14 January 2015

So Much More by Anna Sofia Botkin and Elizabeth Botkin

     I just finished So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God and I have to say I was very unimpressed. Actually I was more than unimpressed. I think the book is pretty bad.
     I recognize that Godly womanhood is under fire in today’s world, but I kind of think Godliness has always been under fire. It’s tough to be a believer.  In John 15 Jesus says “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” As believers, we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus’s prediction is true. So, yes, being Godly will put you in a position of opposition to the world.
     So, I appreciate the fact that these girls are questioning things the world takes for granted: “Everyone needs to go to college,” “Independent is the way to be!” “Birth control for at least the first year of marriage,” “Of course women should have their own careers.” All of these things the world, and to a certain extent the church just swallows as truths without much examination. I love it when a Christian comes on the scene saying, “Wait a minute here. We need to think about this.” But I feel like the girls made their arguments very poorly.
     First, a caveat, when I say girls I really mean it. At the time this book was written, they were 17 and 19. I think they are thoughtful young women with good hearts and I think they were very zealous for Godly femininity. I just think a few more years would have given them some perspective. I guess I’m more surprised that there were adults in their lives that let them write this sort of thing and put a stamp of approval on it. I mean, this book was kind of a big deal in the homeschooling world.
     I think my first clue to the fact that there would be theological problems was when the young authors said, “Many of the answers and solutions we…have found will seem incredibly extreme and drastic. We believe that in a day of extreme apostasy and judgment, extreme measures are exactly what are called for, and that a drastic step in the opposite direction is exactly what we need to take.” First of all, this assumes our struggles are far and away harder than the struggles of any other Christian civilization throughout history. I think that is very untrue. I’m looking at you, Emperor Nero.  Also, I’m going to need some biblical proof that the answer to a problem is to take a “drastic step in the opposite direction.” I think there are plenty of directives God gives us as to how to live a wise Christian life and if we just followed them (which is hard enough) we’ll be fine. I don’t think we need to go beyond what God has told us to do.  Revelation 22:18 “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” I think anyone who wants to go extra-biblical with rules should read that verse over a few times.
     Anyway, the rest of the book is basically rules for living in a way that shows direct opposition to the world. 1. Women must submit to the headship of fathers or husbands; 2. Women should never go to college because every woman who goes to college loses her faith or exits an embittered feminist; 3. It’s best women never work. Ever. But if you must be a “wage slave” work under another Christian woman because male bosses are just RIPE for sexual encounters with their employees; 4. Women must never enter the mission field, unless accompanied by their husbands; 5. Women should never be in leadership positions, not just in the church, which is as far as the bible goes, but in any leadership position ever; 6. The only training women should have is to train for marriage; 7. Modesty is important.
     Ok, outside of the first and the last rule, obviously there is plenty to make fun of here. Like I said, I love when Christians challenge the world’s thinking. I hate that stay at home wives are made to feel like they are no benefit to the world. I hate that there is blindly accepted that everyone needs a college degree or a career, when maybe you know you are going to get married and be a stay-at-home mom and you just don’t want to spend four years and TON of money on college. I think where the bible is silent we should be too. The much touted Proverbs 31 woman works publicly and at home. Priscilla and Aquila BOTH were tent makers. God just doesn’t say whether women should or should not work outside the home. We probably shouldn’t step in and fill in what we think God wanted. They did somewhat hesitatingly admit that going to college, getting a job, etc  wasn’t actually a sin, but then they proceeded to heap guilt on you about it.
     And even when they talk about headship and submission, they admit that there isn’t much directive in the bible about what a daughter’s submission is to look like, so they use the directives for a wife and claim that a daughter should be her father’s helpmeet. I think that is going a little too far for my taste. So, even some of the things I agree with them on, I didn’t necessarily agree on the lengths they took them.
     Anyway, I guess reading the book made me think I was reading a book written by a conspiracy theorist. They had all these examples of women whose lives fell apart in college or who finally found fulfillment in working at home after trying to find in everywhere else. I don’t deny the truth of those stories. I just have a feeling the Botkin sisters would deny my story or the stories of other women I know who have been through college and/or jobs and made it through with our faith still intact and our lives pretty joyful. They’d probably just say that I was well-intentioned and thought I had it together but I didn’t really. You just can’t argue with someone like that.
     I would like to know how they would respond when I tell them that due to my college degree I am a better helpmeet to my husband. He actually said it would have been very tough to marry someone who hadn't gone through college. So...hah!


bekahcubed said...

Huh. I hadn't heard about the Botkin sisters until I was in my mid-twenties (I guess that makes some sense since they appear to be roughly my age) - and I'm awfully glad that I hadn't heard of them at 14 when I was making my plans for the future. Knowing myself then, I would have jumped at the opportunity to be uber-spiritual and a Daddy's girl for the rest of my life (until I magically managed to find that also-uber-spiritual man who would take over). Instead, I planned for contingencies and got a degree in dietetics and practiced as an RD for several years before getting married. And I'm pretty sure I and my husband are better off for it.

There are many wonderful things about the Christian homeschooling community - but the tendency towards reactionism is not one of them.

(Congratulations, by the way - I don't think I've said so since you got married, although I've still been reading you inasmuch as I've been reading anyone.)

Anonymous said...

I just don't like when women have to be put in any kind of box like that. Of course they shouldn't be ridiculed for being homemakers, just as they shouldn't be ridiculed for working. I think they have a point in that college will change you, but it doesn't always have to be for the worse. It will just become more of a challenge. Plus, I'm pretty sure if I hadn't gone to a secular school, and met Christians within it, I would have had a pretty narrow view of Christianity as it is. You know, by thinking that only the Reformed are Christians. Which is most definitely not the case.
Good post though! Very insightful. I don't know if I'd want to read this book because I get annoyed really easily at stereotypes on women like this and fear that I'd fly into a rage. (I'd rather preserve my sanity. ;) )Other than that, there are probably much better books out there for Christian women that I'd love to read!

BerlinerinPoet said...

Bekah! Thanks for the congratulations! It's been awesome but rather inhibiting on the blogging, I'm sure you know something about that. I've been (mainly) still reading you and Carrie...and realizing I should cut down on my blogs I follow since I don't...actually...read them all. haha!

Also, SO true about the reactionism! And also true about the wonderful things. As a former homeschooled person I'm a big fan!

Sarah: Yeah, I wouldn't bother. There is a great book called Beautiful Girlhood. If you can overlook the fact that it was written a LONG time ago and back then makeup really WAS for loose women, there is a LOT of good stuff in there!

bekahcubed said...

I do know! I was rather surprised at how much time marriage requires - and I'm now learning that mothering takes rather a lot as well. I'm honored to be one of the few blogs you're still reading during your newlywed season :-)