This is part 3 in examining the list of cult characteristics from the International Cultic Studies Association and how it relates to the Honor Academy internship.
– The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
True & False. I haven’t seen or heard anything to indicate that they encourage interns to lie or raise money falsely. However, the leadership OFTEN lies and comes up with very strange and abusive means of “discipleship.” The interns are held to a much higher standard than leadership or the organization as a whole.
– The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
True. True. Oh, so true. It has taken me years to work through this one and I am still working on it. The leaders shame both from the pulpit and in individual interactions. Just look at the category on spiritual abuse to see ample evidence of this. I would go so far as to say that this might be the most dominant characteristic of the Honor Academy.
– Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
Cutting ties with family is never required (that I know of). I have heard many stories of interns who graduate from the internship and can no longer relate to their friends and family except in judgmental ways, so relationships can definitely be damaged. During the internship, you are living in the middle of nowhere Texas, and you are kept so busy that your ability to stay in touch with friends and family is quite strained.
– The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
This is a constant. Always recruiting for conferences and next year’s crop of interns.
– The group is preoccupied with making money.
Preoccupation may not be the right word. TM is in enormous debt, so there is a strong emphasis on campus to reduce spending and raise money. Of course, interns have to raise money to pay for the privilege of working full time at Teen Mania but they have also been asked/required to raise additional funds for the ministry at certain times. It is a well known fact that TM makes their money off the GE mission trips so if not enough missionaries are signed up, they will reassign interns to the missions call center in order to bring the money in.
– Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Uh, yeah. That is pretty much the stated goal of the Honor Academy.
– Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
This happens by default. Of course, interns are encouraged to minister to the lost, etc but no real relationships can be formed outside the Teen Mania campus (or bubble, as its affectionately referred to by the interns). David Hasz has said on more than one occasion that the best case scenario is marrying another intern, because only they can truly understand how impacted your life was by the Honor Academy.
– The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
True and False. The goal of the internship is not to keep everyone there for life. There is no mechanism for that and their goal is to train leaders to go into the world and continue their work. However, there definitely is a stigma to anyone who leaves or considers leaving the group before their appointed year is up. After all, they’ve given their word – they’ve even signed a document – that they would stay for a year. So leaving is seen to be against God’s will and a disobedient act. And they do often encourage interns to stay for a second year, even going so far as to say that unless God specifically calls you away, it means you need to stay.
Click to Read: Conclusion – is the Honor Academy a cult or not?