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.

January 23, 2012

Sophie's Story: Global Expeditions Review

While I am not an Honor Academy Alumni, I feel that my experiences as a Global Expeditions missionary in ‘04 and ‘05 have majorly effected the way I see Christianity. I was twelve when I first went on a junior trip to Costa Rica, and having earned the two thousand dollars required to go all on my own, I was so proud and excited to be apart of God’s work. I was going to be a “world changer.”

On my first trip, not many red flags came up. I loved doing street ministry, liked my role in the drama “Rag Man,” and felt very close to god the whole time. There were “small” issues I didn’t think much of at the time, being only twelve and not knowing any better, like the lack of decent nutrition. We mostly ate rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (mine were just peanut butter because I was allergic to the strawberry jelly and was offered no alternative).

Only one thing stands out in my mind from that first trip, something I will probably never forget, seeing as I still feel ashamed when I think about it.

My group was sent to a nursing home about halfway through the week, and we were set to perform the Ragman, along with offering testimony to the group. During our performance, most of our team noticed that there was a teenaged girl in the audience with severe physical and mental disabilities. The muscles on her legs were atrophied, and she was not able to speak. The second we were released to talk with the residents, a huge group immediately gathered around the girl, ignoring many people who actually wanted further discussion. At one point, I noticed that two girls were speaking in gibberish, and looking really pleased with themselves. When they saw the confused look I was giving them, they told me that they were speaking in tongues, and that the truly godly were actually able to do it. A Missionary Advisor watched this entire exchange and didn’t refute what they said, instead continuing to pray over the girl (who at this time, our translators had discovered was a daughter of one of the facility’s nurses).

When the girl never started talking or walking, members of the group physically lifted her from her chair, and moved her legs in stepping motions over the ground. The young girl had no way to say if it hurt or not, no way to tell them if she didn’t want their hands all over her...I was appalled. I felt sick to my stomach. It only got worse when the girl who had taken on this “mission” first declared the girl healed, and had the rest put her back in her chair. That night at the evening service, everyone was talking about the miracle, and I had a knot in my stomach that wouldn‘t go away. However, I tried my hardest to push this memory out of my mind. Convinced that if she wasn’t healed, it was because of my own doubt.

Overall, I felt really great about the experience, and with the exception of what happened at the nursing home, I felt excited to go again the next summer.

Over the course of the next year, I built up a core group of great friends through my youth group. I convinced five of my friends to join me on another trip to Costa Rica, and after discussing the idea with our parents and minister, we began fundraising.

At the halfway mark before our trip, we found out (not through teen mania directly) that our trip had been overbooked, and that the first people to meet their trip balance would be the ones able to go. We were all horrified at the threat of losing “our trip” and got the rest of the money as soon as possible, but this was the beginning of the end of my faith in TM.

When we got to Garden Valley, we spent three days in physical hell. Between twelve hour rehearsals for our drama, and spending our first night in those domes (I often thought I saw racoon eyes reflecting back at me), we were all exhausted. One of the girls in my group was getting sick, and was almost sent home before we were even out of the country.

Once in Costa Rica, we found out the phone that had previously been at our residence was no longer there. Because of this, we were unable to call home for our first week in Costa Rica (though we and our families had been promised contact within 24 hours of our getting “in country“). Our parents were horrified that their daughters were out of the country and completely unreachable, and Teen Mania had no information about our individual well-being. Many parents did have reason to worry, seeing as two or three of our missionaries ended up in the hospital from severe dehydration. If I’m remembering right, there was also a concussed boy from a different group hospitalized overnight.

There were also lots of issues with the Team Leaders (TLs) and Missionary Advisors (MAs). It became apparent fairly early on in the trip that some of the younger missionaries where having trouble socially, and just weren’t reading cues as well as others. For example, there was a boy who asked lots of questions, all the time. It was obvious he was just doing this because he felt out of place in this environment, but the MA’s were incredibly short with him, not seeming to care that they were making the kid feel terrible. Likewise, for one of my more progressive Christian friends, the relationship with her MA was very hostile. She was regularly forced to discuss her “disobedience” with our team leaders. I’m pretty sure all she did was ask “why?” to some of the rules that didn’t make sense to her.

My worst issue came during a street outreach session. As we were leaving the street that we’d been witnessing on, a man who had been standing in the back of the crowd came up and kissed me on the cheek very suddenly as I was getting on the bus. An MA (the one my friend had issues with) furiously told me “never to do that again.” I hadn’t done anything! When I discussed how upset I was, she said, “Why are you telling me?” and I told her I thought she might want to know, she gave me a brisk, “Um, no” before walking away.

This issue with adults hadn’t been much of a problem in Garden Valley, where I had actually received a fair amount of attention for recruiting five of my friends into the missions field.

The food situation didn’t get better this time around, and when I came home from my trip, I was considerably lighter than when I had left. Once back in Garden Valley, I remember the speaker telling us over and over that people back home didn’t understand the change in us, or our experiences, and how we were to talk to our parents to ensure that we were able to come back again. Even after all of this, I still steadfastly believed that the trip had been a great experience.

But there are scars that came from both of those trips that have effected my identity as a Christian ever since. Once I no longer had the spiritual high that came along with daily services, concerts, etc. I felt empty. God felt very far away, and Teen Mania did nothing to reach out and see how I or my friends were adjusting post-trip. The strive for perfection that TM ingrained in me from 04-05 left me feeling insecure about my faith, and incapable of believing that my perfectly natural urges and feelings were ok. Sexual feelings? No! Worldly! Disagreeing with something written in the bible? What? No! Worldly! Secular music? Worldly! This led to lots of self loathing, over a long period of time, because I thought that I was constantly failing God. Eventually, this led to a complete break with Christianity altogether, which has only recently (since having my son) begun to mend.

I hadn’t really discussed these experiences much before watching “Mind Over Mania.” Since watching it, I actually began work on my final paper for one of my college classes, centered around the damage I believe TM is causing kids. As I began writing the paper, memories of the trips came flooding back, sometimes in a very painful way, and I eventually decided to submit my story. My hope is that in sharing my experiences, other Global Expeditions Alumni dealing with the same issues will feel understood.

________________________________________

Note from RA: After reading Sophie's story, I asked her what her 5 friends thought of the trip. This was her response:


After the trip, we all actually kind of went our separate ways. One of the girls and I moved out of state fairly soon after getting home, and because of some serious schisms in our own church, most of us lost contact. Before all of that, though, we almost never talked about our trip. The only time I remember talking about it is one with one of the girls several years ago. She pretty much said, "That trip changed us all for the worst" and that was the end of the conversation.

61 comments:

Wow. This story captures the common horrors of GE trips.
That girl in the nursing home still stands out. In a recent story someone mentioned in the comments about how kids at teen mania loose their confidence to stand up for what's right. This scenario sounds like classic charismatic crazy, everyone jumped in thinking, 'why am I doing this? Is this for real? Seriously, she's not healed why am I saying she is? Everyone else is saying she is. Is she? Why is the person that 'healed her' being a jerk?' and the list goes on. Makes me sick thinking of all the situations I've been in. And I wonder if teen mania taught them that? I don't remember much of that being taught but kids coming in and teaching what they'd learned from home and teen mania just giving the okay.
Sadly- your trips sound like the norm. Thank you VERY much for sharing.

It is horrifying that people from a first world nation like the United States go to third world countries and have nothing better to offer than magical thinking to people with real physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It is as if a group of voodoo missionaries from Haiti came to Texas and tried to help some disabled people they encountered with their spells and ritual. No difference whatsoever.

I had a similar "healing" experience on the trip I took. A group of us met a man in a wheelchair on the street and a number of individuals decided that they would "heal" him. They managed to get him out of the wheelchair and he awkwardly staggered a few steps, obviously not healed. I remembered thinking that what was going on was not right, but I felt I was the less spiritual one and didn't say anything. I think the term "gibberish" is very apt, and it was almost continuous on the trip I took. Many times I felt guilty and spiritually inferior for my skepticism of the "prayer languages" and for times that I did not want to pack in one more drama when I felt exhausted and drained. I came away thinking it was a sin to doubt. Apparently TM thinks God is insecure.

Thank-you for sharing your experience; it certainly resonated with me. I am glad to hear you have begun to experience healing, too. Will you make your paper available to this website?

For the most part, this story is valid and a lot of the things should never have happened. However, when you go overseas, do you expect caviar and honey?

There are a lot of "I thinks" and "If I remember rights" in the story that chew away at it's credibility. No doubt, most of it is true, but we all know that teenagers and kids ALWAYS see and remember everything exactly as it happened. So, you have to take that into consideration as you read through this story.

I'm about as PRO-TM as you can get, as I believe that a lot of their inconsistencies and short comings can actually help a person develop a sense of identity that doesn't revolve around an entity, if that makes sense.

Having said that, there are a lot of tragic failures that should have never happened. The person who suggested the rape victim was at fault, needs a check up from the neck up. That's insane.

We should all know TM well enough to know something as ridiculous as that would never be the view of Teen Mania.

For those of you who care, I am no longer affiliated with Teen Mania, though I have been in several capacities in the past.

"We should all know TM well enough to know something as ridiculous as that would never be the view of Teen Mania."

LOL.
This is EXACTLY the kind story that every call rep would be repeating as a miracle that took place on their 'last youth trip to costa rica.'
I definitely think this is totally something t.m. would advocate!!!

also- this is the most alarming part to me: when I came home from my trip, I was considerably lighter than when I had left. Once back in Garden Valley, I remember the speaker telling us over and over that people back home didn’t understand the change in us, or our experiences, and how we were to talk to our parents to ensure that we were able to come back again.


of course- that's just her memory talking...

So many awful things happen on these trips but these are still fairly recent given how few times a year they have to change things. I am so sad that this happened to you and that people were allowed to act that way. Be blessed sweetie.

"Once back in Garden Valley, I remember the speaker telling us over and over that people back home didn’t understand the change in us, or our experiences, and how we were to talk to our parents to ensure that we were able to come back again." They've been doing this since the early 90's at least. As long a the parents think everything is fine, the kids will keep coming back.

Parents, everything is NOT fine.

"LOL.
This is EXACTLY the kind story that every call rep would be repeating as a miracle that took place on their 'last youth trip to costa rica.'
I definitely think this is totally something t.m. would advocate!!!"

To be absolutely fair, I believe that Anon 10:56 was referring to blaming the rape victim, as something TM wouldn't advocate.

The point still stands, however, that Sophie's experience is consistent with other GE trip reports, from both sides. I'm sorry that you were disregarded and subject to TM's consistent inability to relate to people.

> "However, when you go overseas, do you expect caviar and honey?"

I've traveled to a few countries on missions trips (not with TM), and the locals were indeed kind enough to treat us to some very delicious food that was excellent quality by any standard. If I remember correctly (see what I did there?), we did even get a bit of caviar in Norway. Charity and consideration are good qualities, especially in those taking care of poor college students.

That said, it's a notable objection to TM's philosophy that, to their proponents, a desire for adequate nutrition is equated with a desire for extravagant luxuries. Basic nutritious food is a necessity, and there should be no question that anyone would receive it on a trip that costs to the tune of several thousand dollars.

(That raises another question: Rice, peanut butter and jelly cost about $5 at your grocery store.So where's the rest of the $2000 going?)

> "I believe that a lot of their inconsistencies and short comings can actually help a person develop a sense of identity..."

No offense, but that's kind of like saying "Sure my dad beat me, but it made me strong." Good for you, but that's still not acceptable treatment, and nobody should defend it or approve it.

"For the most part, this story is valid and a lot of the things should never have happened. However, when you go overseas, do you expect caviar and honey?"

Nope, just adequate nutrition. It is quite literally the least TM can do. I've been to Costa Rica, and there is no shortage of delicious, inexpensive fruits, veggies and fresh baked goods. There are safe places to eat, and you can have a massive feast for about $5 especially if you are going slightly off the beaten path. It is simple to ensure that food is safe to eat, and ridiculous to ship peanut butter down when you can support the local economy by buying food there. Food that is nutritious and balanced.

Don't be silly.

This is my question, though. Of what possible benefit to the people in the countries that TM sends its missionaries to is it for them to receive these missions? Are the TM missionaries bringing food, medicine, or fresh water? Do they dig wells, build roads, or educate children? Or do they just bring a load of religious opinions and magical thinking—things which are already in abundant supply in the third world?

Doug-

Pretty much a load of religious opinions and magical thinking. Oh, and don't forget the dramas. :-O

Doug, I love your comments. I would agree. Wouldn't it be more helpful and more of a testimony to the natives if you helped them in real world ways--- building homes, providing water, planting vegetable gardens, teaching a language... ANYTHING that gives them something concrete to better their lives.

But, then again, TM believes that all we need is the magical power of God. If you pray enough, have enough faith, etc then you will NEVER face trials and tribulations-- you will be healed from terminal illnesses, you will not struggle financially, etc. That is TM's belief system--- how horribly wrong it actually is.

I completely forgot that after they would have a huge session in coaching us on how to tell people about our trips. And then after the session we would go write down what we were going to tell people in our MAG's (small groups), though I don't remember if the MA's had to approve what we wrote like they did our testimonies. Anyways talk about brainwashing.

In all fairness, I did go on one trip where we spent the entire time working with a Habitat for Humanity type of group and another where we helped rebuild after the earthquake in Peru interspersed with evangelism, but it was definitely seen by TM that meeting physical needs was only "temporary" so we should want to focus on "spiritual needs."

What about the Gospel of Christ? Is this really brought? That Christ loves them and that He died for them? Did these people see genuine love of Christ exhibited among the TM missionaries with each other?
This is an exhibition of man working in his own power and not the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even though many of you have gone through some really bad situations with TM, ask the Lord to show you what good can come out of it. I think the good that can come is that one can see that this is not from God and really search Scripture to see what Christianity really is. It is not a bunch of rules and regulations, but a relationship with Christ. Once you believe in Him, He gives you the Holy Spirit and you are sealed by Him- no works needed. The Holy Spirit does the work. The Holy Spirit is not some genie in a bottle that can be brought in by gibberish- that is a blasphemy! The Holy Spirit speaks to us intelligently and shows us the way through His Word. This is the right and only way. TM is a man made institution that "thinks" it is speaking for God.

Anon,

I don't like the "good outweighs the bad" mentality of your post. Just because SOME good has been done, that doesn't erase the bad that has been done or somehow negate the bad, horrible, awful abuses that have taken place. The good that TM has done, and there has been some good, doesn't outweigh or negate the harm it has done to many.

Also, your judgmental attitude in the comment "This is an exhibition of man working in his own power and not the power of the Holy Spirit." is unacceptable and unnecessary. You do NOT know the motives of the author of the RA blog, you do NOT know her heart, or what the Lord has led her to do. You CANNOT claim that what she is doing is simply her own works and not of God, just as I cannot claim that you are not doing god's work.

Sorry but I never even implied this to the RA blog- you took this out of context of what I was saying. In everything bad God knows how to bring out good- I would never condone the actions of TM. It is wrong and outrageous! Never did I imply that the author was doing anything in her own works- TM is. Teen Mania is doing things in their own works. I am in support of anyone here and what they have gone through.
And I never tried to negate the bad of what is done or has been done. If you read through my post clearly you would see that.

Also, if we "feel" that we are doing something in the Holy Spirit this is not Scriptural. You have to go to Scripture to understand what the Holy Spirit is and what he does. He is God and holy, not someone we can expect to do anything we "think" we would want.
Take this in love as a Christian sister, not a judgment.

It is true that people come from all sorts of Christian backgrounds and denominations on TM trips. It is horrifying to think of some of the consequences to acting out in the flesh and calling it "spiritual". It is also not foolproof to appoint missionary advisers (MA's) when Project Directors (PD's) and Team Leaders (TL's) only have a couple of days to make their decisions on who should be MA's and they have very limited options. I'm sorry you had such horrible experiences.
I can say, personally, that I was miraculously healed on a Teen Mania trip. This was confirmed through hospital ex-rays and medical experts. I have also seen many other miraculous healing on TM trips (legitimate). I have also seen people do foolish things when praying for others as you have described above. As a PD for TM (gotta love all the acronyms) I can say that the leadership manual definitely addresses both major spiritual issues of tongues and healing. According to the manual, and what I believe is common practice among PD's, spiritual gifts should not draw attention to one's self (example: talking in "gibberish" in front of others in a distracting way), tongues is to be kept as a personal expression between you and God (not performed in front of the group or in a distracting way), you are not allowed to remove items from individuals you are praying to become healed (example: glasses, crutches, wheel chairs, etc.) and you should try to avoid allowing public prayers get out of hand (run by emotions).
Although TM’s trips are not 100% foolproof, I believe they are very effective in changing young peoples’ lives for the better. If you had stayed home that summer would that have made your life amazing and free of error (please, I’m not trying to be mean)? Yes, bad stuff can happen on a trip, but amazing things can happen as well. The latter is what the trips are designed for, prayed over for and pushed for, so I believe the vast majority of individuals who encounter a short-term mission trip with TM (missionaries and those whom the missionaries come in contact with) are better for it.

Sophie, I cannot begin to express to you how much I related to your story. I never went to HA (though I very nearly did) but I did go on a mission trip to Romania a few years ago. I found the trip to be positive in many ways, however, it was detrimental and devastating to me in many other ways. (guess I'll have to write my own story someday soon)

I was an MA and I worked hard during the trip to be an "ideal Christian" in the eyes of TM. Not just for myself, but for all the people under me that I was looking after. I suppressed myself. I never asked why. I never wanted to be seen as "un-godly" or "rebellious". Sometimes things would come out of my mouth (TM doctrine) that today I can't believe I said.

When I got home I could not relate to the world anymore. I lost most of my friends and I was so self righteous that I didn't even care. But I didn't feel that spiritual high anymore. I didn't feel God close to me and I didn't understand it. They did not prepare us for that. Anyway, I'm rambling. Bottom line is that it really made me question what I truly believed in. I fell away from God for a while because I felt like I'd been used up by TM. I felt worthless because I couldn't feel God near me and I couldn't be perfect. It exhausted me and I rebelled until I nearly lost my faith all together.

Sophie Said,

"There were “small” issues I didn’t think much of at the time, being only twelve and not knowing any better, like the lack of decent nutrition. We mostly ate rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (mine were just peanut butter because I was allergic to the strawberry jelly and was offered no alternative)."

Sophie,

I am so sorry that you had to experience that. My heart ached as I read your story because I was a TL for several years. I remember having MI's and MA's that were allergic to peanut butter and feeling so helpless because I was so pressed for schedules, time, and executing my role as a TL in the correct TM format, that I didn't come up with any other alternative for the peanut butter sandwiches either. I wish I could apologize to all of my MI's and MA's for my inability to make this better for them. After one of my trips I came up with a few suggestions for the people with a Peanut allergy. I really don't think it made it into hands that could make a difference in that area. Many trips later, we were still doing things the same way. A peanut allergy or any allergy shouldn't be played with, especially out of country where access to hospitals are sometimes scarce to none.

There were some countries where the food was great and some countries that pb&j were a vital necessity for the trip. Honestly, I don't think TM knows what the food arrangements will actually be until the kids are already in country. Then the PD's are left to figure it out and sometimes, it doesn't work out. That's when the "I'll be my body and make it my slave" begins, in a subtle way. They work that scripture as much as they can even in missions. It's just not as obvious.

I also understand about your teammates trying to conjour up a miracle but I'll have to type that out another day.

Again, I am so sorry for this. I know you were not one of my MI's but I wish I could tell them the samething. *Hugs*

To: Anonymous 6:20
First of all, let me repeat the request that everyone come up with a handle if you want to post anonymously, so we can keep you apart. You can call yourself “Dick Tracy” or “Batman”—anything you want. It would just help everyone to distinguish you from one another.
Second, I am amazed to hear about your miraculous healing, since I doubt that sort of thing actually happens. James Randi (aka “The Amazing Randi”) has had an offer out for years to pay $1 million to anyone who can prove any paranormal event. If something supernatural really happened to you, and you can prove it, you should take your proof to the James Randi Educational Foundation and collect your money.
This is part of the tremendous damage that Teen Mania does. It takes otherwise intelligent young people and gets them to believe in magic, the supernatural, and other forms of baloney. This causes people to engage in ineffective magic rituals trying to make things happen in the world rather than taking rational action.
I am a Christian, BTW—just not a charismaniac.

caviar and honey no. however malnutrition to the point of unhealthy weight loss and hair falling out (which happened to me and many i went to india with, well, my second trip to india with a different organization seemed able to avoid that.

In total agreement Doug. We have seen Benny Hinn, Todd Bently, and the rest of the ilk take money from those who thought these men are from God. These men were either tricking or getting help from other sources (other than God). God does NOT work with those who are in it for their own gain.

Doug, I'm not sure I understand your perspective. Are you arguing that God chooses not to intervene in creation? (I’m assuming from your self-identification as a Christian that you have the presupposition of a personal God)

Not fully persuaded that God intervenes in Creation--I guess I'm more of an ethical and cultural Christian. I am very convinced, however, that believing in magic is a primitive form of religiosity, and that is basically what is taught at TM. It is a low degree of human and spiritual development.

All experiences must be validated through Scripture, not by the feelings and emotions of that individual. When the church started the Bible was given to us as our guide and the Holy Spirit is the activating force that reinforces what is in Scripture- not for our own glory but for the glory of Jesus Christ. We have seen men take advantage of the church by using methods that may or may not be validated- we have no way of knowing for sure. Man will always look for a sign (such as a healing or a vision), but it is faith that is not seen that God commends.

Miracles and healing were a BIG part of TM's GE trips even from the early days. In fact our group was taken to a faith healer "performance" at a stadium in Costa Rica, it may have even been Benny Hinn.

Doug,

Since you are a professional, would you care to provide us with a belief statement, doctrinal statement, mission statement, or any combination thereof?

Doug is a mental health professional - not a minister. Those professions don't generally require statements of faith...

RA,

I understand that. It would just be nice to know "who" he is theologically, doctrinally and spiritually. It would help us all weigh his professional input.

I am so sorry that you and your friends (and anyone else on that trip) went through those things. It all sounds very similar to actions that happened on my mission trips with TM as well. I know that you will find peace and healing by allowing yourself to be open and honest about what happened.

Call me silly but what do his doctrinal etc. beliefs have to do with weighing his professional input?

"It would just be nice to know "who" he is theologically, doctrinally and spiritually. It would help us all weigh his professional input."

That...doesn't make any sense. At all. Are you suggesting that if his personal belief system does not line up with your's, you can no longer trust his professional opinions?

Personal beliefs have nothing to do with a professional opinion.

Um, yep. that's exactly what I'm saying. You can't be two people. Who you are professionally is a product of who you are personally, and the inverse is true as well.

We see it everywhere in the news, and especially with the upcoming presidential election. Who wants a president that can't pay his own bills? or who wants one that doesn't donate a significant amount to charity?

these are all things that matter across the board.

You wouldn't hire a mechanic who doesn't know what a piston is, would you?

Not to mention that Doug is offering his professional AND spiritual opinions here. (See references to magic, etc)

No, actually, thats not what you are saying. You are saying you wouldn't trust a mechanic unless they gave you a statement of faith.

I'm not saying that I don't trust Doug. I would just like to get a better picture of where he's coming from.

He should be more than willing to provide a statement of faith and beliefs.

But you're right, I wouldn't trust a mechanic that couldn't demonstrate that he knew what he was talking about.

As far as Doug's professional opinion is concerned, a statement of faith has ZERO bearing on that. The fact that you ask makes it look like you will only listen to people that agree with your particular set of Christian beliefs. (Not saying that you are doing that, just that its what it looks like.)

With regard to his spiritual opinions, he is as free as anyone else to state them here. Why not ask every single person who comments for their statement of faith?

And why do you need a statement of faith to decide if you will trust someone? Why not look at their arguments and decide for yourself if what they assert is truthful? That is a better, more logical way of arriving at the truth - instead of just trusting those who are "in" and opposing those who are "out."

"But you're right, I wouldn't trust a mechanic that couldn't demonstrate that he knew what he was talking about."

Which is valid. But would you ask the mechanic to provide a statement of faith and beliefs? If said mechanic told you they are an atheist, would you then re-consider taking your car to him/her because they have differing theological views? See, I don't get it.

So then, why don't you go by what you're suggesting. Tell us your name, your profession, and your personal theological, doctrinal, and spiritual beliefs? That way, we can judge your credentials in commenting and decide whether you're someone we can trust.

Esther makes a good point here. It is hypocritical for someone posting anonymously to be demanding more transparency from someone else. Still, I don't have anything to hide. I am a member in good standing of a mainstream Protestant denomination. I am a Christian, but I do not consider myself to be a Fundamentalist. Having said that, I don't want to debate theology--there is already too much of that here. I just think that the emphasis at TM on magic represents a very primitive sort of religion--almost tribalistic. That is more of an anthropological opinion than a theological one.

This is a funny one from anon.
We go to doctors that may or may not be Christian.
We go to movies that are not Christian.
We buy things from businesses that are not Christian.
We will real soon, more then likely, vote for a President that may not line up with us theologically.

I may or may not agree with Doug theologically, but his credentials on the aspects of cults and abusive churches is credible.

I will never again believe that any one of us (humans) is "right on". Back in the day and during my TM life, I did believe that if people claimed to be Christian and believed certain things, they could be trusted to "have it together".

As I've gotten older and begun to come to terms with the truth about TM and so many other people who have walked through my life, I believe that none of us are perfect and I can't trust someone simply because I agree with them on what I've decided to be theological must-haves (or must-nots).

I believe in miracles. And I have no problem with Doug commenting on his scepticism with miracles. More to the point, I think the heart of what is being said here is that TM teaches young people to believe in "magic", in a vending machine creator who wants everyone to be happy and healthy so if we don't get our miracles we're personally doing sometihng wrong. Sinning against God, not having enough faith. Etc. That is ultimately what TM teaches and it will inevitably lead to spiritual frustration for the young people who believe it.

I really like that Doug used the word "tribalistic". I think it is a keen way to describe what goes on in Garden Valley. I think I have mentioned elsewhere on this site, but I was extremely frightened during the "Unreached People Group LTE/Tribal Retreat". I was trapped in a mob of kids running wild, sacrificing a rubber babydoll to a fire pit and physically abusing those who "got in their way".

My experience with TM was tribalistic, both inside and out of the Tribal retreat. It was the tribal culture that kept people in, as lifers, loyal to the tribe.

Doug, this is the "anonymous" who is so stupid they actually believe God healed them physically during a TM trip. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply, but I don't make it a habit to stop by this page. One thing I do believe in is that God can and does miraculously heal people and one thing I absolutely do not believe is that James Randi would ever pay anyone a dime who brought him tangible proof.
I was 15 when I broke my neck. The tendons along my top vertebrae were severed on one side and stretched beyond natural or medical healing on the other. Any bump or accident would not have left me paralyzed from that point on, but dead. I was supposed to be wearing a neck brace until the time of my surgery, in which at least my top two vertebras were to be fused together. Like any good teenage boy who didn’t want to look goofy, I hid my neck brace in my closet and told my mom it was in my bag.
A long story short, in Miami my neck had experienced some trauma and was inflamed in size and in tremendous pain. I tried to hide my pain because I refused to go home. The second night there I could take it no longer, so on the way back to the dorms, I took a detour and hid by myself in a field of palm trees.
All alone, at night, on a dark college campus in a place far from home I started to cry and simply said, “Jesus, please help me.” I looked up to see the shadow of a man walking up behind me. I was petrified and thought if I held still he might not know I was there, but he stood beside the tree behind me. I stood up to face this person who may be some crazy person out at night or a leader ready to send me home for being alone. When I stood and turned around there was no one there. This caused even greater fear to rise up within me. Then, suddenly, a strong hand grabbed the back of my neck. I wanted to scream, I wanted to tell them my neck was hurt and I would die, but I was too scared. I then heard these words, which were not only audible but penetrated deep into my soul, “You are my son.” At that moment I have never felt anything better in my entire life. It was like a waterfall of goodness pored over my entire body. It felt like my neck had been in pain for eternity, and then the pain was completely gone. I was there in the field alone again. I didn’t know what to think, I just ran back to my dorm.
Today I am a professional science teacher who would never believe in any hokey pokey, voodoo healing mumbo-jumbo. So this and the many other miraculous healings I’ve witnessed over the years (free of charge and endorsements) must be illusions. You may call me Batman.
PS: I never got the surgery and I haven’t had a problem with my neck at any point in these 16 years.

@Batman,

First of all, I never said you, or anyone else, is “stupid.” All I said was that I am skeptical that this sort of thing really happens. When someone has seen as much fraud, deception, and abuse in the name of religion as I have seen, their skepticism comes easily to them.

Second, on what basis do you say that James Randi is not a person of his word? You say you absolutely do not believe he would pay, but why do you believe that? Because he is not a Christian? In my experience, ethical humanists like Randi are far MORE trustworthy than “Christians”—especially those of the charismatic variety.

Third, if this really happened to you why don’t you go to the doctors and have them verify what happened, and then publish something about it? Moreover, Batman, if God really did this, wouldn’t he want people to know about it so they could believe in miracles? Why keep yourself anonymous? Surely God had a higher purpose in this than to give you ammunition for a tendentious blog entry.

The truth is it did happen, and yes x-rays, cat scans and medical doctors confirmed it. The reason a "good" doctor would not promote this as a miracle is because doctors are frowned down upon for promoting such things (I guess you could say its the "medical cult"). Like James Randi and yourself, many doctors have decided there is no such thing as miracles and refuse to be persuaded. Maybe my blog was not for you to hear, as you cannot, but God may have used it as a "tendentious" story for others. By the way I have shared my story with many people and no, I will not reveal myself on this site as I would not promote this site to others. If you would like to know who I am, perhaps I can visit your site and email you some time. But I am guessing that would be a waste of time, as your mind is set and your bitterness holds you in bondage.
Batman

People who know me know that I am not bitter. You have just borne false witness against me, and this is why I remain skeptical about your story.

You will indefinitely remain skeptical of it, and there is nothing I can do about it. I pray that one day God will reveal Himself to you. He is the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. He is the God of the living (not the dead). He never changes, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God will forever be the God of miracles and He doesn't have to prove Himself to you. He supports the humble but brings the proud down into the dust. God didn't heal me from some magic words I used or to show off. He didn't heal me because I was so spiritual (I was not a nice boy) or my faith was so big. He didn't do it in front of a crowd or in front of you. My own knowledge didn't save me, and yours will only deceive you. God is God and He will remain God whether you believe what He said or not.
Batman

I would be more inclined to believe a miracle had happened to you if it would have done something to make you a kinder person. You do not know me from Adam, and yet here you are trying go all Jeremiah on me. Jesus said we would know the true followers of His by their fruit. This fruit I see coming from you is not appealing.

It has always seemed to me that for people who believe God does miracles, no proof is necessary; for people who don't believe God does miracles, no proof is sufficient. I'm aware of a couple people who have had medically documented miraculous healings. But instead of people being convinced by the evidence, they say things like, "Maybe the initial test results were contaminated or mixed up. Maybe the initial diagnosis was wrong. Maybe the doctors were looking at someone else's x-rays the first time." And there will never be any way the person can disprove any of that, since we cannot go back in time. I understand why Batman feels a little attacked, because he is sharing a very personal experience that made him feel close to God. No one should attempt to take that away from him. If you don't believe he received a miraculous healing, that's perfectly fine, you can remain skeptical.

Doug, just as you assert Batman doesn't know you from Adam, you do not know his heart or who he is or what tone he intended in his comments. Let's all have a little grace for one another here.

Anonymous- why so hostile? Does Doug not have reason to be hesitant because of all the false claims of healings? The Bible tells us to be good Bereans and look through Scripture to see if whatever we see or hear is of truth. Paul commended these men for doing so.
I for one do believe in miracles and know that Christ is very involved with His children and does heal, so maybe you are one of them, praise the Lord! But Christ does the healing on His own terms, NOT ours. And many of the "miracles" today are done by tricksters and ones who are out for their own gain...money talks. This is why Doug is so skeptical and don't blame him for being so.
Why would you treat him with disrespect? He is on this site to help those who have gone through REAL pain and abuse and there are REAL men and women who are doing things that are NOT godly. This is what this site is for- for those who NEED A VOICE.

Its funny you say, "more inclined". Do you really believe I'm outright lying to you? I'm sorry you don't like my fruit, but a lot of people didn't like Jesus's fruit either. Look, you don't know me either. You have no idea how kind or rude I am. You yourself are pretty venomous to people you think are leading others astray as well. So, please, see it from my point of view: here is a guy who says he has a professional opinion mocking the works of my Savior and claiming I would lie about what personally happened to me. I have personally been there to witness and be a part of thousands of miracles and many of them were physical healing. None of these were performed on a stage or with my name in lights, in fact all of them were performed in dirty streets, huts and third world hospitals. No one knew my name and no one saw me do a fancy dance and scream Christianese. I was never paid for one of them. Most of all, I can say I am a normal, even below normal, person who isn't a stellar preacher or floating, holy man but I am a sinner saved by grace. Look, Doug, I know you've seen a lot of phonies out there doing God's work for profit, but they have been around since Jesus's Resurrection and they always will be. This does not negate the fact that God is still God, and there are still people who love Him.
Batman

I don’t believe you are outright lying, but I work in a field where I talk to people nearly every day who either see or hear things that are not really there. Maybe Jesus appeared to you and healed your neck. Maybe you had a psychotic episode. Ironically, you are the one person who would be least able to say for certain which it was.
I absolutely am not mocking the works of Christ. I am in favor of the works of Christ—especially things like loving your enemies, forgiving those who wrong you, and being a servant to the poor and needy in your life. You keep putting words in my mouth and ascribing to me attitudes that I do not have.
I do have to say that your credibility goes down a little when you say that you have witnessed “thousands” of miracles. If miracles of the type you are describing truly do happen (and they might), I am pretty sure they are not very common.
Part of what is not helpful here is all of the Godbabble. When you say things like “God is God” what is the purpose of that? Do you think I am somehow saying, “God is Elvis?” What do you think you are clearing up when you say things like that? Certainly, there are people who love God. Do you think I am saying there are not?

The issue, from my perspective, is that the belief in constant and ubiquitous supernaturalism makes people easier to manipulate. People end up going to the HA because they have an adrenaline fueled experience at an ATF event and assume that it is the Holy Spirit. Then, they manipulate their own emotions and decide that “God is leading them” to attend the HA. All of this is confirmed every step of the way by stories of supernatural healings and interventions, most—if not all—of which are dubious.
As to the possibility of miracles, contra Julie, I do not say “no proof is sufficient.” I am open to the evidence, it’s just that nobody has ever come up with any good evidence that I have seen that a miracle actually occurred. If you or Batman really have some, feel free to produce it.

Regardless of whether Jesus spoke audibly or Batman had a psychotic episode, or if aliens appeared, or whatever, I'm not going to assume that Batman is lying. I and others in my family have witnessed miracles and call it what you want to, the result was that people no longer were in pain, people were able to do things they weren't previously able to do, and God got the glory. I have seen God answer prayers like this even after no longer being a member of a charismatic/evangelical church and after being aware of what happens/ed at Teen Mania. And no, I do not have tangible proof in the form of doctor's reports.

I can see why Batman feels attacked, and people who feel attacked usually react defensively. Perhaps Batman's experience did make him a kinder person than they were previously, I don't think a couple of blog comments are enough to judge, especially since we don't know what they were like before.

We ALL need to be careful to treat each other with respect, regardless of which "side" the other person is on.

That said, I also agree that Doug has very good reason to be cautious of believing these sort of things and his hesitance/caution is not a sign of lack of faith, or mocking of the Savior or anything of the sort. Doug has a very good heart and has been a gigantic help to a lot of us. Also, Batman needs to remember that people in the RA community have usually been VERY VERY badly hurt by their involvement with TMM and when you've been hurt by a ministry/person/people, it's really really hard to not react strongly when people negate your emotions and experiences and/or come to the place that is a big part of your healing process and then defend and extol those who hurt you. I think this is a good time to point out that if pro-TM people don't want to be accused of lying, they need to recognize that we don't want to be accused of it anymore. There's a saying that "What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

BTW, I am an RA-er who does not support TMM/HA/GE.

Ok, well I think we've beaten this topic to death...so I'm calling a cease-fire.

Feel free to comment on the original post but I'm ending the side discussion on healing.

yes, please end it. I do wish to clarify a few things as well. I am not what many consider a charismatic Christian. I don't speak in tongues and I was raised in a very conservative Baptist church from a small town. When I said "thousands of miracles and many of them physical healing" I should have clarified that by many of them physical healing I have probably seen a few dozen people who were physically healed (in a big way) and the rest were instances where God came through in situations which cannot be easily explained away. In the end I believe the one thing that matters is that God is glorified and people end up in heaven.
Batman

Hi...wow...the exact same scenario happened on my trip years ago in terms of an individual in a wheelchair and everyone going over....I even had the opportunity to speak to Ron Luce as he came and spend a day on our particular trip and I expressed concerns I had to him regarding the safety precautions that were completely disregarded once we were in the country and those of us MA's who were only 1 year older than everyone else - were required to just jump in and go with it without training or ever stepping foot in that country..........His eyes looked straight through me but I never went back with them so I don't know if my voice was heard or not...

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