Posts Tagged ‘leadership-cult’

Common elements in personality cults

September 21, 2004

I recommend reading this recent article (unfortunately no longer available) about the N. Korean personality cult.

I’m not going to say that Sam Lee and Sarah Barry were deified in UBF [of course, the N. Koreans would also deny that they deify the Kims], but the personality cult was definitely in evidence. How many homes in UBF do not have at least one picture of Sam Lee and Sarah Barry framed prominently somewhere, especially that blown-up black and white photo of Barry as a “southern belle” or “Mississippi princess” from the 50s? At least in the home I grew up in, their pictures were framed and placed very prominently. It’s as if they were part of my extended family.

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Mother Teresa and "Mother" Barry

September 3, 2004

Were you there one Sunday when Sam Lee compared Sarah Barry to Mother Teresa?

Author: Joe
Subject: Mother Teresa and “Mother” Barry
In reply to: Truth seeker ‘s message, “Happy are those who abandon little children!For” on 16:31:44 07/10/04 Sat

>ALL THIS WITH THE BLESSINGS OF MOTHER BARRY!
>What did Mother teresa do on the contrary? She
>picked up abandoned children of calcutta slums
>and treated them like gifts from God,
>irrespective of whether they were born to hindus
>or moslims.

To top it all off, I was there in 2001 when Sam Lee, during his rambling Sunday announcements, stated that “Mother” Barry was better than Mother Teresa. Why? Because “Mother Teresa only served one nation but ‘Mother’ Barry is the mother of many nations.” It’s amazing how overtly Moon-like Lee became toward the end of his life.

BTW, Mother Teresa gave much of herself to the poor and set an example of giving. By contrast, “Mother” Barry’s message is “keep on giving to UBF without fail.”

John Engler resignation letter

August 6, 2004

The following are parts of a recent resignation letter written by a sometime defender of the International Church of Christ (ICC) and maintainer of the excellent Barnabas Ministry site. I include it here because of its relevance to current UBF problems:

Performance-Oriented Theology

http://web.archive.org/web/20070212214924/http://ubf-info.de/cts/icc/kriete2003.en.htmIn my perspective, the DCC has long practiced a performance-oriented theology, driven by its historic reactions against the “traditional” churches of Christ and centered around what I consider to be a well-intentioned but distorted concept of discipleship.

In this theology, man’s purpose in life is to please God with his works. Discipleship is the price of salvation. Yet, there are always more works to do, and man is never, ever good enough. The DCC would not explicitly teach that man is saved by works because the concept is patently absurd, but this is pretty much what is practiced. For example, conversion (as taught in First Principles) focuses almost exclusively on human performance with scant mention of the notion of grace or salvation. The ministry focuses on what we are “supposed to do,” as though that were the essence of the Christian experience. In our preaching, Jesus is rarely presented as a Divine Savior; far more frequently he is presented as a “perfect disciple.” The idea is advanced that if we just tried hard enough, we too could be perfect just like Jesus. Righteousness is something that is attained by trying harder, not the result of salvation. In my opinion, such a philosophy is at odds with passages such as 1 John 1:8 and Romans 7:21-25.

Performance-oriented theology brings a host of unhealthy side effects, most notably the pride and boasting in what one does, especially in favorite areas of religious performance. It makes certain works better than others, certain people better than others. It creates a false sense of entitlement and spiritual security for those who play the game well, and a corresponding false sense of guilt for those who don’t play the game quite so well.

Performance-oriented theology produces nice results for a short time, but it robs the cross of its power and meaning. In the end, it leaves people destroyed spiritually. (Not surprisingly, we then turn around and blame them for being destroyed. That’s like murdering someone and then blaming them for being dead.) I am persuaded that people don’t need to be told how they constantly fall short of perfection and God’s standards; they face this every day. What they need to know is that God wants a relationship with them and that he can work through their imperfections by his Spirit to accomplish his works in their lives anyway.

In my opinion, this performance-orientation issue permeates the DCC culture like toxic waste oozing from beneath the surface. It is everywhere, and it is insidious. Getting rid of it will not be easy for those who have lived under it and perpetuated it for many years. How much harder it will be for those who do not see its shortcomings or are enthralled with its short-term results.

Leader-Centric Ministry Approach

In my perspective, the DCC ministry model is fundamentally leader-centric. Things revolve around a leader, especially region-leader evangelists. I believe the http://web.archive.org/web/20070212214924/http://ubf-info.de/cts/icc/kriete2003.en.htmScriptures testify more to a Jesus-centered and body-centered (or sheep-centered) model.

In a leader-centered model, things are seen from a leadership point of view, and the leader must make things happen. Along with this come the undesirable side effects of control, favoritism, reliance upon personality and hype to extend the abilities and limits of leadership. Under such a model, the members never really mature but remain spiritual children to the leadership. In the end, the sheep end up serving the leaders. Then the leaders are expected to live up to the position they’re in, and resent it when people expect them to be perfect.

A sheep-centered model looks at things from the point of view of the sheep and how to develop and mobilize church resources for the benefit of the sheep. The ministry serves the sheep, for their benefit—just like Jesus who came for our benefit, not for his. A Jesus-centered model looks to him to make things happforceden. It is willing to accept his agenda, his timing, his working, and not the arbitrary goals of leaders who are eager to make a name for themselves or prove themselves worthy of greater roles in the church. A great example of this sort of a ministry is Paul’s summary of his ministry in Colossians 1:24-2:3.

We’ve seen the failings of a leader-centric approach first-hand, yet the DCC still seems entrenched in a leader-centric ministry approach. Leaders are important, but we would do well to remember that they are usually referred to in Scripture as “servants.” Does the name itself not suggest the model that should be used?

Something about the N. Korea train disaster

April 30, 2004

(From Religion News Blog.)

Many North Koreans died a “heroic death” after last week’s train explosion by running into burning buildings to rescue portraits of leader Kim Jong-il and his father, according to the North’s official media. Portraits of Kim and his late father, national founder Kim Il-sung, are mandatory fixtures in every home, office and factory in the hardline communist state of 23 million. All adults are required to wear lapel pins bearing images of one or both Kims. […] The prison diaries of North Korean defectors refer to people imprisoned for accidentally defacing portraits of the Kims.

Selective recognition of leadership cults

February 10, 2004

For two consecutive years, 1999-2000, Samuel Lee ordered all Chicago-area UBF chapters to gather at the World Buffet restaurant in Niles, Illinois to throw a big birthday bash for Sarah Barry. Thousands of dollars were spent for Barry at these events, and she was lavished with gifts, but more disturbing to me was all the unbridled praise, not praise for God, but praise for Lee and Barry. On the World Buffet karaoke stage were featured song and dance numbers and skits(!) dedicated to Barry. In 1999, I had to be part of one these dance numbers. A Wright College “performance” included incredibly syrupy praise for Barry as an “angel from above.”

Cut to 2002. Barry makes a 5-figure contribution to a North Korean relief organization in the name of the now deceased Samuel Lee. The contribution opens the way for Barry to take a guided tour of North Korea. She goes there and comes back with a report that says something to the effect that she witnessed a leadership cult in North Korea.

Cut to later in 2002. Barry declares in a letter that the leadership cult in Bonn is an “exemplary” UBF chapter that many other chapters should emulate.

Incidentally, Lee ordered a similar birthday bash for my father at the World Buffet in 1998.

What would Jesus have thought of these World Buffet bashes where leaders were lavished with gifts and praised to the heavens?

In UBF terms, such idolatrous veneration and “hero” worship is called “thankfulness”, thankfulness which is supposed to silence any and all criticisms, valid or not, in the name of “spiritual order.”