Archive for January, 2004

Bible Study, Prayer … and Abomination

January 30, 2004

It’s the quality more than the quantity of Bible study that matters. Also, it’s more what you pray for rather than how much you pray or even how earnestly you pray that matters. There are enough cult leaders and their earnest devotees who have years of Bible study notes piled from floor to ceiling in their offices and living rooms. They pray, or at least claim to pray for an hour or more every day. Yet, what is the product of all this Bible study and prayer? They commit and/or condone abominable acts and teachings that disgrace the name of Christ. They scour the Scriptures, looking for anything to justify the sins of leaders whose sins cry to heaven. In this, they drag God down into the mire of their peculiar moral relativism. Bible Study, prayer … and abomination.

I know of a long time UBF man who has his UBF Bible study material filling two 8 foot tall bookcases in his living room. Of course, this material just rehashes the same UBF “canon” (Lee’s interpretations of Ge, Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn, Ro) year after year and decade after decade. He also seems to get up early everyday and pray for a good while. But this same man has been fiercely loyal to Samuel Lee and the Lee family to this day, even after living in fear of Lee for years, even after witnessing Lee’s abuses against so many others and even against his own children. He has a daughter who has a chronic health condition and whose son has autism. I guess he prays earnestly nearly every day for her and her son. But what comes of this prayer? One day he tells his daughter that he has had an epiphany: If she has another child (though she’s already had two C-section births) then her chronic health condition will go away and so will her son’s autism. Is this what decades of faithful UBF Bible study and prayer is supposed to produce?

How can people who have seemingly studied the Bible faithfully for decades hold to such a shallow and superstitious view of God, that God punishes people for leaving UBF or for giving “not respectable” offering amounts or for being “rebellious” toward “God’s servants” or various other things that are considered “sins” in UBF? How can they believe after all that Bible study that God can somehow be “appeased” through big offerings or other such acts of “penance?”

Notes to Self

January 30, 2004

Just reminding myself to add sections to my personal story about Chicago UBF’s institutional racism and the practice of coercing members into giving “first fruit” offerings.

Article on Spiritual Abuse

January 22, 2004

Good article on spiritual abuse from the Toronto Sun, October 2002:

Spiritual Abuse

When leaders misuse power at the expense of the faithful

Toronto Sun/October 21, 2002

By Marianne Meed Ward

How does Enron happen? Or the political scandal of the week? Or sexual abuse by religious leaders who get shuffled among congregations?

What all these share – besides people who have the ethics of a goat – are structures that allow unethical or criminal behaviour to flourish unchecked, at least for a time.

What are the common characteristics of those structures? For the answer, it’s instructive to turn to the emerging field of spiritual abuse counselling.

One definition of spiritual abuse is the “misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help.”

That definition could just as easily apply to corporate executives and politicians as religious leaders. One misuses power at the expense of the faithful, while the others misuse power at the expense of shareholders, or employees or voters. Heck, some parent-child relationships would fit the definition.

The Watchman Fellowship, a Texas-based Christian organization that provides resources on cults and new religious movements, has identified five hallmarks of abusive religious systems. Those hallmarks are:

Authoritarian: unconditional submission to leaders is expected.

Averse to criticism: the person who dissents becomes the problem rather than the issue being raised.

Image conscious: protecting the reputation of the leaders or church is more important than truth or justice.

Perfectionistic: individual worth is determined by performance; there is no compassion for weakness or failure.

Unbalanced: they will try to distinguish themselves from other groups by putting excessive emphasis on some minor point of theology.

Steve Cadman-Neu, a Christian counsellor in Cambridge, is something of a local expert on spiritual abuse. He’s personally experienced it in two church settings, and on Saturday led a day-long workshop in Toronto on spiritual abuse, sponsored by the North American Association of Christians in Social Work. Though his workshop focused on abuse in religious settings, the traits he identifies can be found in many other institutional cultures.

The main trait is a hierarchical structure that equates leadership with job title, and demands unquestioning submission and obedience from people lower down the organizational totem pole.

“That whole framework is very abusive,” says Cadman-Neu, who has a BA in psychology from the University of Western Ontario and a masters in social work from Wilfrid Laurier University. “The message is that if you don’t submit and obey, you’re being a rebel, or argumentative, or undermining the organization.”

That’s what he was essentially told both times he tried to raise questionable practices with church leaders. In one case, the pastor sidestepped the issue and offered to point out where Cadman-Neu was wrong and needed to repent. Shortly after that, the pastor began to preach about “wolves in our midst.”

In the second situation, Cadman-Neu became concerned when the pastor told congregants one Sunday, “If you don’t obey me, I’m not your pastor.”

He met with the pastor and, later, the elders but got nowhere. Shortly after that, they told the congregation he was excommunicated and they were to shun him. (We’d probably see the same type of treatment of a corporate whistleblower, or a political non-conformist. They’d be socially ostracized.)

Cadman-Neu left both congregations, but stayed in the same faith tradition (which is proof you don’t have to throw the baby out with the baptismal water). He’s still in the process of trying to get church leaders to deal with the concerns he raised.

Abusive structures tend to attract a particular type of person, adds Cadman-Neu: someone with unresolved hurts in their lives. That’s equally as true of leaders as congregants.

“If they don’t face it, they have to create some overcompensation to drown out the pain, whether that’s hyper-spirituality or another addiction,” he says.

The best defence is to deal with your issues. The next step is to know what a healthy environment looks like. Among other things, it will welcome criticism, forgive weakness, invite participation, build esteem, and foster respect.

All our institutions should be so blessed.

Joseph’s (OT) Model of Forgiveness

January 19, 2004

An old post of mine:

Date Posted: 09:12:11 09/18/03 Thu
Author: Joe
Subject: Joseph’s (OT) model of forgiveness

I’ve been thinking about Joseph in Genesis and the way he dealt with his brothers when they were at his mercy in Egypt. Why didn’t he–to use the modern cliche–“just forgive and forget?” Why did he choose to subject his brothers to such trials in Egypt? […though he had probably already forgiven them. (Genesis 50:19-21)] Because he wanted to see whether they had changed or whether they would change? The more important question for me is–and I know it’s hypothetical–what would Joseph have done if he saw that his brothers had not changed or would not change? Whatever the answer, it’s clear that Joseph’s model of forgiveness is different from the one that most of us have been taught.

This prompts more questions. What is the real purpose of forgiveness? What does forgiveness do for the forgiver and for the one(s) being forgiven? Some more difficult questions: What good do repeated words of forgiveness do for the one who does not see or feel any need to be forgiven? Does forgiving someone mean absolving them of the consequences of their sin(s) against you? (David & Bathsheba’s ‘love child’ dies. Your parents forgive you but ground you anyway.) What to do when repeated words of forgiveness only seem to embolden someone to repeat their patterns of harmful behavior to themselves and to others?

I’ve come to realize that forgiving, besides being not easy to do, is not as simple a thing as it’s made out to be. Forgiveness, biblical forgiveness, is complex. More on this later.

The Most Disturbing Thing

January 9, 2004

The most disturbing thing, the most disgusting thing to me and one of my biggest breaking points with UBF were the attempts by UBF’s defenders to drag the God of ABSOLUTE goodness down into the mire of UBF’s RELATIVISM when it comes to the sins of their leaders. They take a God of absolute goodness, who gives us moral absolutes which reflect His holy character and use Him to justify their moral fudging about the leaderships’ sins. They justify the inhumane and cruel “directions” of these leaders and the resulting tragedies because “all suffering and pain is to be seen in light of God’s sovereignty and perfect wisdom.” They say, “Nothing happens apart from God’s will,” not even the evil “directions” and deeds of these leaders. God’s absolutes, given in his Word, should allow us to draw a line, to distinguish between good, wise counsel vs. evil, self-serving “directions” of a leader. Yet they say that trying to apply God’s absolute standards of good and evil to a leader makes us “relativistic.”

Understand then that my break with UBF isn’t just over the acts of one man or a few men. It’s more fundamental than that. My break with UBF extends to the theological.

The Blurred Distinction Between God and "God’s servant" in UBF

January 7, 2004

There have been a couple of rather heated internet discussions lately initiated by one UBF person defending UBF’s “marriage by faith” practice and by another UBF person (apparently a German) defending the notion that one’s UBF shepherd should be allowed to “interfere” in ANY area of one’s life. A common thread in both discussions that I’ve latched onto is this muddling or blurring of the distinction between God’s will and “God’s servant’s” will in UBF. This blurring isn’t just something I’m pulling out of thin air, but it’s something I have personal experience of, and it’s also something that’s ever present in the writings of UBF defenders (though they inexplicably deny it). It could be that this blurred distinction between God’s will and a leader’s will is so ingrained in these UBF defenders that they don’t know even recognize it in their own arguments and defenses. After all, they do this sort of blurring in sogam after sogam after sogam. Possible scenario:

UBF defender writes: One who says to one’s UBF SHEPHERD, “I must obey God rather than men,” respects one’s own opinion more than GOD’S will.

You write: One’s UBF SHEPHERD should not interfere or meddle in certain areas of one’s life.
UBF defender responds: What areas of one’s life should one not surrender to GOD?

You write: What if one’s UBF SHEPHERD directs one to do something immoral or illegal or unethical?
UBF defender responds: GOD’s will and commands often seemed hard to understand and accept in the Bible. Isn’t everything that happens GOD’S will? Doesn’t everything that happens happen according to GOD’S will? Now then, is there any direction, from say a UBF SHEPHERD, that would make you say this CANNOT be GOD’S will?

Or you write: What if one’s UBF SHEPHERD directs one to do something immoral or illegal or unethical?
UBF defender responds: GOD is above mere morality and ethics.

You write: You know, you seem to blur the distinction between a UBF shepherd’s will and God’s will, between a UBF shepherd’s direction and God’s command. It’s a bit troubling.
UBF defender bristles: I did no such thing. Where did I write that?

Anyway, a couple of my replies in these discussions:

Author: Joe
Subject: Re: ubf marriage is about controlling and being controlled
In reply to: John ‘s message, “Re: ubf marriage is not what you think it is” on 03:43:06 12/28/03 Sun

>choice of man is not always to be trusted. Adam chose
>to eat the forbidden fruit but he did not chose his
>wife, God did. “[T]he sons of God saw that the
>daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any
>of them they chose” (Gen. 6:2) and “[t]he LORD saw how
>great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and
>that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart
>was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that
>he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled
>with pain.” (Gen. 6:5-6)

With bits of scripture abuse and twisting like this, the UBF member arrives at the desired conclusion that people, even Christians, making their own life decisions and choices is a bad thing, and therefore, they need “help” and “shepherding.” The UBF member accepts and uses various euphemisms such as “finding God’s will for their life” or “obeying God” or “giving one’s marriage to God.” But it is another subtle twist; when they say “God,” they in actuality mean “servant of God,” which in turns means one’s UBF shepherd or UBF chapter director. It turns into a classic use of long-debunked and -rejected shepherding/discipling principles. And we all know that this control of people’s lives by their “spiritual superiors” in UBF is not limited to the realm of marriage.

Author: Joe
Subject: Re: Why mission?
In reply to: christian ‘s message, “Why mission?” on 05:09:37 01/06/04 Tue

>Of course a shepherd, or say, a teacher, should not be
>considered to be God. This is simply wrong and
>everyone believing this will be sooner or later

A UBF “sheep” does not need to explicitly consider those above him to *BE* God. It’s enough for the UBF sheep to consider those above him to be “God’s servants” for the negative effects of excessive control to become manifest. Now, it should also be noted that the notion of “God’s servants” in UBF is different from what normal, healthy Christians would consider to be servants of God. Normal, healthy Christians, of which there are many, do recognize that there exist people who serve God, but they would never consider those ‘servants of God’ to be the arbiters of God’s will for their lives as UBF people do.

As has been repeated, what’s happened in UBF is really nothing new. There have been and still are abuses of shepherding/discipling, wherein teachers and disciplers don’t necessarily become God, but become so authoritarian that they might as well be God.

>But one should also not be tempted to say, that we
>need no gospel workers, no missionaries, no bible
>teachers. Yes, every one can have a direct
>relationship to God. But if this should mean, that he
>shouldn’t go to church and ignore teachings and even
>directives and rebukes from his pastor, saying “i do
>not obey men, i only obey God”,

What church do you go to where a pastor reserves the right give *directives* (orders) to parishoners and expect to be obeyed?

>then I would say this
>is simply hypocritical, such a christian thinks of his
>opinion to be more important than God’s will.

This is quite a stretch in a couple of ways:

(1) A believer who says, “I do not obey men, I obey God” has already stated that they assign great importance to God’s will (“I obey God”). Then who are you to say that they are assigning more importance to their own opinion than God’s will? I’ve seen this plenty of times in UBF, this automatic assumption that disobedience to a human “shepherd” in favor of God is actually rebellion against God and the rejection of God’s will. This is part of what is wrong with UBF.

(2) You’ve magically morphed a pastor’s directive to God’s will (“…ignore teachings…directives and rebukes from his pastor…such a Christian thinks of his opinion to be more important than God’s will”). As has been pointed out, that’s what’s wrong with UBF.

Possible UBF Responses to My Personal Story

January 3, 2004

Some of the seriously screwed up, cynical, inadequate, inane and all too typical responses that arise in the UBF mind to personal stories such as mine:

  1. “It is good that you at least refer to Dr. Lee as ‘Mr. Lee’ instead of just ‘Lee’ or ‘Ee’ like some people do, but please show more respect for ‘God’s servant’ and refer to him as ‘Dr. Lee.’ “
  2. “Why do you write about what happened to other people in Chicago UBF? Why should you care?”
  3. “You are just beating a dead horse, not that I’m comparing Dr. Lee to a dead horse.”
  4. “Dr. Lee just made some mistakes, that’s all.”
  5. “Dr. Lee just had a ‘charismatic leadership style,’ that’s all.”
  6. “Did you know that Dr. Lee wore the same suit for 15 years?”
  7. “You are just complaining. You must have a ‘complaining spirit.’ “
  8. “You are just being unthankful.”
  9. “Why don’t you mention any good things you experienced?”
  10. “Why do you hate Dr. Lee?”
  11. “UBF is growing and becoming very ‘fruitful.’ “
  12. “Why did you include my name? How dare you include my name? You need my permission to include my name!”
  13. “You sound like you are too ‘hurt.’ “
  14. “Why do you kick against the goads?” (In other words, “You really want to come back to UBF, don’t you?”)
  15. “Why do you want to destroy UBF?”
  16. “We forgive you.”
  17. “Before you criticize UBF, you better pioneer all nations like Dr. Lee.”

Compared to such responses, I’d much rather hear, “You’re lying.”