Tag Archives: Teen Mania

WORLD | Teen Mania suspends major part of ministry | J.C. Derrick | July 18, 2014

Regular readers of this blog — and those who watched the documentary “Mind Over Mania” on MSNBC in 2011 — might be interested in the following article:

WORLD | Teen Mania suspends major part of ministry | J.C. Derrick | July 18, 2014.

My previous posts about Teen Mania and its Honor Academy are available here.

A new rebuttal to Hanegraaff’s claims about brainwashing re. Teen Mania

In 1998, in the academic journal Nova Religio, sociologist Benjamin Zablocki wrote, “Many scholars deny that brainwashing exists and consider its use as a social science concept to be epistemologically fraudulent. Others make grandiose claims for the brainwashing conjecture, often using it to account for virtually everything about human behavior in high-demand religious organizations. Neither of these approaches is helpful.”

Furthermore, in her 2004 book Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults, Janja Lilich wrote, “Brainwashing does not occur in every cult, and it can occur in other contexts.”

So brainwashing is a viable concept, and the context for brainwashing does not have to be a cult.

What does this have to do with anything?

Hank Hanegraaff said brainwashing has been “utterly discredited.”

He’s wrong.

While Zablocki wants to qualify and consider the use of the term “brainwashing,” he certainly does not believe the concept has been “utterly discredited,” to use Hanegraaff’s words.

Let me back up.

Late last year, after MSNBC aired a documentary suggesting that Teen Mania’s Honor Academy used mind control techniques, Hank Hanegraaff came to the youth organization’s defense. (Read a collection of related posts here.)

In his defense of Teen Mania, after the documentary aired, Hanegraaff said, in part, “Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited. If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.”

His use of the word “sophistry” backfired. I rebutted Hanegraaff’s claims here. I pointed to Kathleen Taylor’s critically acclaimed 2006 book, Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, published by Oxford University Press. I also quoted from the book.

I challenged Hanegraaff to withdraw his erroneous statements. To the best of my knowledge, to this day, he has not corrected his error.

Hanegraaff wasn’t the only defender of Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. However, consider Lalich’s definition of a cult in Bounded Choice: “A cult can be either a sharply bounded social group or a diffusely bounded social movement held together through shared commitment to a charismatic leader. It upholds a transcendent ideology (often but not always religious in nature) and requires a high level of personal commitment from its members in words and deeds.”

After watching the MSNBC documentary back in November, I think many people could reasonably say that some past practices of Teen Mania’s Honor Academy were cultic and controlling in nature. Whether those practicies continue, I don’t know.

The facts are what you want them to be

The U.S. added jobs, according to NPR this morning — because some people have stopped looking for work, according to Fox News Radio this afternoon.

So U.S. employers “added” jobs when people have stopped looking for work.

That’s like saying the kids have gotten smarter because the SAT became easir.

(See this website for some useful tips on listening to media reports.)

You really only need to understand one thing about our media age: The facts are what you want them to be, whatever you want them to be.

For example, the MSNBC documentary “Mind Over Mania” asserted Teen Mania Ministries demonstrated elements of a mind-control cult. Following the documentary, Christian Research Institute head Hank Hanegraaff wrote, “brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China…”

Hanegraaff was then refuted, but he has yet to post a correction or clarification.

He also took a subtle shot at two of the experts consulted on the program, saying they were “billed as experts specializing in recovery from mind control…”

Hanegraaff was also refuted on his dismissive use of language there: “billed as experts.” He easily could have looked up the Duncan’s credentials.

Factual accuracy doesn’t matter, however, because many people accept what Hanegraaff says without hesitation or qualification. Because Hanegraaff agrees with their presuppositions, they will agree with Hanegraaff on everything.

If only that was true of Hanegraaff alone. Unfortunately, few people think critically or independently, instead choosing to get on one bandwagon or another, or follow one media pundit or another. Which cult do you belong to, and who is your cult leader?

You might as well expect Obama supporters to say the economy has “added” jobs, and the GOP presidential candidates to say people have lost hope in the economy. What else would they say?

Teen Mania donor and parent of Honor Academy grad tells shocking first-hand experiences

“Because I’m a parent of an Honor Academy (Teen Mania Internship) graduate, and because my four kids went on about 12 summer trips, and because I volunteered with Teen Mania in Miami and Garden Valley, and because I sponsored ministry teams who put on Acquire the Fire events, I feel I have the experience necessary to comment,” writes Carol Brammer Boltz in this blog post full of troubling details. Read it.


Former Teen Mania / Honor Academy student explains the organization’s ‘mind control’ elements

This post should make you seriously wonder whether Teen Mania Ministries leaders understand the Protestant Reformed perspective on the Gospel — and whether they have a healthy perspective at all.

(Link updated Oct. 8, 2017.)

A rebuttal to Hank Hanegraaff’s claims about brainwashing in China in his defense of Teen Mania

In my previous examination of Hank Hanegraaff’s defense of Teen Mania, I noted that Hanegraaff writes the following:

Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited.

If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.

How interesting it was, then, to find the following book through my university’s library: Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control by Kathleen Taylor, published in August 2006 by Oxford University Press.

I want to quote a significant passage that rebuts Hanegraaff, but first, let’s unpack the significance of the book itself.

1. It was published recently. This is not Robert Jay Lifton’s work from decades ago. I don’t mean to suggest Lifton’s work is irrelevant, only that time has not left the topic of brainwashing behind.

2. It was published by a reputable press. Oxford University Press is about as reputable as publishers can get.

3. It was written by Kathleen Taylor, who, according to the book, is “a research scientist in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford.”

4. Better yet, “Brainwashing, her first book, was short-listed for the 2005 MIND Book of the Year Award and long-listed for the 2005 Aventis Science Book Prize.”

Now, the last nail in the coffin holding the remains of Hanegraaff’s irresponsible, shoddy research:

Taylor, referring to the United Nations’ efforts to defend South Korea during the Korean War, writes, “The United States, the major participant in this joint effort, soon noticed that something strange was happening to US troops taken captive by the enemy. Some emerged from prisoner of war camps as, apparently, converted Communists, ready to denounce their country of birth and sing the praises of the Maoist way of life. Of course, the phenomenon of prisoners forced to laud their captors was not a new one. But some of these soldiers continued their bizarre — and passionate — disloyalty even after they were free of the Communists’ grip. Unnerved by their behavior, and concerned about potential effects on morale, the US began to investigate what their CIA operative Edward Hunter had in 1950 publicly christened ‘brainwashing’. Hunter himself expresses his negative reactions very clearly in describing a victim of the strange new phenomenon.”

Taylor continues with an excerpt from Hunter’s book, also entitled Brainwashing. In that excerpt, Hunter describes the experience of interviewing someone who came out of a Maoist prisoner of war camp. After noting the “unnatural” way the former POW replied to the questions (distinguishing the replies from shell-shock or PTSD), Hunter notes, “This was Party discipline extended to the mind; a trance element was in it. It gave me a creepy feeling.”

Hanegraaff, if he has any intellectual honesty, must publicly recant the falsehoods in his defense of Teen Mania.

The sophistry of Hank Hanegraaff — an examination of a defense of Teen Mania

Nov. 11 Update: Jay Howard of The Religious Research Project claims Hank Hanegraaff unethically took the healm of the Christian Research Institute. Howard substantiates his claim with several interviews. Read Howard’s article.

(Please also see “A Rebuttal to Hank Hanegraaff’s claims about brainwashing in China in his defense of Teen Mania“, written Nov. 12, 2011.)

The latest defense of Teen Mania Ministries (following MSNBC’s documentary “Mind Over Mania”) comes from an unlikely source: Hank Hanegraaff, one of the most ardent defenders of historically orthodox Christianity.

In a commentary on the Charisma News website, Hanegraaff completely ignores the most important element of the documentary: the young women who went through Teen Mania programs and claim to have been hurt and misled by the organization — and, he fails to back up several important points.

I’m not sure if Hanegraaff is entirely dismissive of the young women, or if he doesn’t want to judge them publicly.

Either way, let’s be clear exactly what Scripture teaches us to do when we are confronted with hurt people, even hurt people who attack us, and then we’ll look at the weaknesses of what Hanegraaff says in his commentary.

(1) “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you.”

(2) Are we supposed to imitate God’s character? Well, what is God’s attitude toward His children who have been wronged? “A bruised reed he will not break; a smoldering wick He will not extinguish.” God won’t break you, but Teen Mania’s defenders don’t care about you at all.

(3) Jesus taught if someone asks for your jacket, give them your shirt, too. This is not just a rule about clothing, but rather it is a metaphor for our disposition toward other people. So far, the defenders of Teen Mania get a massive FAIL on this giving trait of Christ when it comes to the young women who claim to have been hurt by the ministry.

Also in his commentary, Hanegraaff makes several statements that he does not back up. In other words, his commentary is drive-by shooting, and before I get to those statements he doesn’t back up, let me just point out how his off-the-cuff response is a shame for a man who has led evangelicals and fundamentalists with thorough research. But because his target is the mainstream media, and Christians dislike liberal journalists (no need to love enemies there!), Hanegraaff can get off scott free with an argumentative fallacy known as “appeal to the crowd.”

I’m sure Hanegraaff can do better, so I welcome him to prove the following points, or at least use Stephen Toulmin’s method to give us a reasonable case for the following points I have quoted from his commentary:

1. Hanegraaff writes, “Doug and Wendy Duncan, billed as experts specializing in recovery from mind control…” Hank, why don’t you take a little time to find out about the Duncan’s expertise, education, and background experience? What’s so exasperating about your dismissive language? The fact that you and the Duncans are probably on the same page about a lot things. For one, they are survivors of a genuine cult, and they have written a book about the experience.

2. Hanegraaff writes, “Moreover, many of the arguments proffered against TMM could just as easily be used to establish historic Christianity as a thought reform cult.” (A) This is incredibly dismissive, almost to the point of equivocation. The implied argument is, “Because one could use these criteria to say something bad about a good institution, these criteria are’t a big deal.” In fact, not once does Hanegraaff attack the real issues of Lifton’s Eight Points. (B) Actually, of all Eight, I don’t see how “Milieu Control” could possibly be seen as a characteristic of historical Christianity prior to 20th century fundamentalism. Most of our Christian heroes of the past were vigorously interacting with people in the surrounding culture. Believing in the truth, those heroes did not need to “control” the flow of information, ever. They proclaimed, discussed, and argued.

3. Hanegraaff writes, “Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited.” Maybe so (back it up, please), but maybe that’s missing the point. Maybe the psychological impact on the individual is more important. Everything I’ve read indicates that unhealthy groups do influence individuals for the worse, and sometimes even theological and doctrinal “correctness” on an intellectual level can mask unhealthy social and interpersonal behaviors. See my reading list here.

4. Hanegraaff writes, “If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.” Hank, what do you mean by “did not work,” exactly? Did not work at all, ever? Did not work after some time? Did not work after people were released from the reeducation camps? And, if reeducation camps didn’t work, do you have any problem with them? I mean, if they’re not a big deal to you, will you be advocating some of what they did in those camps? Is there something positive we can learn from those camps? Usually, you’re fairly black-and-white about these kinds of things, so forgive me if I’m stunned at how you’ve tried to reduce the moral significance and personal impact of communist reeducation camps.

I sincerely appreciate Hanegraaff’s personal defense of Ron Luce’s character, and his note of the ministry’s financial integrity. But those aren’t at issue.