1. UNBIBLICAL AND UNCHRISTIAN MANIPULATIVE METHODS USED: intimidation, insults, public humiliation, emotional battering marathon format, in contrived, controlled environment breaks down normal boundaries and forces people to participate in artificial intimacy with others they did not choose manipulates words to create a new reality, controlled by the leader breaks people down, them builds them up to demonstrate the transformation they have attained harassment of unsatisfied customers and/or critics
2. MOMENTUS IS THEOLOGICALLY UNSOUND:
Jesus Christ and the cross not central
judges truth by emotions rather than by the whole of scripture
the Holy Spirit has no part in one's transformation since nonChristians are said to be transformed
sin defined as being a victim
repentance seen as between people; God stands in the background
reality interpreted by the leader
the focus is on Momentus, not Christ
God's grace for us is missing or downplayed
scripture and God-talk present, but has little effect on course content
conclusion: by first-hand accounts and Momentus literature, this organization appears much like an est and Lifespring-type
3. THE TESTIMONY OF OTHERS: it has caused dissension and/or church splits in many churches; trainers have no professional background in either theology or therapy; the authoritarian atmosphere works against people leaving voluntarily; its roots are in est/Lifespring, part of the human potential arena (which is partly based on the eastern philosophy); two-page hold-harmless release is inappropriate for any Christian group, and is obtained under pressure and after the nonrefundable tuition is paid; leader subtly reiterates the idea that all have latent "issues" to be fixed; harassment occurs on site, if one leaves the room; and offsite, if one leaves the training (by phone, fax, letter, personal confrontations); people are made to stand while each in the group says what they think of him/her (although they don't know the person)
(Written by a church in California in answer to questions about Momentus which were raised by its members; 1997)
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MOMENTUS AND LIFESPRING TRAINING
Momentus Training, Lifespring and est (Erhardt Seminars Training) are all forms of encounter training groups which have been widely criticized as being forms of psychological training which have harmed many of their participants.
Momentus and Lifespring are fundamentally similar in the following ways:
- Dan Tocchini, founder of Momentus, was a Lifespring trainer for eight years
- controlled, regimented environment
- some identical experiences (Lifeboat, Black/Red game)
- high-pressure tactics designed to break down the resistance of participants
- participants are induced to do what they're told, largely from fear that they will be attacked verbally or disciplined in some way by the trainer, and from peer pressure
- use manipulation to make participants anxious, then relieve the anxiety
- psychotherapeutic tools, including elements of Gestalt, abuse recovery and Transactional Analysis
- ground rules, some of which seem trivial, and all of which are stringently enforced
- "hold harmless" disclaimer which requires private arbitration; must be signed during session
- breaking down of existing paradigms; trainer directs them to create a new reality
- graduation ceremony
- pregnant mothers and those suffering from epilepsy or emotional distress are not allowed to participate
- graduates act as training volunteers
- emphasize terms such as "commitment," and "breakthrough," meaning a new understanding in some area of life
- testimonies of graduates are almost identical
- trainer as authority, trainee to respond automatically and with complete trust as a child
- using unfamiliar vocabulary
- focus on "being rather than doing"
- make commitments to unlimited "possibilities" of what a person can become
- roots in the :human potential movement" and its emphasis on "self actualization"
Response to Killing the Victim Before the Victim Kills You
By Derek M. Watson, Daniel L. Tocchini and Larry Pinci
Momentus Training/Mashiyach Ministries
Reviewby Maria Henderson
Summary: The book summarizes the philosophy behind the Momentus training. While it doesn't ever describe exactly what takes place in Momentus, the guiding principles can be discerned.
The main thesis of the book is that every person is either a victim (someone whose choices and responses are determined by circumstances, events or other people) or a victor (one who is free to love and serve God and others). The goal of the authors is to provoke or facilitate transformation from victim to victor. The key to that transformation is the ability to make and keep promises. Failure to keep a promise (even an implicit one, such as the obligations of a role such as parent or spouse) reflects a failure in one's relationship to God, because it reveals a lack of faith in God's provision of whatever is necessary to keep the promise. Broken promises, or "breakdowns," do give opportunity to "account" for the breakdown, which includes both admitting the action and the underlying attitudes or motivations.
The book is liberally peppered with Scripture quotations and examples from the lives of biblical characters. The authors even include the Apostle's, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds as well as the Definition of Chalcedon in an appendix as a sort of guarantee of their orthodoxy. There are very few statements that are obviously unorthodox, but the implications of the authors' recasting of the Gospel and the Christian life into the terminology of victim/victor raise serious questions about the underlying theology.
Asking some theological questions:
The following theological questions reveal some of the problems in the book, most of which relate to what is not being said.
Who is God in their view? The most common title or description used about God is "provider," sometimes stated as "Jehovah-Jireh." God's provision is the guarantee of any person's ability to keep a promise. The problem in their system is that they never describe the content of the promises that are made -- "victors" in their way of thinking are self-governing and choose their own visions and promises. God is reduced to a cosmic bellhop who is obligated to provide for the promises I choose to make, assuming I have faith.
At a less explicit level, many of their statements and stories reflect a view of God as harsh or punishing. For example, "Humiliation is the mainstay of God's plan for our maturing" (p. 60). Grace is only mentioned once In the book, and then it's in the context of failing short of God's grace.
Who is Jesus Christ and what did he do? Jesus is mentioned quite often throughout the book, and often cited as the source of the two love commandments. Becoming more like Jesus is another oft-cited goal in the book. However, a closer look at what is and isn't said about Jesus reveals an inadequate Christology.
The authors affirm Jesus' sinless nature (using their definition of sin as being a victim), but then they ask what made Jesus different. They answer, "The defining character of Christ as a victor, which supported His whole ministry, was the vision from which he lived -- that of glorifying God by serving others" (p. 19). This is true as far as it goes, but what it doesn't say is that Jesus is God incarnate.
They have a whole chapter on "the humiliation of the cross" in which they set up Jesus' acceptance of the cross as a model of how we should accept humiliation. They define the primary meaning of the cross as an instrument of "shame, rejection and humiliation," and see what Jesus did on the cross as refusing to be a victim by keeping his word and enduring the shame and humiliation of the cross. They use Heb. 12:1-2 to make a case that "Jesus demonstrates that determining how 'big' or 'small' a humiliation is depends on us" (p. 66). There's not a word about bearing sin or making atonement anywhere in the book. Indeed, the meaning of the cross is purely as an example (like the "moral influence" theory of atonement), and specifically it's an example not so much of loving God first as it is of a kind of "mind over matter" philosophy. Jesus saw the vision of the joy as bigger than the shame of the cross, and so was able to endure the suffering. It's interesting that they never define the content of that joy (the reconciliation and salvation of humankind).
Who is the Holy Spirit? In a word, he isn't here. Not even lip service is paid. This is rather remarkable in a book that is supposed to be about transformation, which in a footnote they admit was "once called 'sanctification"' (p. 178, n. 34). This omission puts their commitment to Trinitarian orthodoxy in serious question, no matter how many creeds or confessions they print in the back of the book.
What is the purpose of human existence? There are basically two categories of statements that address this question, which seem correlated but not quite connected in the book. First, humans are to be victors, which means having a vision and pursuing it through making and keeping promises. The content of both the vision and promises are never defined. Self-government is another favorite term for this configuration. Most of their examples of the kinds of promises made and broken have to do with fairly trivial things like making appointments to meet others, or with the kinds of promises that go with social ly-defined roles, such as being a spouse or parent. At bottom, there seems to be a radical autonomy implied in their notion of self-government; any vision I choose to pursue is as good as any other.
Second, they talk a lot about following God's will, or choosing to serve others. Being a servant is often correlated with being a victor, but again, this is a contentless concept. There is no discussion of how one knows God's will, or what criteria might be used to judge whether something is God's will. At one point they say that "vision comes spontaneously from God" (192), but only as one is one the way already.
What is the sin problem and how is it solved? Sin is basically defined as relating to others as victim. Being a victim means letting circumstances determine one's life and choices. Disbelief in God's provision, which results in breaking promises, is another form of sin, which they label idolatry. The solution to sin is repentance, accounting for the breakdown of promises and renewal of one's commitment to keep promises. Forgiveness is mentioned only in relations between people, and it seems that repentance and accounting is primarily a horizontal relationship in their view, too. It's up to us to work out our "victimhood" and God stands in the background.
At a deeper level, sin is not a real problem. It is a matter of selfishness at worse or, more likely, misperception about the world. That would explain why there's no need for atonement and grace in their picture. One of the consequences of reducing sin to relating as a victim is that one can never be a real victim of another's sin. One of the authors tells a story from his childhood (p. 55-6) where his grandfather hired him to take care of his lawn. When he asked to be paid, the grandfather yelled at him. It later turned out that the boy had used too much fertilizer and was harming the grass. His conclusion about the story was that his father and grandfather had "pointed out my obvious selfishness" and that his anger was unjustified. The solution was simply to do abetter job with the grass. There is an air of unreality about this story -- the boy had to repent of being a "victim" but wasn't allowed to acknowledge the real injustice of the way his grandfather treated him. This seems psychologically dangerous to say the least.
Aside from the fact that an inadequate theology underlies the Momentus training, there are many attitudes reflected in the book that raise serious questions about the training.
In general, there seems to be a very sloppy kind of reasoning at work. A lot of weight is put on etymological issues (that is, the various uses of words in different times and places) as the basis for defining key concepts. A model of transformation that comes out of a dictionary more than out of the experiences of real people seems inherently dangerous. There is a blurring or twisting of concepts of subjectivity/objectivity throughout the book. At heart, what they seem to promote is a "mind over matter" philosophy, where if I can just change my attitude, I can change reality. However, the surface meaning of their language seems to be criticizing the subjectivity of our culture and claiming that they have a way of introducing objectivity into relationships.
What hints they give about Momentus and what takes place there are frightening. They tell one story about someone getting to a breakdown point, and being reduced to silence by a Holocaust survivor who said, essentially, you haven't suffered what I have. Their emphasis on humiliation seems to be a license to confront and demean people. In general, the stories these guys tell on themselves do not inspire confidence in their trustworthiness or sensitivity. Also, the kind of release that participants have to sign, and the fact that they have to get a psychologist's release if they are in therapy, indicate that the "training" has a high potential for wreaking psychological harm.
The authors reveal some of the criticisms that have been leveled against them over Momentus. One charge seems to be that they "are pursuing noble aims (love and transformation of character) but in a form that is tainted because it is similar to forms and exercises used by secular 'new age' groups" (pp. 166-7). This seems a concession to their roots in EST. I think it is probably closer to the truth to say that they have taken the program from EST and added a veneer of Christianity. The flaws in their theology indicate that they don't have a truly Christian model of personal transformation. All the psychological and spiritual dangers of EST are probably present in Momentus.
Their attitude toward the church in general is suspicious and critical. They seem to have encountered a lot of suspicion from local churches whose members have gotten involved in Momentus. This is with good reason, I would say, and any pastor that doesn't examine their premises and practices with care is doing a disservice to the flock. They attack churches for being either "gnostic" (their code word for charismatic, experience centered) or "textualists" (a code word for doctrinally centered). While there are certainly legitimate concerns in both extremes, the impression you get from the book is that these aren't the extremes, but represent most of the American church.
This last issue may reflect another part of their spiritual heritage. At least four of the many people listed in their acknowledgments are former leaders in The Way International, a cult that drew many people out of the Jesus movement. I don't want to argue that the leaders of Mashiyach are guilty by association, but the convergence of some key doctrines certainly points to that suspicion. Among the Way's key teachings that resonate with Killing the Victim are: rejection of the Trinity, a suspicion of other churches, and the idea that believing can cause things to happen. (John P. Juedes, "The Way Tree is Splintering" Christian Research Institute Journal, Fall, 1988.)
By Maria Henderson
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