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I'm just a believer that is recovering from my experience at Teen Mania's Honor Academy and I would like to share my journey of healing with you.

June 6, 2010

Honor Academy ESOAL: Never Before Seen Footage

I recently came upon a very lengthy ESOAL documentary (2.5 hours). This particular video is from 2002 but recent interns have confirmed to me that most all of these events and attitudes are still firmly in place.

This footage has never been seen outside the Honor Academy before now. I've edited down the 2.5 hour video to about twenty minutes of the most characteristic elements of ESOAL.



1) We start with the aftermath of a team competition. The winning team is allowed to choose a food or drink item out of the "winners chest." Dave Hasz then instructs the winning team to taunt the rest of the participants with "It Pays to Be a Winner!"

"If I don't think you yelled it loud enough or I don't think you are taunting enough, you will never again select out of the winner's chest. Is that clear?"

You will see a longer version of this activity at 2:21.

2) 00:41 - A female intern gives a voiceover describing how even though she was running ESOAL while she was sick and without her medicine, she realizes that she doesn't need medicine, she just needs Jesus!

3) 1:38 - Dave Hasz is going down the line asking random interns if they would like to quit (ring the bell). There are 2 interesting things to notice in this interaction. The first is how they are forced to respond to him. He instructs them that the correct response is, "Sir, no sir. I am full of joy, sir." But none of them look full of joy to me. I was really unaware that you could actually beat people into joy. The second item of note (and you'll see this in other clips) is that they are taught to call him "Commander Master Chief Sir." Really? I mean, really?

4) 3:16 - Dave Hasz' intro to Beenie Weenie Hill. "There are a couple of simple rules on the hill. If you throw up, you may stand up and walk to the end of the run. You do not have to continue to roll once you have thrown up."

Intern - "If I'm going to die, I'm going to die rolling this hill!"

5) 4:14 - A facilitator introduces the items at the ESOAL food banquet. This is a relay in which every team member has to choose an item and eat it until all the items are gone. You may remember Lauren's Story about the extreme food poisioning she suffered from the raw oysters at this event.

Sam Kimmel to a gagging intern eating cat food, "Don't you yak it up. If you puke it up you're gonna have to eat it back up again."

6) 9:21 - Female intern voiceover - "Our group was called marty hearts and its kind of like about the persecuted church and how if we rang the bell we were denying Jesus. And if you rang the bell then all those people being persecuted for their beliefs were gonna die."

You can't just decide that something is equivalent to denying Jesus. That is really bizarre and unhealthy. While I'm sure Dave Hasz never taught that from the pulpit - he definitely engenders the environment where that kind of thinking is both prevalent and normal.

This concludes Part 1 of our never before seen ESOAL footage. If anything here is not current, please say so in the comments.

100 comments:

You'll notice that the interns giving voiceovers actually sound happy about their experiences. We've talked before about the phenomenon on campus that the worst, most intense story you can come up with, the more spiritual it makes you.

Even if these interns are still fine today with these experiences, it doesn't mean they weren't abused. There are many people in the world who live in abusive relationships and choose to stay that way. That doesn't make them any less abused.

I'm sorry, but this whole exercise is so dangerous. Physically, emotionally...it's dangerous, and it's irresponsible of Teen Mania to do it.

utterly disgusting. i experienced such great things at TM (things that were made evidently relevant) but this....this is humiliation and a game of power.

I do not believe parents could look upon this as giving 'the best to their kids' post-graduation.

I know I'm a freak... I loved ESOAL. It changed my life for the better.

But there was no taunting about being a loser my year.

Not even Navy Seal Training is this extreme:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/navy-seal7.htm

BUD/S Training: Hell Week

Official U.S. Navy photo
BUD/S training The fourth week of Basic Conditioning is known as Hell Week. This is when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum total of four hours of sleep. Hell Week begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at the end of Friday. During this time, trainees face continuous training evolutions. During Hell Week, trainees get four meals a day -- sometimes MREs, but usually hot meals of unlimited quantities. Eating hot food is a substitute for being warm and dry. It gives a needed psychological boost to tired trainees, many of whom are nearly sleeping while they eat.

This is sickening. It's cultic. It's abusive. It's brainwashing.

At least Christ gives me the choice whether or not I'll be filled with joy.

This is one of the crazier things I've ever seen, and in my opinion, the people responsible for this stuff are bringing reproach on the name of the Lord.

Was it in 1st or 2nd Timothy where Paul instructed to edify God's people by making them eat cat food, and if they throw it up, eat the expulsion?

so many familiar faces - i'm devastated

This was all true of my intern year in 2005 except the first thing listed. There was no "winner's chest". I had to eat oxtail with the bones still in. I was definitely yelled at that I could not puke on the table. uggg..bad memories!

When I saw the post with an ESOAL video I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it or not. I've heard and read so many heartbreaking stories about people's stories as they went through the experience, but since I didn't attend the HA I never felt like I could fully understand what went on. This video affirmed every story I've heard.

I have never met any of the people who run HA, so my only familiarity of their persons is from what I've heard from other people and seen in clips of video online. But I was struck by watching this video by the smirk on DH face as he executes this program. It's disgusting. That's not the smirk of someone who thinks this "just a game," that looks like the smirk of someone who is glad when people are suffering.

The thought that continually ran through my head as I watched this was, "Where is Jesus is all of this? Where is the Christ-likeness of the leaders? How does any of this point anyone to Jesus?" The brainwashed, Christianese answer is some trite quip about how we learn to depend only on God when were are going through a difficult thing, but I don't see anywhere in the Bible where people are put through things like this. Where is the Bible do people who are reconciled to God purposefully break other people?

To those of you here who have gone through this, I have always believed the stories that I've heard, but seeing the visual of it makes my heart break even more. I'm so sorry that the Bride of Christ can be so cruel.

How did I ever see this as a good and beneficial thing??!

I remember in class when Dave opened up a brief Q/A about ESOAL, shortly before the event. One girl asked what eating bugs has to do with Jesus, and he spun it right back around on her. This is the paraphrased dialogue:

Hasz: "Well, why WOULDN'T you eat a bug?"
Girl: "Because I'll throw up?"
Hasz: "But why would you throw up?"
Girl: "Because it's GROSS...?"
Hasz: "But why do you think that?"

And then another person asked if we would be eating meat, because she was a vegetarian. His word-for-word response:

"Well, I'd recommend not being a vegetarian for the next few days..."

GOOD HEAVENS. They try to fit everybody in the exact same package and have no mercy for the weaker vessels.

Eric summed it up perfectly. From here on out, if anybody I know wants to attend any sort of Teen Mania event, it'll be over my dead body.

ok...all the legitimate outrages aside...NO command master chief ever in the navy or marines would allow himself to be called sir. actually, no NCO period would be called sir.

/> geeky military brat moment.

gc1998....permission to laugh at your comments ma'am....

signed another geeky military brat/military wife

That is wrong on so so many levels - the physical aspect is bad enough, but the name calling and taunting is horrible. How in the world can that be a way to teach Godly character to a young person? "It pays to be a winner" - what is that supposed to teach? What happens to "the first shall be last?"

I agree with Eric. I can understand RA's reluctance to call Teen Mania a cult, but I am not. Teen Mania is a cult. Teen Mania is a cult. Teen Mania is a cult. Not just "cultic." Cult.

so ummm...who wants to get the pitchforks and torches?

never seen so many things twisted around. I simply want the truth.

one question for all past tm surviors...has anyone ever asked dave or ron or anyone who ever hurt you there for an apology?

I mean harboring hatred only makes you a slave to devil itself.

forgivness = fredom.

stop trying to prove that Tm is a screwed up ministry, cuz we already know that it is. it's ran by humans who make mistakes. If God can forgive you of all of your mistakes, how about showing them that same grace.

if they accept it then good, but it the choose to ignore you then it's on them not you.

move on in your lives, love your spouses, love your children, and your friends. stop dwelling in the past. it only breeds more pain and stirs up unwanted emotions.

*sigh* Jeremy, go back and read a) RA's comment policy b) the rest of the blog. Yes, there have been requests for apologies, yes there have been some given. Teen Mania as it is and was is a bad organization that harms teens and young people. It is a borderline cult or a cult. It creates an atmosphere of legalism and spiritual abuse.

Ignoring it, "forgiving and moving on", sweeping it under the rug or other such things just enables the abusive atmosphere to continue.

@Jeremy
some times you have to open a wound in order to let the infection out. Let those of us who need healing, find it.

and to answer your question: Yes I have asked for an apology; no I have not received one, nor do I expect one. And yes I have forgiven them, but does that mean I should turn a blind eye to DH, RL, TM hurting others?

No, I'll continue to speak up, along with the others on this blog, and if that 'stirs up unwanted emotions' for you, I'm sorry.

Wow. In the context of the ESOAL documentary, the "forgive their 'mistakes' and move on" line looks almost as spectacularly bad as it does in this context. A church gave that advice to a teenage girl who had been raped by one of their members. Who benefited? The rapist, of course. How was the rapist finally arrested? When she started "dwelling on what happened in the past."

This isn't about mistakes; it's about a continuing system of willful abuse. The problem is not that we're unwilling to move on from abuse: it's that Honor Academy is unwilling to move on from abusing.

The truth: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Is it possible for you to also post a link
to watch the etire two hour video?

It seems there is a similarity to hazing...
which has been outlawd in many places.

I'm also wondering...do they disclose to you
about the ESOL and the other things BEFORE you
sign up for the HA? I seriously think they
need to disclose this stuff as it's not
normal and usual.

Anon at 4:39,
ESOAL was described very well to us as being something extremely difficult, physical, emotional, and OPTIONAL.
I chose to not partake in the event, and was not looked-down upon or condemned for my decision.

And you're ok with this being an "option" in a professing Christian ministry?

I think it's also important that we don't confuse forgiveness and grace with accommodation. Most abusive individuals and groups do. If a thief robs a bank, I'll forgive him, but it doesn't mean he gets to keep the loot.

This is so disturbing. If I had done ESOAL during my year at the HA, I don't think I would've been able to watch this video at all. It was especially disturbing to see faces I recognized. My classmates were the people who were walking down the line calling the first year interns losers.

Also, that one girl who said she'd been sick with a bad cough for a couple months... that's a classic example of the problem. There's a nurse there, but she doesn't give anything stronger than ibuprofen. When I was seriously injured, that's all I got. And I had a sinus infection through the whole summer, but there was no hope of getting medical attention, so I just learned to live with it. (After I graduated and got back home, I finally went to a real doctor and got antibiotics. It took me several months of medication to fully recover.) That girl probably had bronchitis and needed antibiotics. That could turn into pneumonia. And she's out there in the cold water doing jumping jacks or push ups.

Finally, as a vegetarian, I'm disgusted (though not surprised at all) at the "Well, I'd recommend not being a vegetarian for the next few days..." quoted in the comment above. There are so many things wrong with that.

Thanks for sharing.

dave hasz has never looked more foolish to me. thank god i didnt get sucked into that world, as vulnerable as i was. thank god for that streak of rebellion that kept me safe from the world of teen mania and religious fools and freaks. thank god my artistic sensibility kept me alive. goodbye teen mania. i have no more time for you.

During the parts when Hasz is telling the winning team to taunt the "loser," did anyone else think of the Milgram experiment? A part of me was expecting him to smack the "winners" down afterward for their blind obedience to authority -- obedience that led them to perform acts conflicting with their own consciences. The kid doing the voiceover at 2:21 clearly states how hard it was to insult his friends and how it felt wrong and he was hanging his head (i.e., was ashamed). There's actually a term for that: moral disengagement. And deciding that normal moral standards don't apply to you in your particular circumstances is a great way to allow yourself to commit inhumane acts.

Watching the ESOAL video also made me think of the Stanford prison experiment. It's weird, because when I first heard of ESOAL, I seriously considered seeing if, as an alumnus, I could go back and participate. I've got that masochistic, extreme-sport personality. But that video just made me hurt inside.

What is the point of ESOAL? I get that it stands for Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime, but what is the point? Why be emotionally stretched? What benefit are participants supposed to receive? I don't understand it. Has Dave ever explained the learning objectives? From the comments, even those who participated in ESOAL don't seem to understand its objective. . .

Can anyone explain?

Moral Disengagement:

Example - Columbine High School

http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/221536129-Moral_disengagement_and_Dehumanization

TM is training the next wave.

@Nunquam Honorablus

"I remember in class when Dave opened up a brief Q/A about ESOAL, shortly before the event. One girl asked what eating bugs has to do with Jesus, and he spun it right back around on her. This is the paraphrased dialogue:

Hasz: "Well, why WOULDN'T you eat a bug?"
Girl: "Because I'll throw up?"
Hasz: "But why would you throw up?"
Girl: "Because it's GROSS...?"
Hasz: "But why do you think that?"

Interesting. I just read this strategy in a sales book today -- answer every question with a question. This way sales ppl avoid getting boxed in. Looks like Dave is a master manipulator.

"And then another person asked if we would be eating meat, because she was a vegetarian. His word-for-word response:

"Well, I'd recommend not being a vegetarian for the next few days..."

Dave is not respecting this girl's value system or boundaries. He recommends she do something she feels is wrong -- set her values aside for a few days. I hope this girl did not participate in ESOAL. That kind of thing can mess very badly with someone's conscience.

I'd like to see Dave's response if someone recommend he set aside his values for a few days.

Agreed firegirl. I keep thinking of Zimbardo's prison experiment too. Zimbardo at least knew when to call things and stop the Stanford experiment. DH on the other hand seems to get too much enjoyment out of this. It truly is sickening.

IT is spiritually, psychologically and emotionally unsettling to see and know that this is 'a defining event in making the next generation of Christian leaders'.

It hurts me to know that the legacy of the HA that I helped build, has become something so insidious. I hurt for the leadership because they are completely blind to it and I hurt for the interns how have to endure such things.

I guess I had a rebellious spirit during my time with TM; because I would never have participated in such an event. I probably would have gotten myself BV'd if this would have been something happening during my time there and I would have spoken up about it. My personal response to DH, had I participated would have been something like, "Sir, no sir! May I beat you within an inch of your life, sir?!" Sad to say... yeah, and chances are, I woulda followed through if given permission. I guess that safely states how much I am against ESOAL and the practices that hurt people at TM.

It appears that once TM relocated to Garden Valley, it was too perfect of a situation for TM to further implode in the 'bubble' and avoid accountability from anything outside of TM.

Wow. I recognize a good majority of the faces... a lot of them were either the Augusts that came during my year or the GIs that had just graduated my year. Scary. I saw some of my core mates in there.

I actually think I know who created the 2.5 hour video, but, I will leave that to myself as they obviously didn't want their information revealed.

> "ESOAL was described very well to us as being something extremely difficult, physical, emotional, and OPTIONAL." --Anon @4:53

A thorough response can be found in comments on a previous post, but it's worth repeating a fragment. This is from State laws on hazing:

"Consent Not a Defense
It is not a defense to prosecution for the offense under this subchapter that the person against whom the hazing was directed consented to or acquiesced in the hazing activity."

In other words, from a legal perspective (not to mention a moral perspective), even if abuse is presented as "optional," it's still abuse.

At least one reason for this is clear enough: Ever hear of Stockholm Syndrome?

Also, even if impressionable interns think it's a good thing to choose to undergo abuse, it still means the leaders are getting to abuse them. And that's not good.

Re: Columbine - I can vouch that that is definitely not a correct interpretation of what is going on here, although I can see why outsiders would think that. I've only got a moment, so maybe others can chime in more about that.

Also, I will air part 2 next week in which Dave Hasz gives a long speech about the meaning and purpose of ESOAL.

I finished my ESOAL.. it was 90 hours. I kinda want to do it again to see if i can finish again. But, I didnt learn anything about the Lord.. and i dont expect too. Yes, there is tons of degrading. I was told to roll the hill with a war cry because I laughed at one of the facilitators joke. It was funny! And the hill was fun for me, but they dont have to know that.

Oh god.. i just watched the video.. so many memories are flowing back. So many emotions. Holy crap.

Main point: OPTIONAL. There are places/people in this world that would kill you if they had the chance, merely because you are a believer in Christ. This is a glimpse into what some places of the world are like. If you cannot deal with a little verbal role playing (that IS what it is) you cannot ever expect to encounter truly difficult situations in life. In 3 years I never had the opportunity to participate, but I was there when that movie was filmed. Every intern has always had the same options, (1)don't sign up (2)The first sign of something uncomfortable, quit (3) Try your best and go for as long as you can. Hope you all have a great time dwelling in the past instead of focusing on your future.

"There are places/people in this world that would kill you if they had the chance, merely because you are a believer in Christ. This is a glimpse into what some places of the world are like."

So... you're saying that training under Dave Hasz is like being with an anti-religious psychopath who wants to murder you because you believe in Jesus and he doesn't? Intriguing.

Again, why is it even an "option" (but see above, sigh) for a professing Christian to act this way to anybody? One person I know put it this way: "I wouldn't want that to happen to a dog I liked."

Anon 8:55pm....Oh I am sorry...did you say something credible? I was so busy with my head in my as*...er i mean my past, that I wasn't quite sure if what I heard was demonic squawking or somebody making an attempt at relevancy. Maybe I should go back and ask TM leadership permission to test that spirit of judgement and see if we can't put you to bed. Oh wait, I am, you wrote in my past and I am focusing on my future. Thank you Jesus for giving me the ears to hear what YOU want to say in my life not what the pharisees abiding by the law want me to conform to...

"Main point: OPTIONAL. There are places/people in this world that would kill you if they had the chance, merely because you are a believer in Christ. This is a glimpse into what some places of the world are like. If you cannot deal with a little verbal role playing (that IS what it is) you cannot ever expect to encounter truly difficult situations in life."

It's not even remotely similar to an environment where you may get killed for your faith. No amount of "training" prepares a person for martyrdom. The Holy Spirit was given to us for that reason, and we have the promise that the Spirit will give us the necessary words and direction. You could go through this ESOAL program a million times. It wouldn't benefit you spiritually any more on the last one than the first one.

Nothing about this "training" is spiritual. Navy SEALS aren't trained to be "spiritually tough", so why would you create a Dollar General knock-off of BUDS training for a Christian ministry's spiritual exercise regimen? If I want BUDS training, I can join the SEALS and get the real deal.

It's a big joke and a blight on Christianity.

Thank you everybody! I've been trying to process the whole ESOAL thing. . . . Eric what you said about a dog really hit me square in the face. That really stings, in the way that the truth stings, it's a good hurt.

I think the argument for ESOAL is that it's a good hurt. . . I question that. I just got a little badge at the end that said I finished. It was traumatizing and in so many ways demeaning. What was the point?!?

Live your faith in the real world, you'll get taunted by real people, and it will feel like you are rolling down a vomit hill. . .there's no reason to "pretend" persecution.

EVOAL is more like it: Emotional Violating Opportunity of a Lifetime.

i recognized a friend from this video, and when i posted it on her FB wall, she deleted it and then sent me a message. she was so ashamed of her participation in the event that she didn't want anyone else knowing that she had done ESOAL because of how crazy it is. and i don't blame her.

I found this, written, in an old email account of mine. Seemed apropos "I began writing this blog on another TM alumni's site, as a reply to something he had said to me, but it got to be so long, so thought out, so honest, that I thought maybe it would be better served here. Because I don't know who all reads my site. I'm not sure how many of you knew me back then. When I was a January '99 Teen Mania Intern. I think there are a lot of us out here, alone, still lost...kind of like the hurricane victims. We had it all worked out, then we went there, and when we got back to our "real" lives, everything was in ruins.

For the past six years, I have been on a journey to repair my life. A journey that has led to many places. Some good. Some sad. Some that I don't ever want to visit again. Much like Christian, in Pilgrim's Progress, I am walking down my path, never knowing quite where it leads. And for the better part of my adult life, I have been lost. And now, sitting here, writing this, after a strange series of events, I find myself not so lost anymore. Healing. Helping. Learning. Living. I've started putting my life back together. My way. I hope that any of you, who might read this, who were once there, can see that I am not the only one that has gone through this journey after TM. I'm know I'm not the only one who has felt abandoned. Alone. I'm very much inclined to send this to Mr. Luce himself, if only to give those of us like me, a voice. I don't hate TM. I don't regret going, being, staying. It taught me so much. Continues to teach me. I am still learning lessons from my year there...from the times I went on mission trips with TM prior to my internship. From all the Acquire the Fires, all the bus rides with people I didn't realize would touch my life in the way that they did. TM has been and continues to be a huge part of my life. I'm beginning to realize that it's never going to change. And so, because of that, I am making it my one of my various missions to give us (if only myself, then so be it) a voice. I might not be the voice of reason. But at least I am a voice. This is not easy for me. I am so used to trying to be nice to everyone, so that everything runs smoothly. I'm so used to attempting to go along with everyone else. I'm used to fitting in, where things are comfortable. Well, for one of the first times in my life, I am saying "no" to that. I can't always be nice. I can't always say the things that keep things under control. My life isn't under control! And a part of that is because I've worried so much about fitting in, that I forgot to focus on who I am, apart from everything and everyone else. So, here I am, taking a leap of faith, you might call it. Faith in that what I will say, might spark something in someone. Maybe it is someone who feels similarly to the way I do. Or perhaps it's someone who was there, who has remained on the straight and narrow and never stopped to see the ones like me. I know I am not alone! I know it. I've always known it. I knew it while I was there and I know it now. I lie in bed at night, with memories beating at me. Names and faces that I knew there; friends who never made it to graduation. Faces lost in a sea of fakers. I am haunted by the fact that they are out there, and perhaps, even now, years after the fact, still struggling with themselves and with the things that did or did not happen during their year there. I know this is a long blog, but please, if you have the time, take the time to read it. Maybe it's not you who was there, but Xanga is a small place, and I bet you know someone who was and you can direct them here, so that we, together, can start making a change. A change in the system and a change in ourselves..."

Haven't read through all the comments, but I would like to correct something written above.

@Anon June 6, 2010 11:25 PM
"Not even Navy Seal Training is this extreme:"

Very few things (SAS only... really) can compare to the training SEAL's endure. "Hell Week" is only the beginning of the 2 - 4 year training they require.

Most people faint/blackout during "Hell Week" alone due to the freezing stage (a hole with dirty water in it... and ice (below freezing)). You will develop hypothermia, over and over and over.

Always wanted to be a SEAL myself.

Kevin,

Every activity in Seals training has a purpose though. Being able to withstand freezing water is crucial for Navy Seals due to the nature of their work.

That is one of the major and important differences... ESOAL has not practical purpose for Christians, whereas Hell Week for Seals does have practical purposes due to the nature of their work.

Hello Shannon,

Right. I agree with you 100%. I was just stating that the comment from Anon was wrong :).

"During Hell Week, trainees get four meals a day -- sometimes MREs, but usually hot meals of unlimited quantities. Eating hot food is a substitute for being warm and dry. It gives a needed psychological boost to tired trainees, many of whom are nearly sleeping while they eat."

Think they were trying to point out how during training they can eat -- whilst we were fed very little in ESOAL.

I've read some stores here about people getting injured during the event. In SEAL training students are checked twice/three times a day.

On a side note:
What did you guys/ladies think when they (facilitators) came and tossed your cross? Running after it wasn't a problem, them throwing it, upset me. And still to this day, even though it was explained to us, it doesn't sit right in my stomach. Anyone else feel/felt this way?

Kevin:

I was the one who wrote the comment about Navy Seal Training and my point was that the nature of ESOAL is horrifying compared to how they treat interns. So no, my comment wasn't wrong. It IS extreme when you withhold food and water. As an active duty military spouse who is VERY familiar with Special Forces training, I can assure you that while the Seal training is extreme, they are treated with more respect than an intern was during this time. To even say one went through hell week in the Seals is an honor, even if you drop out. I think you misinterpreted my comment, but hey, no worries.

It's all fun and games until someone's feelings get hurt.

Personally, I've participated in ESOAL twice. Once as an Undergrad in 2003 and once as a GI in 2004. Since then, I've facilitated 4 times. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. I am right now preparing to go back to participate (go through) in the 2010 ESOAL.

I've seen a lot of change since my first time in 2003. We did some things that were a little weird, but nothing dangerous. I never felt like I was in danger at any point in time. Having been in charge of people's safety as a facilitator 4 times since then, I can tell you from "behind the scenes" that safety is of the utmost priority. Food and water is NEVER withheld, and a full time medic is on site at all times and is always accessible. Additionally, the time the facilitators take away from the event to pray for the participants is incredible.

Have I seen cases of "misconduct"? Yeah, I've seen a few. As quickly as possible the situation is rectified and, if required, the the cause of the issue is removed from ESOAL.

I remember as a participant in the 2004 ESOAL, I noted that one of the constructs for the obstacle course was no longer operating in a safe manner. I pointed this out to a facilitator, who agreed and swiftly routed the rest of the team around the obstacle. It was later removed.

A part of the ESOAL process is refining it to be safer have a great impact every year. Did some things start out wrong? Sure. My Dad used to tell me that during his time in the Army he was routinely cussed out and sometimes even physically attacked. Not any more though. Times have changed and so have tactics. "It pays to be a winner!" hasn't been used since 2004.

As well, for the event being optional, it certainly is. I have a friend who has been an intern, GI, SA and Staff (total of 7 years at TM) who has NEVER participated, even though he is asked every year. Why? He never felt like God told him to. Another friend has a bad knee and instead of participating, for her 2 years she would spend that time praying and fasting.

Personally, I have learned a lot about my self every time I have been involved in ESOAL either as a participant or as a facilitator. I wouldn't give up that learning experience for anything.

"Times have changed and so have tactics. "It pays to be a winner!" hasn't been used since 2004."

Brandon, were you referring to your father's time in the Army when you made this statement, or to ESOAL?

Because in 2007, I can say with certainty that, in fact, it was used. I was only in it for 20 hours, and I still heard it (I think it was my family core who each got an apple, and they had to show it off to the other team).

Just looking for some clarity here ;)

Hey @Nunquam Honorablus. Thanks for pointing that out, my sentence wasn't really clear. I meant to say that military training, which is refined and retested year after year, month after month, ESOAL is refined and retested each year. "It pays to be a winner" has been (to the best of my knowledge) banned from ESOAL since 2004.

Sometimes, alumni will return to facilitate ESOAL and remember what was used back in their day and try to bring it back to life. Obviously in the case of 2007.

Regardless of that fact, I can see the purpose behind "It pays to be a winner". Because, in fact, it does. Instant gratification. However, the point is to get the participant to consider those outside of themselves. Just because you achieved the prize, does that mean you're special? Better? More in tune with God? It means none of those things. It just means you won. Now what will you do? Pass the "gift" on to a weaker member of your team, give it to another team entirely?

The psychology behind ESOAL is always, at it's heart, for the betterment of every participant.

Also, as for the conversation:

Hasz: "Well, why WOULDN'T you eat a bug?"
Girl: "Because I'll throw up?"
Hasz: "But why would you throw up?"
Girl: "Because it's GROSS...?"
Hasz: "But why do you think that?"

How is that a bad question to ask? Dave is asking the girl to think. Personally? I've eaten bugs - Mopani worm (from Africa), mealworm (from here at home) and probably countless others. Did I throw up? No. How does she know it's gross? Probably she's been told it is. Has she been told she'll never amount to much in life either? How does she know? Maybe someone told her. Challenging this basic belief will help her challenge others later on in life.

If you never challenge the "norms" that people point out to you, you'll never rise above.

Brandon - again, your facts are totally wrong. In the conf. call, Hasz himself said the only reason they don't say "It pays to be a winner and you are loser" is that people knew about it beforehand and it was funny - instead of emotionally painful, as he wanted it to be. Hasz didn't have ANY problem with the statement, only that people giggled and laughed instead of being upset by it.

Brandon- thanks for clarifying! :)

I do have to somewhat question that, because it was either our captain or lieutenant that told them to do it. Both of them were staff members, one for a few years. The other may have only become staff that year, and might have been around in the earlier ESOAL days, so that is a probability. I'll give you that.

However, a lot of alumni/older staff must have misused it, because our whole class was familiar with the term and used it regularly (I *think* it was used in 2008 as well, because I heard a few class of 09 undergrads used the term). Not trying to be a pain, but just trying to get some clarity here. ;)

As for the bugs- that's all well and dandy, but the original question she asked was, "what does this have to do with Jesus?". Instead of giving her a straight answer, he pulled a non sequitur on her.

I don't necessarily think that "you'll never get anywhere in life" and "bugs are gross" are on the same playing field. I get what you're saying, but I feel like it's kind of a stretch, to be honest :/

* use

I am awesome with verb tense.

@Nunquam Honorablus Yay verb tense!

I graduated '04 (UG) and '05 (GI) so I'm pretty removed from what terms classes are familiar with these days. Talk about Golden Oreos to classes older than '09 and you've lost them, as well saying "...than a mug" to anyone past '04. "It pays to be a winner" may have been used, but not with any ESOAL company I've worked with.

As for it being a stretch, you would think so, but in my experience it's really not. Even on this forum, you can read people's stories and some are similar to "someone said this one little thing to me once and it wrecked my life forever amen". It's just a thought process we all deal with.

I have a girl in my youth group who was told one time by her mom that she looked a little heavy in a particular outfit. Not only will she never wear that outfit again, but her whole self image was wrecked, due to that one comment.

I personally think that "bugs are gross" and "you'll never get anywhere in life" are unrelated instances, but experience proves different. What does eating a bug have to do with Jesus? Nothing if you're lucky. It's basically a neutral experience. But what if that experience helps to break down a stronghold in your life of believing lies? Seems worth it to me.

Unless we're eating spiders. I'll stick with my strongholds if spiders are involved... o_0

@Brandon - you are really on thin ice with me today. Saying that "Even on this forum, you can read people's stories and some are similar to "someone said this one little thing to me once and it wrecked my life forever amen" means you are totally missing the point and insulting the people who have made themselves vulnerable.

You clearly have NO understanding of what people have gone through, so I'm going to ask you to refrain from stating your opinions about their experiences. Stick to telling your own story or your comments will be deleted.

@Recovering Alumni, my apologies. I was not attacking anyone or their stories, I was simply making a comparative point for @Nunquam Honorablus - sometimes the littlest (potentially unrelated) things can have huge impact in our lives, good or bad.

Eating a bug could be a neutral event for you or I but for someone else, overcoming that kind of mundane challenge could have incredible impact on how they see challenges for the rest of their lives.

People... are we missing the picture here? This is a voluntary activity! and by far one of the most fun, challenging, and learning you could ever experience! Been there, done it twice. ESOAL Champs 2002!

Hello. :) I'm not here to argue or anything, just to clarify something I said 8 years ago.

I am the intern 41 seconds into the video, and oh boy, if I had been thinking, I would have said things much differently! I took for granted that people would understand what I meant and communicated it rather incompletely, heh. I HAD been sick- I was mostly fine by then. I think the point I was trying to make (although I did a pretty poor job of it) was that focusing on Jesus is what's going to help you through your problems, not focusing on the problem. I had taken cough syrup already that day... I don't think I was able to take more by then. I was just feeling really sorry for myself, you know? Anyway, I am definitely not an advocate of people not taking their medicine, although I can see how it would look that way. I am actually VERY much for people taking their medicine... If God wants to heal them, he can do it while they're taking their meds. :)

I do apologize for any misunderstanding I may have caused. I hope that what I was trying to communicate makes sense now. God bless each of you. :)

Naomi K

This is sooo funny! Good Times!!!! Good Times.... What a challenge as a Teenager for me..... lol makes me smile
!

I went through ESOAL X in 2008. I finished and there were things that I didn't do simply because I didn't want to. I just think people are being a bit dramatic. They can't force you to do something you don't want to. Yea they told me to ring the bell if I chose not to do something but guess what I didn't ring the bell. I did what I did. I took the challenge, went through brokenness, burial and resurrection, the whole nine yards and I survived. Only by the grace of God because I relied completely on Him. I didn't feel like I was forced to do anything. It's sad that people felt that way. My little sister finished ESOAL 2010 too just this past weekend I'm so proud of her!!! I'm glad that I decided to go through ESOAL it definitely was an emotionally stretching opportunity of a lifetime. I can honestly say though that I won't do it again; one time was enough for me LOL!!God Bless you all!! I will be praying for your healing for some of your unfortunate experiences..
Of course, lift up Teen Mania in your prayers if you feel that God needs to change the direction of things that may not be right for the ministry!!!

It's so crazy watching this video - I did ESOAL the year before this video was taken and it was pretty much exactly as depicted. I can't believe I was so impressionable to allow someone to make me think that experience would help me in any way. I've been out of there for 10 years now - and I can honestly say that nothing about ESOAL helped me emotionally through the years. I really feel sorry for the kids still going through it. Parents - please don't send your kids there!!! Teach them to think for themselves and not believe something just because a religion leader says it is right!!!

@Chara-- "I took the challenge, went through brokenness, burial and resurrection...."

See, though, that's my whole problem with ESOAL. It's not just about what they do (although the cruelty and cultish techniques are problematic enough), it's that they are teaching this theology of "burial and resurrection" that completely contradicts the Bible. It takes what the Bible clearly says Jesus already accomplished on the Cross for you and made you believe you earned it, that you achieved it because you chose not to ring a bell. This is false teaching. It's a works-based gospel. Even if you didn't have to eat catfood, you came out believing that.

I've been praying for Teen Mania for many years for just that reason. I think this website is part of the answer to those prayers, actually.

Jesus would have never participated in ESOAL.

Jesus would never have orchestrated ESOAL.

Teen Mania is atavistic, and its implements are cultish.

Jesus was tested physically and mentally in the wilderness. He chose to go there and He went in, went through, and came out stronger. You can not say that Jesus would not do ESOAL. He did it first.

Anon 11:55- all the verbal smackdown Jesus got in that instance was from, uh, Satan.

So, within the confines of your metaphor for ESOAL, I don't think Jesus would be cool with facilitators using SATANIC methods of "strengthening" people in God.

Anon 11:55. I am HIGHLY concerned for you. That is NOT what the scripture is talking about at all.
The Holy Spirit lead Jesus to the wilderness not any man. Satan tempted Him and actually offered Him legit temptations. Jesus is GOD not a man that He would be deceived.
Jesus did NOT do the first esoal. Esoal is brainwashing. Jesus concurring the devil is what He does. Who He is. His whole reason for coming is loving humans not growing emotionally.

1. Either TM is rising up some really good actors or Mr. Hasz needs to remember this verse...
"...Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth doth speak." Luke 6:45

2. I don't believe Jesus would "act" anything. I truly believe Jesus only spoke truth. He never had to lie to someone to train them.

My Point, Mr. Hasz (the HA) believe lying is the best way to train up people in the way they should go. OR He really believes these things He speaks to be true (While acting in the Back forty).

Example: "You're a Loser." THis is not true of anyone. God says we are Victors, Brave, Courageous,(Many More encouraging words). Is calling someone a Loser (a Lie) going to help them to believe the Truth about themselves? Even if you are "acting?" Pretending?

You'd think that if they really wanted to impact this hurting world and younger generation, that they would take as much time to LOVE on these kids and teach them how to love each other. The Trials and Tribulation they will get when they leave but not all of them will recieve Love.

They could Take time reassuring them and teaching them how to be led by God and to hear His voice. I'm not sure if many at the HA know how to do this. After listening to RA's testimony,hearing others, and having my own experience. It sounds like there's no real guidance from the staff at TM on these things.

What happened to doing things the way Jesus would have done?

There are already enough teens at TM that have plenty of trials and tribulations to work with without having to take them out in the Back Forty and beat them somemore. Why don't they help these kids work through the problems they have? Teach them that Love will never leave them or forsake them. SHow them how we make it through suffering with tenderness and LOve.

Oh Wait, that would mean they'd really have to put some real effort into their interns. Get to know them. And Love on them. Not just stand behind a podium and speak for hours then send them to work.

Maybe they should invest some time and money in getting some real councel for these kids and help them be really emotionally stable before they leave. Instead of letting a few volunteers come in and "listen" to them every so often. Then, maybe they could make it through the harshness of this World.

Faith doesn't come from beating our bodies. It comes from "Hearing and Hearing by the WORD OF GOD." If they are constantly getting these speeches and classes and heavy work loads, what are they going to build faith in? Works Mentality?

They don't need anymore Talented speakers. This generation needs some people who are interested in their lives for the long haul.

Someone at TM please get interested in these kids and get your hands dirty in their problems and Help them to understand what it feels like to tackle a real Victory without "ringing out" of life or GOD.

Who will step up and start getting interested in their lives and helping these interns with their real lives? I thought TM wanted to help this generation? Well, the generation is waiting for them every August and JAnuary. And they are not getting what they NEED from TM. Instead, they are TM's work Force. USed up. Then sent out into the world with False expectations.

I could type for hours but I'll leave it here.

I truly can't discern what this activity has to do with Jesus. I know there are a lot of kids who are fairly a mess at this age, but really... I wonder what happened to the Christian model of developing real relationships with individuals in order to change lives, and thus the world. This seems more like a military approach of breaking down the individual prior to then rebuilding them, although the purpose of that is to rebuild the individual into a member of a unit and shouldn't be done by anyone other than professionals (although I question that approach in general).

Trauma for trauma's sake? Calling people losers for trying? Forcing people to lie about joy? This is extremely messed up. I am horrified. On a smaller scale, it is popular for youth groups and Christian camps to have disgusting food-related challenges. I imagine that these may have been inspired by the TV Show Fear Factor and it definitely bothers me how much Youth Ministry leaders seem to accept it. Generally it's assumed that you will take part in it, and there's definitely a lot of pressure. For example, I had to explain myself when I did not want to chug a Diet Cola at camp. A simple "no", was not enough. I think I used a Bible verse to defend myself, something about "My body is the Lord's temple". I always thought it was strange that Christians would be the one group that thought it was fun to make each other do disgusting things. I think it's extremely important that we do not give up our minds, that we never stop questioning. I thought the whole point of Christianity is that we can't make it on our own. It's okay to admit you're not strong enough, and there's no shame in that; in fact that is the whole point. This exercise goes against everything I believe in. - Sean Duncan

I went through ESOAL in the spring of 2001. It was a great experience where I learned a lot and all of it was 100% voluntary.
My most favorite moment was when I saw pride on Dave Hasz's face when I made the decision to stay as Team 5 when the rest of my team rung the bell.
That moment I learned a lot about myself, I grew, and became a great man. From that time on at TM my nickname was Team 5, and to this day I am proud of the name. When I made the decision to stay Team 5 tears poured down my face. Not from pain, or sadness but from great joy. This great joy was because at that moment I learned that in life all I needed was Jesus. His strength was sufficient for me. Since then I have looked back at that moment while in times of hardship. As Team 5 with God's strength pulsing through my veins I was able to do things on the obstacle course that I couldn't do alone before. Such as climbing over high poles etc.. God gave me that strength, not my own, and not the reliance on teammates. There was a log we had to carry around a circle, and while I know I could have carried that log around for my safety the staff gave me a small stick to carry instead. They did look after my safety.
I spent over 7 years in the United Sates Army, including multiple deployments to Iraq. There were many times during the 7 year period in which I remembered ESOAL and leaned on the strength I receive from Christ which I learned to lean on while in ESOAL.
Please do not try to rob that experience from me nor from possible future participants. I may not agree with everything that TM does. However I made the choice to go there. I made the choice to participate, and I made the choice to take what they taught and reference the Bible to decide what is true and what is not.
" 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. " - Paul
My youth pastor many years ago gave me advice that to this day I take to heart. He said question everything I teach you and prove me wrong. He said to study and find out what the truth in the word is.
For everyone that needs healing take this advice. The Bible is the true healer, no seven step worldly process will help. Read, and study the word of God, grow closer to Christ and healing comes.

Dude I wish I was Godly enough to climb over high poles and carry sticks.

Team 5 has a legit point guys.

You can overcome any form of abuse. With God's strength pulsing through your veins.

Team 6,

Thank you for your sarcasm, I was giving my experience and you choose to make sarcastic remarks about them.

Though I owe you nothing I will say this. My point is that in ESOAL I learned that with God I could do things that I cannot do without his strength.

In ESOAL there was no abuse, no one touched me, or made me do anything I was not willing to do. Mostly I was told to run through obstacle courses, and do push-ups and God forbid memorize scripture.

Hmmm...I wonder if we had a group of secular people do ESOAL if they could get through it without God's help....hmmm

Matthew-

I know of very few people who describe themselves as becoming a great man. I'm glad you learned something, but maybe you should allow others to determine whether you are great or not. Your description reminds me of someone who grew up with an absentee or abusive father and craves the approval of an authority figure.

I hope I am wrong, but your description of your experiences and yourself strike me as odd....

> "My most favorite moment was when I saw pride on Dave Hasz's face... and became a great man."

Pride, eh? No offense, but did you learn humility at any point? "Not by works so that no man can boast." Proverbs 25:6 says, "Do not claim a place among great men." Jesus had a lot to say about that as well.

> "His strength was sufficient for me."

What about the rest of the team who didn't complete the exercise? Was God's strength not sufficient for them? What lifelong lesson do you think they learned when they rang out and saw that Dave was visibly more pleased with you than with them?

You say that you were taught to question everything you learned and that you memorized a lot of Scripture. Look up 2 Corinthians 12:9 It says, "My grace is sufficient for you." The point is not that Jesus gives us His strength to make us strong, but that He gives us His grace because we are weak.

ESOAL is a worldly process that you need to throw out to find healing. Don't you think any of your unbelieving buddies in the army could finish ESOAL without ringing out--and without praying? Of course they could. It's about physical strength, which you have a lot of or you wouldn't have had a military career. And the lesson you took from ESOAL, bluntly, was spiritual pride and arrogance. Yes, you and future participants need someone to rob that from you.

Also, you keep saying "100% voluntary." Maybe so in 2001, but as of 2010 it has changed to be on an opt-out basis-- all interns are now required (i.e. coerced) to do ESOAL unless they can prove they have a good reason not to. Read Hannah's Story to see how that worked out for her.

Team 5-

Thank you for clarifying, though I did not deserve it.

I humbly ask to be your disciple

RA: you apparently too practice sarcasm... of course many people could make it through ESOAL for the physical aspects of the event. In all actuality I knew quite a few people who "rang out" because God told them to, so as to help them with pride.

Anom 3:40: I did not come from a broken home nor abusive father. Many people over the last years have called me a great man. Some of these would include my wife, my father, my pastor, and my God (see following scriptures.)

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Ephesians 2: 4-6 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Thank Jesus for what he has done for us. I became a great man at that moment because I learned such a valuable lesson. The lesson is that without Christ I am nothing, weak, fragile, and a sinner. With Christ I am strong, victorious, and great. I am the heir to the Kingdom of God, I am so much more than anyone that is not a Christian can ever be without Him. That is my whole point of greatness.

Eric: Please when quoting a person do not use separate lines from different paragraphs and put them together. They have nothing to do with each other and are totally wrong.

First your use of the verse Proverbs 25:6 is misquoted. The word great is gadol (Strong's number 1419) in Hebrew. This word in this context is referring to a ruler or person of authority like a king or governor.

Secondly Christ himself said who would be great. Matthew 20:26, Mark 10:43, and Luke 9:48. In these versus Jesus is talking about the ones that are ministers or servants shall be great among you. That is the biblical definition of great.

I never said I memorized a lot of scripture... I said "and God forbid memorize scripture" I do not remember which versus we memorized at that time (10 years ago) but I think it was maybe 4 or 5. Hardly a lot of scripture. Thank you for bringing up 2 Corinthians 12:9, this verse describes exactly what I was saying.
Here I will quote myself once again: " God gave me that strength, not my own, and not the reliance on teammates." God's grace, and his strength was what helped me.
In reference to my teammates that "rang out". Dave Hasz was just as proud of them as he was of me. They rang when God prompted them to. After wards we talked and everyone seemed to receive something from God during the time in which they participated. Also there were several people I knew that never participated and I never made them feel like less of a person, and while some people may take part in that type of activity the majority sure did not.

When we had ESOAL, basically an announcement was made to show up at a certain time if you were interested in participating. From the beginning they let us know about the bell and that it would be available at any point in time. I know with many when they did ring the bell they were greeted by staff/GIs with hugs, and warm wishes and friendly faces. They were never booed, ridiculed or any such activity.
About ESOAL being about the physical strength it can be if you make it about that. ESOAL, the HA, and any venture in life are all the same. You get out of it what you put in. While some may have a specific situation where that statement does not ring true, for many it is.

Joseph wrestled with an angle until he received something and was not going to leave empty handed. That was what I expected when I went to TM and that is what I got. TM probably didn't really teach me much, however God taught me a lot and continues to teach me.

PS It was Jacob sorry and he wrestled with an Angel not angle for those that will troll my mistakes.

Matthew Elson-

Your "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality may be fine and dandy for you (though I think you sound rather egotistical and silly...)

what you seem to not grasp, is that many people gave it their all, only to be frowned upon, spat upon, and abused. They got way more out of it than they ever wanted....abused-some physically, some emotional, and sadly, some were sexually assaulted.

But since you can only see TM through the lens of your own "great" vision, why even bother reading this site...since any problems people had are obviously their own fault.

10:57.... Where do you get "pull yourself up by the bootstraps"??? Everything I have put in here has had to do with reliance upon God. Yet so many of the readers here spit upon that concept. I never belittled any one individuals experience that may have been terrible, horrible or possibly even abusive.

This site is set up for people to share their stories is it not? That is what I did and everything I have received since that moment is ridicule and being made fun and/or sarcastic remarks.

You have no idea how I see TM because I have not made that statement one time. I simply put 1 portion of my experience as a comment to this blog about ESOAL. People ask what the purpose of ESOAL was/is and I gave what I got out of it.

I cannot/ will not speak for the experiences others have gotten before and since that time except those whom I have spoken to personally (i.e. my core mates, work mates, etc... that talked about it way back in the day)

"But since you can only see TM through the lens of your own "great" vision, why even bother reading this site...since any problems people had are obviously their own fault."

I did not say that any problems people had are their own fault... What I said is that you get out what you put in except some individuals may have a specific instance in which that does not ring true. Now over 15 years, and thousands of individuals the number of specifics instances I am sure are greater than a few... I am not talking about those people. I am referring to the average person.

About reading this site... I did not know about this site until yesterday when I stumbled upon it. I was reading it and thought about how the only stories I read were completely negative. I read stories about how horrible ESOAL was and that no one could ever get anything out of it. I thought I would tell my story so some people could see that side of it.

I do that and receive taunts, and jeers. I have been called egotistical, and been just plain made fun of. This of course is ok on this blog I guess.

Matthew-- I chose the quotes I did not to imply that they were a continuous sentence but to point out that in two separate sentences you are fixated on "pride" and "greatness" in your own words. You still are, I'm sorry to say. This is the fruit of works-righteousness: Ephesians 2:9.

If you look up the verses you reference in context (Matthew 20, Mark 10, Luke 9), you will see that Jesus is specifically saying we should reject the classification of "greatness"-- saying "I am a great man" is what the disciples foolishly did, and why Jesus used those verses to rebuke them. Finding spiritual pride in what we received from God is just as much of a sin as finding it in sitting with a king; the same sin exactly, in fact, which is why I quoted Proverbs 25...

In the videos above you can see footage of ESOAL participants being booed and ridiculed under Dave Hasz's personal direction --"It pays to be a winner, and you are a loser!". "If I don't think you yelled it loud enough or I don't think you are taunting enough, you will never again select out of the winner's chest. Is that clear?" That is not warm wishes and friendly faces. That is not how a godly man, or even a great man, should treat anybody.

Matthew, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. You sound like the type of person that would appreciate ESOAL more than most since you joined the military. In fact, that might be a good analogy. Not everybody is cut out for the military, right? Not everybody is cut out for ESOAL either. I would think we could at least agree on that.

Either way, to those of us with a different worldview your experience does sound abusive - at least if we had been the ones to live through it.

And lastly, I think the reason your comments have struck a nerve is b/c of what Eric said here:

what you seem to not grasp, is that many people gave it their all, only to be frowned upon, spat upon, and abused. They got way more out of it than they ever wanted....abused-some physically, some emotional, and sadly, some were sexually assaulted.

@RA- In interests of accurate quoting, that was from an Anonymouse, not me. Though I agree, and pointed out that there's documentary evidence of that on this very page.

RA... are you saying that it is ok for Eric, Team 6, yourself, and the Anons to make fun of me because they see it differently than I do?

I read your rules about posting and you said this type of posting would not be tolerated... yet you participate in such activities yourself. Please tell me how I have belittled others by telling my story?

Some Quotes:

Team 6 "Thank you for clarifying, though I did not deserve it. I humbly ask to be your disciple"

Anon 10:57 "Your "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality may be fine and dandy for you (though I think you sound rather egotistical and silly...)

But since you can only see TM through the lens of your own "great" vision, why even bother reading this site...since any problems people had are obviously their own fault."

Eric: "> "My most favorite moment was when I saw pride on Dave Hasz's face... and became a great man."

Pride, eh? No offense, but did you learn humility at any point?

you are fixated on "pride" and "greatness" in your own words. You still are, I'm sorry to say.

And the lesson you took from ESOAL, bluntly, was spiritual pride and arrogance. Yes, you and future participants need someone to rob that from you."

So I ask again is it ok for others to ridicule me because my story does not line up with others beliefs?

Matthew, you came in here and poured hot sauce on people's wounds and then act surpised when they react. Perhaps you don't understand how your words came across...but whether or not you meant it, your comment sounded very arrogant. You weren't simply "sharing your story" b/c the way you shared it dumped on everyone else.

You implied that ESOAL was totally optional, therefore people shouldn't complain about it.

You said no worldy process of healing would help.

If you don't realize it, let me tell you that those 2 things are very hurtful to the people in this community. And they are very ignorant on your part, as well. You are free to enjoy your experiences, but you must give freedom to those who were abused so that they make speak out. You have shown no understanding or empathy for anyone who was abused...and you are the victim here?

Matthew-- I can't speak for Team 6, but my comments weren't intended as ridicule. (Ridicule, at least mine, doesn't usually involve "no offense" and "sorry to say." I'm part Irish. You'd have gotten zingers.) They were intended as an observation that ESOAL produces, by your own description, the fruit of spiritual pride and arrogance. And that means that you were just as much a victim of spiritual abuse as anyone who had to ring out, whether you can see that or not.

I'm sorry you took offense at that. And I do apologize if you feel mocked or belittled. As I said, not my intention.

But. You show up on a page full of people who say that ESOAL left them hurt, abused, violated, broken, unworthy, rejected, and ashamed. And you say, in essence, "Well hey, ESOAL was a fine experience for me because I'm such a great guy!" And you honestly can't see how maybe that might be perceived as, shall we say, a wee bit insensitive? And you're surprised when some of them get defensive in their replies?

Matthew, ESOAL is a very sensitive subject here because so many members of this community have been bashed for their ESOAL experience. Please see it from the perspective of someone who was injured and made to feel they were exaggerating their injury, and continued despite their body's warning and suffered permanent damage. Please see the perspective of someone who grew up in an abusive home, then listened to It pays to be a winner and you're a loser, then they had to ring out and left feeling like they failed yet again. We've all heard hundreds of stories like yours and have been made to feel that not having a positive experience was OUR fault--we didn't try hard enough, trust God enough, dig deep enough. That ignores the fact that our personal history or anatomy might not have permitted us to do enough to make everyone else happy. See the perspective of the person who reads you saying it was optional when they were pressured by score who wouldn't take no for an answer, that person didn't feel there was a choice. I know your intention was not to rub salt in our wounds, but when someone insists ESOAL is positive for anyone, we hear that message that we weren't good enough because it wasn't positive for us and instead of making us great, it left us hurt and broken and no one wants to hear. Sarcasm and personal attacks on you are a defense against being hurt and put down again for many. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, but it's a way people deal with being poked in a hurting place. It's fine to shar your experience but be aware of how you come off to hurting people who have been told over and over by interns, CAs, and sometimes staff, that they didn't measure up.

I don't really have an excuse- let me be the first to admit that I'm a troll, lol.

But Rule One of the Internet: if you come in and post a story such as yours, in a community such as this, and call yourself "great" (as Eric said)... that is beautiful, beautiful troll bait.

haha rhyme

IN ALL SERIOUSNESS THOUGH, I can understand your desire to share your great experience, Team 5. It was important to you! You grew a lot as a person! I get that.

It's just the delivery seemed rather condescending and narrow-scoped, is all. Which is typically seen as either offensive or, quite frankly, hilarious.

That and you're listing Dave Hasz as your source of inspiration (rather, when you "became great"), and that in and of itself is troubling.

Matthew-

Funny how you've turned this conversation into a discussion about how everyone has not been nice to you....again, you only seem to be able to discuss your own feelings and observations about TM and totally disregard what others have experienced.

I stand by my observation, that you come across as egotistical and silly. I am not making fun of you, I am being honest.

I am glad I did it, sometimes on a bad day I will think back on that place of brokenness and how I had to really relie on God in my heart ache. It really strengthened my faith. It was a stretching experience to see really what I am made of... plus you can stop at any time no one forces you to do any of it... I ran I jumped I climbed to see in the midst of calamity will I crumble or will my faith hold strong. I don't regret one moment pain I endured... If ESOAL was a bad experience for you I'm sorry. Maybe you shouldn't have done it, or maybe you didn’t stop when you were supposed to.

To expect a learning Christian or a person learning to be an adult to really understand what is them what is God and what is abuse is absurd. The place where I learned what I could endure and hold my faith was how horribly I was treated by my church when I chose to keep a child I had from a rape! What ESOAL taught me is that some people are willing to lie to young people and call it good saying it's one thing. Will God carry you through it if you rely on him YEP sure will however Jesus was SPECIFIC about not trying to test him by daring him. Do you remember what he said to satan at the temple? Yea if I need to test God's willingness to carry me through then I really do not believe he would in the first place. Why ask young adults to cave to satan in that way and test God's willingness to carry them through things they need not go through?

I watched the video and was honestly confused. As an adult and a teacher who has a dear friend about to enter HA, I must admit I am extremely worried. I see nothing at all godly, Christianly or caring in the actions of these so-called leaders. I can clearly understand that they may want you to experience persecution and hardship, but to force students many of whom are mentally still children, through such physical and mental hardship is unthinkable. How in the world of thought does eating cat food make you a better disciple, or rolling down a hill, or controlling your gag reflex not to regurgitate? The name calling, in any school situation, is a punishable offense. This is clearly bullying, not Christianity or condonable in any religion I know. The leaders with their forced response and titles are on a power trip, plain and simple. This one aspect of this video goes against everything that the Bible teaches in both Old and New Testaments. You really have to twist Biblical teaching and your own ideas of faith to make this viable in a godly atmosphere. I am truly appalled. What we are seeing in these so-called leaders are nothing more than self-appointed Pharisee who are hell bent on breaking others both mentally and physically to rebuild them in what they have warped as a Christian soldier. These may be similar to military thinking and practices, but what these so-called leaders are doing harkens back to the darkest moments of twisted religion. I am so surprised that my beloved state of Texas has not closed down this facility, but then again, these students are legally adults, so it is their choice to accept this unChristianly treatment.

I come from a different angle than most of you. I was raised in a strict Christian home, studied the Bible religiously and even led services in my church and accepted a ministerial scholarship to college. It took me years to come to terms with my personal relationship with G-d, but I finally overcame the twisted thinking and persecution I endured at the hands of tyrannical ministers and elders who tried to force everyone into their way of thinking.

Today I counsel students of all religions in both their spiritual paths and emotional journeys. I have a solid relationship with my G-d and have never been more at peace. G-d is in charge as He always has been. I pray for all of you and these people at HA for true guidance and an end to this tyrannical method of non-spiritual instruction.

By the way, I am a Rabbi.

Rabbi, thank you for your thoughts. I couldn't agree more.

The 2002 video was created by me and two other graduate interns. We had been producing videos for HA as a side project. I refused to go through ESOAL my first year, so it took some convincing before leadership would allow me to participate in the filming. I remember having been disgusted with what I was witnessing and filming, although from what I've seen in this blog I think it has gotten a lot more intense than it was back then.

After two years with TM, it took me a very long time reach a place where things in my daily life didn't trigger anger and pain associated with the experience. Although a decade later I have retained the habit of wearing tanks under my shirts for the extra length, haha.

I loved ESOAL. This brings back fond memories. You wouldn't get it unless you were there, you knew Dave Hasz, and you made it your own experience. But it does bring back good memories.

You should also know that ESOAL is consistently voted as the interns' favorite LTE each year. It's intense, to the max, and this video is misconstruing it as awful. it's not awful. It's shocking and intense, but not awful.

You should also know that alumni travel part-way across the country to do ESOAL a second or a third time after they graduate the HA, because they see it as an OPPORTUNITY to push themselves.

Don't be misled by all the talk of puking. Go to any high school with a track team and ask those kids if they've ever pushed themselves running, to the point of throwing up. Throwing up is not nearly at traumatic as we're making it seem.

Neither is cat food. We eat nasty crap all the time, it just comes on a sesame seed bun, wrapped in a wrapper that says McDonalds, or in a corn shell from Taco Bell. Go research THAT. When my sister was 3 she sat eating dog food out of the dog's dish. It was funny. It's not that traumatic, guys.

One last thing--I understand that the "you're a loser" thing gets to people. That's the closest thing to traumatic in this video. That was before my Teen Mania days, but I was around Dave Hasz for a few years, and I know how he operates. There's not a malignant bone in his body. Anyone who had their head in the game would have recognized the value of that sequence: It makes arrogance look very foolish. Those were the leaders of all the interns, parading feigned arrogance in front of them. They didn't want to. Like the voice-over said, they couldn't even look them in the eyes while they said it. I'm sure everyone there got the picture, that this is a disgusting sight in light of the fact that those "winners" were vessels of encouragement in real life. "What a lame attitude, some people are actually like that", I would have been thinking. Not, "Oh my gosh, I'm a loser?? I must be..."

Again, you wouldn't catch the context of that unless you were there, doing ESOAL, with the right attitude. It may not be the most couth way of doing ESOAL, which is probably why they aren't doing it now, but it's not malignant. I promise you, even in 2002, ESOAL was not malignant.

"in the midst of calamity will I crumble or will my faith hold strong." THAT is the problem. Our faith has NOTHING to do with our physical, emotional, or otherwise CAPABILITY! SUCCEED=FAITH? FAIL= what then? It's just all wrong. Whether it was fun, traumatizing, or neutral. It is all wrong. Theologically and ethically.

It's more like SUCCEED=GOOD JOB, FAIL=GOOD JOB TRYING. Faith is integrated into anything and everything we do as Christians. It does bother me that some interns over-spiritualize ESOAL, especially when they're trying to defend it. It's a physical and mental exercise, primarily. Spiritual implications are there simply because we are Christians on a spiritual journey; that's inherent. The real-life analogies they use in ESOAL are things like, "when your marriage gets hard and you feel like giving up, are you going to? Or will your faith in God's word and your commitment to Him hold strong?" ESOAL is a hill people cross to teach them to get over the mountains of life. The challenges of ESOAL are tame compared to some of the challenges the devil throws at passionate, committed Christians. But nobody beats you up for failing; failure is a part of life, and in ESOAL it's just as good of a learning opportunity as any.

Steve:

> "It does bother me that some interns over-spiritualize ESOAL..."

You are aware that Dave Hasz defined ESOAL as a specifically spiritual experience, right? See The Theology of ESOAL. There's no indication this was changed in the recent rebranding.

Anyway, I fail to see how one's unwillingness to eat cat food and roll down a hill has any bearing at all on whether they will give up on marriage or religion. It's a false and dangerous analogy.

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