It’s been 2 years now since I found the blog. I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference it’s made for me. I’ve tried so many times to write my story. It would mean so much to me to have someone read it. I have a folder on my computer dedicated to doing just that. Nine attempts, plus two rehashing points that have been made time and again on the blog. I even started a new one tonight. They sound arrogant. They’re long. They’re detailed. I get bored. I get distracted. And most importantly, I’m scared. When I take the time to be honest about it, I simply don’t want to. I don’t want to face that arrogant prick I used to be. I hate him. I really do. He was well intentioned. He was smart. Hell, I’ve always been smart. But he thought he knew everything and he would do anything to prove it.
I never thought about it, but in some ways I was one of the elite at the HA. Or maybe not one of the elite, but definitely in the upper echelons of the privileged. Most people knew who I was. I was very well liked. In my entire year, I was confronted twice, by the same girl. The first time was I had gone over the 1 hour rule on video games by 15 minutes. I had already shut the computer down and was waiting for her to bring back my handbook (which I think she was using to confront someone else). I tuned her out once she started describing how I was following the will of Satan. The second was over how the boys dormitory smelled during campus reset. How that was my fault, I don’t really know. Later, I was very often confronted by my second ACA, who was a semester behind me. I’m not saying that I was a model intern that semester, but I had grown beyond caring. He finally tried to bite my head off and I bit back. I told him that he didn’t know me and that was why I didn’t listen to him. He tried after that, a little, but I was already stuck in my opinion of him and continued to disregard him.
My managers were all great. I did not like being taken off Custodial to be placed in the GE call center. I was told that it was temporary. I had to complain to the Call Center manager, and even then I was transferred to ATF before I was actually sent back to Custodial. Apparently “we prayed over where to put you” goes out the window when quotas are low.
That really is the most aggravating thing about TM. Numbers. Everything has to be about numbers. Performance. When I stepped into the argument with Leadership over the Deep Ellum Outreach being shut down, I contacted Dave Hasz directly. He told me that some interns were too comfortable in that kind of environment and needed to be pushed out of their safety zones. The numbers the group was producing didn’t justify the risk. Really? How do you QUANTIFY taking the time to listen to someone everyone else ignores? How do you QUANTIFY buying food for someone who’s hungry? How do you QUANTIFY making any kind of difference in someone’s life? And risk? It’s risky to let someone feel comfortable? No, he was not talking about any of us getting pick-pocketed, or assaulted, or anything like that. He saw letting people be comfortable there as “risky”.
I got the impression that Dave didn’t like us going off campus for anything other than church and TM events. There was a Bed and Breakfast down the road from the campus. It had a big screen TV, dvd player, movies, and a coffee bar. In my second semester, it became a very popular hang out. Apparently someone got up in arms over that and it came back to Dave. In the end, Dave allowed people to go, but I really got the sense that he didn’t actually condone it, he simply couldn’t find any grounds to condemn it.
I wrote this earlier today. It’s what got me thinking about this again.
“I never really know how to talk about the abuse. It really only comes down to this. They stupidly believed that by forcing us all into the same mold we would somehow grow as “individuals.” They thought that we would learn how to make the right decisions by always forcing us to make the decision they deemed “right.” Never did it cross their minds that if they want individuals, they had to address us individually. If they wanted decision making, they had to let us MAKE DECISIONS! More importantly, they had to let us make WRONG DECISIONS!
Really, they didn’t want individuals, because individuals eventually move on. Teen Mania wanted to rule us the rest of our lives, so they could take credit for us, and so they could panhandle from us. Dave Hasz actually said in a lecture that we should take Teen Mania standards with us when we went out in the world, because we would be an example of Teen Mania interns for the rest of our lives. I really should have left right then and there because my brain clicked. “What he really just said was that Teen Mania was going to own us for the rest of our lives.”
They didn’t want us making decisions because decisions undermined their power. And more importantly, wrong decisions made them look bad. Their structure was designed so that every misstep was seen, criticized and confronted. Not living up to expectations meant not being a good Christian, or even a good person.
Teen Mania opened my eyes. I saw a sickness in the church. Arguing, bickering, backbiting. I began to see hate. Hate gays. Hate other religions. Hate other denominations. Hate ANYBODY who doesn’t agree with ME personally. Arrogance, pure and simple. And I wasn’t immune to it. When I look back, I saw it very much in myself. Mostly the arrogance, but there was also that hate issue. Or more accurate, fear and confusion.”
The thing that drives me nuts is that I saw the problems. I was aware that there was something wrong. I could see it in my friends. I could see it in how they were treated. I could see it in the ridiculous lies the leadership told. I would like to tell those stories, but really the belong to others. I skated. I was friends with girls and got nothing more than “be careful.” I understand that they got confronted, or at least one of them did.
I was a January in 2002. The night I graduated, I went to the Lizard Lounge in Deep Ellum. By 2003, I had figured out what TM had really been like. Not because of what I had been through, but because I began to see the impact it had had on my friends. In 2004, I was homeless in California. I found myself confronted for the first time with all the things Christian Fundamentalists teach to you fear. Sure, I had seen it before, but this was the first time I had ever had to really interact with people of other faiths and sexual orientations from my own. In 2005, I stopped attending church. I didn’t see the point. In 2006, I became a pagan. Not because of what TM or the HA did to me personally, but because of what they made me aware of in the world around me. In a way, I guess I ought to thank them for it.
That’s my story. I’m sharing it with you partly to make myself feel better. But also because “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” -Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (NOT Edmund Burke). If those of us who see the problems at Teen Mania keep silent, Teen Mania will never change. If I could meet the Teen Mania supporters face to face, I’d tell them DON’T SILENCE US! Don’t scold us, Don’t shame us. If you really love everything that Teen Mania is about, or is supposed to be about, then those of us who see the problem, acknowledge them, and talk about them are the ones who are going to see the problems fixed. Blind devotion to an ailing institution only guarantees it’s demise.