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Further disturbing info on “Honor Academy”

I’ve been looking around online to see what else I can find about the place where my little-brother-in-law is right now. Ran across this:

excerpted from Rolling Stone 4/19/07:

Further reinforcement comes from the Academy’s required “Life Transforming Events,” the most grueling of which is ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime). [Ron] Luce was reluctant to share details about the “Opportunity,” a fifty-to-ninety-hour sleep-deprived endurance test, but a short video of the 2005 ESOAL provides revealing glimpses: students weeping and dragging giant wooden crosses on their shoulders; a boy rolling and puking across a field while a senior intern “sergeant” in camouflage and a helmet urges him on; a platoon of weeping girls; a shell-shocked boy mumbling into the camera, “Don’t know what time it is…. Don’t know what matters. … Don’t even necessarily know who I can trust.” (my emphasis)

WTF? No wonder LBIL is scared of it.


{ 38 comments }

Amanda September 14, 2007 at 1:28 am

Happy Birthday, Mrs. M. It’s my sister’s birthday, too! 🙂 Happiness abounds!

Anonymous September 14, 2007 at 11:44 pm

That may not be what is best for him. He should explore his options. When the body is asleep it repairs itself. He should try his best to get at least 6 hours of sleep a day even if it is spread out. Good luck to him. If he is disabled due to severe depression pr other problems he may want to explore disabiltiy programs and medication to help him if he wishes. Good luck and I hope your birthday was wonderful. Annette

Anonymous October 21, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Go to honoracademy.com to learn more about the HA. I graduated from the program about 3 years ago. It has completely changed my life.

mrsmicah October 21, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Perhaps so, Anonymous, but the people there are treating my little brother in law like crap and making his life hell. I’m glad it was a good experience for you, but I can’t find a single good thing to say about it from his experience. Fortunately, he’s leaving at Thanksgiving.

Note: he’s even been told that he shouldn’t be taking his antidepressants. Very loving of them to make him feel guilty. If he’s ever healed that’ll be great, but until then his antidepressants are as much as medicine as drugs that treat pneumonia or cancer.

Esther December 12, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Hi Mrs. Micah,

I’m at my 2nd year at the Honor Academy. I’ve been through ESOAL 2 times voluntarily. It’s designed to wear you out physically and emotionally so that emotions can surface that you need to deal with and work through. For example, if I struggle with distrust, the leaders might blindfold me and make me depend on my team to overcome that problem in my life. Nevertheless, it is an optional event, and only one part of the Honor Academy experience. I first went at a point when I was really depressed in my life. The internship turned my life around, and now I have hope again. It is not a cult. I’m sorry if your borther-in-law has had a bad experience so far. I really believe that you will get out of it what you put into it. I hope he experienced a change and didn’t leave.

intern for 6 weeks January 29, 2008 at 10:30 am

I was an intern at the honor academy for six weeks. I actually left right before ESOAL 2006. It completely changed me as well, but not in a good way. After my experience there, it was harder than ever for me to trust anyone, even those I was closest to, even God. It still affects me today, although I am doing much better. I know that it may be a good experience for some, but I found several things wrong with the program. I am not discounting that Teen Mania does many positive things, but this program was not for me, and I know that I am not the only person who has been hurt by it.

Esther January 29, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Dear “intern for 6 weeks”,

I’m sorry about your experience. What happened?

Rachel July 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm

The HA is a cult and it has taken me years to get over some of the things they did to me.

Shelly August 23, 2008 at 7:11 pm

My little sister left early because she was so distrubed by this place. I’m so glad she left!!!!

Noelle November 3, 2008 at 7:56 pm

I would not suggest anyone go to the Honor Academy. I was there for a five days and I am still trying to get over alot of the things that happened there.

And when I read what Esther wrote, “The internship turned my life around, and now I have hope again. ” You shouldn’t have to pay 7,800 dollars to have your life turned around by a program! God can turn your life around!

You don’t need a program to change your life. I learned this in the 5 days I was there. Sure it’s easier to get closer to God when are going to seminars and worship services and doing required quiet time. But shouldn’t there be something in us that makes us do that ourselves? Without help of leaders like Ron Luce who people look up to like they are some kind of amazing being?

That place may be for someone who feels lost but I prefer to look in my bible and find God’s answers and God’s views on life rather than Ron Luce.

And by the way, ESOAL, was all secretive. No one I talked to would tell me exactly what was going to happen or what I could expect and many have told me that it is to remain secretive.

Cult means secret. Put two and two together.

I could totally go on but I won’t.

Jeff December 18, 2008 at 10:11 pm

This is no different than a military boot camp. When I went to boot at 19, there were many 17 and 18 year olds in my unit. Of the 100 that started, maybe 10 or so washed out in the first couple weeks. Then another handful in the next month and in the end around 75 remained. Just because 25% of people are not prepared to face challenges by the age of 18, does not mean that it’s a bad program.

James Dills December 30, 2008 at 1:20 pm

We should all do everything that we can to put Luce in prison for his devilish ways. Who knows what really goes on there. My neice wants to go to the Honor Academy. She’s already brainwashed, but believes she’s a free-thinker.

James Dills December 30, 2008 at 1:26 pm

I checked out the Honor Academy website and they don’t allow masterbation!

Tyler January 5, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I’m applying to attend the Honor Academy in August of 2009, and it’s clear that you don’t understand the point of everything that happens there. Everyone who chooses to go there should know (just from looking at the website) that it is an extreme and radical program designed to challenge you and build a foundation on the rock. I’m a little anxious about everything, but I know that it’s because Satan is tugging at me, trying to make the silly wordly desires that I have more important than the ultimate desire I should have: a relationship with Christ. If your little brother-in-law wants to come home, then he was never there for the right reasons anyway. No one said it would be easy, and if you expect the kind of relationship with God that the Honor Academy is trying to build to come from an easy process, then you are a dreamer. The program is tough because we live in a world that completely devalues a relationship with God in favor of earthly desires, and it takes a tough program to make someone strong enough to be a Light in a world like that. These kids know what they’re signing up for, and if they decide that they don’t want it anymore, that’s fine. But it’s probably because they weren’t there to build a strong relationship with Christ in the first place. You have to be made weak in order to become strong, and in our weakness we see how much we really need the Lord in our lives. My last point: you’re talking about an article from Rolling Stone, which is one of the most liberal examples of the moral decay being promoted by our media. Ron Luce is passionate about this issue, and he is trying to make the point that most of today’s teenagers allows the media to control their choices about lifestyle (and the media is definitely not promoting the Christian lifestyle). Rolling Stone does not understand the journey of faith that most of the kids at Honor Academy are trying to make (and they probably never will), and clearly you don’t either.

Tyler January 5, 2009 at 9:06 pm

People often criticize what they don’t understand; in this case, people criticize the Honor Academy by calling it a cult. They do this because they cannot understand how someone would choose to attend a school that has rigorous requirements; furthermore, a sad number of people in this world truly understand the sacrifice we must make to live for Him (Christ) and be a Light in a very, very dark world. If little brother-in-law picked the Honor Academy purely for a film program, then he did not do his research. The Honor Academy is entirely faith-based and designed to stretch you to your limits, to make you a light for God. Career opportunities should be far down the line on concerns if a person is considering Honor Academy. It says, right in the mission statement, that the goal is “to provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth.” I’m sorry that little brother-in-law is having a poor experience there, but I can guarantee that it stems from his motivations in choosing the school, and is followed by a resistance to radical change in his life (which is what the Honor Academy is for in the first place, to build a strong relationship with Christ that includes an understanding of his love and our purpose here on Earth). It isn’t boot camp. It’s a voluntarily chosen environment that encourages a walk with the Lord.

Noelle January 6, 2009 at 3:17 am

Tyler-

People call honor academy a cult because it has cult characteristics. I was there…and I could tell that something wasn’t right. It’s called discernment.

1.) ESOAL- the event that was supposed to be a secret. No one was allowed after ESOAL to tell exactly what happened during that event. & secrets & things that are controlled like that are not biblical.

2.) When a cult member wants to leave a cult the cult will try their hardest to get them to stay because that person leaving will make THEM look bad. But they have no problem kicking someone out for the smallest fault.

Apply that to Honor Academy’s system. I’ve heard of people getting “dismissed” for the smallest things such as being disorderly. But when I wanted to leave it took me TWO HOURS talking to my Core adviser about why I wanted to leave. & she told me that I would be sinning if I left and going against God’s will!

I also have a friend who went there, admitted that he had a weakness for pornography and he was dismissed. His mother talked to his adviser and said “Well, why don’t you counsel him? He came to you and admitted his sin and wanted help.”

And you know what they said “Overall we have to do what is best for our ministry.”

In my opinion ministries should try to do what God would do and live by His word. Would God neglect a Christian who admitted a fault? If I confessed to God that I have a drinking problem, or that I was having pre-marital sex, do you think He would abandon me? Say that I was no longer His child?

3.) The rumors of secret societies: (again, like I’ve said in a previous post on here: cult means secret)

Now I am not saying that I think Ron Luce is an evil man or whatever because I don’t know his heart. Only God knows his heart and only God can judge him & the other staff at the good ‘ol HA. They think that what they are doing is good and beneficial and whatever. Maybe they had good intentions and some things just went wrong but I am going to trust my discernments and the flaws that I’ve seen in this ministry that has lead several people astray.

One verse that God showed me in my decision to leave was Galatians 1:6-7

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ

Some things they teach there are legit…maybe but some just don’t measure up to God’s word.

Esther January 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Thanks Tyler. You’re right on point. People criticize what they don’t understand.

Tyler January 6, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Noelle-

1. ESOAL is kept a secret so that the students don’t know what is store for them, so that they can learn to rely on God for their strength instead of themselves. It adds to the anxiety students have going into it so that we can learn to look to the Lord.

2. I have friends at the school, and students that are made to leave are only told to do so for good reasons. The Honor Academy is not a school that is meant for EVERYONE, and it can’t be treated that way. That’s why the application process is fairly rigorous – no offense, but the school’s purpose is to be an incredible environment of growth for the Lord, and having certain people there could damage that environment for many others.

I completely agree with your comment that God would not neglect anyone. The Honor Academy is not neglecting anyone that they ask to leave, they are simply saying that their school is not the right environment for that person right now. Like I said above, it isn’t a school that’s meant for EVERYONE, because not everyone is ready for the experience. And the Honor Academy most certainly did not say that these people are no longer God’s children. You are putting so many things out of context here.

If you aren’t damaging the environment for other people, then of course they would fight for you to stay. I can’t believe that you are using that as part of your argument. They are fighting for you to stay because they want you to have the best relationship with Christ that you can possibly have.

3. The only thing that is secret about the Honor Academy is ESOAL. I explained the reasoning for it’s secrecy above. The rest of the rules, procedures, directions, and teachings are made crystal clear on the website. I know what I am getting myself into when I go, and I’ve talked to people from that school that are entirely willing to discuss everything with me (except ESOAL, and only because they know that I have yet to participate in it and don’t want to ruin it for me).

Please don’t quote the Bible so out of context. They aren’t deserting anybody, just explaining to them that the HA is not the best situation for them right now (like I explained above). I’m sorry that you had a bad experience there, but please stop trashing the HA with comments that have no context if you really look into the school’s reasoning.

I really think that this argument comes completely from misunderstanding. Those of you who don’t understand the way your fellow Christians operate call it a cult.

Noelle January 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm

No, I don’t think it is a misunderstanding I saw what I saw and heard what I heard. I will continue to tell my story to prevent people from making the same mistake I did.

And I really don’t feel like continuing to argue with you Tyler, or anyone else from Honor Academy.

I will just say we can agree to disagree and let it be over. In the end we are both children of God and going to the same place when we leave the earth.

God bless,
Noelle

Malaina February 27, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Im leaving in august this year for HA and i couldnt be happier. This is Gods answer to my prayers. Some of you may think its stupid or im wrong, but when God is in control how can i make any mistake. The HA is for me and anyone else who truely wants what God has for their lives.

And Tyler i hope we can meet this august!
God Bless
-Malaina

zach March 23, 2009 at 12:31 am

im applying for ha and i really hope i get in

Jocelyn March 30, 2009 at 11:54 am

I’m going to the Honor Academy as well and I couldn’t be happier. Like Malaina my acceptance has been an answer to my prayers. I distinctly asked God to not let me get accepted unless He wants me to go there this year. Well I got accepted and have confirmation not only from the Bible but also from my spiritual leaders. I feel if God can show/lead anyone to go to HA then obviously it isn’t an cult. Those who did go and have a bad experience, I’m sorry, but it can very well be they went for the wrong intentions without full confirmed guidence from God. Also if they did recieve confirmed guidence maybe the HA was a test for them to go through to help them out and strengthen them.

I’m sorry to those who’ve had a bad experience but that doesn’t mean HA is bad. People on here have already said how it has blessed them and proved how “Rolling Stone” an obviously secular magazine is wrong.

Sorry guys but before talking bad about something you should control God about it. Such situations should always lead us to seeking God out all the more, so that we can rely on HIM.

KEN B June 16, 2009 at 6:04 pm

If you stayed at HA god wanted you there, if you didnt god needed you elsewhere. im going and i can’t wait but if its not want he wants then ill move on. More later good luck guys.

Cathryn June 24, 2009 at 1:35 am

I find it quite interesting when I see and hear of some individual’s reactions of the Honor Academy. I myself am an alumnus of the HA, with two sisters who have also graduated from there…one of which did not have exactly the best experience either, as some have already expressed on this page. My experience with Teen Mania as a whole, Acquire the Fire, Global Expeditions, and the Honor Academy has been good one…and let me tell all of you…that does not mean I did not have my ups and downs and issues at times with this place. I choose to look at the positive over the negative things that can be created in any environment, Christian or not. Every church, ministry, organization, school, or whatever has it’s issues and things that need to be worked on…no place is perfect, and of course, TM isn’t either. I struggled while I was there with people that said certain things that weren’t right and leadership decisions that I definitely did not agree with, and mostly, frustrations with my intern job…and while I was there I considered leaving. Sure that would’ve been the easy way out. But I had made a decision for myself that I was going to get through that year no matter what and the only way to get through it was with God and a little better perspective. After all, before coming to the HA I said I wanted to be challenged and I wanted to grow in my faith and as an individual. This was a perfect opportunity.

Both of my sisters had graduated from there before me and I saw a perfect example of how I could choose to react from the environment that I was going to enter. And I decided to not let any experience or person make me bitter, as some past interns have allowed themselves to become. They are the only ones losing in that situation. Every person has a choice on how they can react and feel. No one controls your feelings and no one chooses how you are going to react in a given situation. Yes, initially you may get hurt and sad or even angry over something that happened…that’s natural and of course it’s not bad to feel those things, but what are you going to do with those feelings? Are you going to let them eat away at you inside, or let them control how you are going to react in a given situation? No, you take a hold of those feelings, ask God for help, and deal with them before they turn into bitterness and hate against the HA and people there. This is exactly what I had to do while I was there. And let me tell you folks…it did a world of good.

So now when I look back at my HA experience I am able to focus on the things that made that year amazing…challenges I overcame, realizations about the goodness of the Lord and His love for us, and dear friendships that blessed me beyond belief.

For those of you that have been hurt from Teen Mania/Honor Academy. I am sincerely sorry. I truly believe TM has no intention of hurting anyone, but of course, there is no excuse why a certain person, leader, manager, or whoever did or said whatever that caused that hurt and/or frustration. Take it from me though. Don’t let that frustration and hurt overwhelm you or fester. Use this as an opportunity to forgive as Christ would.

Oh, and I definitely agree that some people do not need to go to the Honor Academy. Some are just not meant to be there, but for those that feel led to go there and then are not sure whether they made the right decision…think about why it is you wanted to go there in the first place. Was it because you weren’t sure what the next step was in life and you wanted a little more direction, was it cause you wanted to learn more about God’s word and maybe even get some college credit, was it cause you wanted to be challenged and stretched so you could have a stronger faith in God, or was it cause you wanted to help serve a ministry that reaches out to people all over the world. Well, TM is definitely all those things and more.

Overall, I really hope someone got something out of this long comment.

corey July 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

i’m going to the honor academy in august. im a little nervous but i know that going to the honor academy is God’s will for my life right now. i’d like to make some friends prior to gettin there, so anyone else coming to the honor academy look me up and facebook and friend request me and tell me ull be at the honor academy. thanks

Larnelle July 23, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I noticed that a lot of comments are from people who are going to Honor Academy this year in August and I would like to get to know some of you all beforehand. My email address is carnagel16@gmail.com and I am at facebook just search out my name Larnelle. I am too going this August as well and I am overall very excited. I look forward to chatting with some of you all!

Michelle July 29, 2009 at 11:32 am

Hey everyone i’m going to the honor academy in august to… look me up on facebook if you’re gonna be an intern this august… it’s gonna be amazing.. i just got back from a GE trip to Dallas… it was the most amazing thing ever… my email is i-heart-jesus@live.com you can use that to look me up on facebook

Dr. Rick Johnson September 11, 2009 at 11:08 am

I am a parent of a current student: My son is preparing for ESOAL as I write this. the HA experience has allready been a life change and clearly this is not for everyone. This is a place that wants teens to have a true passion for Jesus and rely on Him in all things. Nothing is perfect but I can tell you it is safe and the staff loves the kids. Ron Luce truly loves the Lord and wants our kids to have a strong biblical worldview. For me as a parent and my child, it has been a great decision. In a world that shows no integrity or character, this is needed for the future generation.

Tracey Bateman September 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm

My daughter is at Esoal as we speak. I find it disturbing that it’s being called secretive. There are clips all over Youtube.com
And they’re pretty intense. There’s nothing wrong with enduring hardship to grow. Teenagers by and large are not taught discipline. That’s what bootcamp is all about.
God Bless
Tracey Bateman

former intern September 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

The few things that people did tell me about Esoal in the week that I was at honor academy is:

“Man, so many people are going to break their legs and stuff.” -(2nd year intern)

Yeah, that sure sounds like it’s healthy.

Other than that, and the generic videos on youtube that is all I was told about it. And when I asked I was told that “we would find out.” and then, on top of that you aren’t supposed to tell about your expirience in detail after it’s over.

So, right, it’s not secretive at all.

Enduring hardship is having a loved one die, or losing a job, divorce, or being sick.

I have expirienced all of the above and God has brought good from it.

Another hardship I am currently going through is dealing with the emotional damage I went through when I was at Honor Academy. It has been a year and good I have found from it is that it made me realise who God really is. It made me cling to God. It made me especially cautious when I am listening to a sermon, to make sure that I find that everything I am being taught alligns exactly with the word of God.

Thats what I got out of Honor Academy.

Eric September 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

There is a term for what happens at Honor Academy and ESOAL. The term is Spiritual Abuse. Everyone I’ve talked through who’s gone through this program–even (I might say especially?) the favorable ones–fits this pattern to the letter.

Spiritual abuse is common in cults, but you don’t have to have unorthodox theology to be in an abusive situation. It happens when people use the name of God or Jesus to control and manipulate people’s behavior. The result is a harsh, demanding, and impossible-to-please God that does not match the Father of Jesus Christ.

The books Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn and The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse are good books on this subject. Read them, or others like them–it’s a well documented pattern–and see if it doesn’t describe this kind of ministry.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” –Jesus (Luke 14:18–19)
.-= Eric´s last blog ..Practical Tips for Worship Leading =-.

Eric September 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm
Tom September 21, 2009 at 5:55 pm

My son just finished ESOAL and when he called us afterwards, he was tired but so full of joy. I have no doubts whatsoever that he is right where the Lord wants him to be. The boy is becoming a man, and not JUST a man but a man with a lifelong passion for the God he serves and loves. If the HA is not for you, then so be it, but it has been a tremendous blessing for my son and for us as parents as well. No regrets here.

Honor Academy Intern October 30, 2009 at 11:37 am

I am sorry that your experience of the Honor Academy is the “ESOAL” experience taken out of context. Many people do not state that ESOAL(emotionally stretching opportunity of a lifetime) is OPTIONAL. This is a amazing place where teens can focus on their life, find direction and solidify your future. ESOAL is a great way for the interns to dig deep and have the gut-check of a lifetime. If you have any question please e-mail. I love to give you proper information.
~Stephen

RecoveringAlumni November 5, 2009 at 1:18 am

I spent 2 years in the internship – it is a very abusive and controlling atmosphere. They dominate you and control your behavior primarily through guilt and fear. I’ve been blogging about it for a few months and many interns have come forward to share their stories – which are all very similar.
.-= RecoveringAlumni´s last blog ..Recovery: Part 1 =-.

kimmi April 21, 2010 at 2:28 am

I am a former intern as well. Before I went to the HA I was on fire for the Lord and ready to change the world. I used to say that the HA was one of the most challenging experiences and one of the best.

I’m not so sure that is true. I believe as Christians we have a responsibility to go into the world and reach the world for Christ. That is what attracted me to TM.

While in the internship I was in leadership, in the dance ministry, I even sat on the Honor Council (council that decides the fates of interns if they commit something dismissable)

I worked hard, became successful, received numerous promotions, etc.

If you haven’t been to TM you can’t relate to some of the things that are shared because you have such high hopes and expectations. I don’t want to deter you because everyone needs to experience things for themselves.

I would just say that while you are at TM it is important not to lose who you really are. You will be stretched, tested, etc. but don’t lose yourself. Christianity is about a personal relationship with Christ. No one else can judge your personal walk.

Many interns suffer from what is commonly known as “the pressure to be perfect”. I’ve read countless interns stories on how they sought the Lord, engaged themselves in ministry, dove full force into TM only to leave feeling inadequate and not good enough.

Make sure that you don’t become so “consumed by the call” you forget the one who called you in the first place. Don’t confuse being consumed in ministry as being consumed with Christ. It is not the same thing. God is a jealous God! He desires intimacy.

That is what I lost at TM, my intimacy with Christ. I had my quiet times, served in ministry, etc. but I lost my true intimacy with God. I was so focused on ministry and doing everything that was required by TM that it took my true focus off of God.

So to every future intern who is over zealous and ready to dive into TM I pray all the best. Just don’t lose yourself.

Love you all!

Giorgio May 14, 2010 at 2:43 pm

PS: Esoal isn’t all year its a weekend. Now corporate exercise and physical training is all year but it is needed and interns know about it before arriving. Most people are not ok with exercise but even the bible says it develops disciplines and that is what the HA is trying to do. There is a website that is full of testimonies of alumni from years past called:
http://www.hastories.com check it out.

Eric May 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm

This blog has been putting the spotlight on some true HA alumni stories in recent months. I encourage everybody to check it out:

http://www.recoveringalumni.com
.-= Eric´s last blog ..“Is Not God’s Word as Good as Mine?”: R. A. Torrey on Salvation and Assurance =-.

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