists in its goal to convince the world that human activity causes global warming, and that global warming will devastate the earth. Even though the earth has not warmed since 1998, UN agencies continue to issue reports claiming that global warming not only exists but is getting worse.

Their claims are based on pseudoscience and unreliable computer models used to predict weather patterns. China and India are two of the biggest carbon emitters but they refuse to contribute to the poor nations."

Other voices at Eagle Forum were hostile to the Warsaw conference as well. In a November 24th piece, Eagle Forum's Cathie Adams accuses the conference of adopting futile anti-poverty measures and favoring poor countries over rich ones. Adams expresses disappointment that the U.S. "caved" on the loss-and-damages strategy and the Green Climate Fund.
"The UNFCCC is following the model of the American “war on poverty” that did nothing to lift people out of poverty, but did great damage to families by making them dependent upon the government. Likewise, starve 1.3 billion people around the globe of their ability to produce energy and they will be forever beholden to handouts from the UN.

Poor countries are always the winners and the rich countries are always the losers, yet radical environmentalists never let up on their goal to globally redistribute wealth. And it is heart-wrenching to watch the U.S. agree to its agenda ... The radical environmentalists, like Marxists throughout history, refuse to recognize that economic utopia, absolute equality, is a pipe dream."

Eagle Forum was not the only right-wing group lambasting the Warsaw conference. The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) devoted several blog posts to ridiculing the Warsaw conference. It should be noted that CFACT's board of advisors includes E. Calvin Beisner (spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance).

In a November 24th CFACT commentary, Craig Rucker warned that "age of eco-imperialism is upon us". Rucker made no attempt to hide his disdain for the "warning-left pressure groups" of the "radical enviro-left" who walked out of the conference. He warned that environmental NGOs are still "in control of the game" and will work diligently toward their agenda.
"The outcome of the Warsaw climate summit is too tepid to satisfy the radical enviro-left. Their complaints will be shrill and many.

Realists who disagree with the UN’s take on global-warming science and policy will take comfort from the outcome’s lack of firm commitments, weasel words, and delays. If they let down their guard, they will demonstrate the true meaning of global-warming denial.

While the UN’s global-warming mandarins and profiteers may have liked more, they jet out of Warsaw still in control of the game. They leave Poland with the U.S. finally inside the global-warming tent, no nettlesome procedural reforms, and their road to a Paris global-warming treaty difficult but still in sight. They will immediately resume their endless series of backroom deals at quiet subsidiary meetings. Bureaucracy may be inefficient, but it is persistent. When UN global-warming bureaucrats are persistent, you pay."
In a November 22nd CFACT piece, Christina Wilson accused the UN of "exploiting gender issues to hustle its new climate treaty." Wilson championed coal, oil, and nuclear power, insisting that combating poverty through "affordable energy" would help women more than climate change initiatives. In making this assertion, she ignores the considerable environmental risks of such energy sources, as well as evidence that climate change is a significant issue for women and girls worldwide.
"They are just distracting from the real issues here. If the climate crowd truly cared about women’s issues, they would focus on the link between poverty and affordable energy instead of wasting time, money, and resources on policies based on junk science.

A new climate treaty would do nothing meaningful to alter global temperature and would do even less for gender issues. The real reason women and men are affected adversely by natural disasters is due to inadequate resources and access to energy.

The developed world has less gender inequality than those in developing nations. This is because wealthier nations have developed using affordable, reliable resources like coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power. To deny developing nations access to these same resources would be morally wrong."
Right-wing voices can ignore climate change and mock efforts to confront it, but they will find themselves increasingly on the fringe. Climate change is too pressing to ignore, with too much evidence to dismiss. Instead of caricaturing climate change talks, right-wing groups should look at them with nuanced eyes. Instead of sneering at the idea of climate change, right-wing figures should take constructive action to combat it.

The road to a more environmentally conscious world will be a bumpy one, as evidenced by the difficulties of the Warsaw conference. However, global conversations are still vital for confronting environmental issues, and global treaties can still do good. Future climate change talks should seek to avoid the problems that plagued the Warsaw conference and develop collaborative strategies and policies.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Concluding Thoughts on the Botkins' "Ready for Real Life" Webinar

Introduction: Botkins Launch Webinar on Making Kids "Ready for Real Life"
Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine 
Part V: History and Law 
Part VI: Vocations 
Part VII: Q&A Session 

After receiving a tip from one of my readers, I purchased access to the "Ready for Real Life" webinar, hosted by the Botkin family of the Western Conservatory for the Arts and Sciences. After listening to the seven-part webinar, I was struck by how paradoxical the content was.  On one hand, Christians are to teach their children to take dominion of the world and assume positions of leadership, according to the Botkins. On the other hand, their instructions on how to raise homeschooled children would make this next to impossible.

The Botkins place little value on college degrees or certifications, but without degrees, advancement to leadership positions in most fields would be difficult if not impossible. Geoffrey Botkin speaks coldly about the so-called "slave economy" in which most mainstream jobs are situated, discouraging homeschooled youth from working at such jobs. The Botkins' distrust of secular academia, the mainstream scientific community, the modern art and music scenes, the military, and the secular state (evident in Geoffrey's hostility toward so-called "statism") precludes young people from working in those fields as well. How can youth raised with the Botkins' ideology be leaders in the world if advanced educational opportunities and multiple career fields are off limits?

Furthermore, leadership involves understanding and working alongside the people one intends to lead. The Botkins, however, are wary of people and ideas outside of their immediate subculture. People who think differently than them are viewed at best as "sheep" in need of a shepherd, and at worst as enemies. In the Botkins' day to day lives, such people are largely avoided. How can Botkin-aligned youth lead other people if their ideology prevents them from interacting with others at length or learning about them?

It goes without saying that in the Botkins' vision, such leaders will be men. The Botkins' ideology relegates women to the home, where they are assigned the tasks of homeschooling children, keeping the house in order, possibly running a home business, and accepting the blame when things go wrong. College and careers outside the home are off-limits, and gifts are to be put aside in favor of marriage and motherhood, as in the case of Geoffrey's daughter-in-law. Women can help their men, but not serve as leaders in their own right. How do the Botkins expect their fundamentalist Christians to rise up as leaders when half of their number are barred from meaningful participation in the outside world?

In conclusion, the Botkins' webinar encourages Christian homeschooling families to take dominion, but fails to provide realistic instructions for doing so. The ideology they preach is not only inadequate for achieving the dominion they crave, but inadequate for preparing young people for real life. Life in a fundamentalist bubble simply isn't good training for leadership in the real world.

A warm thank you to Homeschoolers Anonymous for cross-posting this series.

Commentary Tidbits

Good As You: Springfield Bishop totally not demonizing gays; now here, let him tell you all the ways the devil's involved in our marriages

Sarah Over the Moon: What Love and Respect and Fireproof Teach Abusers and their Victims

SPLC Hatewatch: Man Who Claims Ties to ‘Christian American Patriot Militia’ Threatens Obama in Facebook Post

RH Reality Check: Right-Wingers Again Try to Scuttle UN Convention on Rights of Disabled

Time: Rick Santorum Goes to Hollywood

Alternet: 5 Christian Right Delusions and Lies About History

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Snake Oil Homeschooling: The False Promises of Fear and Control

Ordo Amoris: Homeschooling and the Fear of Man

News Tidbits

WEMU 89.1: EMU Settles with Students for Life, the Alliance Defending Freedom

Religion News Service: Mark Driscoll accused of plagiarism by radio host Janet Mefferd

Army Times: Gay Army couple says chaplain barred them from marriage retreat

Buzzfeed: Rep. Michele Bachmann Refuses To Include LGBT Families In Adoption Resolution

Happy Thanksgiving from Betty Bowers!

Let's give thanks for the latest video from Betty Bowers!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Liberty for Captives: The Myth of Biblical Manhood

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: The anti-gay right needs to be exposed for their scientific misconduct

 GLAAD: Air Force Academy recruits 'ex-gay' counselor; totally prepared for any wars necessitating snake oil

Wall of Separation: Hobby Lobby President Proposes Bible Elective in Oklahoma Public School

RH Reality Check: Meet the Men Behind ‘Six Reasons to Not Send Your Daughter to College’

Salon: My abstinence-only education

News Tidbits

Religion News Service: Methodist Church gives pastor 30 days to desist or give up credentials

King 5: Taxpayer money taken away from religious group after public outrage

The Murfreesboro Post: Mighty Men Conference attracts big crowd

Associated Press: Oklahoma megachurch, mom of rape victim settle suit

Chicago Sun-Times: Bishop Paprocki Stages Exorcism as Gay Marriage Becomes Law: 'Be Gone Satan"

NBC 9 News: School leader privately admits 'indefensible' breach of church and state over Operation Christmas Child

Raw Story: Colbert congratulates guest Santorum on appealing to ‘not enough people to win’

Philadelphia Inquirer: Santorum Not Ruling Out Presidential Run in 2016

Pink News: Restaurant says family which said they did not agree with lesbian waitress’s ‘lifestyle’ can return

Gay Star News: Australia: Religious groups’ right to discriminate to be restricted in New South Wales

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is the 2013 Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event devoted to victims of deadly transphobic violence. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is held every November in honor of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered on November 28th, 1998 and whose death inspired the "Remembering Our Dead" web project. The event follows this year's Transgender Awareness Week, which ran from November 11-17, raising awareness of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

I just got back from a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil on the steps of the capitol building in Harrisburg, PA. As Silent Witness Peacekeepers stood watch, voices from TransCentral PA, Equality Pennsylvania, and the LGBT Community Center of Central Pennsylvania spoke about transphobic hate crimes and transgender suicide. As a Unitarian Universalist clergyman delivered the closing prayer, the crowd mourned those who had passed. The vigil is an annual reminder that for transgender hate crime victims, and for those who take their own lives after facing unrelenting rejection and persecution, bigotry has deadly consequences.

Transphobia is an ugly reality in our society, and we need to end it. We need to speak out against transphobic hate crimes and discrimination. We need to speak out against far-right attacks on hard-won transgender rights. We need to affirm our transgender neighbors as human beings and equal citizens under the law. We need to work toward a society in which people of all gender identities can live full lives. The world has made progress, but the struggle is not over.

For more information on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, click here and here. For more information on transphobia in the U.S., check out the following resources. 

Taking It On the Chin: New Fast Facts About Violence Against Transgender People  

2012 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence

Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey

Transgender Students in U.S. Schools

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

PolicyMic: Pregnant? Scared? These "Fake Clinics" Will Make It Worse.

Americablog: Air Force Academy has `ex-gay` cure advocate overseeing cadet counseling

Wall of Separation: Sex Education Or Simplistic Sectarianism?: Religious Right ‘Experts’ Rely on Pseudoscience And Shaming To Promote Theology In Schools

Right Wing Watch: Scott Lively: Gay People Behind Anti-Gay Violence In Russia

News Tidbits

Pennlive: Fellow United Methodist pastor calls for Frank Schaefer to be 'openly rebuked' for officiating gay son's wedding

Raw Story: Anti-LGBT activist slams church over ‘effeminate’ Jesus: ‘He smelled bad… He was a man’s man’

Washington Post: Ohio high court upholds firing of teacher who displayed religious items in public school class

Wilmington Faith & Values: Do other Wilmington Christian schools have anti-gay policies?

Yahoo News: German "luxury bishop" settles with court over 1st class flight-to-poverty case

The Botkin's "Ready for Real Life" Webinar, Part VII

Introduction: Botkins Launch Webinar on Making Kids "Ready for Real Life"
Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine 
Part V: History and Law 
Part VI: Vocations 
Part VII: Q&A Session 

Part VII of "Ready for Real Life" was devoted to answering listener questions about Christian homeschooling. In the final installment of their webinar series, the Botkins responded to listener questions about family vision, interactions with outsiders, support systems, tensions with relatives, and children's' role in the family.

First, in response to a question about what guided his vision for his children, Geoffrey replied that he wanted his children to be "mighty" leaders, not merely surviving or living in "Christian ghettos". After citing Psalm 127:3-5 ("Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth; blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them"), he outlined his vision for the Botkin children at the 4:57 mark.
"I want them to be able confront their enemies, the enemies of Jesus Christ at the highest points of the land, the places in the country where decisions are made. The gates of nations happen to be where leadership happens, where decisions are made on law and jurisprudence, medicine, literature, the arts, science, business, agriculture, many of the things we've spoken about here on the webinar, military affairs, family culture, politics, public policy. I wanted my children to be able to grow up and stand in the gates, so that guided the kinds of things that we told them, but foundational to all of it was understanding that they needed first to begin with a fear of the Lord and an attitude of respecting and delighting in the Lord's commands."
At the 6:08 mark, Geoffrey explained how he warned his children that they must serve God and transcend "worldly success". 
"I wanted them to know they were growing up to serve a living God who had a will for them, an ethical system he wanted the entire world to live by. I wanted them especially to realize if they lived in the United States of America, they could not give their lives to serving wealth, not worldly success, not the traditions of men. And so, we steered them by trying to define for them the Kingdom of God, and then thinking about how to strengthen the Kingdom of God, and said, 'Children, this is your responsibility. This is what you'll be doing all your lives. This is what you are called to do in the Great Commission, to to make disciples of the nations.'"
One listener submitted a question about what to teach children about people in the outside world. Should they be on the lookout for potential threats and ministry opportunities? In response, Geoffrey claimed that he taught his children to recognize other people as "eternal souls" and to help them interpret those they encounter. At the 7:37 mark, he had this to say.
"When we go into the world, let's say we're on a trip to Wal-Mart and we're surrounded by people from many different backgrounds. What are we teaching our children to think about these others that they're seeing? How do they look at these people who are around them? Well, number one, we teach them theologically that these people are eternal souls. Every single one has an eternal soul. We need to interpret the world for them when we're talking about people, when they're looking at people. Many parents say, 'Well, we homeschooled our kids to keep them away from bad influences and the rabble that are out there, and so we just put little blinders on our children, we march into the store, do our business, and get out.' Well, we never had that attitude toward people. We wanted to interpret what was going on, and if we saw a guy covered with tattoos, we'd probably talk about it."
Geoffrey stressed the importance of teaching children to love people, help others, and share truth. At the 8:54 mark, he warned that homeschooled children could grow disdainful of outsiders without good parental guidance.
"If we're not careful, our children will develop very confused ideas about what they're seeing in the world, and in fact, if we don't help them, they will tend to be proud and arrogant and have a naturally contemptuous attitude toward other people because, of course, they're perfect little homeschool kids who are upright and not like those other people. We don't want them to have that kind of prideful attitude. We don't want them to be hostile or disdainful to people."
Soon thereafter, Geoffrey shared a story about how he responded when his sons met people who were different from them. On a hot day when he and his sons were visiting the University of Monterrey in Mexico, they noticed several young women in "Mexican chic undress". "They didn't have many clothes on", Geoffrey complained. Later, he instructed his sons to pray for the women and their future husbands and children. "They're like sheep without shepherds," Geoffrey told his sons. "They need someone to look after them, to protect them, to lead them."

The irony was not lost on me. Geoffrey condemned judgmental attitudes toward people who are different, but a few seconds later, he judged women whose clothing choices he disliked. I found it unfortunate that the Botkin sons were taught to see women outside their subculture as lost "sheep" who needed a (presumably male) shepherd to tell them what to do.

Another listener was concerned about those who exhibit outward Christian conduct without inward transformation. In response, Geoffrey lamented the "conformist theology" in many churches that encourage "friendship with the world", as well as the influence of "America's materialistic culture". At the 16:14 mark, he dismissed the idea of going to college, getting a good job, and joining a "comfortable church" in favor of serving God's law.
"If the entire goal of life is getting a good job and then just affiliating with a comfortable church on Sunday, then life is about pursuing the American Dream and not seeking first the kingdom of God, and so you don't really need holiness, righteousness, knowledge of the scripture, knowledge of the law of God and the commandments of Jesus Christ ... There is a dominant cultural trend in the churches and in the homeschooling movement to get into a worldly college so you can get a bigger salary and then bigger benefits. This will not lead your children into holiness, righteousness, and fruitfulness and fulfillment. This is serving Mammon, and when people pursue security through Mammon, Jesus Christ will be dishonored."
One listener asked what advice the Botkins would give to homeschooling families without support systems. Geoffrey encourages husbands to encourage and assist their wives. However, he seemed distrustful of support systems outside of the family that could potentially hold different beliefs. He admonished listeners to avoid any homeschooling groups that are (1) overly focused on "trends", (2) tied to "state organizations", which he accused of being "humanistically oriented" and obsessed with the "college agenda", and (3) associated with churches that have strong youth groups with large numbers of public school children. This insularity, it seemed, was to shield fundamentalist families from outside forces that could introduce undesirable influences.

Victoria offered commentary, explaining that while it is nice to have support from other Christians, homeschooling families shouldn't lean on other people to support them. With less support, the Botkins were in a better position to monitor the ideas that their children were exposed to, she explained. Also, if the Botkin children wanted friends, they had to be friends with each other and work though sibling quarrels. The family didn't spent time driving to homeschool activities that weren't productive, she said, allowing the children to use that time for productive activities.

One listener asked the Botkins for good strategies for encouraging children's gifts while cultivating a "cohesive family identity". Geoffrey replied that too many parents feel that they're obligated to identify children's gifts and do something special for each child. Over time, this approach causes the "cohesive family identity" to disintegrate because each family member is something different. He reminded listeners that gifts are tools bestowed by God to advance his kingdom, not as sources of personal aggrandizement.

The Botkins had much to say in response to a listener question about how to respond to "hostile" in-laws and relatives. Citing Deuteronomy 13, Geoffrey reminded listeners that no earthly relationship can trump one's relationship with God, and that believers can't indulge or "subsidize" a relative's rebellion against God. Christians can love their relatives, but always on their terms, he explained, adding that Christians must let family members know what the rules are in their home. At the 41:20 mark, Geoffrey told the audience that they have no moral duty to honor or care for relatives to reject God's law.
"Don't surrender your principles. Practically, you don't have to have any moral responsibility to honor or subsidize relatives, including parents, who reject the law and righteousness of God. Your duty of honoring them would be very different, and you can explore scripture to find out what that would be. You don't have to care for them and take care of them if they will not submit to the rules of your household."
Victoria added that believers can still express love and honor to nonbeliever relatives, but from a distance. It's acceptable to pray for such relatives and send them cards and gifts, even if one cannot spend time with them anymore. By doing so, parents set a good example on how to respond to nonbelievers with love, she said.

Geoffrey turned to family roles, outlining expectations placed on children. For example, fathers must make it clear that their children are never to disobey or dishonor their mothers. If a child disrespects their mother, the father must quickly and firmly defend the mother's honor. Not only does the Bible command this, but the children need to respect their mother if she is to teach them effectively, he argued. Even a child is a few months old, it will lash out and try to hit its mother, but for an older child "than can become a capital offense", he said.

What!? I thought. Your talk of children and "capital" offenses is making me very uncomfortable.

To boot, Geoffrey's insistence on respect for the mother was ironic, given that his teachings and those of the Christian Patriarchy Movement are inherently disrespectful to women. Treating women as men's subordinates, denying women a voice, and barring women from meaningful life paths are not respectful to women.

Regarding the role of daughters, Geoffrey relegated girls to subordinate roles. At the 1:05:34 mark, he instructed parents to train their daughters to help their parents and brothers. He warned that if the men around them do not strive for meaningful lives, girls will reject their helpmeet role.
"What you're training your daughter for has a lot to do with what you think you are for, okay, and what you think your sons are for. Your daughter's biggest job is to help you in the direction you set for your whole family, dads ... This really is her scriptural, biblical job, to help you dad, helping the family. And she will help her mommy, you know, learning to be a mother by helping her mother, and this helps you and it helps your family. She helps her brothers. As she helps her brothers and learns to respect her brothers, she's learning the skills and attitudes she'll need to be a wonderful wife. So, her role will be as big or small as you set it to be, and if your role as a man is to have just a very quiet, insignificant existence, and to be a pew warmer at church and not really do anything for the kingdom, then she's going to see--what good is a woman if men are not doing anything and there's nothing to really help a man do, then being a helpmeet hardly even makes any sense. And so they will be exasperated by that, and they'll be thinking of other things to do. If the men aren't doing anything, how are we going to reform society? 'I guess I've got to go out there and be prime minister or something!'"
At the 1:06:58 mark, Geoffrey instructed parents to raise sons as leaders and daughters as followers and helpers.
"You should be raising daughters to be the female counterparts of what your training your sons to be. That's what you need to be doing. Training your sons to be leaders, dominion men, and training your daughters to be helpers of men like that."
Anna Botkin fielded a listener question on what a girl's role should look like after high school if she does not marry. Anna asserted that marriage isn't a given for a woman, and that singleness isn't outside of God's plan for women. Women lives include more than wife and mother roles, but can also include serving the church, caring for the poor, and assisting with the home economy.

Elizabeth Botkin fielded a question on whether parents should teach their daughters a trade, or only teach them vocational tasks such as cooking and cleaning. In response, Elizabeth argued that all girls should contribute to the family economy, citing Proverbs 31. While men are responsible for providing for their households, wives who strengthen the household economy are important, she said. At the 1:13:14 mark, she explained how daughters are to balance entrepreneurship with submission to men.
"How does one balance being entrepreneurial and being a submissive daughter who has a family vision? Well, a girl will actually be able to be a much more helpful submissive daughter and be more beneficial to the family vision if she does have an entrepreneurial spirit. The conflict comes when a daughter has her own independent entrepreneurial agenda and that comes first, and is more important to her than helping her family. But if she has the heart of a servant and she has the best interests of her family at heart, and she's making that making that her top priority, she can cultivate just as much initiative and diligence and creativity and resourcefulness and business savvy as she wants, and it will be nothing but an asset to her family. See, right now, a lot of our fathers are trying to figure out how they can leave the workforce and come work at home, and a lot of our brothers are trying to figure out how do they start off on the right foot instead of getting stuck in a system they don't want to be stuck in. And I believe that right now, all of we unmarried daughters who are still at home are the secret weapons of this movement to rebuild the home economy. A daughter can be her father's greatest asset while he's trying to make his transition from working a job to starting a home business ... or maybe she can focus on just helping her brothers get started in whatever businesses they're trying to start."
One listener asked how women without college degrees could support themselves after divorce, abandonment, or the death of their husbands. Elizabeth admitted that parents should train their daughters on how to be economically productive in good times as well as bad times.  "Doing economically profitable work from home should be part of every woman's life, obviously more in some seasons than in others," she said.

Churches often offer support to women facing difficult times, but what if a woman doesn't have that support system? Elizabeth dismissed the idea that a woman would need a college degree so that she could get a job in such a situation. Rather, she claimed that a lone woman without a support system could support herself (and homeschool her children) by working at home. At the 1:16:25 mark, she had this to say.
"In the event that you were stranded as the only breadwinner with a house full of little children, practicing for this kind of situation by spending four years and 40 or $50,000 training exclusively for a job and getting the qualifications for a job that you could only do outside the home would be exactly what you don't want to do. So instead, if you took that time and used it to learn marketable skills that you could use from home or start a business that you could be running on the side and to invest that $40,000 into some thing else, it would be a much better situation if you were at home and suddenly had a lot of little children that you don't want to suddenly put in public school so you could go out and get a job."
The problems with Elizabeth's approach were numerous. Where would the capital come from? Where would a woman learn the business knowledge and specialized skills she would need for a home enterprise? If her children aren't in school, day care, or the care of her support network, where would she find time to carry out business tasks, such as production, marketing, and networking with other entrepreneurs? How on earth could a woman make enough money to support a large family AND set aside enough time to raise and homeschool her children while running a full-time home business? What if the home business fails? The Botkins' ideology makes emergencies harsher than they need to be, and in failing to prepare young women for real life, may precipitate those emergencies in the first place.

Geoffrey Botkin concluded the webinar by quoting Titus 2:11, encouraging listeners to serve God and live godly, sensible lives. At the 1:32:15 mark, he told listeners that if they follow God, they will benefit the surrounding world.
"The grace of God is benefiting even those who are still in darkness. If you are doing what you need to be doing in your family, your community, and in your churches, you are helping bring peace and order and stability to your nation, and other people are benefiting from it because of the grace of God in your lives. This grace of God has appeared, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age."
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Part VII of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar featured the following themes:

  • Family identity over personal identity: Geoffrey placed great value on "cohesive family identity", warning that excessive attention to children's gifts and individual identities could undermine this cohesion.

  • Vacillation between love and contempt for outsiders: One one hand, the Botkins instructed listeners to show love toward"hostile" relatives and other people outside their belief system. On the other hand, Geoffrey spoke of outsiders (such as scantily-clad women) with condescension, and outright stated that believers have no moral duty to honor or care for relatives who "reject the law and righteousness of God."

  • Insularity: The Botkins' attitudes toward connections outside of the nuclear family were mixed at best. They did not place great value on support networks, and outright rejected support networks (i.e., homeschool groups, relatives) who espoused beliefs that differed from theirs. Girls were encouraged to funnel their talents into the home, rather than seeking university educations or jobs outside of the home.

  • Unrealistic economic expectations for women and girls: Women and girls were expected to make economic contributions to the family that did not involve employment outside of the home. Elizabeth Botkin encouraged widowed, abandoned, or divorced women to sustain their households with home businesses (all while keeping their kids at home), oblivious to how onerous this task would be without a support system.

Stay tuned for the conclusion, in which I'll reflect on the webinar series as a whole.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Fenuxe: Atlanta Urban League Giving Chik-fil-A CEO Equality Award

Talk to Action: A Theocratic Star Flames Out

Huffington Post: More on Doug Phillips and Vision Forum: More Than a Scandal 

Lez Get Real: NOM and Regnerus Take Their Bigot Sh*tshow to Michigan

Political Research Associates: Profiles on the Right: Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

Salon: Meet the Catholic extremists who could shatter the church

Mother Jones: Vaginas Are Like "Little Hoover Vacuums," and Other Things Abstinence Lecturers Get Paid to Tell Teens

Love, Joy, Feminism: The Daughters’ Role: Liberty, Jubilee, and Faith Evangeline Phillips

News Tidbits

Associated Press: Frank Schaefer, Methodist Pastor, Convicted By Jury For Officiating Son's Same-Sex Marriage

The Advocate: Civil Rights Group Honors Chick-fil-A CEO, Draws Ire

Gay Star News: Sen. Marco Rubio to anti-gay fundraiser: moral issues need to be part of government debate

Wataugu Democrat: Schools accept 'In God We Trust' posters

An Uncanny Resemblance

Nick Ducote wrote about his fundamentalist upbringing at Homeschoolers Anonymous. During his time in Afghanistan, Nick noticed an uncanny resemblance between the rural Orthodox Muslims he met and the fundamentalist Christians he knew back home.
"When I traveled to Afghanistan to teach debate, I could not believe how similar the rural orthodox Muslims were to patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers.  (I’m sure some of you are incensed reading that, but remember I’m just being honest).  Women were treated as second-class citizens, many were forced into a form of “stay-at-home daughter,” and laws discriminated against them.  It was the exception for a young Afghan girl to attend as much school as her male peers, and certainly to attend a university.

Modesty is also rigidly enforced in both cultures, to an obsessive degree.  Only in Afghanistan and American homeschooling have I seen so many arbitrary rules regarding modesty only for women.  Granted, the level of modesty required of American homeschoolers does not reach the level of the burqa, but the philosophy and its outcome is relatively the same thing.

Just like many of the rural Orthodox Muslims, patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschoolers want their version of Christianity enforced through the government.  Afghans also revere and respect their elders – a tradition that thrives in patriarchal fundamentalist American homeschooling.  Even as a married adult, my advocacy in America faces the “you’re just a rebellious bitter child” line all too often."
All over the world, fundamentalists are fundamentalists.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Christian Patriarchy Movement Scapegoats Women

A Nubian goat, not to be confused with a scapegoat
Over the past few weeks, I've been blogging on prominent figures in the Christian Patriarchy movement, including the Botkin family, Kevin Swanson, and Doug Phillips. I've been noticing a pattern in how Christian Patriarchy voices talk about the sexes: women are inordinately blamed for misfortune. Even in instances where misfortune stems from systemic problems, or from a man's poor choices, someone will find a way to blame wives and mothers.

First, in a commentary about Doug Phillips' infidelity scandal, Doug Wilson suggested that a sleazy "Delilah" using "sexual jiu jitsu" is sometimes to blame when men "with lots of testosterone" commit adultery. The fact that such men consciously choose to engage in infidelity wasn't emphasized as much.
"A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.

Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well."
Next, during a recent edition of Generations with Vision, Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner discussed Doug Phillips' resignation from Vision Forum ministries over an inappropriate relationship. Buehner essentially blamed adultery on spouses (read: wives) who do not cater to their partner's sexual needs.
"When that vow is broken, then a wife or a husband is turning their spouse over to be tempted by the Devil. You're turning your spouse over to say, 'Devil, have at my husband or my wife. I was the protection of that sexual desire. I was the outlet, and I've decided that I would rather that person be tempted by the Devil.'"
Swanson recounted a time when his wife was talking with church elders' wives, reminding them of their conjugal duties as outlines in 1 Corinthians 7. The implication, it seemed, was that Christian wives owe sex to their husbands, and if they fail to do so, they're not truly supporting their men.

In part VI of the Botkins' "Ready for Real Life" webinar, the Botkins complained that some homeschooled children fail to thrive as adults. Victoria Botkin blamed mothers for poorly preparing their children for adult life.
"We have to be honest and say that the weakness is that it's mommy-driven ... I know that what homeschool mommies like me love most is to gather our chicks together and snuggle up together on the sofa with our cups of cocoa and just have a wonderful time reading together. This warm, cozy mothering style is very good and it's very nurturing when the children are little, but we have to face it, as they get older, this is simply not a good formula for training up cultural leaders. So, as our children grow up, the way we interact with them and the way we mothers discipline them has simply got to grow with them."
Moments later, Geoffrey Botkin blamed mothers for raising "dwarfted" and "emasculated" young men. The idea that his movement's homeschooling paradigm might be the problem was not considered.
"We notice that parents' teaching styles and techniques and priorities really are not growing with the children. We're keeping the children young. We're keeping the children undeveloped, and part of that is because mommies who are still driving the process, and because so many dads are not as engaged as they should be, mommies would like that warm, cuddling, secure, sheltered life to continue far into life as adults, as adulthood. And so too many young men, young boys are growing up being dwarfed or emasculated by the world and its real-life issues."
In part IV of the webinar, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin blamed girls in the Christian Patriarchy Movement for failing to engage in the sciences. Elizabeth Botkin blames girls and women for assigning themselves a passive role, ignoring the fact that Christian Patriarchy culture actively suppresses females.
"It's very easy to think that these are guy things ... and to think that our role will never require us to know any of these things. That's because often, we girls have actually assigned ourselves a role as women that's a lot smaller than the role the Bible gives us, and we think, 'Oh, well we'll never have to be involved in invention or engineering or exploration, because our job is to do the dishes and the sewing', and we let ourselves off easy."
Anna Sophia blames girls for engaging in stereotypically feminine pursuits instead of science and technology, ignoring the fact that this is exactly what the Christian Patriarchy Movement demands that girls do.
"You've got to wonder why is it that homeschool girls today are not doing any of these things. We see a lot of girls who are pursuing small handcrafts but not these bigger, dominion-oriented things. But there's really no reason why they couldn't be using their gifts for design and fine detail processing, for example, to do web design or graphic design instead of scrap booking and kitting."
The pattern resurfaces again and again. In Christian Patriarchy Movement rhetoric, women are to blame when something goes wrong, when their men stray, and even when they do everything they've been instructed to do. Why are leaders in the Christian Patriarchy Movement so eager to blame women and girls?

First, women serve as useful scapegoats for men. Christian Patriarchy men may not want to accept responsibility for mistakes, and so they blame women. In doing so, Christian Patriarchy men preserve their collective self-image as (supposedly) responsible leaders over the home and church. Christian Patriarchy women, having been taught to devalue themselves, internalize this self-blame and scapegoat other women in turn.

Second, scapegoating women serves to keep Christian Patriarchy women's self-esteem low. If Christian Patriarchy women have been taught since girlhood that they are inadequate and blameworthy, their low self-esteem will make it easier for men to control them.

For all its talk about protecting women and girls, the Christian Patriarchy Movement seems more invested in subjugating and blaming them. In a 2012 commentary at Religion Dispatches, Julie Ingersoll pointed out the sad state of affairs for women in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements.
"In biblical patriarchy, the refrain of "women and children first" hides an agenda whereby the women are "first" only insofar as they keep their place which is subordinate to men ... tragically, a biblical woman is also "first" to take the blame for marital problems, "first" to be excommunicated as part of church discipline, "first" to serve her father and then her husband in his vision for dominion."
This needs to stop. No more scapegoating. No more misogyny. No more narcissistic men who want all of the power but none of the responsibility when things go wrong. It's time for people to reject the Christian Patriarchy Movement, allow women to be adults, and expect men to behave like adults.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Religion News Service: Are Christian conferences sexist? ‘The Nines’ controversy prompts reflection

The Atlantic Wire: Catholic Bishops' Former 'Defense of Marriage' Chair Is Now Their President

Equality Matters: Meet The Anti-LGBT Extremists Behind The Campaign To Repeal California's Transgender Protections

TFN Insider: Faith-Based Presenter Tells High Schoolers: ‘Dateable Girls Know How to Shut Up!’

Spiritual Sounding Board: Doug Phillips: His Power and Control Using “Godly” Patriarchy

Media Matters: Right-Wing Media Use Provocative Insurance Ads To Slut-Shame Women

News Tidbits

Associated Press: Oakland University: Ex-Coach Abused Players, Pushed Church

WITF: Rally pushes for "In God We Trust" in all public schools

KPBS: Creation Museum Denied Membership By San Diego Museum Council

Bloomberg: Noah’s Ark Depends on Faith in Default-Plagued Debt

Gay Star News: Family refuses to tip waitress, former marine due to her ‘gay lifestyle’

USA Today: Mall arrest sparks free-speech debate

Pink News: Christian Concern: Stonewall need to help us place anti-gay bus adverts on London’s buses

New York Times: God Called Them to Adopt. And Adopt. And Adopt.

Washington Post: Catholic fringe defies Pope, disrupting interfaith Kristallnacht ceremony Argentine cathedral

NPR: With Echoes Of France, Debate On Religion Divides Quebec

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Doug Wilson Uses Vision Forum Scandal to Defend Patriarchy

Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries were prominent in the Christian Patriarchy Movement, so their recent scandals have brought fresh attention to the movement. On October 30th, Doug Phillips resigned from his position as president of Vision Forum Ministries, and shortly thereafter, Vision Forum Ministries shut down. Some commentators have used the scandal as an opportunity reflect on how Christian Patriarchy ideology unfairly silences women, fails to hold men accountable, and creates a world ripe for hypocrisy. Unfortunately, one commentator seemed more interested in defending Christian Patriarchy ideology than reflecting on what went wrong at Vision Forum Ministries.

In a November 13th commentary at Blog & Mablog, Doug Wilson discussed the closure of Vision Forum Ministries following Doug Phillips' October 30th resignation. He called the closure "fitting and appropriate", admitting that "the effects are devastating" when a man like Phillips fail to behave responsibly.

Unfortunately, he devoted much of his column to defending the supposed virtues of patriarchy, in spite of Phillips' misconduct. Wilson dismissed of feminists who criticized patriarchy, accusing them of "screeching". He lamented that the word "patriarchy" has been tarnished in the eyes of "saps" who have absorbed "feminist indoctrination".
"Feminists diligently labor to represent any form of father rule as inherently bad, or at least as bad as a relativist can make it out to be — which is pretty bad since the case need not be based on careful reasoning, but rather just screeching. Screeching goes a long way these days.

So, after a generation of saps has gone through the feminist indoctrination that we call the university system, all you have to do is use the word patriarchy in some unapologetic way, and everybody stares at you like you were a six inch cockroach or something."
Wilson defended patriarchy at length, citing Bible passages that gave husbands authority over wives and fathers authority over children. He called patriarchy "inescapable", arguing that our only choices are for men to act as responsible patriarchs and receive "blessing", or to fail at their calling and bring down "humiliation and chastisement" upon themselves.

Throughout the commentary, Wilson refused to admit that male dominance in and of itself was problematic. He admitted that some "machismo patriarchalists" may have "gravitated to Vision Forum circles, and found what they thought was adequate cover there." However, he quickly added that "many marriages have been saved as a result of the things learned from Vision Forum", clinging to his belief that it is abuse of patriarchy, not patriarchy itself, that is the problem.

When a powerful man "with lots of testosterone" takes part in adultery, Wilson sees a sleazy, manipulative Delilah at work.
"A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.

Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well."
Phillips was not a shaved, blinded Samson, but a man who made a conscious choice to engage in infidelity. What message does this send to the world about the woman Doug Phillips was involved with? We don't know who she was or what the nature of her contact with Phillips was. To boot, Phillips was a powerful man in his subculture, and we don't know what, if any role that power played in his inappropriate relationship. If his misconduct involved force, threats, or relations with a minor, rhetoric about Delilah and "sexual jiu jitsu" would be victim-blaming. Let's get all the facts before assuming that the woman in question was some wily Delilah.

When an institutional crisis strikes, it's sadly common to see people circle the wagons rather than admit that systemic problems may exist. Any ideology, including Christian Patriarchy ideology, that arbitrarily gives one group vast power over another group will produce injustice and lack of accountability. Patriarchy is intrinsically unjust, and it becomes doubly toxic when propped up by religion. The Phillips scandal demands that we confront patriarchy. I'm disappointed that Doug Wilson fails to understand this.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Religion News Service: 8 landmark church-state court decisions that shook America 

Slaktivist: ‘Noah’s workshop’ should not look like the Renaissance Fair

Huffington Post: What the National Organization for Marriage's Shift to Trans-Bashing Means

Buzzfeed: The Russian Plot To Take Back Eastern Europe At The Expense Of Gay Rights

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: UK Christian Bookseller Chain Pulls To Train Up a Child, Apologizes

Mother Jones: Marco Rubio Raising Money for Group That Tries to Turn Gay People Straight

Alternet: 10 Things Traditional Christians Got Terribly Wrong

News Tidbits

Raw Story: Anti-LGBT groups acquire enough signatures to repeal California law protecting transgender students

LGBTQ Nation: Kentucky Baptist child care agency votes against proposal to allow hiring gays

WICD 15: University YMCA Loses Major Grant from Catholic Church Over Gay Marriage Ties

Pink News: UK: Founder of Christian Concern to take part in equal marriage debate

Washington Post: Father, son suspected of kidnapping ex-wife in Stockton to perform exorcism

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vision Forum Ministries Shuts Down

Vision Forum Ministries is no more. According to a statement on the Vision Forum Ministries website, the organization will discontinue operations following the October 30th resignation of Doug Phillips.
"In light of the serious sins which have resulted in Doug Phillips’s resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, the Board of Directors has determined that it is in the best interests of all involved to discontinue operations. We have stopped receiving donations, and are working through the logistical matters associated with the closing of the ministry. While we believe as strongly as ever in the message of the ministry to the Christian family, we are grieved to find it necessary to make this decision. We believe this to be the best option for the healing of all involved and the only course of action under the circumstances."
This will likely come as a blow to the conservative Christian homeschool movement. I'm eager to see how Vision Forum Ministries' supporters will respond to the organization's demise. Will other organizations fill the void that Vision Forum Ministries leaves behind, taking a central place in the Christian homeschool world? Will the fundamentalist homeschooling networks it supported falter, or will new networks arise? Will supporters of Christian homeschooling and the Christian Patriarchy Movement engage in soul-searching, or continue business as usual? Only time will tell.

Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries promoted a warped worldview, saturated with misogyny, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and revisionist history. (See my commentary on the History of America Mega-Conference, Reformation of Food and the Family conference, Titanic commemoration, and 2011 CHAP convention for examples.)  In doing so, they have done a grave disservice to the homeschooled children whose parents utilized Vision Forum resources. I won't lie. I will not miss them.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Atlantic: An Infidelity Scandal Just Shuttered a Major 'Biblical Patriarchy' Organization

Spiritual Sounding Board: The Board of Vision Forum Ministries Announces the Closing of Vision Forum Ministries

The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person: Ding dong, Vision Forum Ministries is dead (But Vision Forum, Inc. is still raking in the cash)

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Vision Forum Ministries to Cease Operations

Commentary Tidbits

Slate: Hana's Story: An adoptee's tragic fate, and how it could happen again

Love, Joy, Feminism: Michael Farris’s Lies, Damned Lies, and Bad Sources: Testimony before the Senate on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Globe and Mail: The vaccination problem can’t simply be prayed away

Sacramentalities: The American Religious Right Looks to Collaborate with Moscow in Anti-Gay Initiatives

Homeschoolers Anonymous: The Stones You Cast, the Tables You Built

Grandparents: 8 Brands with Religious Affiliation

Alternet: How the Unholy Alliance Between the Christian Right and Wall Street Is 'Crucifying America'

Slacktivist: American evangelicalism is defined by political tribalism

Political Research Associates: Profiles on the Right: National Organization for Marriage (NOM)

Hope Fully Known: The Hole in Our Complementarianism

Triangulations: The Deadly Yahweh Dilemma

Huffington Post: 5 Traits of a False Prophet

News Tidbits

Reuters: U.S. bishops to select leaders as Pope urges new focus

Philadelphia Inquirer: Toomey amendment would exempt more faith groups from ENDA

Lebanon Daily News: Vigil held for embattled Lebanon County pastor

The Telegraph: Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution

Des Moines Register: Palin compares federal debt to slavery at Iowa dinner

Raw Story: How many Americans actually believe the earth is only 6,000 years old?

Pink News: Televangelist Pat Robertson voted Stonewall’s Bigot of the Year Award 2013

Huffington Post: Christian Group Seoul USA Air-Drops Bibles Over North Korea With Giant Balloons

The Botkin's "Ready for Real Life" Webinar, Part VI

Introduction: Botkins Launch Webinar on Making Kids "Ready for Real Life"
Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine
Part V: History and Law
Part VI: Vocations
Part VII: Q&A Session

In part VI of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar series, the Botkins discuss the transition from homeschooling to adult life, offering advice on work, education, and adult leadership. As with prior webinars, the Botkins give this a separatist spin, discouraging young people from entering traditional workforces, the military, or universities that could "exploit them to their ruin". Maintaining Christian dominion is paramount, as usual. Unfortunately, the Botkins fail to understand the relationship between impractical homeschool teachings and homeschooled youth who are ill-prepared to take on the world.

Geoffrey began by praising Christian homeschool families, asserting that parents pulling their children out of schools was one of the most significant movements in history. However, he lamented the "nationwide fragility" of the Christian homeschool movement, claiming that a "lack of a dominion pattern of thinking" has weakened homeschooling. Many children remain confused as to why their parents homeschooled them, failing to see the "Biblical purpose" or "urgent reasons" to propel the movement, he claimed. "Some of them are even confused about marriage," he added.

Who do the Botkins blame for anemic homeschooling and disappointing results? Mothers.

Victoria Botkin claimed that the homeschool movement's biggest weakness is that it's "mommy-driven". At the 4:06 mark, she elaborated on how homeschool mothers allegedly stunt their children.
"We have to be honest and say that the weakness is that it's mommy-driven ... I know that what homeschool mommies like me love most is to gather our chicks together and snuggle up together on the sofa with our cups of cocoa and just have a wonderful time reading together. This warm, cozy mothering style is very good and it's very nurturing when the children are little, but we have to face it, as they get older, this is simply not a good formula for training up cultural leaders. So, as our children grow up, the way we interact with them and the way we mothers discipline them has simply got to grow with them."

Geoffrey Botkin agreed, claiming that homeschooling is stunting children's development in part because "mommies" are driving the process and fathers are insufficiently involved. At the 5:04 mark, he criticized homeschool mothers for cocooning their children in a safe, sheltered environment for longer than necessary.
"We notice that parents' teaching styles and techniques and priorities really are not growing with the children. We're keeping the children young. We're keeping the children undeveloped, and part of that is because mommies who are still driving the process, and because so many dads are not as engaged as they should be, mommies would like that warm, cuddling, secure, sheltered life to continue far into life as adults, as adulthood. And so too many young men, young boys are growing up being dwarfed or emasculated by the world and its real-life issues."

My jaw dropped at all the sexism, scapegoating, and flawed thinking I just heard. First, repeatedly referring to stay-at-home mothers as "mommies" was condescending. Second, the Christian Patriarchy Movement demands that women stay in the domestic sphere and nurture their children, so why were the Botkins blaming women for doing what they'd been instructed to do all along? Christian Patriarchy women who were listening to this webinar must have felt frustrated as the Botkins accused them of failing at their demanding, unending duties. Third, Geoffrey Botkin focused on young men, ignoring the possibility that his version of homeschooling might stunt young women as well. If this particular branch of homeschooling is failing to prepare children for adult life, its leaders need to reexamine their methods instead of blaming mothers as a knee-jerk reaction.

Geoffrey Botkin complained that many 17-19 year-old homeschool graduates are not the "dominant minds" in their environments, but rather find themselves being dominated by others. Such young people either strive to fit in with the outside world, or hide from the world out of fear, staying home and indulging in wasteful activities that aren't "dominion-oriented".

Christian faith requires Christians to have the "dominant mind" of each generation, Geoffrey reiterated. That is, Christians are not to dominate others "like the Islamic world teaches," but to be leaders. Christian homeschooling families are to instill this goal in their children, rather than training them to withdraw into a "sheltered" or "agrarian" lifestyle.

First, I was puzzled by Phillips disapproval of "agrarian" lifestyles. What's so un-Christian about farming? Second, if the Botkins are so perturbed by homeschool graduates shrinking away from the outside world, shouldn't they worry that their education model has poorly equipped students for adulthood? Finally, since some branches of the Christian homeschool movement live in their own bubbles as a way of shielding families from "the world", aren't withdrawn adults the natural result of this ideology?

As with previous webinars, Geoffrey expressed his distrust of universities. Too many homeschool parents discover that their 16-18 year-old offspring have no social skills or capabilities, he claimed. He warned parents that if their children do not have university-level knowledge by the time they turn 18, their children's character will be deficient. If such young adults go to college, that poor preparation will "only exploit them to their ruin".

Geoffrey fielded a listener question about how to make sure children don't "crash and burn", that is, lose their faith or degrade their character after leaving home. In reply, Geoffrey warned that children can "crash and burn" even before they leave home if they're ill-equipped to cope with moral challenges. He condemned country music as one example of a moral challenge in Christian culture, accusing country music of promoting a "very destructive, counter-Christian theology". Another alleged source of moral corruption lies in homeschool support groups, he argued, where insecure children can become "peer dependent" and succumb to "peer-dependent compromise".

Translation: Don't you dare compare notes! Don't let those other homeschooling families suggest non-insane ways to homeschool your kids, I thought.

Parents need to talk with their children and understand their minds, as a strong family life can instill vital maturity and responsibility in young people. Parents need to test their children as they would "arrows", giving them opportunities for moral tests outside of the home.

The Botkins shifted gears to talk about careers and vocations. Immediately, Geoffrey dismissed parents' concerns about their children's financial well-being. Parents, especially "mommies", focus on how their children are going to make a solid, stable living as adults. Geoffrey frowned upon his focus on jobs and validation from the "elite oligarchy", reminding listeners that a supposed fixation on money, pensions, and "carnal security" isn't Biblical. A Christian's highest priority is their mission for God, not their job, he asserted.

Geoffrey's words left me stunned. Young adults should be thinking about how they'll support themselves, because work and bills will be part of their adult lives. Thinking about benefits and wages isn't about "carnal security", it's about making sure one has food, housing, and medical care. Financial reflection is even more important if one is trying to escape poverty, survive in an economically depressed region, pay for an education, or start a family. To ignore money matters in adulthood is to be dangerously immature, which Geoffrey fails to understand.

At the 18:22 mark, Geoffrey dismissed the American dream as "the pursuit of Mammon", arguing that society need a Biblical paradigm for worship, education, and career.
"The 21st century needs a completely new paradigm for education ... We need a new paradigm for worship. We need a new paradigm for work because the school model, the church model, and the career model are obsolete. They haven't worked. That's why there's so much confusion about going into the 21st century. The church has been endorsing this idea of the American dream since the 1950s, and people have really fallen for it. It's the pursuit of Mammon at the expense of Biblical obedience. So these models are obsolete because they were wrong, number one, Biblically, but they haven't worked, have they? That's why our culture is so broken and people are so confused about what to do. The culture that they created in the 20th century simply cannot and must not be sustained. So here's the solution. Let's move our children and the entire culture to the Biblical paradigm. We've lived too long in a humanistic paradigm, the paradigm of secular humanism."

Parents should teach children that being Christ's ambassador and occupying the world until Christ's return in their only calling, Geoffrey said. Christ's civilization must be planted and preserved in every society as part of the Great Commission, he instructed. Ominously, he reminded listeners that America is a "massive spiritual battlefield" and they must not be "taken captive".

Coldly, Geoffrey discouraged children from following "self-centered dreams" and giving themselves over to Mammon at the 24:17 mark.
"Parents, you need to help your children aspire to something far different than one career based on self-centered dreams to achieve carnal security by accumulating Mammon."

Benjamin Botkin, Geoffrey and Victoria's son, echoed his father's thoughts, stating that not every dream is worth fighting for. Sadly, by labeling dreams as "self-centered", the Botkins refused to countenance dreams that could result in progress, enrichment, and joy. As in previous webinars, the Botkins' advice boiled down to "do what God says, and don't you dare think, feel, or evolve".

Geoffrey assured listeners that if they obey Christ, they will have both money and viable occupational opportunities throughout their lives. This prosperity gospel nonsense struck me as dangerous, as it could cause Christians to neglect sound careers, financial planning, and budgeting. In the real world, God does not always provide, as those who have endured unemployment, poverty, and hunger know too well.

Benjamin discussed the feeling of being overwhelmed, when one's work, family, and church responsibilities seem overwhelming. His advice for uncluttering one's life was to excise everything that did not contribute to goals, including "worthless" activities and the desire to engage in worthless activities.

Geoffrey emphasized that the Botkins were not advocating careers (which they defined as lifelong jobs), which they considered part of a broken paradigm. Rather, he encouraged listeners to devote themselves to four chief priorities -- family, business, church, and civic duties -- which must be integrated and pursued simultaneously.

On the topic of using talents in one's future jobs, Geoffrey discouraged parents from excessive focus on children's gifts. Using gifts to determine one's future job merely plays into the "statist security state", where a "slave economy" assigns job roles based on one's talents. At the 46:15 mark, Geoffrey encouraged leadership and decentralized business over work in the "ant colony".
"Keep the correct, new 21st century paradigm in mind. For the 20th century, people grew up thinking about just becoming part of this statist security state, a workforce state, and it was really a slave economy, very similar to what was advocated by Plato in all his writings. An oligarchy is in charge, and everybody else just kind of fits in as servants and slaves based on abilities, gifts, and talents. You don't want your children even to be thinking that way ... You still can go to a so-called career counselor, and they'll say, 'What are you good at?'. Well, they're helping to to sort people into little cubby holes as servants, not as leaders, as those who serve the planned economy, not those who create it and do something totally different. That's why we don't want you to be caught up in thinking about 'well, what are my children good at', so they can take their little place in the pyramid, in the ant colony. We want them to be the leader of tomorrow who create the entire new business climates all over the world that are so different, a decentralized state system, a decentralized economy where there's so many more independent businesses and business people."

Geoffrey Botkin's monologue reflected a certain ignorance about how employment works. Do some businesses behave in unethical ways? Of course. Do wealthy oligarchs wield disproportionate power? Sadly, yes. Does the world need new models of business? Yes. However, helping a young person plan for their future is not "sort[ing] people into little cubby holes". Plenty of jobs serve meaningful roles in society, and performing such jobs does not render employees "servants and slaves". Finally, some fields require employees to work their way up to positions of authority, so we cannot expect everyone to take leadership positions immediately. Leadership and paradigm shift take time, and they require years of training and experience. All young adults, homeschooled or not, need to understand this.

Geoffrey's poor grasp of work realities was apparent in his advice about degrees and credentials. The Botkin family did not practice graduations, he said. Children are ready move forward in the world when they're able to lead their generation with confidence and "cultural discipleship", he stated. Assessment of young homeschoolers should focus on whether they understand the kingdom of Christ, and how they will spend their lives seeking it. None of his children got credentials, he explained but that hasn't stopped them from getting job offers. For example, he bragged that his son Isaac received job offers to be a college professor at age 19-20, dismissing his lack of credentials, but Isaac turned them down.

Wait. What? I thought. Universities. Don't. Work. Like. That. Competition is fierce for new faculty positions, and degrees are essential requirements for applicants. No college worthy of the title is going to hire a 19 year-old kid with no degree or credentials.

On the topic of degrees, one listener asked what to do if their state required homeschooling parents to have degrees. Geoffrey scoffed at the idea, encouraging listeners to "stop complying with unlawful laws" and warning them against submission to the state at the 57:06 mark.
"What kind of degree? What if they tell you you need a PhD in education, or a Masters from a teachers college? Would you bow the knee to the state just to get that so you could homeschool your children, or would you give up and throw your children back into the government system? Christians have to stop complying with unlawful laws, especially without challenging the idea behind that law before they're ever passed. We should be articulating and declaring our independence as parents to have the freedom to educate our children, because this freedom comes to us as a command from God Almighty. I mean, the state does not regulate this ... No, we don't have to go chasing these degrees just because we're afraid something is going to happen. What would you do if they passed a law outlawing spanking? Would you just simply stop spanking your children? You can't do that. You have to continue to obey God first more than man. You have to obey God first."

David Botkin tackled the topic of military enlistment after homeschooling, listing and critiquing four reasons why some homeschooled youth choose the military. First, some people want to earn degrees after their service, but David claimed that degrees weren't desirable ends. Second, some people want to establish a long-term military career, to which David replied that while short-term work for the military was acceptable, long-term work was not. The Constitution doesn't allow for a long-standing army, and that the Founding Fathers disagreed with the idea, he insisted. Third, some people want to reform the military from within, which David claimed was a positive but misguided intention. A private would have very little impact on the military as a whole, and many people don't even know what needs to be reformed. Fourth, some people want to protect and serve their country, but David argued that the government (including "unconstitutional" departments such as the IRS and EPA) are a much greater threat to Americans than any foreign aggressor. David, it seemed, had absorbed much of his father's disgust toward alleged "statism".

David discouraged military enlistment, citing the U.S. military's flaws. For example, he argued that many of the U.S. military's actions have been unconstitutional and unbiblical, and that it has involved itself in inappropriate tasks (i.e., nation building) that should not concern the U.S. government. He also complained about the presence of "sodomites" and women in the military, which he blasted as an "abomination". The supposedly declining moral standard in the military, such as current tolerance for fornication, also disgusted him.

David, if you think "fornication" in the military is something recent, think again, I thought. And I can think of far more serious moral outrages in the U.S. military than gay or female soldiers.

David emphasized that while joining the military would be a bad decision in most cases, Christians would be obligated to uphold the law and the Bible if they did enlist. Specifically, they would be obligated to disobey any unlawful orders, which would result in a court martial and possible dishonorable discharge.

Geoffrey Botkin addressed a listener's question about whether parents should prepare their sons for social and economic collapse. At the 1:11:41 mark, Geoffrey claimed that the U.S. is already in the throes of collapse as a result of God's "chastisement". 
"America has been in an economic and social collapse now for two generations. This is by direct intervention and the will of God, and it's part of a chastisement of God that's promised in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. And so, yes, you should be preparing them to live in this time of economic and social collapse. We have lost so much social fabric, and the value of the dollar, and the freedom to even conduct business. They need to be fully aware of these things and the direction--they need to know that the direction for the future--yes, it's very, very fragile. The good news is that things are so bad now that there could be such a collapse that it's time [for a] great opportunity to begin rebuilding when things stumble and fall clear to the ground. And this has happened at so many different times in history. You can look at history and you can see the trends and you can see  when things actually collapse and totally fail. What a phenomenal opportunity that is for Christians who have wisdom and knowledge to rise up and take the lead and begin the rebuilding process and lay the foundations together again."

Geoffrey sounded almost gleeful as he spoke of the opportunities Christians will have to rebuild society after a collapse, as if he were excited about the prospect of fundamentalists forming a new world in their image. The fact that a real societal collapse would be terrifying, and that millions of people would face deprivation and death in the ensuing chaos, did not seem to perturb him.

I found Geoffrey's insistence that America is collapsing to be ridiculous. While America has many problems, it is not experiencing a wide-scale collapse. Look at war-ravaged countries. Look at failed states. Look at societies that disintegrated due to genocide or ethnocide. That is what collapse looks like. Geoffrey's apocalyptic warnings echo those of other fundamentalist Christians, who see America disintegrating when it really isn't.

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Part VI of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar exhibited the following themes.

  • Little respect for degrees and certifications: The Botkins do not see college educations, degrees, or other certifications as necessary for success. Geoffrey also sneered at the idea that parents should have degrees before they homeschool their children, seeing this as an act of unnecessary intrusion by the state. The idea that a college degree could make young people more competitive in the workplace, or bestow knowledge otherwise unavailable to them, was not considered.

  • The workplace as the tool of an oppressive oligarchy:  Geoffrey spoke of the traditional workplace as an oppressive, deadening environment in which workers are rendered "slaves" by a callous oligarchy. He compared workplaces to pyramids and ant farms, refusing to consider that not all workplaces oppress their employees. Geoffrey could have discussed serious problems facing some workers, such as low wages, unsafe working conditions, and job discrimination, but preferred to warn listeners about a supposed "statist security state".

  • Dismissal of monetary matters: Geoffrey discouraged people from focusing on money matters when contemplating young peoples' futures. Money matters were dismissed as an obsession with "carnal security" and Mammon.

Which leads to my last observed theme . . .

  • Homeschooling failing to prepare children for adulthood: Geoffrey and Victoria complained that too many homeschooled children were unprepared for adult life. Instead of questioning their impractical beliefs about degrees, money management, careers, or raising children in a fundamentalist bubble, they blamed over-nurturing "mommies". The irony would be hilarious if real children's futures weren't at stake.

Stay tuned for part VII!