Mind control is not just the domain of far-out cult leaders like David Koresh or Jim Jones. It is not magical or mystical and it is not always obvious at first glance. It is a real and psychologically demonstrable and it happens routinely at Teen Mania’s Honor Academy.
Mind control and brainwashing are very serious charges to levy at anyone. What do I mean by these terms? To clarify what I mean by these words, I’ll be using the article called The Mind Control Toolbox from www.cultwatch.com, with my comments in bold:
A cult will use deception. The cult will not normally tell people exactly what they believe, their origins, what they practice, and what life is really like in the cult, because if people knew they would not join. This information is taught to the new recruit slowly and in pieces – a “frog in the pot” tactic.
Deception is a key pre-requisite to Mind Control. The cult must be willing to deceive people. The Bible teaches that Christians are not to use deception. Many cults know this and yet practice deception.
Unfortunately, deception does occur at the Honor Academy. When life at the Honor Academy is not what you were led to believe or when new and unexpected requirements are laid upon you, you are told that you have no choice but to submit and comply. This is classic bait and switch. Check the ‘true stories’ to see many examples of this.
A mind control cult will promote an “Us verses Them” environment. They will teach their members that their church is the only true church, the only church in which you can be saved. If you leave the cult then it is said you have “fallen away from God.” This is done to instill fear in the members which can be expressed like this: If you ever think of leaving this body of true Christians or do something which forces us to expel you from this body then you will be losing your salvation and God will hate you. There is nowhere else you can go and still be a Christian. This is a powerful control mechanism.
Exclusivism is fear based control mechanism, the Bible tells us that we have no reason to fear except for a healthy fear of God. Exclusivism imposes false criteria on salvation – “If you do not join us and/or if you are not doing what we are doing you are not saved.” This of course is a serious doctrinal error ingrained in the practice of the group. Remember, just because a group does not teach it officially does not mean they do not practice it.
This last line is key. Honor Academy leadership would NEVER say this from the pulpit, but it is strongly implied in many ways. The us vs. them mentality is also prevalent. From the oft-used phrase that interns are “elite” leaders or warriors (even written on the entrances to the dormitories) to Ron’s constant berating of “namby-pamby, kumbayah Christians,” the interns are constantly told that they are better than other believers. The “cream of the crop” etc.
3) Fear and Intimidation
Leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is to disagree with God. If the leaders tell you to do something, you had better do it. Often intense breaking sessions are employed to destroy any supposed rebellion or threat to the leadership. These sessions can involve many people at once attacking the character and motives of the target. (ESOAL, anyone?)
The Bible tells Christians not to “lord it over people,” but rather to be one another’s servants. Jesus attacked the Pharisees who placed themselves between God and the people. It does not take much to realise that fear and intimidation is not the biblical model for Christian leadership. (Fear and Intimidation is very different from having respect for Christian leaders.)
They do actually teach this hyper-authoritarianism from the pulpit. No matter what, you MUST submit to their leadership because they are “godly” and the “appointed authorities.” They routinely use this to squelch criticism, disagreement, or even just setting your own personal boundaries and making your own decisions.
4) Love Bombing
A mind control cult practices love bombing or false love. When you first join the cult you will gain instant friends, you’ll be hugged and everyone will want to talk to you. For someone who is lonely or comes from out of town this is especially wonderful. However, after a while this “love” becomes conditional on your performance and/or you measuring up to the cult’s unpublished standards. If you ever leave the cult then you know you will lose all of your new friends just as quickly as you gained them. Like an unhealthy marriage relationship, love is switched on and off to control. Of all of them, this is probably the most effective implement in the mind control tool box.
We are relational beings with the ultimate aim of regaining a relationship with the God who created us. It only requires common sense to see the power this “love bombing” tool could have on someone. We have all seen it at work in the cults, at work in manipulative relationships and at work as peer pressure in schools and society in general. This false love is a distortion of true love which is defined in 1 Corinthians 13.
I haven’t seen this particular tool used much at the Honor Academy, though I will say that your social acceptance is revoked if you commit certain sins or hold certain opinions.
5) Information Control
Those who control the information control the person. In a mind control cult any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Members are told not to read it or believe it. Only the cult-supplied information is true.
This technique is really a partner to deception. Common sense tells us that a person who does not consider all information may make an unbalanced decision. Filtering the information available or trying to discredit it not of the basis of how true it is, but rather on the basis of how it supports the party line, is a common control method used throughout history. A Christian should have nothing to fear from any source of information – after all “Falsehood runs from truth, but truth stands solid against falsehood.”
Teen Mania’s information control is major tool in their arsenal to brainwash interns. Any voice that disagrees with Teen Mania’s teachings is automatically construed as rebellious, wicked, lying, etc. The actual arguments in question are not ever addressed, but instead the source of those arguments is derided and their motives are questioned. The leadership usually spins the situation so that they are misunderstood, or more likely, persecuted. Using this tactic, they can keep the interns from actually examining both sides of the story and coming to their own conclusions.