I restored a bit over 100 posts the other day, and apart from the single picture of the whole Botkin family, I found only one additional small, blurred picture of the daughters in soft focus behind their images as they’re captured on a video monitor screen. I found only a single blog post that notes their first names. Were I guilty of using their names and faces, wouldn’t there be more than one reference to their first names one picture of them apart from the family? When I did not display screenshots of their book or video in old posts about the family, I used generic royalty free pictures and common domain pre-Rafaelite paintings to break up blocks of text.
During Vision Forum’s hay day, the homeschooler lifestyle resource organization paid the expenses of those who traveled with them. It is a benefit of traveling with a non-profit group, especially if they don’t have funds to give honorariums to the participants. The Botkin Family also traveled to speak at state homeschooler association conventions as and to participate in Vision Forum activities. The family earned a living selling their lifestyle ‘how to’ materials at these conventions and conferences, and I know that many state conventions paid sizable honorariums for their participation.
That may be the Botkin norm, but it is often not the norm for the rest of us. As the Apostle Paul made tents, even the heads of Christian ministries often work day jobs.
I’ve been blogging, writing and speaking about these matters for a total of twelve years, and I have never been paid a dime. I’ve paid for my own travel and lodging, just like everyone else. At conferences where I’ve been invited to speak, I paid the registration fee like everyone else who attended (though most places offer a discount on the fee for speakers). I’ve never received an honorarium of any kind. In 2016, I did ask for a scholarship for the registration for myself and for the people who participated in a panel that I organized that addressed the Duggar Family and Troubled Teen Homes.
I can count on one hand how many meals that others have paid for me while at a conference. If I stayed with someone which was actually pretty rare, I reciprocated by treating my host to dinner, and I’ve purchased plenty of meals for others. I’ve paid for videographers, projectors, as well as legal and peer review. I paid several companies to host media like podcasts and video online. I’ve paid for the expenses for online hosting until I figured out that Google Blogger was free. I purchased a domain name for my blogs and for other bloggers for whom I’ve volunteered. I also never allowed advertising on my blogs, and in the past, I’ve paid surcharges to do so. (Perhaps I should hold on to those receipts indefinitely. Hmmm.)
I did participate in Amazon’s book referral program, and I made a collective total of $20 which I gave to a blogger who was unemployed at the time. Even when authors contact me with books that they’d like me to review, because I want the books to do well, I usually decline the free copy and buy one myself at retail cost. I can count the gratis book copies using only one hand. Two authors who write about the Troubled Teen Industry (Bonnie and also Chatfield) sent me additional copies of their books when I bought a number of them myself. (If I bought ten to give away, they matched the number that I purchased.) I’ve written some articles for non-profit organizations, but if I wanted more than one copy, I had to pay retail cost for them.
What Did I Gain?
Shirley Taylor gave me a signed copy of one of her books, but Adele Hebert takes the prize. When her first book was first published, whenever she heard that I was going to a conference, she’d send me a case of books at her own expense to give to away. (She declined when I offered to reimburse her.) I finally had to ask her to stop when I was unable to travel anymore.
In contrast, I have suffered threats of physical harm, insults of which I’ve lost count, legal threats, smear campaigns, slander, and good old disdain. There are so many tall tales out there about me. The ones that stressed me the most and amused me in hindsight were rumors that I was an FBI agent and lesbian. Those whom I counted as close friends have turned on me and lied when ‘the going got rough.’ I suppose the most shocking thing for me was jackboot that came about from leaders within and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, their seminary system, and their affiliated counter-cult ministries.
Some women who were still transitioning out of patriarchy have read me the riot act, but most of them have approached me later to reconcile. I’ve been gaslighted, intentionally and unintentionally, by fellow laborers who work to stem the tide of cultic abuse – those people who left their groups but didn’t do enough recovery work to stop relying on the dysfunctional tactics they learned. And there are plain old narcissists that are out there. When I encounter them where I don’t anticipate them (working for organizations that exist to help former members), it still takes my breath away. Is there anything more painful to be taken by surprise and wounded in a house full of friends?
Julie Anne Smith did remind me soon after I received the letter that I also have the satisfaction of knowing that “many, many people” gained access to the truth. I have talked and corresponded with many hurting people, helping them in many different ways.
I’ve also made some true friends who provide a safe bubble from the world for me and kind perspective when I need it. Those relationships sometimes end, and not all have passed the test of time and trouble. I’ve loved others only to have that love rejected, but as my friend Traci reminds me, love is never wasted. And I believe that for those who have shown me loving kindness, the contrast makes their support all the sweeter. I didn’t set out to do any of this work because I expected remuneration. I did it out of moral duty and as an act of worship to God.
I’ll keep on driving my 15 year old car while my husband, and I make payments on our aging Smartcar as we rent a home we do not own. But my husband and I chose to use the resources with which we have been blessed in order to help others – the least of these. We work that we might have to give to those in need.
Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.
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