Summary of what gives UBF its "cult" reputation

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Asked and answered:

On Wed, 30 Mar 2005 21:50:53 -0500, ——- ——
> Could you please highlight for me some of the major problems
> many have with
> UBF, and why some consider it a “cult”?

I think the foremost problem with UBF that has caused them to be in the news and in the sights of cult experts for some 30 years in the United States is the issue of excessive control over recruits’ lives. If a recruit shows any type of commitment to UBF, they will most likely be pressured to spend more and more time doing UBF activities which leads to the recruit’s becoming isolated and alienated from their family and friends (unless the recruit’s parents are recruited themselves as is the case with one —— UBF family). At the same time, the recruit’s family and friends may notice significant negative personality changes due to UBF putting pressure on them to conform to the image of a UBF chapter leader. It’s at this point that many parents of UBF recruits have become concerned and called cult experts and the media about UBF. This resulted in several UBF recruits undergoing involuntary and voluntary deprogrammings in the 80s. As the February Columbus 10TV news story shows, parents of UBF recruits continue to notice the same things happen to their sons and daughters after they join UBF.

So I think the major issue is excessive control. UBF’s attempt to control will only increase the longer a recruit remains. UBF will likely attempt to control where the recruit lives, trying to get the recruit to live with other UBF members whenever possible in a practice called “common life.” UBF will then attempt to control what the college recruit does after graduation. UBF will most likely pressure the graduate to stay in the same chapter, limiting the graduate’s options for job or post-graduate education location.

In what is probably the ultimate attempt to control a recruit, UBF will arrange the recruit’s marriage (the practice called “marriage by faith”). The leaders will suggest to the recruit whom they think he/she should marry and then apply pressure until obedience is achieved. The recruit may reject the leaders’ choice of marriage partner initially, but the leaders will persist with more “suggestions” and more pressure until obedience is achieved. There is no dating or even a platonic courtship in UBF in which two recruits may meet and choose each other for marriage. A common arranged marriage is a UBF member with American citizenship with a member of a Korean UBF chapter who immigrates to America shortly before the marriage, with the two members knowing little to nothing about each other before their marriage.

Other issues that have been cited about UBF are authoritarianism and the heavy use of guilt and compulsion to order the lives of UBF members. Offering and tithing is usually compulsory. Meetings and conferences are compulsory. Recruiting more members is compulsory. Dissent is not tolerated. Near-absolute obedience to leaders is expected. This is all after a recruit has become sufficiently commited to UBF.

UBF has a history of incorporating violence and humiliation in its methods of training recruits. Other methods of UBF training have been described as extremely intrusive (weight loss “training”, weight gain “training”) or bizarre (walking long distances, sometimes barefoot in the winter).

In practice, UBF has almost zero relationship with other churches, ministries, Christian institutions of higher learning or seminaries based in the United States. Other than the current UBF Director, Sarah Barry, I am not aware of any other leader of UBF who has formal seminary training or recognized ordination as a pastor, and Barry’s own claimed seminary training is under some suspicion.

Leaving UBF is almost always traumatic. Members often leave without notifying anyone that they are leaving, sometimes packing their belongings in secret. Many need counseling after they leave UBF.

Misuse of offering funds in UBF has also been cited, with members having little to no say and given no details on how funds are spent.

Due to the heavy time commitment expected of UBF members, there is a history of local authorities being notified of the neglect of UBF children by their UBF parents.

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