About me

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.

November 28, 2011

Shannon's Story, part 3

Shannon first shared her story on the blog over a year ago: Part 1. Part 2. This is an update to her story.

Many years ago, I started the Xanga blogring, "No, Teen Mania is not a cult."

I was wrong.

Back when I first shared my Teen Mania experience, I was in a daze. It was the first time I admitted that my experience was not okay, but I also still felt very much to blame. I wanted to believe the leaders of the Honor Academy had no bad intentions and that it was more to do with me than them. However, I have realized that at the core of the spiritual damage I experienced is that same idea that I am always and only to blame.

Back in 2010, I shared particular experiences but stuck to the emotional ones. I think because at that time, I still felt to blame, I didn’t want to REALLY talk down the ministry by bringing up the physical issues. Looking back on it, I feel so foolish because I should have known it was wrong. In November 2000, I became very ill. I could feel that I had something going on and it was more than a cold or virus. But I was continually brushed off at the nurse’s office because I had no fever, and because I had no car of my own, I had to ask another intern to take me to a walk-in clinic. No staff member would take me when I told them I needed to go to the doctor. I was not permitted to miss our corporate exercise, even though the weather had turned cold. When I finally got to the clinic, I waited for hours to be told that I had some generic winter virus, and to get rest. I returned to campus with a note but was still not allowed to miss corporate exercise. When I was having what someone (perhaps my Core Advisor or Valencia) determined was too much trouble with coughing fits, I was given permission to stand on the sidelines. Still out in the cold of course. When I began to feel even worse a few days later, I got another ride from an intern and went back to the clinic. This time I saw a different doctor who took one look at me and said I must feel like I was “hit by a mack truck!” It turned out that I had bronchitis, pharyngitis, and an ear infection. I was MISERABLE. They prescribed me antibiotics and guess what happened when I returned to campus? I STILL had to stand outside in the cold and at least watch the corporate exercise! When I consider it now, I feel like a dummy for not speaking up and saying no. It took me weeks to recover, and I don’t believe my body ever fully did because for the following several years I caught pneumonia annually and struggled with chronic sinusitis, tonsillitis, ear infections and pharyngitis. I am convinced now that the overexertion, neglect and SAD diet of Teen Mania left me with a very compromised immune system.

Other things that continue to haunt me from that year were the cold remarks either said directly to me (especially by other girls) or the demeaning opinions spoken as truth by the leaders. I remember one class where Dave was talking about women and appearances. Regarding makeup, he stated that if the house needs painting, you paint the house. In my years following the internship, I have struggled with hormonal, cystic acne where I can’t wear makeup and I cannot even tell you how many times his words have echoed in my head. It might seem stupid, but the wound lasts and lasts. I spent a lot of time believing God must have cursed me with acne after the internship, so it was my fault. Or if I prayed about it and wasn’t healed, it was my fault for not having the Holy Spirit in me.

Yes, additionally some of my excess baggage is the GUILT over the Holy Spirit not wanting me, or not being able to reside in me because I’m not a good or real Christian. I don’t recall the name of the retreat but there was one that was all focused on the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Spirit and prayer. I was really excited for it but also apprehensive because I had been told before TM that proof of the Spirit dwelling inside of you was having the ability to speak in tongues. I was afraid that was true, even though the Bible actually states that not everyone will speak in tongues, and this retreat enforced that fear. I was not given the gift of speaking in tongues, and it was reiterated in the sessions that God wanted ALL His people to speak in tongues.

11 comments:

There is nothing wrong with you you are beautiful before all creation you are sweet and loving and smart and no person should ever have made you feel that way. The way that illness or a different view of scriptures are treated there are horrid but none of that is your fault. Be of joy! <3

I remember seeing that Xanga blogring back in the day. Evidently my prayers about it worked. ;-)

TM's callous disregard for people's physical and emotional needs underscores their abusive attitude. "Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them." (Ezekiel 34:4)

On speaking in tongues, here's the Bible verse you allude to, for the record: "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. [...] All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?" (1 Cor. 12:11, 30 NASB).

David Hasz's comments about makeup reveals just how far the patriarchy culture rules at TM. I've seen some guys with ugly mugs, but I'll bet you'll never hear someone in leadership telling them to "paint the house." How ridiculous! How sexist! How wrong!

It makes me even angrier to think that none of this in any way exists in the Bible, yet it's taught as if it does. If God cared, it would be explicitly addressed in scripture. The only thing God cares about is us not becoming enslaved to the things we do or don't do. Expel the slave-driver, David Hasz, from your head.

I get so angry when I hear stuff like this. I'd like someone to tell me that I need to wear makeup in order to please God. Wouldn't they get an earful! I visited a Baptist church once and heard the minister talking about "a woman's place." And there I am wearing slacks with my hair cut above my ears. The whole time I'm thinking, "Just give me five minutes, and I'll explain to you exactly where my place is!" Needless to say, I didn't go back. God loves us women just as he made us, and we have special gifts to use for his glory. We don't need to be limited by the Boys Club of society.

Dave's comment about painting the house is so disturbing on so many levels. It is sexist to the core, and perpetuates the widespread idea that women increase in value based on their outward appearance. This is sick and so incredibly ignorant. Although I am not anti makeup (colors! palettes! skin tones! accentuating features! ect) I still think that we are a far cry away from the ideal world, where women will be treated equally as human beings no matter what they look like. Dave, you have some work to do in your heart and head.
Moriah Harris

Thank you, all. I'm still working through this junk and I appreciate the comments.

Regarding the makeup... I recently came across a quote by Coco Chanel being used to motivate women with polycystic ovarian disease. As one of those women, I found it to be in very poor taste, perhaps even more so due to my TM experience:

"I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little -if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny."

Does that remind you of DH too?

Eric: thank you for posting applicable verses on speaking in tongues :-)

That quote sounds like something I would hear from many of the staff at HA. Men and women alike.

Well of course Coco Chanel would say that; she wanted people to feel like they needed to buy her fashion products (i.e. put $$$ in her pocket).

(Hasz's motivations are less clear, but I suspect plain old misogyny.)

The irony is that, until Chanel and other fashionistas of her era started circulating these kinds of ideas, the very idea of wearing cosmetics was considered quite racy, definitely not for most Christians. (A "painted lady" was slang for a prostitute.) Popular preachers even denounced cosmetics as unholy. If the HA had been around in the 1920s, wearing lipstick would certainly have been a dismissable offense.

It's very amusing, in a wry sort of way, to see how fundamentalism has unwittingly been persuaded by marketing (!) to make a complete 180 on the issue. Apparently we need to stand against the influence of modern secular media, but take the influence of 1930s secular media as gospel truth?

Good discussion going here. Lots of points I agree with, and all tied to appearance as a way of conveying your world view. At one time, a virtuous, "pure" woman wore no makeup, now Christian leaders are not only suggesting make up is somehow godly, but they are objectifying women by making metaphors of them as barns. Language does matter.There are so many sub currents beneath the surface of words.
Another issue I want to raise is how many decisions around the appearance a Christian woman are dictated or directed by men? And is it or isn't it related to human sexuality, but with a decisive slant coming from male viewpoints in both sex and religion?

Keep the ball rolling. Great ideas and threads to follow.

I don't have a problem with the HA making rules about appearance if it's solely about fostering a professional atmosphere in the office. Most offices have a strict dress code, so there's nothing unusual about that. It's when the dress code moves over into having something to do with your relationship with God that things get icky. I think they could leave it at, "This is what we consider professional dress, and we expect you to adhere to these standards," without getting into any territory about what it says about your relationship with God or whether you are encouraging men to lust/rape, etc. They could get what they want (people following the dress code) without putting shame on anyone or spiritualizing the issue.

Julie,

Apologies that I'm so tardy in adding my 2 cents.... but I in part agree & in part disagree. Yes, it would be an improvement for the HA to state their professional attire guidelines up front without in ANY way linking them to spirituality or godliness. At the same time, my experience in the corporate world is that any company would get their asses handed to them in court if they told their female employees to "paint the barn/house, etc" and wear makeup, or how to fix their hair, etc.

So yes, there's a place for professional dress guidelines (things like: no jeans in the workplace, etc.) and no, there's no place for sexism in the workplace (meaning women must adorn themselves in a way their male bosses dictate).

I totally agree, and I am with you the sexist guidelines would not be legal in the corporate world and should not be tolerated at TM either.

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