My Teen Mania Experience: Life at the Honor Academy and Beyond

I received this email from a fellow blogger, Recovering Alumni, who writes for www.recoveringalumni.com:

“I can’t believe today is the first time I’ve come across your blog. It seems we’ve lived parallel lives :). I was involved with Teen Mania for 2 years and it nearly destroyed my life….Anyway, just wanted to give a shout out to a fellow activist and say keep up the good work! Exposing truth and bringing these stories into the light is a noble thing. I look forward to reading more!

RA”
www.recoveringalumni.com

We’ve since been corresponding and have found a frightening correlation between my experiences in Master’s Commission and hers in Teen Mania.

Recovering Alumni’s blog is something I would recommend any of my reader’s to read. She’s got a great number of resources and stories and a website that’s easily navigable.

Please visit the site and drop an email/comment to Recovering Alumni.

Secrets

Secrets your church leadership is hiding. Secrets the Pope is covering up. Secrets are everywhere.

It’s ironic that Christian churches and leaders try to cover up secrets every day. Shouldn’t churches be transparent and honest? Especially if they’re teaching their “disciples” to be this way?

As you may have read, a pastor that I worked for and knew intimately was fired for stealing money from the church and for allegations of physically hurting a student. What typically happens in a situation like this, is that the secrets all come out in a meeting with the senior pastors and other important staff members, and then they tell the church something much more vague. This particular church is infamous for it. I should know. I was intimately tied to this pastor and the senior pastor. I know how these meetings work, what’s said in them, and that only particular people get the real story.

Isn’t that great for the person with the secret, though? I mean, after all, you don’t want to embarrass someone publicly do you?

I honestly think it’s complicated. My opinion is this–there’s such a brutality to exposing people’s secrets in public. After all, that’s what was done to us in Master’s Commission by this very leader. But when it’s the upper echelon of leadership that hundreds, if not thousands of people look up to, is it right to cover it up like it never happened? No. I don’t think it is. I think you’re causing harm in the church if you do that for many reasons.

One, think about your own self for a minute. Of course, we all have secrets. We all have broken a law, or hurt someone’s feelings or done some level of damage to people. Maybe you’ve stolen money, maybe you’ve stolen someone’s happiness. Whatever. My point is…aren’t pastors human, just like we are? Nod your head yes with me. They are. Regardless of what you might think, or who you might put on a pedestal, they are simply human.

With that being said, they shouldn’t be exempt from laws, like we are. Let me break it down. If I go into Macy’s and steal my favorite perfume, Versace Bright Crystal, and get caught I’m going to be punished.

Many people of all backgrounds look up to pastors, priests, Presidents. When you deny things that really happened for the sake of protecting the church’s reputation and in an attempt to continue the facade of the  untouchable pastor or leader, you honestly do a real injustice to people. They’re not able to see you say the f-word in traffic, or wake up without makeup, etc. and soon they begin to believe that you are a god or something like one. It creates a false sense of reality when people begin to make mistakes of their own. Often people who look up to “perfect” pastors feel like they’re really messed up, or failures, because they can’t live as perfect as what they think someone else is living.

In all reality, every pastor or leader has a secret they’re hiding from their congregation. For some priests, it’s that they’re messing with the alter boys. For some pastors, it is stealing.

I think it’s time we all start being honest with ourselves and asking others to be honest, too.

Dreams

Tonight, I’m drinking a cup of hot chamomile and mint tea and letting the cool, fall breeze blow into the windows.

It’s night time, but that’s when I come alive.

There are dreams that happen during the night time (of which I remember few), and dreams that occur during the day. Most of my dreams happen during the day. I’m an avid dreamer. I walk around dreaming of words that need to be arranged in an order–or rearranged, images to be sketched out, and paints that need to be mixed up and spread onto a crystal, white canvas.

For someone who’s had a lot of nightmares–both in the day time and at night–it’s nice to have my dreams back. What’s extra special about these dreams is that I’m not being told what to dream, or even directed how to dream.

They’re mine–all mine.




What is Master’s Commission?

I recently started a forum to discuss issues related to this blog in further depth. You can access this article here: http://www.mycultlife.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=9. You must be a registered forum user to leave a comment on the forum, though.

You can also read the article here:

According to the Master’s Commission International Network, MCIN, website http://www.mcin.org, Master’s Commission and MCIN are described as the following:

Master’s Commission is an intense discipleship-training program dedicated to making Disciples of Christ. There are currently 120 programs world-wide in 15 different countries. Each program is based out of a local church and comprises of students mostly between the ages of 18-25. Master’s Commission International Network (MCIN) is the accountability and glue that holds these programs together. MCIN isn’t limited to any one denomination, but works with many churches.

An overview of the Master’s Commission USA program that Lloyd Zeigler currently oversees in his newly planted (as of 2008) Dallas, TX church, Relevant Church, states the following http://masterscommissionusa.com/page/overview/:

What started in 1984 as a small group of people agreeing to dedicate one year of their life to God has now grown into one of the most powerful, intense discipleship movements in the world. This one-year discipleship-training center started with just one program in Phoenix, AZ. Now it has spread to 91 affiliated programs in 10 countries and includes an international network (MCIN). Both Master’s Commission USA and Master’s Commission International Network, founded in 1995, are housed at Relevant Church in Dallas, TX.

MC USA has grown and developed each year by remaining on the cutting edge of this worldwide ministry. Between our ministry institutes: dance, drama, music, youth, children’s and evangelism, and our other ministries, including Restore community outreach, church services, travel within the US, missions, foster children mentorship, and more, you will be sure to find a place to develop your talents, pursue your dreams, and refine your desires. Last year Master’s Commission USA reached over 238,000 people with the gospel of Christ! Come join us as we endeavor to reach the world with the love and message of Jesus Christ.

You will be included in incredible Biblical teachings and ministry trainings from a staff whose calling and heart is to see you grow. To graduate our program each disciple is required to fulfill curriculum requirements, finish each discipleship obligation, and participate in all scheduled activities. Master’s Commission USA is committed to setting the pace in ‘hands on’ ministry training; therefore optional missions trips and ministry tours are available at an additional cost.

The staff is comprised of committed disciples who have lived the call and caught the vision of the Master’s Heart. Where other programs have one or two leaders for every twenty or thirty students, our staff-student discipleship ratio is better than one leader to two students. We look forward to meeting you and having you join our team. A year of your life spent ‘face to face’ with God is an experience that you will never forget, and one that you don’t want to miss!

You are eligible to apply for the year of discipleship (First Year Program) if you are of college age and have a high school diploma or equivalent. You are eligible to apply for our Second Year Leadership Program if you have completed one year in another affiliated MC program and Staff Internship Program. If you do not fall into these categories, we would still love for you to be involved with us. We welcome any help with City Lites, Youth, and other ministries at Relevant Church. Also, during the week our evenings are open to any one who would like to attend our After Hours. If you are interested in financial involvement, please visit the Master’s Society link on our home page. To be kept informed of all our major events, be sure to keep an eye on our Calendar. Master’s Commission begins in late September and ends in mid May.

 

People talkin shit…

To watch the video that speaks volumes to the current situation (and to people who passively aggressively CONDEMN ME, while sitting around doing NOTHING to fix the situation…AND to people who send me veiled insults via text/email/etc…YOU CAN ALL KISS MY ASS), click here:

Cage the Elephant–In one ear

Some of the lyrics I like best:

“Now I know I’m not a saint,
I been a sinner all my life,
I ain’t tryin to have no buds,
I’d rather keep them in the line,
They wanna criticize you now,
Cast another stone,
Burn me at the stake and see them watch it from the dome,
They say the devil is my pal…
They think they know my thoughts,
But they don’t know the least,
If they listened to the words they’d find the message that’s beneath

People talkin’ shit,
They can kiss the back of my hand”

Walking Away From Spiritual Abuse

Walking Away From Spiritual Abuse

The most difficult phase of a spiritually abusive experience is usually the exit process. This is where victims of spiritual abuse usually suffer the greatest losses. Walking away from friends and possibly even family members when exiting a religious group is never an easy process. What makes it even more difficult is when these relationships are damaged or destroyed due to the tendency of spiritually abusive leaders to blacklist and demonize members who leave the church or group.
Many people never leave their spiritually abusive church or group due to the fear of losing a large portion of their life that they have invested into the group. Most of the people who contemplate leaving a spiritually abusive environment have seen an unhealthy pattern of what happens when someone exits the group: Loss of relationships, loss of time and money invested, loss of their reputation, and even fears of losing their relationship with God and being turned over to the devil. These fears are very real, and pose a hurdle for most people who want to leave a spiritually abusive group. Many victims of spiritual abuse wonder what will become of their lives if they decide to escape their spiritually abusive church or group. They have most likely been taught that if they leave the group it is equal to leaving God. They don’t know if they can cope in the real world without the help and support of their church group.
The question then becomes: Should I leave my abusive church? That question can only be answered by you. There will most likely be losses involved. However, you have to decide which is worse – suffering the losses, or continuing to suffer from the spiritual abuse? Let me use an analogy to help you see your situation from a different perspective. Let’s say you were taken prisoner of war in a foreign country. In the prison you become removed from old family members and friends, and develop new relationships with your fellow prisoners and even some of your captors. You spend 10 years in the prison, and then are offered a way of escape. You are then faced with the same decision: Do you leave the relationships made in the abusive environment, which may be very dear to you, to go back to your old friends and family members? The next question becomes, will your your old friends and family members even remember you or want you in their lives again? Are you willing to suffer the grief of leaving friends and possibly even family members behind in the abusive environment after you escape? These are hard questions to answer, but only you can make this decision.
As far as “leaving God’s will” goes, I personally believe that this is the biggest hoax that is used by spiritual abusers. Most spiritually abusive groups create a codependent dynamic in the group that causes followers to become emotionally and spiritually dependent on the group in an inordinate way. The tactics that are used to create this dynamic usually include fear, guilt, shame, manipulation, and brainwashing. Verses of scripture are twisted and used to make members fear losing their salvation if they exit the group without the leader’s permission. It takes a lot of willpower and inner strength to cross the hurdles of these fears and leave the spiritually abusive group.
Members who do end up deciding to leave spiritually abusive groups are usually blacklisted and demonized by the leader, being cut off from association with the group’s members. This becomes another huge hurdle to cross when trying to determine if it is best for your emotional and spiritual health to leave the group. Most members who leave these groups suffer great heartache and grief due to the lost relationships that were left behind in the group. This grief is usually the most painful part of leaving a spiritually abusive group, and can even be the cause of depression in members who leave the groups. This grieving process is not exclusive to leaving a spiritually abusive group, but is common whenever leaving a group of loved ones in a traumatic fashion such as a divorce or death of loved ones. The grief becomes multiplied when you lose more than one relationship at once. Some have even likened it to losing your entire extended family in an airplane crash.
I am not trying to tell you about the grief and loss you will suffer when leaving a spiritually abusive group or church in order to scare you into staying. Personally, I believe it is always best to leave any type of abusive situation if at all possible. You won’t be able to heal and recover from the abuse until you get away from it. However, it may cause you more grief and heartache in the short run to be able to experience a healthy emotional and spiritual life in the long run. If you decide to leave your spiritually abusive church or group, you will find the resources on this website of great value in your recovery process.
It is possible to recover from spiritual abuse. It doesn’t happen overnight, and the recovery process can last a lifetime. There are a handful of books available on the subject of spiritual abuse, but very few if any that provide methods of recovery and healing from it. I have found the best way to recover from spiritual abuse is to find a group of people that can relate to your experience such as the members of the church abuse forum on this website. When you can share your hurts and pains in a safe environment with others who can understand and are sensitive to what you have been through, it can help the recovery process along tremendously.
I hope that you find the resources on this website helpful in your journey through the process of recovery from spiritual abuse.

The above article was quoted in it’s entirety from: http://www.churchabuse.com/articles/spiritual_abuse_articles/healing_spiritual_abuse_001.html

It was MY CULT LIFE, too.

I received this email last week and since I had this person’s permission to post it, I thought it would be a good time to share it. I have changed a few minor details to protect the identity of this person, because no one deserves to be harassed the way I’ve been harassed for speaking up. Please read on:

Dear Lisa,

Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know I’ve been following your blog. Thank you for speaking out, I feel the exact same way but I never understood the importance of confronting it until I recently read everything you’ve been posting. 

I spent years at MCID (now Master’s Commission 3D), and it took me a year or two to realize what had actually happened: that I had been in a cult.

God bless you, L! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me.

I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it for a while. I’ve spent the last several years being content to say to myself, “Well I know that a lot of things that took place were wrong, but I’m just going to hold on to the good things that God did in me and forgive and forget the rest.” Boy, a lot of good that has done for the naive ones that have followed our footsteps, eh?

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with another one of my former peers who has not regarded our time at MCID with contempt.

Thank you for sharing, I’m reading and pursuing my own path of healing and desire for justice. I don’t want this to continue to happen, and I pray that the Lord will move on their hearts as they read and hear about those who have been hurt and scarred under their leadership.

Signed,

“It was My Cult Life, Too”

Dear “It was My Cult Life, Too:” What a beautiful letter! Thank you (you and I know who you are). I hope you know that you are a valuable, wonderful human being and are not responsible for what happened at that place. You are a child of God. Keep your head up and keep smiling. I wish you the very best life has to offer.

Think Like a Nazi–I DID!

“My name is Lisa and I’m a former cult member and reverend.”

“Hi Lisa,” Everyone says.

Only, there’s no “everyone” and there’s no support or recovery group for this kind of situation.

I spent five years working through the pain and anger with devoted family and friends, and now I’ve moved past it (for the most part).

What still remains are two situations:

1)      A large Christian Fundamentalist population in America which is leading Christianity down a dark road.

2)      Numerous damaged church and ministry peers who talk to me often, needing validation for what happened to them and needing resources to move on

I’m by no means an expert, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night (that was a joke, by the way).

I spent part of my five years away from My Cult Life getting my Bachelor of Arts degree (a degree was something women in particular weren’t allowed to get in the Cult) and I minored in Religious Studies. I studied under Dr. S.T. Campagna-Pinto, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Many of my text resources can be attributed to him, as he suggested some of the most fabulous books to read.

These pressure tactics and dictatorial pastoring happened with everything in our lives—not just dating. I was on call with him around the clock. I never vacationed. I didn’t color my hair, or buy different clothes, or stop jogging in the mornings otherwise he’d tell me how to color my hair, how to dress, and how skinny I needed to be.

The pastors under his leadership were much worse: we had to check in with them over the money we spent, where we went on our personal time, etc. The type of music we listened to, the movies and tv shows we watched, what we browsed on the Internet, and the books we read were all censored and subject to their approval. If we read a book, watched a movie or bought a CD that they disapproved of, we were subject to harsh reprimands, public embarrassment, or even getting asked to leave the group (followed by a public humiliation). Any music, books, clothing item, etc. that they didn’t like was subject to a bonfire.

At one point in my second year in this school, we were all instructed to “pray” about what God was telling us to discard in the bonfire. Then, we were reminded of things that might be included in that list of items: secular music, clothing that was too revealing, mementos from old boyfriends, etc.

I couldn’t really think of anything God had spoken to me to burn, so one of our staff leaders came around to each of our wardrobe cabinets and helped us “hear God’s voice.” I had a bikini and a hat from a mission’s trip to Burma that they suggested I burn; the bikini, for reasons that it was against our dress code in that ministry school and the hat because that staff member felt a demonic spirit upon it. I didn’t agree with either of them, but considering that I’d already been yelled at by our pastor for not following instructions of the staff members, I thought it might be best to do as I was told. I cried over the hat from Burma, because it was a special souvenir that I’d received on a trip I took in 1999 that I knew I’d never be able to replace. I’d gone to the country wanting a pointed hat, but I could never find one. Come to find out, they were Vietnamese in origin. Well, on the flight home to the U.S., I saw a man in the airport with one of them and I asked him where he bought his. He said he bought them in Vietnam and he had an extra one if I wanted one. I was so thrilled! The only souvenir I wanted was a hat, and some random stranger gave me one! And now, I was about to burn it in a bonfire in Austin, TX because some ministry leader thought it was demon possessed.

I stood around a circle later that evening with all the other students and staff members. First and Second year students stood in the inner circle, around the fire, with boxes and trash bags full of items that were precious to each of us. We knew we’d each take a turn, parting with our past lives, and each face seemed scared and pained. Tears were running down most of our faces. At the time, some people said they felt God’s presence telling them to throw the items in the fire so they could let go of past loves, past anger, past issues, but in reality, we were crying because we were confused, scared and afraid.

We were in a group with pastors and leaders who didn’t allow us to think for ourselves. Not one of them trusted us to develop a genuine relationship with God, or interpret the Bible for ourselves. Instead of love, they dictated by fear and anger. Instead of understanding that we were fresh out of high school, they lacked compassion and understanding. Most sad of all, they didn’t teach us how to think for ourselves, but threatened us and rebuked us anytime we spoke up against them or had a unique thought for ourselves.

Hannah Arendt, a well-known scholar, talks about the real evil in the world: the failure to have original thought. Arendt claims that this was something that one of Hitler’s right-hand men, and the Nazi’s did best: failed to think for themselves. Instead of thinking for themselves when an order was given to load up a houseful of Jewish men, women and children , set it on fire, and stand outside of the house with guns loaded and aimed, ready to shoot if any of them tried to escape, the Nazi’s did what they were told. At the end of the war, they said, “We were just following orders.”

How many times do we just accept something we’re told to do? How many times do we just follow orders? Is it the norm in today’s Christian Fundamentalist church to think like a Nazi? I know it was for me.