Thursday, August 4, 2011

But We Don't Follow Formulas Or Anything

Lists, lists, and more lists.

Last year I linked to this list of courtship questions for potential suitors. It reads more like a CIA debriefing than anything people with common sense, and without religious addictions, would have a part in. Oh, but it isn't meant to be a formula or anything...

This list is NOT meant to be a “checklist,” a “pass-or-fail-test,” or an in depth parental evaluation.

Mmm hmm.

Each young man is free to decline questions he feels are too personal.

And I think we all know pretty much how that'll work out for the young man involved.

The other day I came across Gregg Harris' "The 21 Rules Of This House".  It isn't that I see significant problems in the spirit of most of these rules, but rather in why the rules are even in place. It's the beginning of the list and the end of the list that are the problems. 

Rule #1 "We obey God." That's indoctrination, and it attempts to replace the Holy Spirit in the lives of the children. Only the Holy Spirit can teach someone to obey God - and to tell a kid who might not yet even understand the concept of God "In this household, we obey God" is to incite mechanical thinking and religious addiction concerning God.

Rule #20 - "When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house". So, there's an element of cultural warriorism in it. This renders the title of the list less than honest. These are rules for LIFE, not for just the house.

Rule #21 - "When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept the discipline and instruction of the Lord." What the...?! So these rules aren't just from the parents. They're from God Himself! That's a huge, huge problem, indoctrinating children to believe that any disagreement with parents is disagreement with God Himself. Essentially, the last rule on the list is a buzz to make you feel guilty about not complying with all the rules that preceed it.

In the house I grew up in, we had two rules - tell the truth and do right by other people. If a person can get those two under control, the rest takes care of itself. My parents didn't feel the need to somehow tie God to it. They weren't setting out to raise SuperChristian cultural warriors. 

Like I said, I don't have a significant problem with the spirit of rules 2-19, despite them being somewhat just find it unfortunate that Harris didn't find it necessary to practice those principles in his rise to prominence in the Christian homeschooling mafia. I think it's also very easy to see how his son would write such a mechanical, formulaic book as IKDG.

And now, there's this. Another courtship/marriage list courtesy of Ben and Audri Botkin - barely even married and already such experts on the subject that they're capitalizing on the faithful followers hosting a "Marrying Well" webinar. I'm not quite sure what to say to it. OMG? What the...?! I don't know that I can muster a succinct, yet satisfactory expression toward this kind of religiously addicted thinking - or the opportunistic nature of it, even if Ben and Audri are sincere, which I actually believe they are. Of course, it has to be taken into consideration that Ben has referred to their courtship period as an intensive "cross-examination". Well I guess so, considering this ridiculous list. Those romantic devils (SA). A sample of the questions...

What is a besetting sin? What are yours?

What the...?! That's probably my personal favorite on the list.

How big is your vision for your disciple-making influence?

No religious addiction there. No mechanical approach to faith at all.

Who have been the main disciplers in your life and the people who have impacted and colored your life the most? As a child, adult--whenever.

You see a bit of Geoff Botkin's Shepherding background from the Great Commission cult coming out there.

What do you think a Biblical Church looks like? How is it structured?

Well, some of the churches in the bible were spiritual and interpersonal disasters, but I don't think that's what is actually being asked. What he means is, "If you use the bible as a rulebook (and these folk do), what will church look like?"

Again, not every question asked is without merit, but it all adds up to a formula, and the indoctrination literally oozes off the page as you read it. Rather than "Marrying Well", the webinar should be called "Religifying Marriage" or "How to Remove the Romance from Your Courtship by being SuperReligious".

Maybe I'm just crazy, but I'm starting to think the real money is in coming up with lists - or at least it seems to be with the P/QF, Christian homeschooling crowd.


  1. The U.S. Department of Silliness would like to issue a severe irony warning for Question #12 on the Botkins' list:

    "What does theology mean? Just lists of doctrines?"

    "When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house, which explains why we're still lounging around in our pajamas."


    "What does theology mean? Just lists of doctrines?"

    The more I read it, that one's just becoming downright funny.

  3. Whoa, I totally forgot all about the 21 rules. We had them on a poster in our kitchen growing up. :P

  4. No way. NO WAY.

    Reading along it all sounds courtshippy and lovely (and vapid and silly), and then you get to the questions about children.

    Really? We need to decide about homeschool curriculum RIGHT NOW?

    And we need to decide if our children can say the words booger and fart, but not damn nor hell?

    Then I read the question about infant training and I started to shudder for the future of their children. HOW EARLY CAN WE BEAT AND CONTROL OUR BABIES??????

    God help these fools and the junior idiots they influencing.

  5. We had a list of house rules as a child, but they were things like "don't hit others" and I don't even remember if they included God in it at all. My mom had us memorize them, though.

    My biggest experience with lists comes from the list my dad gave me of qualifications for a future suitor. It was fairly short, not more than a page, and all about doctrinal and political purity. I didn't realize until afterward that there was nothing at all there about love or right treatment. Apparently love and kindness don't matter - only ideological purity! I scrapped the list and followed my heart, and am very glad I did so. :)

  6. They're missing some of the most important questions, ones that will really make a difference in a marriage. Like, "How do you resolve conflict with your friends? What is your communication style? When you are stressed, do you clam up or become more talkative? How do you define spousal abuse? Have you ever seen it in your family, and how do you think that will affect your marriage some day? How would you know if you were being too harsh with your kids?" Of course, as you spend time with somebody, maybe even (gasp!) dating them, a lot of these questions will be answered without having to go through a list.

  7. "How big is your vision for your disciple-making influence?"

    When I read that one, I have to wonder if even THEY know what it means.

  8. I am so tempted to mail the Botkindroid my answers to his silly questions and tell him it's very audacious of him and Audri to tackle marriage questions when they have no actual matrix of experience to draw on. Maybe in 5 or 10 years they'd have some actual useful thoughts but not now.

    And can some one tell his sisters that they are grown women now and don't have to write about "boys", another subject they have no experience in.

  9. "How big is your vision for your disciple-making influence?"

    This one caught my eye, too. How are you supposed to answer it? "Big" "Fairly big" "Biggish" "Ginormous" ??

    oh, oh how about the great commission where all Christians are told to make disciples? This seemed important to Jesus, but let's discuss how "big" it is to us. Maybe they also discuss how "big" the Greatest Commandment is to them (but maybe they don't want to discuss love before being married, either).

  10. > Maybe I'm just crazy, but I'm starting to think the real money is in coming up with lists - or at least it seems to be with the P/QF, Christian homeschooling crowd.

    You know what might be a bestseller? A parody of all this garbage. Properly done, it would be funny, challenge some people to think, and be bought hook, line, & sinker by the P/QF crowd!!! You couldn't lose from either camp!

  11. @Jill
    I read the question about infants with complete and total astonishment and even felt a bit of confusion. How is it that some of these people think that they can and/or should control every single minute aspect of life. Not to mention someone else's life. To think that they feel the need to ask such a question concerning a defenseless, totally dependent, infant is mind boggling and certainly frightening. It just seems as if they are paranoid control freaks. Control, control, control. How can we best control our 1 week old infant and make him or her submit their evil will to our own? I think that's the real question. Yikes!!!!

  12. My personal favorite in the list of questions was, "When does corporal discipline begin?" Ah, corporal discipline? Since when should that ever be introduced into a Christian household? That sounds like something you would do with criminals in a state prison! With all these questions, I wonder how anyone ever "passes the test" to win the bride or groom, of choice?

  13. A few years ago, back when I used to teach, at one time I used to have something of a 10 point checklist that I taught from - a message that emphasized selflessness, the power of our words, and personal discipline and responsibility in our faith. I eventually dropped it because it started to come across to me as possibly creating a works-based mentality about the subjects, or, because I realized that intellectual or spiritual things that worked for ME in practice aren't guaranteed to work for others - and they become lists of rules if you aren't careful. Maybe a better way to put it is this - Only the Holy Spirit can produce its fruit in the life of a believer. No message can do it. No exercise can do it. No "rule" can do it. Certainly no checklist can do it.

    The older I get, the more obvious it becomes to me why Christ said loving God and loving your neighbor were the two biggies, and that ALL of the law and the prophets hung on those two. If you're practicing THOSE two, everything else somewhat falls in place.

  14. "Marrying Well" sounds so elitist, snobby and stuck-up. Like something from the Victorian era, but then again, they worship that era.

    It irritates me to no end when people try to capitalize on something they know nothing about or on something they just started doing. Like the young mother that writes about breastfeeding when she still has a newborn and it's her first time breastfeeding. Or the young parents that think they know everything there is to know about raising teenagers but yet their kids are still under 10 years old....they think that simply being a teenager once gives them the experience to tell people how to raise kids. Or the woman that thinks she can write about marriage when she is still single. Or the Botkin girls writing about courtship when they've never been courted.

    maybe when i start menopause, I can write about it, even though I know nothing about it.

    Isn't the first rule about writing to write about the things you KNOW?

  15. Brrr. I came out of the shepherding movement and just had a strong reaction to some of those questions. Performance, performance, performance. I reply, "grace, grace, grace!"

    BTW, I'm going on a trip & will be gone for about a week. Just in case anyone wonders where I am.

  16. Hope you have a good and safe trip, Kristen.

  17. Oh my word!! That YSC questionnaire is like the stupidest stupidest thing I've ever read!!! Honestly!!! Q1: "What are the evidences of your salvation?" Um, duh, they ought to spend enough time together for the girl to be able to tell that for herself without having to ask the question!! (Actually, almost all the things should become apparent as the couple gets to know each other. If they're *allowed* to get to know each other like a normal couple!!) With a questionnaire like that, anyone can be asked a question and answer in whatever way they know would get them what they wanted, even if it was a downright lie. (I know someone that happened to!)

  18. i have a question...

    what the hell was the purpose of Jesus dying on the Cross, then? i mean, my understanding is that he died so that people don't have to *DO* these things anymore! aren't they totally kicking Jesus out of their lives with this? why not just go ahead and convert to Judaism, if they want to follow judaic practices?

  19. Melanie - key word is "ought to"... I've read waaaay too many courtship stories that were long distance and the only time they spent together was in a room with the whole family there, no private phone conversations (like Josh Duggar, whose siblings listened in), etc. It always turned my stomach... and no wonder that conservative girls are known for having hangups in the bedroom, they don't know the guy!

  20. How about:
    1. When did you come to know the Lord?
    2. Do we love each other?
    3. Finances. How much money will we have to live on?
    4. Should the wife work when the children come?
    5. What church should we attend. Important if each person attends a different church or is of different dominations.
    6. Do each of us want children, how many?
    7. What is your relationship with your parents?
    8. Do we both have the same or similar interests?

    Sounds to me like the lists only leave room for like minded thinking with no room for individuality. They certainly don't provide any depth for the relationship.

  21. The McDonald and Botkin lists, particularly, look almost as fanatical in their pursuit of "doctrinal purity", as Kinism and the Nazis are and were in their pursuits of "racial purity". It's crazy.

  22. Great questions. I've got some answers:

    "What is a besetting sin? What are yours?"

    Like when you beset someone's pants on fire. Yeah, that's one I have a lot of trouble with.

    "How big is your vision for your disciple-making influence?"

    It's 2mm on each side with a volume of 0.1mL. Actually I think I may have lost it due to it's small size.

    "Who have been the main disciplers in your life and the people who have impacted and colored your life the most? As a child, adult--whenever."

    My mother bought me my first box of crayons. My sister helped me color the wall.

  23. Well, gosh. After reading all that I realize that I should have just come up with a rigid set of ideals in my early 20s before I got married or had kids and stuck to that. Think of all the time and energy I would have saved if I'd just crushed any chance of my husband or children growing, maturing or even (gasp!) changing their minds! I guess we're not doing this whole thing right since I've been happily married for 5 years and we have three small children, yet I don't think I could come up with an answer to about 90% of those questions. Oh, well.... :)

  24. I think the kindest thing I can wish for them is total and complete infertility AND being refused the right to adopt. This makes my skin crawl just thinking about the abuse they are planning.

  25. Anonymous said...

    I think the kindest thing I can wish for them is total and complete infertility AND being refused the right to adopt. This makes my skin crawl just thinking about the abuse they are planning.

    Perhaps wish instead for healing grace, because when grace dawns it transforms hearts and lives. Consider the testimony that is the story of grace! This would be the most beautiful thing we could wish. Imagine the difference it would make...not only for themselves but also for children and extended family and the sphere of influence they have!

    By the way, "Families Where Grace is In Place" by Jeff VanVonderen is absolutely fantastic.

  26. ~Do you view children as a measure of God’s favor or an added blessing that He may or may not give?

    Children are a blessing, not adding a blessing to your house. There is a difference. Children are Jesus' pride and joy. The P/QF movement sees it as ammo for their crusades against the current culture. They are not defense shield points against God's wrath but are inherently protected themselves, not mom and dad included. In fact, parents who do NOT allow them to be brought up as God designed and have the correct resources at hand are in for a RUDE awakening.

    ~Do you want children?

    If you said NO, then the next question (^ That one) kinda guilt trips you into a "DOH!" moment.

    ~What is your attitude towards historically held positions?

    Loaded much?

    ~What is the purpose of the family/what will be the purpose of your family?

    ~How important is the upbringing of children in the grand scheme of things?

    ~How significant is it to be entrusted with the guardianship of their souls?

    So is the "family" an orphanage, factory, prison?

    Please, just answer 1.

    This one seemed outta place...

    ~What is the role of music in worship and the Church?

    Now, ask them how they got their hymns and they will answer variously. Not once though will they answer "from their contemporaries". Why? Well now, then you would just HAVE to add contemporary Christian music...

    I looked around their site a bit and I found this quite amusing. It is from their "Alcohol, Movies, and Other "Toxins""

    After showing that Arthur Guinness took something wordly, added great value to become a world wide loved beverage centuries later, went against his Protestant contemporaries, and made an ALCOHOLIC beverage, they say this:

    "Do Christians need movies or alcohol? No. We are not on earth to amuse ourselves, or divert ourselves with those things that dull the senses. We are here to be as alert as we can be, to wage war with the sharpest attention to the needs and afflictions of the perishing."

    Do we need movies and alcohol themselves? NO! But do we need a time to be jovial and rambunctious? YEAH! Why do you think there were many festivities for the Jews? All work and no play makes for a miserable people.

    Rant off!

  27. @ Hillary

    I don't think any amount of wishing for grace on my part would change such hatred.

  28. "How big is your vision for your disciple-making influence?"

    About the size of a mustard seed. Is that a problem?