"Forgetting what is behind…"

January 1, 2007

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4)

It is the unfortunate trend among leaders in UBF and in other abusive groups to tell those who’ve been abused in the group to “forget the past” and “just move on” (while they themselves keep beating old, dead horses) and keep slamming former members in their sogams. A frequently twisted passage is Phil. 3:13-14. What’s left out is the context of those verses, and that context is what someone else has blogged about:

The context of Phillipians 3 should have allayed my concerns about whether this passage denigrates the study of history. It’s clear that Paul is referring to his personal past, and specifically to his efforts as a religious person, before he met Christ, to live a righteous life. Paul is saying here that his strict observance of the religious law did not earn him salvation and does not allow him to rest in complacency. His consuming reality now, after the Damascus road, is to know Christ. As Paul says in verses 8-9 “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” The academic discipline of history, as a means of gaining wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, and as a way of glorifying God, is a different question, and may be part of learning to “know Christ.”

How hard it is, though, to “forget what is behind” as Paul intends here. How often we keep mental lists of things we’ve done that establish our bona fides as Christians. I’ve served on this or that committee, I’ve led worship for such-and-such years, I’ve been involved in this or that Bible study, I’ve blogged about my faith, I’ve contributed to some or another organization.

“Forgetting what is behind” means putting the UBF-ingrained works righteousness behind me and learning what the gospel of God’s grace really means, “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” As for the abuses and traumas suffered by me and others in UBF, may we all completely “move on” some day, but may we always have a “sense of history”. May we never forget.

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Rick Warren on forgiveness

December 18, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Some exerpts from a Rick Warren article on forgiveness from the Spring 2006 issue of “The Worshipper” Magazine (It’s not your usual “just forgive and forget” article, somewhat surprisingly):

IT ISN’T MINIMIZING THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE OFFENSE

When somebody comes and asks for your forgiveness and you say, “It’s no big deal. It really didn’t hurt. as if it wasn’t a big deal, you don’t need forgiveness, and you don’t need to offer it. That actually cheapens forgiveness. Forgiveness is only for the big stuff. You don’t use it for little slights that are just minor issues. If it really requires forgiveness then you should not minimize it when somebody asks you for forgiveness. [Also, they shoud not minimize it if they ask you for forgiveness.]

IT ISN’T RESUMING A RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT CHANGE

Just saying “I’m sorry,” is not enough. In fact, the Bible teaches three things are essential to resume a relationship that’s been broken: repentance, restitution and rebuilding trust. You have to be genuinely repentant and truly saddened about what you did. That’s not just saying, “I’m sorry.” It means saying, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” … And rebuilding trust, friends, takes a long, long time. Forgiveness is instant. When somebody hurts you, you have to forgive them immediately. But trust is something that’s rebuilt over a period of time. It must be re-earned.

In our culture, most people don’t get this. Whenever a political leader, a religious leader, an academic leader or anyone like this gets caught in a scandal of any kind, there will always be some people who say, “We’re all imperfect. We’re all human. We need to just forgive him and keep on going.” Yes, you must forgive him immediately. But the Bible says trust is built on time. All leaders must have trust and credibility. It’s the currency they live in. And that isn’t going to happen instantly.

FORGIVENESS ISN’T FORGETTING WHAT’S HAPPENED

You’ve heard this phrase over and over: forgive and forget, forgive and forget. There’s only one problem with it. You can’t do it. It’s impossible. You really can’t forget a hurt that’s been in your life. It’s like when you go on a diet, you think about food all the time. You think about it more than when you’re not on a diet. You actually focus on it. The only way you can forget something is to actually refocus on something else.

But forgetting is not what God wants you to do. There’s something better than forgiving and forgetting. What’s more important than forgetting is actually remembering the hurt and then seeing how God brought good out of it.

One of the greatest verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good because all things are not good. Cancer is not good. Disease is not good. Death is not good. Divorce is not good. War is not good. Rape and abuse is not good. There are a lot of bad things in life that are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will, but that’s why we need God in our lives. … So forgiveness isn’t forgetting what happened, it’s about finding what good came out of it.

And by the way, forgiveness never eliminates the consequence of the sin. A prisoner can be repentant and be forgiven but he’s still got to serve his time and pay his debt to society. There are always consequences to sin. It always hurts somebody. Forgiveness doesn’t get rid of the consequences.

You can actually pray for God to bless the person who hurt you. The Bible says, “Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. And pray for those who mistreat you.” One of the ways you know you’ve matured, that you’re a mature person, is that you can look beyond the hurt that was done to you and see their hurt and what caused them to hurt you. Hurt people, hurt people.

Once I forgive them I can stop looking at how they hurt me and start seeing why they did it. I can actually be sympathetic and begin to pray for them, for the hurt they carry that caused them to hurt others. I relinquish my right to get even. I respond to evil with good.

Martin Luther quote

November 30, 2006

(Related: 1, 2)

“If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious and pleased with us, or if we presumptuously expect to please Him through our works, then all [our compliance with the law] is pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false savior. Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are: keeping the First Commandment with outward works only, and keeping it with inward [justifying faith]. For this last makes true, living children of God, the other only makes worse idolatry and the most mischievous hypocrites on earth…”

Gospel-Driven Sanctification

November 16, 2006

(Related: 1)

Another blogger links to an important article that should be a breath of fresh air for people exposed for too long to UBF’s gospel of effort and ministry of numbers. Also, it’s heartening to see that Patrick C. has “gone public.”

Utter Biblestudying Futility

November 4, 2006

(related: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Excerpts from a collection of thoughts from 2002-2003 that I had dubbed “Utter Biblestudying Futility”:

These are random ramblings and reflections on my former life in the pit that was Chicago UBF and on UBF in general.

– Sam Lee was and is praised as one who “didn’t pay attention to people” or “didn’t care what people thought” and only “lived before God.” This is a distortion of what actually happened to Lee. The truth is that Lee lost a clear sense of right and wrong because he was never challenged by the people around him when he did wrong. When he had no one to be accountable to (“didn’t pay attention to what people thought”) he ran amuck, not knowing right from wrong anymore. He disassociated from other churches because they were a possible source of criticism and accountability for himself. He squashed, intimidated or kicked out any possible sources of criticism and accountability from within UBF. This “Didn’t pay attention to what people thought” is just another way of saying, “Refused to be accountable to anyone.” Unfortunately, Sarah Barry, the current Director seems to admire this trait of Lee’s. “Didn’t pay attention to what people thought” sounds good, doesn’t it? But look at the result in Sam Lee’s life. This so-called Christian leader lost one of the most important traits that a Christian or even a human being should have: a conscience or a sense of right and wrong.

– “Whatever occurs from love is always beyond good and evil.” (Friedrich Nietzsche) Again, words that sound so good can be so dangerous. Even the use of the word “love” in this statement by Nietzsche is so dangerous. Even love can be distorted and twisted to justify the evil that sinful men do. And this is just what happens in UBF. When Sam Lee committed an obvious sin, an obvious abuse, we were told to “examine his motives,” that behind the obvious malice, greed, lies, and abuses there was “love” and a “shepherd heart.” So somehow, the evils he committed were somehow “beyond good and evil.” “Whatever occurs from love is always beyond good and evil.” These were not the words of a Christian. This is not the way of the Lord.

Out of the overflow of the heart…

October 19, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

If you criticize Sam Lee, UBF’s version of the “Great Leader,” some in UBF will likely tell you that he is dead and that you are just beating a dead horse. But then they have this Founder’s Day thing every year to prop up this “dead horse” and praise him to the heavens. Here’s a comment I posted on the latest attempt by a UBF veteran on “Founder’s Day” to rationalize Sam Lee’s “diarrhea of the mouth”:

Shafer praises Sam Lee as someone who “spoke his mind” and “spoke the truth” without fear. What a whitewash, displaying the characteristic UBF ignorance of scripture where it suits them, something they accuse “topical” teachers of doing. (1) Jesus said that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (2) Samples of what was in Sam Lee’s heart can be seen here and here. This is not a man who spoke the truth. This is a man who poured forth as much garbage as he wanted from his lips, with much malice and little love, because no one stopped him. I endured that for years.

An archived thread reveals more of the overflow of Sam Lee’s heart. Ironically, that was Sam Lee insulting Shafer’s former “sheep” in a Sunday “sermon.” Where did Sam Lee get the material, the dirt that he tried to throw over Holly Lord in that “sermon?” He got it from Joe Shafer, of course.

—-

(1) My own mother, at the first UBF “Founder’s Day” 3 years ago, declared in a praiseology that “Dr. Samuel Lee was a man of truth.” One wonders what these people’s notion of truth is.

(2) Notice how closely Jesus ties the overflow of a person’s heart (one’s words) with the tree and its fruit two verses earlier in Luke 6:43. Our words are the fruit. Personally, I saw Sam Lee do much more damage with heartless, crude and domineering words than he did with fists or baseball bats.

Life in a UBF nutshell

October 11, 2006

(Related: 1, 2)

Related to the subject of the UBF “sogam” is the UBF “life testimony,” in which everyone’s life story is edited to fit the UBF mold of …

Part 1: I was so bad before UBF,
Part 2: Through UBF I found God, became a holy man/woman, and got a calling for “world campus mission” which is now the meaning of my life.

At the end of the “spiritual struggle” to write your UBF “life testimony,” it’s actually your UBF leader(s) who has written your life story, as someone else has observed:

Writing a life testimony itself could not have any spiritual meaning. What matters more than writing a life testimony is how one views and interprets his life during the process of writing the life testimony. If one writes the life testimony only through the help of the Holy Spirit and with biblical perspective, one can clearly find spiritual meaning in his life and put everything in biblical perspective. But in Ubf, you are forced to view everything in your life from UBF perspective. It is because you are forced to rewrite your life testimony again and again before it is considered to be acceptable by ubf leaders. Even after that, the life testimony is heavily edited before it is shared. Thus after the whole process of writing the life testimony, you have your life testimony interpreted purely from ubf perspective or by ubf leaders. And you are explicitly/implicitly forced to accept the life created by ubf leaders for you during the process. If you try to put in any different perspective in it, you will be called a “proud” or “humanistic” sinner or “a cultural Christian” and a ubf leader will announce a special prayer request for the “rebellious” person during a public service. Then another rewriting “training” follows until you accept the life testimony essentially written by ubf leaders but not by you. So the life testimony produced in this way cannot be called a life tesimony in biblical sense.

"True rest" and "true freedom"

September 25, 2006

(Related: 1, 2)

A comment that I posted elsewhere months ago regarding the use of the UBF-ism, “true rest”:

28th-Jul-2006 03:10 am (UTC) – “true rest” and “true freedom”

The UBF-speak that most of us are familiar with includes phrases such as “true rest” and “true freedom.” They mean “constant work for the group” and “obedience and subservience to the group’s leader(s),” respectively. Rest is almost always equated with laziness in sermons and other forms of teaching. Freedom is equated with permissiveness and moral decay. You can hardly hear the words “rest” and “freedom” without that adjective “true” in front of them.

In their teaching and sermons, Jesus’ attempts to rest and vacation with his disciples were ALWAYS interrupted by things like crowds of “sheep,” Jesus’ many “one-to-one” appointments with his disciples, and the occasional need for Jesus to appoint a new UBF-style “director” of the remote region that he happened to be visiting with his disciples. Never mind that there were probably interludes of real uninterrupted rest and time off with his disciples that are not recorded in the Gospels. Never mind that Jesus actually saw the necessity of physical rest for both himself and his disciples.

Here are some examples of UBF’s “true rest” and its “therapeutic” effects from a previous discussion:

* Andrew and his elder brother Ivan were down with influenza and temperature above 39C. Yet, they were commanded to attend a meeting. Ivan did not attend the meeting, therefore his wedding was postponed. Andrew – being younger and not so courageous to decline – attended the meeting that lasted after midnight when there was scarce public transport. After that, he got a sever pneumonia and later bronchitis, which healed completely only after leaving UBF, because in UBF he had never enough time to rest and recover.

* Before conferences, they had 15 different meetings a week in Kiev (in Heidelberg, it was similar, by the way) where they had to come to the center

* Those who wanted to visit their parents in the summer holidays were publicly dispraised

* Those members who attended other churches in Kiev were considered “lost sheep” [must not be “true rest” if you “keep the Sabbath holy” in a different church]

* You could not be in a good standing with UBF without attending *all* meetings

* One shepherdess was told to come to a meeting, although she had fever and her infant at home

* When the wife of the leader left the hospital in order to attend a UBF meeting, though she was on a drip, this was presented as exemplary behavior

* If you leave Kiev and visit another church in another town, you are denounced by the leader [Again, the “true Sabbath rest” must only be in UBF.]

Only after you leave UBF do you learn that “rest” in the Bible may actually mean rest and “freedom” may actually mean freedom.

A reputable teacher knows and teaches that Jesus himself is a Christians’ true Sabbath rest. But in UBF, with the holy importance given to the Sunday meeting(s) and equating it (and only it) with “keeping the Sabbath holy,” I did not once hear that Jesus is our true Sabbath rest, in my decades spent there. UBF effectively turned Jesus’ teaching on its head and made Sunday my least favorite day: Man was made for the Sabbath, not the Sabbath for Man.

Easing into abuse one small step at a time

September 8, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3)

The following is from an advice column that I read recently. It reinforces what many agree on, that abusive relationships–be they in marriages or in cults–share many characteristics and dynamics in common:

I am involved with a woman whose husband abandoned her. At first our relationship revolved around her heartbreak over his actions. He was unfaithful to her and moved out of the house twice. The first time he left she begged and begged for him to return, and he eventually did.

He promised he would be the perfect husband, but less than a year later he left a note in the kitchen saying he was leaving again and took all his stuff. He abandoned her completely. He had emotionally abused her in too many ways to mention.

I met her four months later. Initially I provided a sympathetic ear for all her problems. Slowly we became closer until one day she told me I made the pain go away and she loved me. I fell in love also, and she filed for divorce.

After he was served papers, I overheard a telephone conversation and was shocked to hear the abuse coming from him. He screamed profanities and made threats. I watched as she listened and afterwards told her his behavior was awful. She stated “he’s just mad,” no big deal.

I was leery that she was so prepared to rationalize for him, but she swore everlasting love to me. About six weeks ago her ex found out about our relationship. He promised he would do anything, including go to church, if she would take him back. He kicked it up a notch and confessed he was the worst husband ever.

He called and cried, playing the I’m-still-your-husband card. He kept her on the phone and dragged out the conversation. Last week she agreed to see him. More tears and begging. I told her this was pure manipulation and so did every friend and member of her family.

After a day of agony we recommitted our vows to each other, and I thought we were going to get through this. Last night we had a wonderful evening together. Then when she got home, he was waiting for her.

Around noon I received this e-mail. “Real love requires risk, putting one’s feelings out there in the most vulnerable state. The thought of risking another chance with him scares me to death, but in reality, the risk would be no less with anyone. I believe this with all my heart.” She is ignoring my phone calls, and I need advice.

Tyler

Tyler, she is an abused woman who is not ready to break the cycle of abuse. Framing her decision in terms of love makes sense to her, but that is a measure of how distorted her thinking is. Real love has nothing in common with her relationship to her ex.

A person eases into abuse one small step at a time. No one step seems large, but over time a person’s perception of reality is changed. The leap from where she is to where you are is too great for her to make. It will be years before she can choose a healthy relationship over an abusive one. If there was something you could do to change her behavior, we would gladly share it, but the best thing you can do is accept her decision and move forward with your life.

Wayne & Tamara

The UBF sogam: not "from the heart"

August 29, 2006

(Related: 1, 2)

To say that the “sogam” is an important UBF tradition is probably an understatement. I can remember being taken to watch “Rocky III” by Little Sarah in 1982 because Sam Lee had this taste in movies that he wanted everyone in UBF to share. After the movie I was asked what my “sogam” was. (Um, I can’t wait for Rocky IV?) And after other movies and conferences I would be asked what my “sogam” was.

From somewhere I gathered that “sogam” in Korean means something to the effect of “from the heart.” What I experienced of sogams in UBF, though, was that it was anything but “from the heart.” When you’re mostly copying and pasting material from Sam Lee’s manuscripts (sometimes literally with scissors and glue) and spicing it up with a few jokes and exaggerated stories, it’s kind of the opposite of “from the heart,” no? Yes, it is. (Unless you were fully convinced that Sam Lee’s words were so unbelievably “spiritual” that you really did take them “to heart.”)

Apparently, at the most recent UBF “world mission report,” someone gave a report on the “theory behind sogams.” Here was my comment:

Comment by chungjoe on 2006-06-09T18:04:53Z
Subject: Sogams do have a precedent in church history.

“Professor Moses Jung – the theory behind sogams. He gave historical perspective showing the place of sogams (testimonies) in church history.”

(Just so there’s no misunderstanding, Moses Jun-Ki Chung is a UBF lifer, though he often deceptively represents himself, at the behest of UBF leaders, as an “outsider.”)

I wonder when in church history something like sogams were ever employed, where you pay an annual subscription fee to get a paper copy of a message “manuscript” to base a weekly written sogam on (and you’d better not employ your “own ideas” or “human thinking” in those sogams). When in church history did people have to attend mandatory meetings to listen to 2 hours of mandatory sogams that sound pretty much the same (because of that manuscript thing)?

I think the closest thing to the concept of the UBF sogam in church history might be the Catholic sacrament of confession, where your “Shepherd” is the Priest (without the guarantee of confidentiality). I wonder if Jun-Ki Chung mentioned that.

Thinking back on it, the sogam is a vital part of the UBF program (which is why its importance would be buttressed at an important UBF meeting). The weekly confession in sogams is an effective means of keeping recruits in a constant works- and performance-oriented mindset. Maybe there’s been a backlash of sorts against the weekly sogam program lately?

And here’s a more astute comment by tgifoz:

To add to this, it is important to note that one of the purposes of the Sogam, as I understand it, is to give a spiritual growth report on a weekly basis. Now, one will not willingly reveal their innermost struggles and desires to a bunch of people they don’t know. I can’t tell you how many other shepherds and shepherdesses who shared at the Chicago Friday meetings told me that they just wrote whatever they could to appease their Shepherd and to fit in with the rest of the crowd. UBF teaches that the sogam is a tool for spiritual transformation, but in fact, it does the exact opposite. Spiritual transformation occurs best within the context of a Godly relationship between friends, when there is mutual trust and 100% confidentiality. One cannot expect to be changed through sharing weekly testimonies based on Bible passages that may or may not be relevant to the struggles they are dealing with. This “cookie cutter” lifestyle is sure to produce one kind of person, a UBF Shepherd. UBF teaches conformation transformation based on works and not faith in God. No, the sogam practice is one of superficial appearances, whose ilk bears no reflection of true, spirit-led transformation. The sogam is a farce and it is impossible to experience God’s transforming power in one’s life through a watered down template of generalizations.

This sogam style testimony is also indicative of the spiritual hierarchy prevalent in UBF. The sheep reveals their spiritual growth to the leadership, and the leadership doesn’t do likewise. It further confines and separates the Holy Spirit from working in people’s hearts and minds. The sogam was a device created by Samuel Lee to control people and use it against them.

I also made an observation about the disparity between what’s written in a UBF “sogam” and what’s really going in a person’s life, when I wrote about my brother-in-law:

My wife (Samuel’s sister) and I were hoping that Samuel could quietly go to the Wright College UBF (Mark Yoon’s chapter) and not be exposed to the abusive environment of Chicago UBF. At that time (1998), I wasn’t aware of Mark Yoon’s role in a forced abortion and other activities as a henchman of Samuel Lee. I knew, however, that Yoon had been (and still was) physically abusive during Chicago UBF X-Mas “drama” practices. But we still thought that the Wright UBF would be a better environment (less abusive) for Samuel than Chicago UBF. I believe the original plan was to send Samuel to the Wright UBF. But on the day that Samuel arrived in Chicago in the fall of 1998, he shared a “gracious and moving new missionary” sogam at the Chicago UBF Friday sogam-sharing meeting. Like almost all UBF sogams shared in Chicago, the sogam did not reflect the reality of who Samuel really was or how mature or stable he really was. His sogam also did not reflect the fact that his coming to the USA was probably not his decision. Anyway, Lee was “moved” by Samuel’s sogam and made yet another on-the-spot decision to keep him in Chicago UBF and put him in Joshua Hong’s fellowship.

One Word: “I pity the fools” who still live through the UBF sogam ground hog day.