Friday, May 22, 2009

A Botkin Update: Who is Geoff Botkin and What is the New Zealand Exit Strategy? (I think it is a reading from Jim McCotter's old script.)

A few months ago, I posted a substantial portion of Geoff Botkin’s history with the cultic evangelical group, the Great Commission Ministries (GCM). Since that time, I’ve been contacted by several people who have reported information about Botkin’s past, his present activities, as well as his declared plans for the future.

THE PAST: Recruitment of the Botkins into the GCM Cult
It seems that Geoff and his brother, Gregory (now a family practice physician who now works in an Emergency Department), grew up in Tulsa, OK and were recruited into Jim McCotter’s Great Commission cult while attending Oklahoma University during the 1970s. McCotter spent time on the campus of OU during his “Blitz,” his evangelical recruitment campaign. The sources that contacted me and had knowledge of the family stated that they had absolutely no knowledge about the family professing Marxism, and neither Gregory nor Geoffrey were known to these sources to be Marxists. What is interesting to note is that there was a cult member in Norman, OK who interacted with Geoff who members report had a history of some involvement with Marxism and whose family immigrated to the US from the USSR. (This man whose name has been removed from this post reports that left the Great Commision cult decades ago.) It appears that, based upon the testimony of those who contacted me, unless the Botkin Family of Tulsa went to great lengths to keep their Marxism under wraps, Geoff Botkin may have absorbed aspects of the testimony of this man in order to embellish his own

 [29May09 addendum: Name and some details regarding the former member who left the Norman GCM group removed per his request regarding concerns of privacy.]

Geoff Botkin’s wife “Vickie” (as she was known then and these sources find it quite strange that she would now choose to be commonly known as “Victoria”) was also a member of the Norman GCM group known as “The Saints.” The GCM elders approved and likely ordered the match between Geoff and “Vickie” per the group practice. Group leadership generally called for romantic matches and marriages, and no such relationships could be pursued without approval from the elder leaders in the group, the “older brothers.” Many of the recruits into the group who were encouraged to sell Amway and work construction for the religious movement’s local businesses did not finish college, and I cannot find anyone who can verify whether Geoff Botkin obtained a degree at OU. Many of the group members then followed McCotter to the Washington, DC area in order to plan the 1986 attempt to “take dominion” over Montgomery County, Maryland politics and to recruit Religious Right support for their cause.

Link HERE to read the rest of the history and timeline of Geoffrey Botkin and the Great Commission Ministries cult and his business partnership with Jim McCotter in New Zealand.

THE PRESENT: Preparing for the New Zealand Exodus
About a year ago, word appeared on the internet discussing the information that the Geoff Botkin was disseminating, primarily calling for all Vision Forum-minded homeschoolers who wanted to escape the predicted coming socioeconomic disaster in the United States to follow the Botkins to New Zealand in 2010. Apparently, the political situation in the US is not conducive to the GCM ideal of taking dominion, so apparently Botkin wants to return to hopefully accomplish what he and McCotter failed to do successfully a decade earlier: conquer New Zealand through McCotter’s well-known “Media Mandate,” using newspapers and TV to establish a religious, social and political power base to advance their “gospel.” Note that part of Geoff Botkin’s 200 Year Plan includes his son becoming Prime Minister of NZ in his late 50s, the age that Geoff Botkin is now approaching. The Botkin family reportedly immigrated to New Zealand in the late nineties, per one report, and they apparently planned to return there with a following of new recruits. I find this all rather oxymoronic for a group of people that profess taking dominion, as it would seem to me to make more sense to take dominion over one’s own corner of the world rather than resorting to a retreat to another.

A group of Vision Forum notables recently made the trek to New Zealand in April, or at least they traveled for speaking engagements for a week according to this website. I understand that this was a male-only trip, attended by other Vision Forum affiliates including Matt Chancey who reportedly is NOT planning a move to NZ in 2010 but came to support the “good cause.” I received some feedback from New Zealand from someone who attended one of the meetings, and it was neither pleasant, nor was that particular meeting well-attended.

This homeschooling mom described a love for the wholesome image that the Vision Forum advertising paints and expressed her enjoyment of Voddie Baucham’s messages. Apparently, one session with the Botkins and the men that they took with them on the trip cured her of affection for the whole Vision Forum affiliated group. I understand that she was most disturbed by message about the subjugation of women, the religion overtly focused on gender and the idea that “daughters are engaged to their fathers until marriage” (her paraphrase and description of what she understood from the message). They also included a story of one of the Botkin Sisters’ suitors (who apparently approached Geoff Botkin) who was subjected to a process of Bible study similar to the process that Scott Brown required of the Peter Bradrick as described in the Botkin daughters’ “Return of the Daughters” video. From what was related to me, the Botkin daughter decided that she was not terribly interested in the young man after he completed this quite involved process, the young man was sent away in sorrow, and this New Zealander had the impression that the whole family expressed relief that the matchmaking did not work out.

The woman expressed to me that she has now been “cured” of any idealistic illusions about the Vision Forum agenda now that she has heard this message from the Botkins themselves.

Here are the websites noting the Botkin-Vision Forum April Tour of New Zealand:
- Homeschool Nations (of NZ)
- Home Education Foundation (of NZ)
**How Men Can Strengthen Their Families
**Greatest Issues Facing Men **Second Generation Homeschooling **NZ’s Future Role in the History of Christianity
- Homeschool Blogger (a site hosted in NZ as previously noted above)
THE FUTURE: Dominion in New Zealand
The Vision Forum-minded homeschoolers have a separatist and elitist mentality, thus seeking to withdraw from culture rather than engage it for Christ. With men acting as the only sex permitted to have activity in the sphere outside of the home, women can evangelize others but apparently must do so from within their homes. Though it is highly admirable to protect one’s family, particularly women, the group goes to extreme ends to achieve this goal. It seems that under the guise of preserving Christianity, the Botkins are actually trying to build a type of protected utopia through fostering fear in their followers.

Before making the final retreat, they are apparently going to make a few sweeps through the US to do more recruitment. I’d heard that not all of the seminars hosted by the Botkins have been well attended, and seats at some of their highly priced gatherings in the US in the past have been given away to those seriously considering relocating to New Zealand.

Read about at least one of the Botkin’s upcoming meetings here:
I am put in mind of another person who was well-versed in Marxism, supportive of Communism, and who desired to build a safe and protected place for his followers to have a fighting chance of making a difference in this world. This man did not forsake his Communistic beliefs, unlike Geoff Botkin who forsakes his reported Marxist history that his friends do not recall. This other man gave the impression that he was running from trouble which is not true of Geoff Botkin, but this other man’s followers were following him, running to what they believed would be a better life. He was family oriented, ministered to families and recruited families, part of what made him so successful. He found a group of people with a great need, great fear and recruited those people through manipulation in order to further his own vision of a better world. His church ministered to the sick, the poor, those in need of legal help, and people joined his organization because their families joined and this is where their families were. In the midst of the Cold War, he feared that the US would be wiped out in a nuclear attack and he filled his followers with this same terrible fear. He and his followers believed that the United States would not support the culture they desired anyway, so from a place of great paranoia, he called for a retreat from the country, a major target for nuclear attack in what he likely thought would be an Armageddon.

The Great Commission and the group in Norman, OK have documented histories of rigid practices of church discipline. Group leadership employed such cruel church discipline, ostracizing non-compliant members who were called “factious” and “fractious” (the GCM cult’s version of Vision Forum’s “non-normatives”). Though I think the potential for Vision Forum followers to meet the same end as the followers of this other leader I have in mind is reasonably low, Americans that follow the Botkins to New Zealand will be easier to manipulate in a new environment and will suffer if cut off from their families in the US. If they do not have ample finances to return home, these families could find themselves in a foreign land, beautiful though it may be, and be subject to this same type of cruel discipline, manipulation of fear through patriarchal ecclesiocentricity and the Gothard-style cursing for having exited out from under the church’s “umbrella of protection” if found wanting.

If you have not figured out the religious leader who called for an exodus from the United States in order to escape its threats of tyranny, nuclear disaster, and paranoia over the disbanding of their religious group, I am referring to Jim Jones.

A former associate of Geoff Botkin told me:
“I hope that your friends in NZ will be extremely careful in dealing with the Botkins. They are incredibly attractive and seductive."

In closing, I would like homeschoolers and those who find Vision Forum appealing to consider a letter written by the leadership of Jim McCotter’s and Geoff Botkin’s religious group. I described this letter elsewhere online as the letter that many homeschoolers hope that Doug Phillips would write, repenting of his abuses and excesses. The issues addressed in this letter written in 1991 were those that took place in the ‘70s and ‘80s, criticisms of the GCM cult. In many ways, I believe these are not the issues of homeschooling that have developed recently but are the fruit of the Shepherding Discipleship Movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, come full circle. It is the (il)logical conclusion to the teachings and practices from the cultic ideologies that preceded homeschooling but found their way into this Christian subculture. In that respect, I believe that men like Doug Phillips and Geoff Botkin are merely reading off the old scripts of their predecessors, Bill Gothard and Jim McCotter. They are merely following the directives of their own gurus.

If you are thinking about moving to New Zealand, I hope you stop to seriously consider THIS INFORMATION first. If you are a follower of Vision Forum’s dogma, I hope that you stop to read this 1991 Letter from the Great Commission. Please ask yourself if these are not the very same issues that Vision Forum and the cultic groups like them have introduced into the homeschooling community? Here are some highlights (and you can link to THIS COMMENT in response):

We realize that a number of individuals made poor decisions concerning their education and career partially because of our encouragement or because of the examples they saw in our churches. To these people, we offer our sincere apology and regret that our mistakes contributed to career decisions that caused problems, financial or otherwise...

One very negative effect concerned members who chose to leave our churches. Because of our conviction that God's plan to accomplish the Great Commission relied upon New Testament churches following the geographical progression described in Acts 1:8, and because we believed that our churches were unique in their commitment to pursuing that plan, there was a concern that a person leaving would miss out on God's will for their life...
A third example of our failure to clearly distinguish between commands and principles concerns the area of dating. Many of us in the early years of our churches encouraged young men and women to refrain from dating until they had a fairly strong conviction that God was leading them toward marriage to a particular individual...

[Blog host note: This is actually an overtly tame description of what actually took place within the Great Commission. Most marriages were arranged, though an individual could petition leadership to “suggest” a match. Any male/female romantic pursuits of any type had to be ordered by group leadership first, and anything the leadership opposed could not be pursued. The group responded to any behavior that defied their “better judgment” with punitive measures and the member was ostracized. The member was termed “factious” or what I have also heard called “fractious,” and this member was disciplined, avoided or discharged from the group for their non-compliance.]

  • Improper response to criticism.
  • An elitist attitude.
  • Failing to distinguish between a command, a principle, and a preference.
  • Authoritarian or insensitive leadership.
  • Church discipline.
  • Lack of emphasis on formal education.
  • A belief that every man should become an elder.

In the interests of clarity and brevity, we have just touched on a number of important and complex issues, e.g., the authority of a pastor, dating and marriage, church discipline, etc. The position papers that we are currently developing will address these issues in greater detail.