Children of the Cultic

Children of the Cultic February 6, 2019

by Cindy Kunsman

Editor’s note: Cindy is speaking about a recent development in her life. The Botkin Sisters, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth, children of Geoff Botkin, seem like they are threatening to sue over a ten year old blog. They’ve sent Cindy Kunsman a letter to an address she does not even use, filled with pious manipulation, false claims and signed in a childish scrawl. I will be posting the entire letter tomorrow.

You remember the Botkins? The sisters have a site that is mostly moribund. Mel kindly reviewed their courtship book “It’s Not That Complicated”

Geoff Botkin was once enmeshed with with Doug Phillips long-closed Vision Forum ministry, and with Voddie Baucham’s own daughter-controlling ministry. Geoff has trotted out his daughters as the pinnacle, the apex, and the golden reward of the father-led courtship model. Yet here we are, many years later with zero courtships or marriages for these girls on the horizon. Endlessly pimped out by Daddy to sell his ministry, yet he’s failed at the very thing he has said was the most important.

The girls are disingenuously trying to claim that some ten year old blog posts by Cindy have ruined their reputation, not the fact that Daddy continually pimped them out.

Cindy’s response to these gals:

I remember the day when my parents admitted to me that a close family friend of ours who was like another father figure for me had a reputation for lying. I knew of some workplace conflicts where he’d sided against my father to protect his son and his own reputation, all at my father’s expense. I was about ten years old, and I basically pretended that I had no knowledge of the conflicts. It was too much! When the subject came up separately with both parties when I was about thirty years old, I stopped everyone and explained that it wouldn’t listen. I decided that it was inappropriate, and I stopped the conversation.

But much had happened to me over the course of a few decades. I’d become an adult. I’d married and moved away. I was not a part of the daily lives of my parents or our friends. I could set boundaries on the topics that we discussed, and I refused to listen to anyone if they tried to draw me into a discussion that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I had means which I could use to retreat from the discussion. Children don’t have that luxury. I also had the perspective of an adult with much more experience of my own, with both parties and with other adults like them. I knew that children idealize their parents and role models. Adults learn to humanize others and learn to defend their own boundaries when other adults overrun them.

Adult children don’t enjoy the luxury of perspective when they live under bounded choice (the appearance of choice, but none of the options are achievable and their possibilities are deemed as sinfully unthinkable). Our society also has social rules, and in some instances, societal laws guard against the lack of perspective to which people are subject when their family loyalties are challenged. Courts even allow citizens to appeal to the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. Most people protect those whom they love, and they cannot truly see them objectively.

If you have no standard of comparison, there is nothing questionable or unhealthy about your own norm. It is your healthy normal. For me, the challenges started quite early. Before there were counselors, there were school teachers that triggered confusion for me. Then came the daily experience of living in the dorm to study nursing. My peers and the curriculum itself challenged everything, it seemed. Childhood growth and development standards were very hard for me to learn because I had been expected to be a tiny, precocious adult.

None of nursing could be considered pagan culture. I attended a religious school — and that venue was chosen for me by my parents because of religious concerns. Was it better for me to learn nursing lab skills from a computer in a huge class of state college students or in a small one from a nun who had been a nurse all of her life? Which school showed more honor to the personhood of the ill? I struggled tremendously with how I defined myself and how I would manage to fit into the wider world.

For the first several months when I lived on campus to attend college, I found that something new challenged my norm every day. I not only had to figure out dorm etiquette, the coursework challenged me daily in the beginning. The cognitive dissonance (the stress created by the competing set of rules about the norm) overwhelmed me. What I knew to be normal growth and development of children through experience in my life differed greatly from the standard set by the coursework.

Had I commuted from home, I would have been under more immediate pressure to ‘choose a side,’ and in their home, my parents would have to win. That’s how our dynamic worked. Maybe I would have decided that my whole widening world was wrong, but in my mind, to live with my family, they would have to be reckoned as pure and right. I existed to validate them and their system and their view of the world — the endpoint of the bounded choice within my family.

Had I been raised in a home that followed the teachings that Kathryn Joyce wrote of in her book, Quiverfull, I don’t believe that I could have survived. Without my experience in nursing, would I be able to accept it if someone pointed out that my father had lied to them? Even with college under my belt, I was in my late thirties before I could admit to myself that the norms of my upbringing were not the norms for most, nor were they healthy.

Most people will throw themselves on a sword to save those who set the norm for them. If my own transition in a home that did not isolate me from secular life posed such pressures as I transitioned into independent adult life, what would someone face if they lived in a home that believed that if a girl ventures out of the home without a male covering, they would be swept away like the Old Testament’s Dinah to be raped in body and mind? Would the pressure to remain devoted to their norm be lesser or greater than those that I faced?

Adult Children of Patriarchy

If I learned that my father dropped out of college after he joined a Christian group on campus, and people who left the group considered it a cult, would I want to believe it? If the cult was known to select the spouses for their members, would I feel at ease thinking about how my parents met in college? What if my dad aspired to save the world for Jesus by getting very involved with his church? What if I’d read that college students from the same campus where my father went to witness about Jesus were so ill affected by my church that they were admitted to psych wards? Would I want to believe any of it? Would I be permitted in any reasonable way to entertain the possibility that such things could be true?

A former member of a cultic Christian group told me of an experience that he had years after he left that cult that was once very active on his college campus. His old acquaintance from college, now on his way to becoming a leader, told him that he would be given the same treatment that Right Wing magnates enjoyed when they visited his home. (He remained involved with the group until he found a niche in the burgeoning patriarchy movement.) This former member told me that the man had their little girls ask if they could please remove his shoes to make him more comfortable, even though he was a stranger to them. The family considered this to be an act of Christian ministry. If you were the child, now grown, would you have cause to question whether this was a perfectly good and normal thing to do in our society? (I never blogged about it because it sickened me.)

Could it be possible that those we admire greatly have feet of clay? I guarantee it. My counselor liked to say that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. There are no pedestals there. Do religious leaders lie or try to bend the truth? Is it possible that the people we love have a way of downplaying the things that they don’t want us to know? Would I be inclined to believe that those I loved are just as human as everyone else? Welcome to the human race. But what if such ideas were unthinkable, and what if the money I earned was tied to that belief?

If you grew up like the Von Trapp children in formation in the Sound of Music before “the problem like Maria” arrived, consider that the film elucidated that the life they lived was not so healthy. Consider that adults lose perspective , and children have only one perspective when they’ve never known anything else. It worked for a time for the Von Trapps, but their father never claimed to be a religious expert in raising children, selling his insights to support his family. Love that was not duty and deadness swept into his home and set his family free.

What do you do about the problem of critics that challenge your parents — the parents who put you in a storefront to make you a poster child for their personal preferences? What if they
claimed that it was for your survival in a dangerous world? Do you even have any viable life choices? I had one….the one that my parents chose for me.

Would it be fair for an educated adult to perform a vivisection on the writings of a child? I never thought so. It seemed like exploitation to me. It’s rather like an adult using a child at that child’s expense [which better men than me have defined as (non physical) cover incest].

I wrote in generalities about how the parents used their children because I know what it’s like to live under bounded choice. I didn’t do so out of kindness.

What do you think? Might you have been the Trojan Horse that adults used to exploit your youth so that they could avoid scrutiny themselves? That sounds a bit like emotional blackmail to me. Will you follow in the footsteps of the thugs that preceded you, now that you’re an adult? It seems that you’re off to a fine start, but there’s still time to turn it around.

Why wait so long, Botkins? I wonder if they have another set of books or a whole new ministry shift that makes them frantic to remove any hint of negative press from online? They will have to cyberly fire-bomb Bitch Media, Free Jinger, this site and dozens of others. I don’t  know. What I do know is every time I hear this particular OutKast song I think of them.

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

I Fired God by Jcoelyn Zichtermann

13:24 A Dark Thriller by M Dolon Hickmon

About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 32 years. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Nea

    What surprises me here is that they’re apparently taking action on their own, not having action taken in their name by their male owner.

    I won’t know what to think until I see their letter, but I am prompted to wonder: How healthy is their household god? If Daddy Dearest has gotten sick – too sick to keep them in the high-maintenance lifestyle that’s all they know, and likely higher than their brothers can/are willing to provide – then I could see that the girls would try to salvage their financial situation by defaulting to the only other two things they know: religiously tinged legal threats and a rock-solid belief in their own superiority over all others.

  • Friend

    In October 2018, Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) and its leader James MacDonald filed suit against a couple of bloggers and against the bloggers’ wives. As soon as a court ordered discovery, the suit was withdrawn. Read whatever you like into that.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    When you see the letter you will laugh. Ten years this thing they are protesting has been up and their allegations of how it has impacted them are far fetched at best.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Just another attempt at Good Christian Bullying.

  • Mel

    Eh, I wouldn’t bother worrying until I got a letter from a law firm. If I was in a bad mood and had some extra money, I might have my lawyer draft a ‘cease-and-desist” letter to them, but that would only likely fuel their feelings of importance.

    I’m trying to figure out how the Botkin Sisters would think a court would assess damages. Failure to marry is not something they could be awarded cash for. Failure to reproduce can be – but only if Cindy created an unsafe work environment that destroyed the Sisters’ reproductive organs – and even that cash reward is small. They have one book that was sold to the now-defunct Vision Forum and published by VF – but even a new, green lawyer for the respondent would point out that VF brought an entire set of skills and benefits to the table that the Botkin’s second book lacked. Which leads to the problem with the second book – it’s a vanity-press published book by two authors’ with no previous sales records. Plus, the Botkin Sisters sold copies of their book; they’ve created a second-edition – so a respondent lawyer could easily argue that the Sisters have sold the logical number of books they were going to sell to former cult members.

    If the Botkin Sisters can find the cash to pay for a lawyer, then Cindy might have to use some time and effort to shut them down. But until then, it’s pretty unlikely.

  • Mel

    The Botkin Sisters are probably the first in a wave of SAHDs who will have their standards of living crash as their parents age and retire.

    I feel some pity for them – their family and cult has encouraged them to remain at the mental and emotional level of pre-teens their entire life – but they are far old enough to own some consequences of their actions.

    And unlike most of the SAHDs who have at least continued to produce new writings or conferences or worked in the family businesses, the Botkin Sisters fully admit in their “about” page that they’ve been living at home as housekeepers for a family of six grown adults while putzing about at whatever hobby interests them.

    That’s how the cookie crumbles.

  • AFo

    Instead of this being a wake-up call to go out and do something productive with their lives, they’re just digging in their heels. The sickening part is that the rest of the cult will see this as “righteous” and encourage them, saying that anyone who is against them is “persecuting” them for their beliefs.

  • texassa

    They’re probably suing now because of all the time they still have on their hands, what with no jobs, dates, boyfriends, husbands, or actual lives of their own. What else are they going to do?

  • Nea

    Most of the SAHDs aren’t famous and wealthy to start with, I’m willing to bet. The Botkins have little to no idea of what it’s like to actually scrap for a living with not enough resources.

    The problem with worshipping Daddy as a household god is that God is mortal. Someday he’s going to die, having spent his entire life preventing those girls from having the life he advertised that they were bred and raised for like veal and who even knows what will happen then? Will their brothers keep them around as menial labor? Will they sell off the last spark of their fading glory to whatever man will have them? Will their brothers sell them off in marriage, something that the Botkin upraising leaves as a strong possibility?

  • SAO

    When Cindy was discovering the falsity of everything she’d been brought up to believe, it was in the context of creating new possibilites for herself. I presume she was successful at nursing school, so there was personal success, a path to independence, a route out of the cult, even if she hadn’t planned on leaving when she enrolled in the program.

    In contrast, the Botkin sisters have nothing. If they abandon their belief in their moral superiority and better upbringing, they have nothing left except being well past college age with, I presume (I don’t keep the details straight) no diploma, not even from high school (diplomas made by parents don’t count), no work experience and no skills. If they were homeschooled, it’s not clear what math skills they have. Did they reach the 8th grade level?

    So, it will be much harder for them to accept the bitter truth.

  • I need to qualify here that when my parents made those choices for me, I was a child. I graduated at 16 from an ACE Christian school where I’d attended for four years after retreating from the public school system. I was approached by professors who asked me to enter work in different competitions, and my parents forbade me because they had nothing to do with nursing. They told me that I was studying nursing, and they didn’t want me to lose focus. They didn’t understand that it was really hurtful at the time, but I understand looking back on it as an adult. They also forbade me to take action against a student that was observed to be cheating by stealing my work. He was an adult male, and they feared that if I followed the professors instruction to take him to task for it that this adult would retaliate against me with physical harm.

    My parents who had little means to do so sent me to an excellent college for nursing that wasn’t their religion of choice, but the program was respected and accredited. Tuition there today is 27K/yr. They paid the first t2 years, and I paid the rest with my own salary which exceeded that of my father’s. They put me into a position so that I would have choices. In contrast, when my parents aspired to protect me from that student, Geoff Botkin was launching his daughters into the open marketplace of ideas, expecting them to promote a very provocative and offensive set of ideas.

    And I did do very well. I kept my then graduate student husband from starving to death, I worked full time hours to pay off his student debt and came up with the money for a down payment on our first house. I gave up on pursuing medical school in favor of preparing to be a stay at home mom. I used to teach critical care to nurses, and I dropped out of nurse practitioner school to serve as my husband’s research assistant for three years when he was ill. I managed to be a helpmeet in ways that would not be possible for the Botkins.

  • Mel

    No, ironically, the grinding poverty of most CP/QF families generally causes their daughters to get jobs in their late teens, if not before. It’s only the upper-class families that have predominantly sons that can afford to keep their few daughters at home forever.

    I doubt marriage is much of an option even once Geoffrey Botkin passes. The Botkin sisters are well into their 30’s. There are fairly few unmarried 30+ men in CP/QF land. Outside of CP/QF land, what do the Botkin Sisters bring to a spouse outside of a pretty face and possibly a small income stream from their book and blog?

    No, I think the two of them – and the three Maxwell Sisters and two Mally Sisters – will end up living with one of their brothers while working in whatever fast food/retail/housecleaning service job they can get to help with household expenses.

  • Mel

    They have no post-secondary education. Based on their books, one of the sisters writes at a high high school or early college level. The other sister writes at a junior-high level. I have no idea about math placement – but their history and science background is extremely limited and extremely biased towards conservative principles.

    I wonder if this sudden lashing-out at Cindy is the beginning of the Sisters realizing how screwed they are. Geoffrey Botkin doesn’t work in any way that I can see. Their married sons seem to have a variety of niche businesses that might support a small family but don’t seem to produce enough extra to support Geoffrey, Victoria, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth. Really, the only people producing consistent income are the two youngest, unmarried sons who manufacture personalized gun accessories. (Those two are the ones who love the “appendix carry” where you jam the gun down in the front of your pants aimed towards your groin. I call it the “Darwinism In Action” carry.)

    I’m assuming that the six remaining members of the original family group have been living off of whatever cash the senior Botkins earned during their VF heyday, whatever money each parent received from the estates of their parents, a tiny amount of income from their Western Conservatory of the Arts and Science joke of a site, but mainly the money Lucas and Noah are bringing in.

    But Lucas and Noah will marry at some point – and then I doubt the remaining family members will be solvent….

  • Mel

    Those that are left. Part of their problem is that VF has been dead for 7 years now and lots of the cult members have been ‘lost’ to the wider world.

    Being at the top of a ponzi scheme – which is pretty much how cults like VF work for the leaders – requires having people below you. When those people leave….the income stream is gone.

  • SAO

    There are a decent number of nice men making incomes that can support a family who have flaws that keep them from getting married before their mid-30s. Weight, being socially clueless are the most common. The Botkin girls strike me as being rigid in their beliefs and coating their disdain in a thick coat of sugar. A marriage between one of them and a nice guy who doesn’t pick up social clues well is both possible and likely to be a disaster.

  • SAO

    My guess is they googled and saw that Cindy’s posts were the first things that came up and their blog was far lower down. Not much they can do about that. Think Dan Savage and Santorum.

  • Jennifer

    I hope they marry. I’m not sure that’s best, but firstly I’d like them to have SOMETHING they always wanted and thought they should do come to pass. And secondly, I wish it would happen well before their father dies so they can just get OUT and away from him with hopefully a much better and more normal man.

  • Jennifer

    I think that’s exactly part of their problem.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    Why, oh, why do some of the most (in)famous members of my tribe insist on behaving like Scientologists?

  • persephone

    Legally (not a lawyer) they’re adults. They aren’t married. They may have Sent the letter, even written it, but I would guess it was dictated to them. Unless they can be shown to be incompetent, they’re responsible for themselves, so they have to give the appearance of handling things themselves. Their god dad is getting old, and has lost his income, so my guess is they’ve been pushed to come up with some new income stream. Problem is, they’ve got nothing to pivot to. They’re stuck with selling the same old BS.

    Grifters gotta grift.

  • persephone

    Dad is still running the show. I’m sure this is his brilliance at work.

  • persephone

    They forget that discovery goes both ways.

  • persephone

    Off topic, but I miss GCB.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Hahahhaa! So do I. Must rewatch that show if I can find it on my Fire stick.