I made a research on Landmark Education a few months back after talking to a Christian-friend who was previously part of our ministry. Yesterday, I was alarmed when I learned that another Christian-friend is being recruited to attend that forum. I knew that I had to post my research and have her (and the others who are thinking about joining this) warned.
Landmark Education is getting it’s ground on the AB class of Manila’s young-urban community. It’s a 3-day, 9 am to 12 midnight “self-help” seminar which costs about P15,000 (I heard it costs P30,000 now?). A lot of people that participated in this forum claimed to have had ‘breakthroughs’ and had improved relationships and out look in life. Others said there’s brainwashing and manipulation and even goes further by tagging it as cult.
I would like to invite you to click through these links and take sometime to read the articles if you are seriously considering attending one of these forums from the Landmark Education.
Mindbreakers, by Ronald Howard. This is an insider’s experience from attending the forum. A must-read so you’ll have a glimpse of what may happen if you decide to enroll. He writes, “I believe you (the Forum lecturer) are disrupting our thought patterns. I say that it is deliberately manipulative. The Forum has been one long attempt to undermine identity, which creates dependence. Forum junkies.”
The Forum: cult or comfort? This article gave an open ended question. It comments “But despite its success, financial and otherwise, the Forum has been dogged by claims that it comes close to being a cult. And the primary root of such allegations is the large number of people who work for Landmark unpaid. Landmark has only 400 paid employees. But it has 7,500 unpaid volunteers, graduates of Landmark seminars, who help market the program and staff each workshop, assisting the Forum leader at every step of the way (even to the point of opening and closing doors for people who have to go to the bathroom so that no one is distracted by noise)”
Alex Churchhill. This one’s a relatively fair treatment from a Christian guy who attended Landmark Education. He gave positive comments as well as negative. He, on the other hand admitted that, from the Christian perspective, “Landmark do teach that there is a way to fulfillment and satisfaction in life apart from a relationship with Jesus.”, and “The Forum encourages people
to trust in their own efforts rather than depend on God”. Very alarming.
Rick Ross’ Landmark Education page. Now, if you have more time to read, visit that page. It’s a treasure chest of articles written by various people who have first hand experience.
Why is my research seemed to have touched only on the negative aspect of Landmark Education? Isn’t there any positive comments about it? Of course, are, as there are also positive influences that Buddhism or Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil provides. The nature of my research, on the other hand, is the Landmark Education’s effect to a Christian who attends that forum.
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I mentioned about that Christian-friend of mine whom I spoke with months ago. He was part of our ministry a couple of years back, been to Saddleback and was trained there, lead a church… At my wife’s birthday party, he introduced me to Landmark Education. He was actually inviting me to his graduation to see what it’s all about. Then he talked about how the program can change one’s perspective in life and improve relationships and eradicate the previous hang-ups in life. I know where he is heading because, ironically, he was one of those who had given negative comments about it, until when he ‘experienced’ it and gave in to it.
I can sense a real difference in his personality. He talks differently, and admittedly, he must have improved in his outlook in life. But I felt so uncomfortable, I don’t know where the wrong thing was. So I popped the question.
“If one can change and improve his life through the Landmark Education, where does the Holy Spirit come in? What’s the role of God in the process?” I can sense his discomfort with the question. He can’t answer me directly because he don’t want to turn me off. We ended the discussion without him answering that question even if I begged for it a couple more times. The reason? Because God is nowhere found in the Landmark process. Landmark encourages people to trust in their own efforts rather than depend on God!
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You see, even watching Oprah on TV can improve your outlook in life. I love watching Oprah. Whenever I catch Dr. Phil (his own talk show) on TV, I do stick to it and finish the show. Because they do make sense! And I do believe that Landmark Education do make sense!
But there’s the thing — real, authentic change can only happen when God works in your life little by little. Call me religious dogmatic, but that’s what I believe in, that’s what happened and what’s happening to me. Change cannot happen after 3 days of seminar. It happens as the Holy Spirit directs your life on the day to day basis. It happens when you immerse yourself with the love and grace of God with the support of His family, the Church.
As Rick Warren says, “It’s NOT about you”. Your purpose is NOT about you. It’s NOT you who can change yourself — it’s God. It’s NOT you who can bring meaning in life, it’s the meaning-giver, God. He created you for a purpose, He knows the meaning of your life. Therefore, you cannot get your meaning from within you, neither from attending Landmark Education forums, but only through giving your life to Jesus where you can find meaning in life.
Here’s my suggestion: instead of attending this costly seminars, find a healthy church and join their small groups where you can get emotional support. There are plenty of healthy churches in Manila. I can recommend CCF and VCF. We’re launching Grace Place to become a safe place for people who seek meaning in life, people who have hurts, hang ups and habits. These groups can be your “Landmark”, only that its free and God-inspired. You can also contact me (+639209518075; Yahoo IM: arnoldgamboadotcom) if you need help on this matter, I can direct you to possible resources.