Friday, April 8, 2016

It's Not That Complicated: Chapter Eight - Part Three

Family dynamics leak into personal writings.  In this section, Anna Sofia and/or Elizabeth demonstrate a very basic persuasion technique used by a wide variety of groups including cults.  This technique is really most effective when used in a person-to-person interaction; a written version of it is underwhelming, but serves as good practice to identify and undermine the technique.

Overarching Theme:

Obey your parents and life will be great!  Disobey and life will be horrible!

"Think about this question carefully.  Is it well with you?  How do you feel about how your life is going?  Are you generally peaceful, or generally angry? Do you know where you are going? Or do you feel like you're stumbling around in the dark? Are you spiritually happy, or do you feel fearful?  Do you feel the hand of God supporting you in everything you do? Or do you often feel frustrated and thwarted? (pg. 139)
  • This is a great example of a persuasion tactic.  You get the person you want to persuade to think of their life in very, very broad terms.  Notice that the Botkin Sisters (or Geoffrey Botkin) ask seven questions that have no narrowing of the subject and the eighth question about "spirituality" is still very broad.  These type of questions benefit the persuasive person by causing the target person to bring to mind a wide range of personal experiences.  
    • Good news is that this persuasion technique can be easily thwarted by being absurdly literal about an unusual situation.  Here's what I would hold in my head when approached with such questions:
      • "Is it well with you?" No - one of my chickens killed and ate a vole in front of me.
      • "How do you feel about your life?" Well, I'd like my chickens to not eat voles in front of me?
      • "Do you know where you are going?" Yup.  I need to feed my chickens, so I'm heading to the farm.
      • "Assorted spiritual questions" I'm good - although I don't like it when my chickens eat voles.
  • The next step is to introduce a framework that will help the target person sort all of those memories you brought into your worldview.  
    • I love messing with this next part by having a few deeply concrete examples that blow the framework apart.
"We all know that the Fifth Commandment tells us to honor our parents, but we often miss the last half of the verse: "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your GOD is giving you. (Deut. 5:16).

Ephesians 6:2 points out that this is the first commandment with a promise - God promises that it will be well with us if we honor our parents.  This idea should give us a lot to chew on - that our success and failure in life could be connected to the way we've been treating our parents (and not just the way our parents have treated us).

Other blessings the Lord promises to send those who honor their parents, listed throughout the Bible, are length of days and long life, spiritual peace, prosperity, happiness, wisdom and knowledge, honor and glory, and spiritual safety.  In other words, "well with us" means we will have peace, joy, contentment, and the blessing of God on all that we do." (pg 139)*
  • The framework is "obey parents --> good things happen; disobey parents --> bad things happen".  Once you've laid a framework out, the vast majority of people - including skeptical people - will think of examples where obeying their parents lead to good things and bad things happened when they ignored their parents' advice.  That's how our brains work because humans are great at pattern recognition.  We LIKE patterns.  
  • The good news: overly-pat frameworks are easy to destroy if you pick very, very concrete examples.
    • "I felt bad when that vole was eaten by the chicken, but my relationship with my parents is fine.  Was the vole in a bad place with its mom?  Was the chicken in a good place with its mom?  Wait, I raised that chicken from a one-day old chick - that means it doesn't have a relationship with its does this work again?.  What about the vole that got away? Was that vole in a good place with its parents?"
    • "I had a rough time with my previous advisor (or boss).  When we couldn't work out our differences, I transferred to a different advisor (or department).  What role did my parents play in that? No, my parents didn't have any advice during that period; they were out of contact on a trip, but they were very happy that I could care for their pets."
  • In real life, the persuading person would share examples from their life that support the framework and encourage the target person to share examples from their life.  The persuading person also rewards the target for stories that support the framework and reframes objections by showing how they fit within the framework.  Ideally, Anna Sofia/Elizabeth would have moved into this part immediately.  Instead, they pad a page with quotes from Proverbs before moving into the grand finale.
"It's painful to recount how many times we've seen this very thing happen.  We've watched girls that we used to consider sensible and godly - girls from very conservative Christian families - make incredibly irrational decisions leading to huge mistakes. And not the "little white" slip-ups of spiritual weakness; these were more like the outrageous acts of spiritual insanity.  Like marrying criminals, running away to live with men they've never met except for online, getting pregnant out-of-wedlock, chasing married men, marrying men who were already secretly married, or becoming lesbians.  Obviously,  there were bigger underlying problems here than a lack of honor for parents.  But in every one of these girls' cases, their blind desperate behavior went hand-in-hand with a conscious decision to scorn and defy their parents' opinions and rules." (pg. 141)**
  • Ah...yet another "One of these things is not like the other" list from the Botkin Sisters.  The "spiritual insanity" list to me divides into several different lists.
    • Black flag - You need a lawyer ASAP: Marrying a man who was secretly already married.
    • Red flag - Potentially very bad: marrying a criminal, chasing a married man.
    • Yellow flag - Check for situational appropriateness: running away to live with online buddy, getting pregnant out of wedlock
    • Green flag - Yay!: Coming out as a lesbian.  (Yes, I know that's not what they said; it's what they would have said if they hadn't been raised in a cult.)
  • The last two sentences make me laugh.  Clearly, most adults would list "disobeyed Mom and Dad" in the problems that lead into "Crap! I married a guy and it turns out he's already married."  I've never met anyone - and I worked with in-risk teenagers - who said "I'm SO angry at my parents' stupid rules!  To show them, I'm going to become a lesbian.  You heard me- I LIKE GIRLS NOW!"  That level of absurdity, though, is required to accept the premises of this book.
Next post: Our next episode of "Bible Babble"

* I worried a little about using this section; it takes up a page in the book.  I felt better when I counted the sentences and realized that the three paragraphs contain five sentences total.

**This is the first passage where lesbianism is mentioned.  The irony is that when I read sections about how to interact with boys vs. girls my husband would always respond with "Do the Botkins know about lesbian relationships?"  Apparently, yes, they do.....kind of.


  1. The list of things that they give about girls who disobey their parents are indeed laughable... especially when they sprung the lesbian one at the end. Wasn't expecting that, but I should have known I guess that they think it's all same-same.
    But to me if you're running away to marry a criminal or someone you've only met online it makes me wonder how bad your home life is (i.e. how horribly repressive your parents are that you feel that's your only option to leave home!). I know that wasn't supposed to be my takeaway, but it is.

    1. Yeah, I don't know anyone who married a criminal or ran away online to live with someone. Actually, I knew a woman who married a man who was later convicted of fraud - but she was very much an adult in her own right (and over 40) when they married. Likewise, I know a few people who moved to different cities to marry someone online, but only after due diligence of checking the person out and lining up a job.

      The fact that the Botkin Sisters know so many people who made truly scary life choices makes me sad...and even more suspicious of CP/QF

  2. Hello, I've never commented before but I've been reading this series (and a couple of your other series) for a while now and am really enjoying your perspective and calm as you analyze some of these truly terrifying things. Thank you for taking the time to read this book and pick it apart so we don't have to :) I find it so sad that something as beautiful as following God can be so distorted and turned into a means of oppression--such a far cry from the freedom He provides!

    1. Thank you!

      The calm comes after some hysterical rage/panic laughter and therapeutic cow/chicken time. Plus, a grateful heart that I am not living the life the Botkin Sisters would want me to live.