Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's Very Complicated - Part I

Apparently, girls are too dumb to understand math… *facepalm* Such subtlety!
Preface: So it’s been awhile, actually more than awhile. It’s kind of pathetic actually. But I have really good excuses. For starters, I graduated college this year and went to Europe for a grand backpacking adventure. It was amazing and I highly recommend it to everyone. I came home with $30 in my bank account so obviously, I had to get a job and hence, I’ve been pretty busy. The whole Doug Phillips thing is also throwing me because I thought it would happen but of course, I was still surprised when it did happen. A lot of the articles on which I was working will have to be retooled (no pun intended) to fit the current changing status of Vision Forum. However, I do have a few other pieces to post soon, including this one. I will try my best to get the next part up promptly, though I must say, this book is so terrible that it’s hard to find the motivation to keep ploughing through it. :-D Still, I’ve been working on this review for over a year so it's time I finished it.

Finally, I procured a copy of It’s (Not That) Complicated by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin. I never read So Much Less More, as Grace took over that responsibility, so this is the first of their books that I’ve read. As most of you can probably guess and I cannot dissemble, my expectations were very low. Still, I tried to keep an open mind and notice the good and the bad in their effort. An entire package of sticky notes and two pencils later, I have an annotated version of the book and will describe my findings chapter by chapter. Hopefully, this review will make sense to everyone as I tried to summarize well. If it’s hazy, feel free to ask me questions… and seriously, don't read the book!

General Remarks: First, their grammar needs some help as there are consistent glaring errors throughout the book. The entire time I was reading this book, I was distracted by the constant end-of-sentence prepositions. It’s one of my pet peeves and the Botkins were guilty of misplaced prepositions on nearly every page. Sentence structure was okay, except for the fact that many of their sentences began with “But,” “And,” and “Because.” While I know they were trying to write conversationally, most people avoid constantly beginning sentences with these words. Also, in places their wordings were clunky and/or choppy. To be honest, I’m not sure that writing comes naturally to them―they’re okay writers but seem to struggle a little. Plus, their writing style is rather colloquial. They didn’t even fix the grammar errors in interviews (more end-of-sentence preps) or the readability of questions that must have been submitted via text message. In several places, I felt that they were overtly trying to sound hip or cool by using lots of slang. I’m out and about, in college, and have friends in many different places and stations of life and I’ve noticed that most people only use a little slang. Yet, in places, the Botkins use it as if it’s going out of style. This did not make them sound cool… it just made them sound awkward. Then, mid-slang paragraphs, their style will change and suddenly they’re writing high-brow, analytical sentences with big words and lots of jargon. Thus, in general, it was a difficult book for a B.A. owning, self-styled grammar-dragon to read.

Acknowledgements: The Botkin sisters begin by thanking their family for all the support that was given to them during the writing of this book. I’ll give their flowery language a pass here because it is good to thank those who help you. However, I have to say, they need to teach their brothers to make their own cookies. There’s no reason that 16 and 18 year olds would need to pull their sisters away from writing to make cookies for them! Also, in light of recent events, it is ironically hilarious and sad to see that Doug Phillips is one of the men who helped them “understand the purpose and value of our relationships with young men…” and set a “righteous example” for them (ii). Yeah. Wow. Finally, the last paragraph grates on the mind, as they write, “we could not have written this book on boys without hearing the perspective of… well… boys” (ii). Boys? Seriously? You’re in your mid to late twenties, they’re MEN!! My guy friends over 18 are really offended if anyone accidentally refers to them as “boys.” And, if you’re over 18, you’re a WOMAN, not a girl! This terminology is consistent throughout the book and I think it shows a profound ignorance on the Botkin’s part. Plus, it is just plain annoying. Anyway, rant over.

Introduction: Basically, the AS & E discuss the questions that inspired them to write this book. They also explain how/why they are qualified to write about “boys” and educate the reader on how to read the book. First, by starting at the beginning and reading to the end; second, by including your parents; third, by examining their work for correctness; and lastly, by reading “with a tender heart” (4). I tried to follow their rules, believe me I tried, but it was rather difficult.

Chapter 1: The Relationship Minefield 
Here, the Botkins explain why relationships are so complicated and give several examples of “it’s complicated” relationships. Though I find this section easily relatable and I didn’t have many red-flag moments, a few things stood out to me. First, the Botkins assume that young people aren’t one-anothering each other and/or that all young women view men as objects. Thus, they instruct young women to realise that guys are people too. I know some girls have to be reminded―sadly―but the majority of us with guy friends and brothers already have one-anothering and treating boys as brothers down to an almost science. It’s not as dire as they make it seem.

Chapter 2: Why We’re Interested in Boys – And Why that’s a Good Thing
This is the chapter where the rubber hits the road and I started writing on the margins of every page. If the Botkins were relatable to me in the first chapter, the distance between us grew immensely in this one. They talk about how it’s natural for women to be attracted to men and about the biblical basis for this attraction. In beginning the chapter, they talk about how old a little girl should be before her parents begin to instruct her about boys. Here, the Botkins assert that they were “savvy” about boys “as toddlers” and were sure that “grown-up life was all about boys” (15-16). In making such statements as these and saying, “Girls almost seem to come out of the womb with an awareness of boys, marriage, and romance,” they make all women, even the youngest, seem like boy-crazy nuts (16). They also speak of having, “serious highchair conversations” about boys with their parents and the “wisdom” that their parents imparted to them at this age (16). At best, this section was baffling and I honestly found it a little crazy, especially as I pictured parents instructing toddlers in highchairs to “be sensible about boys” (16). Of course, your little girls are obsessed with boys if you constantly talk about them!! Plus, there’s no mention of girls who just aren’t preoccupied with boys or the “cootie phase” that most girls encounter between the ages of 3-12. (I certainly spent more time thinking boys had cooties as a child than wanting to marry them!) Apparently, the Botkin girls never went through the “cootie-phase” and perhaps this is due to their parents constantly bringing the subject of boys into their minds.

Moving to the biblical reasons for interest in guys, the Botkins discuss how woman was created for man and assert, “From the beginning, men were our business,” which is kind of a weird way of putting it (17). Also discussed is the biblical definition of “helpmeet” and the Hebrew word ezer, which means “help” and has a connotation of strength and rescuing or saving. They do not go so far as to say it is an equal position, just a necessary one, and they stress that the “helper” found in Genesis is essential to man’s ability to succeed. However, the Botkins fail to mention that several times, in the Old Testament, the same word (ezer) translated “helpmeet” or “helper” is also used to refer to God Himself. This gives an entirely different flavor to the word helpmeet. As self-proclaimed Bible scholars, the Botkins should be aware of the dual use of this word and thus, it is strange and a little disconcerting that they chose to leave out this important information. Nonetheless, they are not the first patriarchy influenced teachers to fail to explain the full meaning and context of God as our “helpmeet.” *rolls eyes* The Botkins also assert that “every woman’s life is built around men and their leadership” and though true in most cases, the same could be said of men’s lives being built around women (19). After all, even unmarried men have mothers, and possibly grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins. Unless we’re living on a desert island, we’re going to be in relationships with multiple people and some of them will be of the opposite gender. Using this concept to prove a point that women must be helpers to men is circular and almost laughable. According to the Botkins, even single women must learn to relate to men “according to our created purpose as helpers” (20). Then they state that marriage is where women’s helping purpose is “fully realized” and then they contradict themselves by saying, “women’s general purpose as helper is not confined solely to the marriage relationship” (20). So which is it? How is a fourteen year old going to understand this section when I can’t even understand what they’re saying?

Matters only grow worse as the Botkins examine women in scripture and state that men always led and women were always “following, responding, supporting, and enabling” (21). In saying that women “stepped into generally supportive roles towards the men around them” the Botkins manage to marginalize almost all of the Biblical heroines. Some of the Biblical women do fit into their mold, especially Rebekah, the widow woman of Zarephath, the “great woman” of Shunem, Mary and Martha and some of the women around Paul. However, the inclusion of Deborah, Miriam, and Rahab in this list is astonishing. In fact, the Botkins avow that “Deborah never actually took the reins of authority but rather gave them to Barak, and stood supportively behind him” (21). I don’t know what Bible they’re reading but in mine, it states “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided” (Jgs 4:4-5). Clearly, Deborah is leading Israel and has authority over many men. In fact, Barak is the supporting player in Deborah’s story as he begs her to join him on his mission! Similarly, Miriam was the one who followed baby Moses’ basket and ensured that he knew his Hebrew mother; she’s a major player in the Exodus story. In the same way, Rahab hides the spies in her home and protects them. Although the spies are important characters in this story, Rahab is the only one named and the gets into the most action. At the end of their list, the Botkins write, “The most acclaimed leading ladies in scripture ― Miriam, Rahab, and Deborah, as well as Mary, Esther, Sarah, and the rest―held supporting roles to the men around them” (22). WHAT?! What about Ruth? She’s not even mentioned here! She has her own book of the Bible and she’s certainly the heroine of it. And what of Esther? She isn’t even discussed here, just tagged along with the rest at the end of the section. She also has her own book―about how she risked death to save the Nation of Israel and there’s even a Jewish Holiday named Purim which celebrates their survival. How is that a supporting role?? What about Mary? She was Jesus’ mother and quite the heroine of her story. How can they say that Ruth, Esther, Mary, and the heroines of the Bible are only supporting characters? What Bible are they reading? Continuing in this line of Bible characters, Abigail and Bathsheba and their influences on King David are compared and analyzed. While this is okay, the Botkins take the usual tactic of portraying Bathsheba as a horrible person who tried to cause David to sin. Later in the chapter, they say, “Bathsheba by giving David exactly what he wanted, was ultimately an accomplice to him in one of the biggest sins of his life (87).” Now, the Bible doesn’t actually state any of Bathsheba’s feelings in the affair and it’s very possible that she wasn’t interested in David at all. Yet, if the King (who has power of life or death over you) insists on having you, then you don’t have much of a choice. God actually punished David―not Bathsheba―and even allowed her to be the mother of Solomon, the next king of Israel and she’s mentioned in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1. Thus, I sense that there’s a little more to her than the Bible actually states and I find it aggravating when people insist that Bathsheba was the epitome of sin.

To close this section, the Botkins state that men need “us to help them toward their ultimate goal―their own duty to love God…” (25). So we’re responsible if they don’t love God? Is that what they’re saying? Honestly, I’m not sure what they mean here and many times, the Botkin’s lack of clarity leaves such statements open to interpretation. I think that they mean we’re supposed to encourage men to love God (which is very noble) but it could be taken as a responsibility and/or a necessity… and this is where it gets very complicated. :-) All of this is stated to prove that “it appears God means for us to have a healthy fascination with men…” and urge young women to channel their interest into being a helper to the men in their lives (25). While it is nice that they encourage young women to treat men with respect, shouldn’t we just treat all people with respect? Why stop with young men? Why can’t we just love everyone as a person and child of God? In ending the chapter, the Botkins stress making Christ the most important relationship in your life (yay!) and instruct women to focus on Christ, as discussed 1 Cor. 7:34: “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” Then, the Botkins state, “There is a third type of female not mentioned in this verse ― the unmarried girl who is obsessed with worldly things, and how to please fifteen boys” (29). If this were important, it would be in the Bible―but it’s not. Therefore, Botkins, do NOT add to scripture! “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Prov 30:5-6).

Chapter 3: Boys are People Too – Learning to See Men as God Sees Them
This chapter begins with what should be an obvious statement to most of us―we should be totally aware that men are also human beings with feelings. Yet, I do agree with the Botkins that all too often women fail to see men as human beings and only see them as “a head of hair, a sense of humor, a fancy car, a handsome face, a strong arm…” (33). The Botkins stress that men are not “God’s gift to women” and that we must stop viewing them as objects (33). Then, they bring dominionist theology into the mix and quote R.C. Sproul Jr. talking about how men and women should have “a shared vision” to make “visible the invisible reign of Christ” (34). Yes, we are supposed to focus on Christ and not ourselves but God is responsible for revealing to us what He wants us to do. In addition, throwing words around like “dominion” “subjection” and “warfare” is just asking for trouble (34). In fact, it scares me a little that these people are encouraging others to seek power and authority. You don’t have to read very much history to see that a quest for power has never ended well for anyone. In this section, one of the interviewed guys make a big point of explaining that guys “aren’t looking for a storybook wedding. They don’t even think of marriage as entailing the big romantic wedding and the to-do of a romantic life…. Men, good men, love working hard, and will admire women who love a life of hard work as well” (35). Hmmm. Tell that to my guy friends who like to plan their engagement settings and think about their weddings. Believe me, even if they don’t care about all the details, most guys do care about their engagement, wedding, and romance. Plus, while that all sounds very nice and focused on God, it’s equally self-serving to crave adventure and “spiritual significance” (35). Don’t condemn the young women for longing for romance if you want adventure just as much―just because you cover it in Christian speech doesn’t make your desires holy or better than anyone else’s. Romance is equally biblical… hasn’t anyone read Song of Solomon? Finally, talking about “a life of hard work” can be a recipe for disaster. It almost sounds like Peter Bradrick insisting that he wants a “sturdy” wife and then nearly letting her die. A healthy marriage is a mix of romance and adventure―both things can be a great asset for Christ.

Moving on, the Botkins discuss “Make-Believe Men” such as Mr. Darcy, Edward Cullen, and Prince Henry (yes, he has a name) from Ever After and how young women expect too much from the men around them. According to the Botkins, many girls find out that guys aren’t like Mr. Darcy and protest, “Hey! They’re all like Mr. Collins!” (Probably because most fundie guys are like Mr. Collins! :-D Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Then, they go on to slam “female fiction writers” and refer to Jane Austen as a “19th century spinster” (36-37). (So maddening!) Seriously, though, why is there a whole paragraph about Mr. Darcy and how women swoon over him? Yes, I know it can be a problem but their audience is mostly single, patriarchy influenced young women who aren’t allowed to have crushes on anyone! Plus, no one I’ve talked to thinks that Mr. Darcy is perfect or wants to marry him. In fact, while I like Pride and Prejudice, I think Mr. Darcy is kind of proud, grumpy, and standoffish―I certainly wouldn’t want to marry him. (I prefer Mr. Knightley from Emma… though since he’s a fictional character I’m not planning on marrying him. :-D) In addition, the Botkins discuss “romance novels” and the effect of Twilight and Edward Cullen. Yet, they class Pride and Prejudice as a “romance novel” (37). Excuse me? Pride and Prejudice (and all of Jane Austen’s works) fall into the category “classic literature” and are NOT romance novels. Pride and Prejudice and all of Austen are about far more than just love stories and romance and if the Botkins can’t see this, I think they need to study the meaning of literature again. They also pick on Janette Oke, which bugs me because 1: Her works aren’t that mushy and 2: they are a wonderful way to introduce new believers to Christian fiction. All in all, the Botkins are very hard on romance―I get the feeling that neither of them are very romantic and don’t understand that some people might just be more sensitive, romantic, and i.e. like Anne Shirley.

I’ll admit it… I can’t stand Twilight or the Edward Cullen character so I don’t mind that the Botkins pick on these things. However, I don’t know why their audience would be reading Twilight―again, their main audience is a very sheltered group who would not be allowed to read these books. In addition, they single out Edward Cullen’s sensitivity and insist that manly men aren’t sensitive. Excuse me? While I do believe it’s wrong for women to expect guys to be perfect princes, there needs to be a happy medium. They go to great lengths to differentiate between pink and blue traits and explain that most girls are upset because men aren’t more like women. While I agree that Edward Cullen is a bit too broodish and almost girly, I don’t agree that sensitivity and domestic ability aren’t manly. From my experience, the guys that are sensitive to others and like to cook are far more interesting and better all-around people than those who eschew these things and claim to be “manly.” I was recently on a missions retreat with other young adults and really noticed the difference between the sensitive guys and the “macho” guys. The former were the ones in the kitchen helping make meals for 15 and washing dishes and the latter were outside talking to one another and wouldn’t even dream of picking up a kitchen towel. What’s more, when I observe my guy friends, the ones that are the most caring, helpful, and kind are also the most protective, strong, and well... masculine. In fact, most of the caring guys are the ones I’d like to have with me if I were ever in a crisis situation. The guys I know that are self-proclaimed “manly men” are too full of themselves to be helpful and I wouldn’t want them around in a crisis situation. It seems that the more masculine a guy claims to be, the more conceited he becomes and it’s the humble caring guys with servants’ hearts who are actually the strongest. And you know what? If the Botkins want women to realize that men are people too, insisting that men aren’t sensitive and have no feelings is a pretty weird way of doing it. According to the Botkins, “Interest in technology, war, current affairs, and anything else is quintessentially manly, according to the biblical standard” (40). Actually, there’s no biblical standard or rule book that defines masculine and feminine interests. Plus, I and many women I know are interested in technology and current affairs and would never classify these things as “manly.” The Botkins also think that we have a “particularly weak generation of men” and I’m not sure this is true. Maybe the definition of masculinity has changed and the Botkins are trying so hard to stick to Victorian standards that they missed the change.

Now, the Botkins begin to address the problem of “weak” men and not surprisingly, they blame feminism. (Big shocker there!) At times, I’m surprised to find that the Botkins can be snarky… they call a Christian psychologist that they shared a convention with a “scion of Sigmund Freud” and kind of make fun of him. Apparently, in the Botkin’s view of history, feminism was a vicious socialist effort, planned by Karl Marx and many others, over a period of 100 or so years, to supplant men as leaders and use “a most effective weapon… women” (45). In this gag-inducing section, I feel that the Botkins are just throwing out words like “Marx” and “Socialism” in connection with feminism to fan the ire of impressionable stay at home daughters. None of their history make sense and the facts are carefully crafted to present a completely one-sided view of the feminist movement. They take random quotes by Marx and Lenin and feminist leaders and make them sound like the entire feminist movement was inspired by and still is a part of socialism. Now, there were socialists in the feminist movement, mostly because socialism was popular in the early 1900’s. It was trendy, hip, and progressive to call oneself a socialist in this era. There were even large groups of Christian socialists who did very nice things and helped a lot of people. However, this doesn’t make feminists communists nor does it mean that all feminism is wrong. In fact, (and please don’t freak out) a lot of the early church descriptions sound like a kind of socialism, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44-45). I don’t include this as a defense of socialism, or to say that we should be communists, but to point out that the Botkins seem to want a strong reaction from their audience and they don’t provide any background for this Marxist view or any alternate viewpoints. I also believe they use words like “socialism” and “Marxism” to try to elicit an emotional response in their readers (think McCarthyism). As self-proclaimed history experts, the Botkins certainly have a narrow view of history and often, they are completely inaccurate. Next, the Botkins paint a very bleak portrait of our culture and its portrayal of men. One of their interviewed guys says, “Men in media are often portrayed as either sex-crazed teenagers or the Dopey Dad stereotype of every sitcom, with only a tiny sliver of androgynous romantic lead in between” (47). While these stereotypes are present in the media, what about men in films like Lord of the Rings, Men in Black, James Bond, Indiana Jones, superhero and action films, and TV shows like Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and The Middle? Why not talk about them? Is it because they only use examples that prove their point? And why do the examples presented by the Botkins need to be so dire, extreme, and full of angst? I think most of us would agree that it’s wrong to pick on men and put them down just as it’s wrong to do the same to women. There are a lot of problems with our culture but honestly, no one thing/gender/etc. is responsible for them. (Except sin.) So stop blaming feminism for every issue.

Also, a side note, the term “Dominion” and the phrase “taking dominion” is thrown around way too often in this book and most of the time, I get the feeling that the usage leans towards “Ruling Control: power, authority, or control” rather than “Sphere of influence: Somebody’s area of influence or control.” Quite frankly, when I think of some of these patriarchy influenced guys having any kind of power, authority, or control, it scares me. The little power they already have has shown itself to be quite dangerous and nearly unchecked by legitimate (i.e. God’s) authority. None of us needs any more power; we need to be servants and love one another unconditionally. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:5-7).

Chapter 4: Relationship Boot Camp – Back to Square One: How to Be a Sister to Your Real Brothers 
This chapter is pretty self-explanatory… you know what it’s about from the title. However, the Botkins manage to throw in a few eye-brow raising statements all the same. Strangely enough, I sensed that they assume all brothers will be younger. First, they talk about how their little brothers were “time-intensive” and kept them from studying/working (53). Now, I think it’s great to have a large family and help out with/play with your younger siblings. Yet, I think that the parents need to be able to handle their children without expecting others, especially older daughters/sons, to be assistant parents. Also, they use examples that don’t always make sense. It is nice to help your siblings and even cook for them sometimes but it’s not necessary “to make your brother breakfast” (54). Better yet, teach him to make his own breakfast! They say that we shouldn’t divide our lives into “pink and blue worlds” and yet, that’s exactly what they do with the strict gender roles they portray! Also, they speak of foregoing their own interests for some time to help Isaac work on his Egypt project. While it’s sweet that they did this, I couldn’t help but wonder why Isaac didn’t do most of it himself. Apparently, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth wrote “content for the book, on everything from biblical chronology to French mysticism…” (64). This is good but it was Isaac’s project―shouldn’t he have done most of the work since it’s his passion? There’s also a lot in this chapter about trying to perfect oneself and while I think self-improvement is a good thing, it’s not a good idea to try to be so perfect all the time and fall into a “works” based salvation mindset. Plus, we really shouldn’t encourage the idea that familial love is conditional and only comes when we perform all our sisterly duties to perfection. Perhaps the Botkins don’t mean for their words to be taken this way but I believe that some young readers could easily become confused.

Chapter 5: Wounding Friend or Kissing Enemy? Reforming Our Philosophy of Relationships
The Botkins begin this chapter by being particularly critical of guy-girl interactions that seem flirty. They describe a scene in a church or school where two girls are giggling, texting, and teasing their guy friend and still say that they’re “just friends.” (And by the way, the Botkins shouldn’t include “posing” as flirty behaviour because they pose all the time. Practically every publicized picture of them includes pouting and posing.) While I agree that flirty girls can be a problem, I’m still confused as to why this is included in this book. I’m also surprised by the paragraphs that describe very modern situations and then the next paragraph contains a reminder to obey parents if they discourage all contact with the opposite sex. Again, the Botkins seem confused as to their audience. As stated before, their audience is made up of homeschooled, fundamentalist young women who often cannot date, flirt, or even stand too close to the opposite sex. I highly doubt that the situation they describe could happen at a family-integrated church. (And if it does, it seems highly hypocritical.) So why include it? Maybe it’s to make stay-at-home daughters feel better or more holy than their counterparts who can date and go to college. Hmmm… Going on, the Botkins describe friendship and pull out a definition from the 1828 Webster Dictionary (you knew that was coming!). It includes this snicker inducing sentence: “False friendships may subsist between bad men, as between thieves and pirates…” (74). I don’t know exactly why but the catch-all term “bad men” made me laugh really hard. Ultimately, the Botkins state that the Bible is our true guide to friendship. I do agree with this, especially when one looks at the friends of Jesus, the relationships between members of the early church, and Jonathan and David. However, some of the examples provided are a little strange and kind of… dumb. I think they try to be funny but really, I just found myself rolling my eyes in some places. Also, I found myself thinking, “Shouldn’t Bible-believing Christians already know a lot of this information?” Then, they urge young women to “stay in the lines” and remember the difference between “your male friends and your female friends” (77). Actually, this depends on the people involved and honestly, the Botkins are wrong when they say, “young men are not our buddies, bosom friends, or confidantes, and we are not ‘one of the guys’” (78). Yes, there is a “level of restraint” but actually, it is possible to be very close to a guy and not be interested in him. I have two or three guy friends to whom I am almost a sister and we know we’ll never be interested in one another―we’ve actually talked about it. At times, we discuss very personal stuff like who we are interested in and our dreams and hopes for the future. Sometimes, I am “one of the guys” because I happen to be the only girl at dinner after church events and on occasion my guy friends will ask me questions about girl-stuff or I’ll ask them questions about guy-stuff and our conversations are very enlightening. However, we don’t call one another for personal counseling or long one-on-one chats… that would be weird. So I guess all of this goes to say that there are a few lines but they really depend on the people involved and shouldn’t be so rigid. The Botkins mention a relationship that could be going somewhere but stress continuing to love “the other in a selfless and disinterested way” (79). While I agree we shouldn’t lose all reason and hold our breath waiting for him to say something, passages such as these may encourage young women to “shut down” and turn off all emotion. This is a huge danger of so-called emotional purity and it is important to remember that the Botkins are advocates of this teaching. So, while it is good to focus on the Lord, even when attracted to someone, it’s okay to experience hope and emotion. Lapsing into more fundamentalist type rhetoric, the Botkins write, “One thing we don’t see in the Bible is an individual guy recreationally pairing off with an individual girl…” (81). True, perhaps, but then again most modern men and women don’t go off “on special one-on-one bonding outings to make Just Friends Forever [sic] bracelets to remember each other by” (81). *rolls eyes* Again, some of their examples are just plain dumb. I think they’re trying so hard to find a “biblical” basis for their beliefs that they end up making very weak connections and using examples that don’t make sense. Anyway, to quote them again, “in our own case, the young men we’re proud to call our friends aren’t our personal friends, but our family friends. Friends are something all of us share in common” (81). Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to have family friends but there’s nothing wrong or unbiblical about having friends of one’s own. The concept of having “family friends only” finds root in teachings of Jonathan Lindvall and other early patriarchy/courtship-type teachers―not in the Bible. David and Jonathan were one on one friends as was Jesus with the disciples and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It’s perfectly okay, normal, and right to have your own friends―of both genders.

Next, the Botkins talk about things that one wouldn’t do with one’s brother, namely flirting and shunning. While I agree that shunning is silly as well as rude, I do not agree with their definition of flirting: “Flirting. Right, right, none of us were actually flirting. We meant bantering, coquetting, teasing, joshing, bantering, being over-friendly, acting giddy and giggly…” and etc (82). There’s a big difference between flirting and teasing/bantering―the context of the situation is drastically important. I tease my brother, my guy cousins, my guy friends, and pretty much everyone else regardless of gender. My friends and I banter a lot―it’s our preferred mode of communication and merriment. Perhaps if the Botkins were watching me, they might think I was flirting… but context is everything. If you watch interaction between guys and girls and don’t know them, it’s possible to assume all kinds of ignorant things. Plus, it’s really easy to misjudge outgoing girls (and guys) and think of them as flirts when they are NOT. I have several extremely outgoing, witty girlfriends and if you don’t know them, you’d probably find them flirtatious―but they’re not. They treat everyone the same way and tease them equally. Thus, I cannot say it enough, context is vital. The Botkins discuss a time when they were “shy and extremely uncomfortable around boys” and watched an outgoing girl named “Sheila” from across the room (82). Though they were “too shy” to talk to Sheila, they were jealous of her ability to make all of the boys like her. Perhaps Sheila was a flirt but then again, maybe she was just an outgoing girl that the Botkin’s perceived to be a flirt. It’s hard to know since they never really knew her. Still, at the end of this story, they acknowledge that they were envious and point out that their resolve to ignore guys was just as bad as Sheila’s flirting. “Neither of us had the young men’s best interests at heart, and none of us were thinking of us as brothers (83).” Yet, I think there’s more of a chance that Sheila could have teased and joked with everyone―including her own brothers―and thus, was treating all of the guys as she treated her own family. It’s hard to know. One of the quotes from a young man (“Paul”) in this section is troubling, as he says, “When shyness comes from nervousness, which I think it usually does, it shows a lack of Christian love. A girl’s complete confidence is grounded entirely on her relationship with God…. If God has made her His daughter, then she should not fear me. In fact, she should love me…. (83)” So, if a girl is shy, this young man questions her salvation and faith? Ouch! I’m reserved with people I don’t know, especially men, does that mean that they’re judging my faith? That’s pretty harsh!

They go on to talk about how they realized that flirting is annoying as their brothers have gotten older and women tried to flirt with them. I mostly agree, it’s annoying when girls try to flirt with my brother too… but I don’t focus on it all the time. Then, the Botkins suggest that if girls are not ready to have God-honoring relationships with guys, they should just “sit out for a little while” and focus on their “own growth (88).” So, we’re not supposed to shun guys (that’s sinning) but if we don’t feel ready to be friends, we should step out for awhile? I’m confused. How would anyone else know my mindset if I decided to step away from being friends with guys? Logistically, it would be hard to not be friends with guys… unless you went to an all girl’s school or did shun them. And then again, after the quote from the last guy, if you’re not being friends with guys so you can grow closer to God, how will a guy know? Will he be like “Paul” and question your salvation when you don’t talk to him? This is a very confusing and contradictory passage.

Apparently, the Botkins went through a time of avoiding guys, which they now repent of doing, and discuss their road to being friends with everyone. Around the time they came back to the U.S. they “were determined (with Dad and the boys’ encouragement) to get out of our shy, timid comfort zones (89).” They continue, “We’re really indebted to our father for giving us the vision for what these relationships could look like” (89).” Talking about their opportunity to minister, they say that their father, “encouraged us to be natural, friendly, sisterly, and gracious, and to let go of our silly hang ups about greetings and handshakes (89).” Unfortunately, my thought here is, obviously he needed them to be at the forefront of his money-making schemes *cough* ministry and talked them out of their hang-ups for his own benefit. Now of course, they’re grateful for his guidance and for the discussions they’ve had with young men about “history, politics, theology, the philosophy of music and film and art, literature, military history, biblical law, and more. Talking to men is iron-sharpening in different ways than talking to women (90).” Is that because these subjects are seen as “manly” and women don’t know how to discuss them? I talk to men and women about all these things but maybe in the Botkin’s world, one has to find a man to have a conversation about history or politics because women don’t know anything about these topics. I could be wrong… but that’s how they make it sound.

Stay tuned for Part II!



Natalie said...

I largely agree with what you've said here about men and women and how they relate. However, I do think that we're seeing a lot of men who don't know how to be men and who don't know how to act around women. When I say "be men" I don't mean that they know how to use a chain saw and eschew any knowledge of cooking or laundry. I mean being capable of leading a family - someone with a plan and who isn't afraid to make decisions and roll up his sleeves and get things done. It's not entirely their fault though. In many ways our officially endorsed culture a la public schools and media has elevated typically feminine characteristics like cooperation above typically masculine traits like risk-taking. So we have girls who have grown up with a "grrl power" mindset surrounded by boys who have been told that their natural impulses are destructive and possibly criminal, and then we wonder why they're messing up their relationships? Speaking of which, I think an inability to flirt is part of this whole mess. Some guy is supposed to spontaneously fall in love with a girl who is barely allowed to look at him much less laugh or joke with him? Plenty of guys need a little "hey, right here in front of you" nudge to get them started in the in the right direction.

Arlan said...

Nice to see a post again!

In my experience the phrase "one-anothering" is kind of a house-church buzzword. I don't know if that's my peculiar association or common.

What is your context for the phrase?

Ingrid said...

That's very interesting, I never attended a house church so I'm not sure how common that association may be. I was just referring to passages of scripture where Jesus says things like: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:35) and where Paul writes, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8)