Teen Mania says that ESOAL is an optional, voluntary event. They claim that interns are not required to participate nor are they forced to endure the event longer than they want to. They can ring out at anytime.
In my cult recovery group, we have a saying for that, “Its voluntary, if you volunteer.”
In this post, I will demonstrate that ESOAL is NOT optional for the majority of interns.
First, we need to define “voluntary.” For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to define voluntary as being free from psychological, emotional, and spiritual coercion. If something is coerced, it is not voluntary. It does not matter if that coercion is physical or psychological. You can’t be controlled and act out of free will at the same time.
So how does Teen Mania psychologically and spiritually coerce interns into participating in ESOAL? I’m glad you asked.
Teen Mania starts by setting up a very black and white reality. If you do “A” you are godly, if you do “B” you are disobedient/unbroken/rebellious, etc. There is no middle ground. They do this by “loading the language” which is a standard tactic of cults and abusive groups.
Loading the language consists of redefining Biblical terms to meet their own agenda in a way that stops critical thinking.
An example: Dying to your flesh
– I must deny myself and die to my flesh.
– Dying to my flesh means doing whatever my leaders tell me to do, with joy.
– Dying to my flesh means enduring great physical pain.
– Therefore, if I quit ESOAL before my body physically gives out, then I am not dying to my flesh. (and therefore, I am a bad Christian, a failure, etc.)
Once you internalize this teaching, you are being controlled by Teen Mania. Instead of giving you many options about what dying to the flesh really means, you believe that pushing your body past its breaking point is the only way you can fulfill God’s will. And so you will.
In Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, the author states:
In other words, neither the charismatic leader nor others in the group need to be present to tell a follower what to do; rather, having internalized the lessons and adapted her outlook, the loyal and true believer knows precisely what she needs to do to stay in the good graces of the all-knowing and all powerful leader.
In reality, dying to your flesh has nothing to do with inflicting physical pain on yourself for the sake of proving how spiritual you are. Dying to yourself means dying to your sinful ways. In fact, Teen Mania’s teachings on this subject make less and less sense the more you examine it. How can twisting your ankle and continuing to run on it be what Jesus intended when he spoke these words? Its really quite laughable.
Let’s look at some other ways that Teen Mania redefines terms to manipulate you into submitting to the abuse of ESOAL:
– Self-pity: Self pity is generally understood as an undesirable condition of feeling sorry for oneself in an unhealthy manner. In contrast, Teen Mania extends the definition of self-pity to include being upset when your personal boundaries are violated, either physically or psychologically. Being upset when people are screaming in your face or you’ve blown out your knee are normal, God-given reactions that let us know something is wrong. By teaching interns to ignore this God-given warning system, they can more easily get interns to carry out their orders without question. (This also applies to the common phrase “manage your emotions.”
– Brokenness: This means being in a state of openness and repentance before God, wanting to hear His voice and follow His will. Teen Mania redefines this to mean being open and repentant to them, listening to their voice and following their will – all without question.
– Adversity Quotient: David Hasz’s teaching that unless you persevere through adversity (meaning everything that happens to you at Teen Mania) you will fail as a Christian leader.
– Burial and Resurrection: The bastardization of this teaching is so outside any Christian orthodoxy I’ve ever heard of, that it merits its own post here. Killing and/or ignoring your emotions has NOTHING to do with this spiritual truth.
So, if you accept Teen Mania’s teachings, failure to participate with your 100% in ESOAL means that you will fail as a Christian leader, you are wallowing in self-pity, you are not dying to your flesh and you are not sufficiently broken before God.
Again, when presented with the options in this way, is there really a choice?
The book, Twisted Scriptures, explains the process this way:
Molding minds is a step by step process. Some prospective members will bite off the information and swallow it rapidly. More critical minds will usually have difficulty accepting everything they are told. After those disciples have wrestled with their doubt and rationalized away other negative ideas, they are led to the next bit of misinformation. Exposed to a group using these training dynamics, even the strongest individual can be broken. Yes, even you.
This is why I repeat so often that people don’t think they are being unduly influenced because they “came on their own” and received teachings “at their own pace.” Nothing appears to have been forced upon them. In the end though, it doesn’t matter if you learned all the redefining of the words and all the twisted Scripture in a single sitting, or if it took you a year. The process is insidious. While it is happening, your view of reality is slowly narrowing. Whether in one giant step, or slowly over a longer period of time, they are still molding your thinking to fit their own agenda.
Even Scripture recognizes that bad teaching can mentally enslave us.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8
Now, let’s watch as a facilitator practices this form of coercion on a participant.
Notice that if the intern wants it to “be God” and do something “fantastic” he MUST continue ESOAL.
Quit and ring out = not fantastic, not God
Endure ESOAL = God will do awesome things
Does this intern really have a choice?
In this video, David Hasz explains how to ring out of ESOAL. He suggests that the proper time to ring out of ESOAL is, “When, you reach the place where you feel you can go no longer and you have experienced burial and resurrection…”
Notice that you are only given two options here. There is no option that says, “I am physically able to continue but I simply do not want to.”
There are some people that do not participate in ESOAL and others quit before their bodies have given out. This would seem to be a strong rebuttal against my arguments here. However, the majority of these people have suffered intense guilt and condemnation as a result of their decision. (Though there are occasional exceptions) They were not able to make a free choice to quit without suffering the arbitrary consequences decided by Teen Mania. If Teen Mania truly gave them a free choice to participate or not, there would be no negative repurcussions.
I’ll summarize by quoting from this paper on bounded choice:
The “Big Finesse” is to induce people into thinking they are exercising pure free will and personal choice while at the same time constraining their options with regard to anything important to the exercise of real power. It’s easier to control people if they are not aware that they are being controlled, because they will not even think to resist the control.
(This is a complex topic and I’ve only just scratched the surface. For more information on the techniques of mind control, please click the links embedded in this post and check out The Heresy of Mind Control.)