There are a few things I reflect upon from my experience. First, Kairos is easily classified as a process of brainwashing. Every facet of the retreat was designed to put us in a particular state, which required 4 days to reach the conclusion. The boring first 2 days led us into a sense of security which was brought down by the yelling. Then we were built back up by the secret letters. The manipulation is easily evident to anyone paying attention.
The sleep deprivation was likewise critical to lubricate the process. By the third day I was so tired I was finding it difficult to function or remember basic things that had just happened. I know for a fact they didn’t give us enough sleep each night since I had smuggled in a watch. That all of the “secrets” happened late at night also feeds the theory that they wanted the biggest impact while we were at our weakest and most vulnerable. Everything was designed to make us feel a certain way. Just reading what I wrote happened makes it difficult to understand how effective Kairos is when the “secrets” hardly seem that significant. You really need to endure Kairos for four days to understand why it is so effective at manipulation.
They even told us at the end not to share the “secrets” with anyone who hasn’t gone on Kairos yet. The rumors are important to make the participants on edge before they even reach Kairos. And the truth that most of the men will be sobbing uncontrollably for the last 2 days after being shouted at is almost too ridiculous to believe. Even some of my close friends after Kairos had bought in and wouldn’t tell anyone what really happens at kairos. I told anyone who asked.
Kairos is a manipulation of natural human responses to make you think god is having some sort of impact on your life, instead of the truth that the adults know the exact buttons to press to make you feel that way. From an intellectual point of view Kairos is wrong and should never be put on impressionable young adults.
At the same time, Kairos was some of the most fun I will likely ever have in my life. Granted, it was fun because of my careful subversion. To me, I will remembered it fondly. Sure I didn’t really share anything with my friends, or get closer to anyone, and many would argue I didn’t even get the true Kairos experience. But I learned who I was. When everyone else was falling into the emotional pit, I was the rock. I spotted the “piss bag” point for what it was. I knew what those letters were trying to make me feel. And I didn’t let anyone change me. I came back from Kairos and I told the people who hadn’t gone the truth: It’s boring, exhausting, and kind of sucks.
And now, 13 years later, I am a full adult and “living the 4th”, whatever that means. I’m free of nearly every obligation: work, school, and pretending I’m someone I’m not. If someone tomorrow asked me if I wanted to go on a religious retreat, I would say, “No thank you, I am happily an atheist.” and that would be the end of it. I wouldn’t get any satisfaction from volunteering for something unpleasant only so I could subvert it. For this reason I miss my days in Catholic School. When I’m now at the point in my life when I can do literally anything I want with my time, I begin to look back pleasantly at the times when I couldn’t. In that regard, those four days I was nearly brainwashed on the Kairos retreat really weren’t that bad.