By blogger Cindy of Under Much Grace. Originally posted here. Please remember that while the contributors to this website are united in our belief that there are problems with the teachings of Vision Forum, we come from a variety of diverse perspectives.
I’ve spent the last two years communicating the “anti-cult” message within evangelical Christian communities, specifically addressing a hybrid spin-off group from the Shepherding Discipleship Movement and Extremes of Christian Reconstruction about a decade after getting out of one. After exit counsel from a person that Dr. Paul Martin called “one of the best” in the Baltimore area, I came in contact with a new group of homeschoolers that is peripherally related to groups I’d been connected with in the past. I ended up at the same Presbyterian church with one of the primary leaders in this new homeschooling group.
A few months ago, I was surprised yet not all that surprised to learn that one of the new “visionaries” for this group of zealous homeschoolers was a member of the Great Commission. He, his brother and both of their spouses were recruited from the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman during Jim McCotter’s “Blitz” recruitment campaign in the ’70s. Ironically, my own exit counselor was very instrumental with CAN in exposing the political activity of GCM in the ’80s in Mongomery County, MD, and this individual is noted in the newspapers from 1986 to be a participant in those very same efforts.
Please read the following letter I’ve written to some cult watch groups in New Zealand to apprise them of some the latest activities and plans of this follower of the Great Commission and his involvement with Christian homeschoolers in the US and in New Zealand. I’ve embedded all sorts of links to documentation and discussion of this religious movement, and I don’t even get into the pockets of this group that promote and pursue kinism, “racialism” which seems to me to be little more than watered down white supremacy which is promoted as legitimate Christianity. Some of the links present an overview or critical reviews of the topics but will contain links to more original sources.
Thank you for your attention, and please track me down via the blog links if you have questions or concerns.
I’m writing to you today to notify you that a group of aberrant evangelical Protestant Christian Reconstructionists plans an exodus from the United States to New Zealand in 2010, establishing themselves through the unsuspecting homeschooling community in NZ. I’m not sure how many Vision Forum affiliated families plan on following the family of the US born and reported NZ immigrant Geoffrey Botkin next year. I am an evangelical Protestant Christian who spent four years in a group very similar to and peripherally related to Geoff Botkin’s first evangelical Christian cult (as they were known to the pre-scientology Cult Awareness Network and the many vocal survivors of the group), and I was formerly involved with another religious movement from which Botkin’s current cultic group originated, accepting the information at face value and in earnest. I was ignorant of the true nature of the group and ideology of these Christian Reconstructionists, and their ideas became more “fringe” and extreme, particularly over the past 10 years. I believe that the People of New Zealand should have informed consent regarding the history, motivations and intent of this religious group.
This group of idealistic and pious homeschoolers essentially takes the cultural demands of groups like Bill Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles (also with a presence in NZ) which promotes a 1950’s style family nostalgia and combines it with an extreme and elitist form of Calvinistic dominionism, thus forming a very spiritually abusive group that targets homeschoolers, manipulating them with fear of nearly all aspects of secular culture and demands for separatism. It is sad, because the followers and even many of the leaders in the group earnestly believe that they are following God’s highest and best plan with all sincerity and good intent. (The shortest overview of the group can be viewed online in a 1 hour video with accompanying handouts and powerpoint which I presented at an apologetics conference held a well-respected Baptist Seminary in 2008.)
Please link here to New Zealand Homeschooling Websites regarding the Botkin’s April ’09 Tour of New Zealand:
– Homeschool Nations
– Home Education Foundation
****How Men Can Strengthen Their Families
****Greatest Issues Facing Men
****Second Generation Homeschooling
****NZ’s Future Role in the History of Christianity
– Homeschool Blogger
Geoffrey Botkin affiliated himself with Vision Forum and its leadership when he left New Zealand circa 2002, after he attempted to follow the Great Commission’s “Media Mandate” of reaching the world with their Christian message through telecommunications, (please note table with Botkin’s history and asterisk links to other supporting documentation). He was an early convert to the aberrant and abusive Great Commission cultic group in the 1970s, an individual who participated in a failed attempt to establish political presence in the US in the 1980s, and who has already attempted to establish influence in NZ in the 1990s. Along with the cult’s leader and founder, Jim McCotter, Botkin served as [url=http://web.archive.org/web/20011220214218/[nzmg.co.nz]]CEO of Canterbury TV[/url] in Christchurch, along with a newspaper and magazine. The businesses failed, and Jim McCotter returned to the US. Botkin also returned to the US and now plans to again return to NZ with a group of American homeschoolers to accomplish what McCotter failed to do a decade earlier: take dominion over New Zealand with/for their aberrant version of Christianity and cause. Though the group does not believe in an immediate apocalyptic “pre-millennial” return of Christ, they do use fear to manipulate people into action for their cause, seeking to establish dominion in secular culture in order to influence governments with theonomy (God’s law as written in the Bible as the standard for all civil law). The drastic change that I have observed in the past 10 years within this group has been a shift away from “theonomy” which I understand as the Christian’s responsible citizenship into what sounds far more like a theocracy.
Geoff Botkin boasts plans to have his son, now in his 20s, elected as the Prime Minister of NZ when he his 57. The group to which he has now attached himself believes that Christians are birthed into families of the covenant community (using the language of Calvinism) rather than through evangelizing those who are not Christians. As a consequence, the group follows “militant fecundity” and “multigenerational faithfulness” in order to birth large families of Christians that will, over the long term, birth the numbers of people needed to “take dominion” over governments to create their ideal of a theocratic utopia that I expect would eventually be patterned after the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the US. (Find a critical overview of the multigenerational faithfulness teachings HERE.) The group teaches that they are Abraham’s new physical seed in the natural sense and are required to birth large numbers of children to fulfill Abraham’s “vision” in the Old Testament. People affiliated with Botkin and one particular “visionary” in this religious system would like to use stoning as capital punishment for homosexuals, adulterers, etc. after their Old Testament oriented system of legalism based upon an extreme interpretation of Christian Reconstruction. Another less influential person in Botkin’s group has been twice published about the Scriptural basis for stoning wayward teens. The Vision Forum group with which Botkin has been working since about the time he left New Zealand in 2002 also promotes Confederate Society as the ideal, teaching that slavery is an economic solution to spread wealth and control poverty through its hierarchical model of society.
The view of all human interaction as hierarchical in nature also serves their gender paradigm. Vision Forum followers have also been criticized as potentially in violation of the US Equal Protection Clause law due to the practice of sexist homeschooling restrictions that limit opportunities to young women because they are restricted from entering the workforce and should remain only within “the sphere of the home.” As per the Botkins own restrictive teachings regarding women, all women are to remain only in the home or are said to be harlots if they work because their feet wander from home, quoting the language of the Proverb in the Bible. Daughters are basically treated like property, they are taught to be fearful of any independence as sin and danger when not under direct supervision of a man, must be “sanctified” by a man, and are given in marriage for a bride’s price that is paid to the father by the groom at the wedding, though the bride is sexually pure. Another person within this system teaches that daughters are created to fulfill an older man’s needs for affection from younger women. My greatest concern regarding this group is that of the women and young girls who do not have temperaments and personalities that can be conformed to the group’s overtly submissive ideal and are punished socially, psychologically, and spiritually as a consequence.
The group’s choice of New Zealand does not make sense to me, as the group advocates several forms of corporal punishment for children and even infants that most Christians in the US find repugnant. The Great Commission group has been noted in Washington, DC area newspapers in the ’80s to have followed extreme forms of discipline of children, and my own exit counselor observed some of these tactics first hand. They follow formulaic systems of “child training” that has been popularized by people named the Ezzos, but also by the more disturbing practices of Michael Pearl. As I understand it, all of these groups advocate spanking infants and using “blanket training.” In blanket training, a child is placed on a blanket, and while still small, the parent uses fear and punishment to obtain behavioral compliance. Michael Pearl also recommends the use of teflon-reinforced water supply hose for the spanking of children and the binding of infants and small children to manage their behavior. There have been two or three deaths in the US associated with this technique, though Pearl claims that these parents did not follow his plan, restricting these techniques to only small children. The binding causes heart failure and arrhythmia due to the affects of the binding on respiration (scroll through these blog posts for more specific info).
Under the guise of being pro-life, the group has also stated that any woman who has life-saving surgery for any ectopic or tubal pregnancy has committed murder without exception. (Their low view of women as the “indirect image of God” because woman was made for man’s use and is therefore man’s ontological lesser places the life of the infant above the life of the mother, even when the baby has no chance of survival but the woman can be saved.) Many of the leaders in the larger group of those who teach that woman is of lesser essence and is only a derivative of man created to serve man’s needs teach that not only is spousal abuse to be tolerated by a wife, they also teach that it is one of a husband’s limited choices when a woman does not show due subservience by framing the alternative (resisting physical violence) as a non-masculine course of action.
What is not commonly known to most of the people who ascribe to the religious system of the “Biblical patriarchy” homeschoolers or that which is called “family integrated” is that Geoffrey Botkin has a long history with a well-known and well-documented cult, the Great Commission. This group (the Great Commission) has been known for the same extremes that are now observed within this group of elitist homeschoolers that now calls for elimination of all public education and of all child protective/social services in the US. They are extremely opposed to any type governmental control pertaining to family in any circumstance, establishing their right to homeschool basically through defending this as a religious right wherein they do not acknowledge the government’s authority.
Sadly, I hate to admit that I cannot help but think of another idealistic and charismatic leader who once led a group of American citizens out of the country under fear of threatened disaster and hope of a better, protected life where they would be free. Though I don’t believe that those who follow Geoff Botkin to New Zealand will meet the same tragic end, it does not make the system of pious, separatist and elitist patriarchal religion of homeschooling any less dangerous. People who find themselves in a foreign country and who will often likely be dependent upon group members for employment will be easier to manipulate. (I understand that part of the reason for the April tour of NZ involved appealing to resident homeschoolers to make employment opportunities for those who will be relocating there, according to the information noted on the New Zealand homeschooling websites.) The restriction of access to previous resources in the form of familiarity with the US and just through easier access to friends and family facilitates the cultic dynamic of covert manipulation utilized by groups that follow this type of idealistic totalism. When compliance with the group involves one’s ability to put food on the table to feed many children, the influence intensifies for the group member. The Great Commission group and the Biblical patriarchy group both practice a harsh form of discipline for non-compliance and utilize covert manipulation. People who follow them to New Zealand very likely will be shunned and ostracized from the group that called them to NZ in the event that they show dissent from the group dogma. Grown wayward children are also shunned when they turn from the ideology and teachings of the group.
I think that New Zealanders need to know about the theocratic mission of this group that does not first seek to evangelize non-Christians through love, compassion and the “Golden Rule” but rather seeks to proselytize those who are already Christians into their Calvinistic exclusivism. Rather than the more balanced and peaceable followers of Christ who seek to advance Christianity by evangelism and build a better world by changing lives for the better, this group seeks to build an exclusive kingdom and establish a theocracy. It was not my experience with Christian Reconstruction (prior to Y2K) that they wanted anything more than a Christian influence in society, but over the past ten years, their efforts have become far more theocratic under the assumption that a secular person cannot have any type of Christian-like perspective which prohibits them from following or rightfully respecting a Christian principle in a free society. Participation in the Great Commission group has actually landed people in mental hospitals, and I know 20 people personally that have been adversely affected by the Vision Forum group directly, many of whom actively suffer with serious post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence. Their cruel discipline, retaliation, and retribution for dissent that is often waged through legal proceedings or threats thereof is not something I would ever wish on friend or foe.
One of Geoff Botkin’s former associates in the Great Commission continues to stress with me the charisma of Geoff Botkin, and I want to communicate that concern to those who might be at risk for influence by this religious totalitarianism:
“I sincerely hope that the work that you are doing will cause people to exercise extreme caution in dealing with the Botkins and anyone associated with them…I hope that your friends in NZ will be extremely careful in dealing with the Botkins. They are incredibly attractive and seductive.”
I don’t know exactly that I would call this “work,” but I do wish to give people the informed consent about these religious leaders before they become too involved with them. If I had access to the similar types of information about the leaders and history of my own manipulative group, I would not have joined it. I recommend now that people turn and run from any of these manipulative groups.