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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.

July 12, 2012

Teen Mania Annouces ESOAL (PEARL) Suspended Indefinitely

In a surprising turn of events today, Honor Academy leadership announced that the abusive ESOAL/PEARL event will be suspended indefinitely because the secular media is portraying it negatively.

Not because hundreds of people have been injured, some near fatally.

Not because people have nightmares and PTSD from the psychological effects (even years later).

Not because its an unscriptural, unbiblical path to "discipleship."

But because the "secular media" has used ESOAL to "publicly malign" the Honor Academy.

Make no mistake - there is no repentance here. In fact, Heath Stoner says:

"ESOAL was started in 1999, and it was an incredible event. The lessons it imparted – of strengthening our character and reliance on God when we go through difficult times – were fantastic."

Here is Heath giving one of those "lessons" by terrifying and humiliating young interns while putting them in life threateningly dangerous situations (Fast forward to 1:00)



Isn't that fantastic?

Of course, anyone seriously considering or endorsing the Honor Academy should wonder - if God really told them to do this retreat, and it had so much spiritual benefit - why would they let a little "persecution" stop them? Aren't we supposed to stand for truth and God's will no matter what the world says? Why should the secular media dictate what a Christian organization does to disciple its participants? What if Jesus had stopped preaching because He was getting bad press?

Given the fact that senior Teen Mania leaders have vowed (behind closed doors) to never change anything because of this community, my educated guess is that the enrollment numbers have dropped so severely that they have to do something to shore up their reputation and convince parents to let their kids come to the Honor Academy. Otherwise, the money and free labor will dry up.

While this is a victory for the new intern class that will not have to suffer the abuse of ESOAL, make no mistake - the Honor Academy as a whole is still an incredibly abusive and unsafe atmosphere. My two years at the internship did not include ESOAL and they still managed to wound me in significant, life-altering ways - and they will continue to do so to future interns, regardless of whether ESOAL continues or is replaced with a new idea.

The entire structure of the Honor Academy is built primarily on authoritarianism, fear and shame. Until those underlying elements are replaced with love and grace, the Honor Academy will remain and unsafe and ungodly place.

40 comments:

The first song that comes to my head, which is completely contradictory to my lack of beliefs is, "Victory in Jesus...."

I do feel that this is a small victory for those of us that have been hurt!

i hate hate hate when he said if you're tempted to get angry at staff, get angry at yourself. that's classic tmm brainwashing and conditioning, impairing the sense of anger that's there to tell us when we are being harmed or wronged. all they did was tell us that if we were angry, upset, afraid, etc, it was because of our flaw, not their abuse. such bull crap. ugh!

This video makes me sick to my stomach. I chose not to participate in ESOAL, there was always something about it that didn't sit right with me. Although I must admit I had to give a very lengthy explanation to every person who asked me why I was not participating. This video must not have been that long ago, as I recognize a few of the facilitators voices. This is a very clear case of abuse of power, extremely dangerous for the health and well-being of those interns, and I am surprised a lawsuit has not come about yet. During my year the events in ESOAL were kept confidential and to my knowledge parents were not made aware of ESOAL. As a parent now myself, if I ever found out my child was doing this without my knowledge he/she would be on the first flight home. Every parent thinking about sending their child to the Honor Academy should watch this video. Even though this event has been suspended, the fact that leadership would be allowed to treat interns, WHO ARE PAYING TO BE THERE AND WORKING FOR FREE, like this is a clear warning sign.
I have also heard the argument that they craft this event after Navy Seals training exercises. I am sure the Navy Seals put their participants through extensive physical and physiological evaluations prior to allowing them to participate in these type of exercises. I don't think the HA can say the same thing!

What a tremendous answer to prayer! Major kudos to the RA community for your great work in revealing the truth about Teen Mania's spiritually abusive behavior. It's a shame that it took the secular media, rather than the Matthew 18-based appeal this group first offered, to get TM to make this change (such as it is). Also very ironic, given what Ron Luce preaches about resisting secular media's "evil" influence. Still, "Whoever speaks up loudest shapes the culture!"

This also proves, as we've said all along, that PEARL = ESOAL. Suspending PEARL for ESOAL's bad press only makes sense if both events are the same (otherwise the bad press would have been unrelated to the changed event). Apparently, the only dramatic change was the name!

Any questions about how much Teen Mania has sincerely changed are put to rest by the simple fact that HA leadership still says ESOAL was "Incredible." Parents and youth leaders, take note: ESOAL may have been discontinued, but the people in charge of HA still think it was a great idea. 'Nuff said.

I was a part of TM for 12 years and there are 3 things that get TM's attention and only 3 things. Money, Numbers, and media attention. People have been complaining to Ron, Dave, and the board for years! The only reason they have made any changes at all is because of the negative media attention, a drop in HA numbers because of this site, which affects their dollar sign!! Good job RA you are making the biggest difference at TM.

RA -

Can you provide a link to TM's announcement??

Thanks.

Houdini - Go to honoracademydirector dot com

I'd prefer not to link directly to it for SEO reasons.

Houdini, Dave Hasz also sent an email to alumni.

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B-b_4tuYI3VjZ2Y2MGw1M19TR0E

http://www.honoracademydirector.com/

The bible says to forgive I'm not siding with anyone cuz I didn't do esoal. I know the bible says forgive your brother and live your life in a Christ like manner. Whether we believe in someone's principles or not they are still our brothers and sisters in the kingdom so we should walk out with love. Many have been scarred at the HA but we can't change the past so let's walk together in love and forgiveness.

Can someone point me to the Bible verse that equates forgiveness with forgetting what happened or not trying to prevent from occurring again?

I think that is the problem. I have seen too many Christians,,especially when TM supporters that suggest that the RA community just needs to forgive the HA. Who is to say that we haven't forgiven them? I personally have forgiven them, and BUT,, I don't forget my experience and I will not stop trying to prevent others from experiencing what I did.

Can someone point me to the Bible verse that equates forgiveness with forgetting what happened or not trying to prevent from occurring again?

I think that is the problem. I have seen too many Christians,,especially when TM supporters that suggest that the RA community just needs to forgive the HA. Who is to say that we haven't forgiven them? I personally have forgiven them, and BUT,, I don't forget my experience and I will not stop trying to prevent others from experiencing what I did.

Anon,
We can't change the past, but we can change the future by working to make sure the abuse does not continue.

Anonymous 6:43,

Just because you did not do ESOAL does NOT mean you are not siding with anyone. By trying to deny victims their voice you are siding with the spiritual abusers, which is the opposite side from the one that Jesus was on. He was pretty upset with the Pharisees of his day, precisely BECAUSE they were the spiritual abusers of that time.

I'm not surprised that now your mad because they didn't suspend ESOAL because of "your" views on ESOAL. Can we now move on past this thing or is this going to be a yearly topic. Can you just be happy they got your way. Geed

A few choice lines from Heath's announcement deserve further comment:

"Then in 2011, we changed ESOAL so dramatically that we decided to change the name to PEARL. Even though many of the events were different, the lessons and goals were similar."

It changed so dramatically that its lessons and goals were similar. Sigh.

"So, this life-changing 90-hour event has been greatly mis-characterized and has resulted in the entire HA internship year being publicly maligned. [...] we are confident that the creativity and passion embodied by the HA leadership and staff will mean those lessons learned through ESOAL and PEARL will still be taught."

We don't want people to think that ESOAL represents the entire HA internship year; we will, however, continue to teach the lessons of ESOAL throughout the entire HA internship year.

Lying is the intent to deceive, as I recall, but who do you suppose the HA leaders are going to fool here besides themselves?

Changed dramatically? I watched a pearl video, i still thought i was watching an esoal video. I saw two differences. The kids were carrying 2x4's instead of Crosses, and heath stoner was actually interacting with the kids...

Regardless of what TM says, this decision (and discussion that brought it to this point) came during during Dave Hasz shift.

Anonymous - That does seem to be the case. I would have LOVED to be a fly on that wall...

This actually makes me almost more apprehensive for new/current interns. The fact that TM says the lessons will still be taught... Are they just going to be more covert and more manipulative?

It says a lot that the negative press means so much to them. Seems like someone needs to hear an "embrace adversity" sermon :-)

Way to go Teen Mania. Way to up your "cult"-like appearance by deleting valid comments from your blog posting. Yes - a few were over the top - and probably should have gone - but over 70? CULT. CULT. CULT. CULT.

there is no way that THEY deleted those comments... i am not buying it for one minute....

Anon 6:55-- What motive would anyone else have?

to constantly make them look like a cult and make them look deceptive.....i know some of their other sites were hacked yesterday....

Anon 8:51 - *IF* the site was hacked and comments deleted, it only takes a quick call to restore the site to the 24hours prior. Then only the last few comment might be lost. It's weird no one's made that phone call yet, isn't it.

And key commenter's were blocked. I emailed Heath about it, and yet he hasn't responded...... North have the comments been restored. Sounds to me like they deleted them themselves. Not a hacker.

"there is no way that THEY deleted those comments... i am not buying it for one minute...."

Umm... I didn't delete my own comments or block myself from commenting further... and if they HAD been "hacked", I'm sure they would have found the time to accounce it by now. They never miss a chance to play the "persecuted" card.

i think it was shannon who said she was blocked from commenting....yet commented....

So your theory is that someone's goal was to make Teen Mania look bad, so they hacked into their website, got the admin password, and used it to... remove all the negative comments, most of which were making the point that TM looks bad?

As Mr. Spock would say, highly illogical.

There could be a much simpler reason that TM constantly looks like a deceptive cult, you know.

I think TM does a good job making themselves look bad... They really don't need much help from hackers or others.

Since everything that RA demonized is gone (pearl/esoal, dave hasz, etc) will the persecution of one of the only places in the world that attempts to equip young leaders ever stop?

Searching Google for "places that equip young leaders" brings up 24,300,000 results. Teen Mania isn't even in the top 100 of them. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of those places don't have cult tendencies, either.

RA "demonized" TM's elitist mentality, and apparently that's not gone yet....

You people are so pathetic... It's sad.

It's almost as bad as a Shakespeare play... You've spent so much time bashing a group of young men & women. Energy that could have been spent fighting real oppression in the Church. Money that could have fed hungry, starving kids. Rallying people for a cause that is completely selfish and internally driven.

Curious One -- If you really believe that, why did you spend your time bashing this group in your comments?

That's too bad. I was really looking forward to going back so I could participate in the PEARL event. Its too bad a few hateful people destroy stuff for everyone else. At least the entire intern year is not defined by a 3 day, voluntary event.

Maybe - It is now. If you read the message, they are going to incorporate the lessons of PERLSOAL into the rest of the year...

I am an inturn now, I have loved my HA experience! They replaced pearl with another mountain LTE, we climbed a mountain and it was awesome! But it wasn't that challenging... Anyway I think I am only going to do one semester here at the HA because I want to start college now :) anyway! That's my HA experience lol

"I am an inturn now, I have loved my HA experience! They replaced pearl with another mountain LTE, we climbed a mountain and it was awesome! But it wasn't that challenging... Anyway I think I am only going to do one semester here at the HA because I want to start college now :) anyway! That's my HA experience lol "

Christian, you have years-upon-years of challenging experiences ahead of you, so I wouldn't sweat it too hard. It's called "life", and it's great.

If you ever need to talk or ask questions, there are many willing listeners here.

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