Posts Tagged ‘spiritual-abuse’

All this really did happen…

February 13, 2005

A post at a Ex-Jews for Jesus blog reveals how similar the frequency and types of abuse are in various abusive groups.

More bad memories of UBF international conferences past

July 27, 2004

As previously mentioned, I had to be in a fellowship leadership position in Chicago during the preparation for several of these past UBF international conferences at Michigan State University. Of course, this was not by choice. (I can say this with the utmost confidence: Hardly anything in my UBF life was by choice.) It was during these conference times that Sam Lee became most like the Pharaoh of Exodus 5 in his demand for numbers performance. The leaders would be made to meet every night around 7:30pm with Sam Lee and be made to “promise” to bring a certain number of conference “registrations” by 10-11pm the same night. The fear of the consequences for breaking one’s “promise” (usually getting “dumped” in Skokie for a walk back, i.e. “Skokie training”) was so great that there was no choice but to “register” anyone “by faith,” i.e. pay part of the registration fee out of one’s own pocket.

Funnier things happened. On some days, a certain fellowship leader would have a “good day” because his fellowship brought in, say, five conference registrations that day. Then, said fellowship leader would put two of the five conference registrations in his pocket, saving it up for the next day so he would have a better chance of keeping his forced “promise” the next day, a way of “lowering Sam Lee’s expectations.” Every fellowship leader did this at some point, and they did similar things week to week to cope with the pressure for Sunday meeting attendance numbers. (See also Henry Kriete’s account of the effects of another group’s obsession with numbers.) When it comes down to it, UBF is all about fear and shame because fear and shame become one’s primary motivation for doing anything (or for not doing something).

Another bad memory: Yvonne T. just losing it in an almost nervous breakdown after a international conference, right in front of “foreign guests” whom she was supposed to be busily chaperoning.

Origins of UBF’s obsession with numeric goals

February 14, 2004

Samuel Lee’s admiration for certain communist leaders is well known. He particularly admired Ho Chi Minh. It should be no surprise that Lee was influenced by the communist penchant for setting numeric goals in their 5 year and 10 year plans. It’s also no surprise that Lee adopted certain communist methods for enforcing his numeric goals which led to unbelievable levels of oppression, oppression reminiscent of that in certain communist states (but of course, to a much lesser degree). This is an excerpt from a summary of Stalin’s 5 year plans:

The first Five Year Plan introduced in 1928, concentrated on the development of iron and steel, machine-tools, electric power and transport. Joseph Stalin set the workers high targets. He demanded a 111% increase in coal production, 200% increase in iron production and 335% increase in electric power. He justified these demands by claiming that if rapid industrialization did not take place, the Soviet Union would not be able to defend itself against an invasion from capitalist countries in the west.

Every factory had large display boards erected that showed the output of workers. Those that failed to reach the required targets were publically criticized and humiliated. Some workers could not cope with this pressure and absenteeism increased. This led to even more repressive measures being introduced. Records were kept of workers’ lateness, absenteeism and bad workmanship. If the worker’s record was poor, he was accused of trying to sabotage the Five Year Plan and if found guilty could be shot or sent to work as forced labour on the Baltic Sea Canal or the Siberian Railway.

A survivor of these 5 year plans who saw Lee’s methods in action would immediately recognize the influence of Stalin’s methods. Ho Chi Minh also had his 5 year plans.

Here’s a very recent post by a UIC UBF recruit about the continuing numbers obsession in Chicago UBF:

Date Posted: 17:00:07 02/11/04 Wed
Subject: Re: obsession with numbers
In reply to: Joe ‘s message, “Re: obsession with numbers” on 10:36:31 02/07/04 Sat


numbers are still a very big part of ubf. in the 2003 Christmas worship service prayer meetings, ron ward continually streesed regestrations to be at least one, but preferably five per person. i participated in the dances for the service, and i as well as all of those who were going to perform in any way were told that if we did not have at least one person regestered by a deadline then we would not be able to perform and possibly not attend the service at all. I know that fellowship leaders are praised for having many members and are called “A” list fellowships and the fellowships that have few members are scowlded and called “C” list fellowships or lower. This idea of always thinking about the numbers more than spiritual well being is being perpetuated to the younger members of UBF. one case was of a secondgen discussing with another secondgen the fact that one of his “sheep” wanted to go to their own churche’s Christmas service instead of ubf’s in an angry tone. He said that this particular person should be fully in ubf or not at all, that he should choose where his responsibility and loyalties are, as if recruiting to ubf was the point of Bible study. Numbers are very much a part of ubf and one’s place and prestige within it. I think it probably will not change. in ubf, numbers, for some reason, seems to represent one’s level of commitment to Christ and spititual maturity. I think we all know how ridiculous this is.

Hm, it all sounds so familiar. And it sounds familiar to people who left UBF 20 years ago and 30 years ago, too. In UBF they’re living the fetid “spiritual” legacy of Samuel Lee to this day. Well actually, no. They’re living the fetid legacy of Stalin and Minh to this day.

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.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

December 22, 2003

“There are spiritual systems in which. . .the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders. . . These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion of the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse.” — from the “Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, 1991

Why Might People Stay In Cults & Abusive Churches?

December 21, 2003

Something I posted in July on RsqUBF:

Date Posted: 18:45:41 07/20/03 Sun
Author: Joe
Subject: Why might people stay in cults & abusive churches?

Here’s something from the Apologetics Index about why people might stay in cults & abusive churches:


The first time I saw the parallel between my own experiences in the cult of Scientology and battered women was when I was reading ”Captive Hearts, Captive Minds,” which is an excellent book. It was in the Intro or maybe the first chapter that they cited and quoted the singer Tina Turner who had been in an abusive relationship for something like 10 or 15 years. She remarked how being with Ike Turner was like being in a small cult. The remark jumped off the page at me. Given the success of Tina Turner as an entertainer, one is not prone to say she is a stupid woman but there she was in a marriage where she was beaten constantly and yet she stayed. When she finally escaped, as she tells her story, it was after a beating that left her head so swollen that she couldn’t put on a wig. She wrapped her head in a scarf and fled, taking no money or anything and finally got away from Ike Turner.

One wonders how often she has been asked since, ”Tina, you’re such a talented woman, so intelligent, how could you stay with a man for 10/15 years who was beating you?” Maybe she has an answer in her autobiography. I don’t know. It is on my to-read list. But I know she was asked that question. Every woman who escapes a man who has been beating them must get that question and it is probably the hardest one in the world to answer. After all, it’s not that you don’t KNOW you’re getting beaten. And it didn’t happen just once. Nor twice. It happens week after week, month after month, year after year.

Nor are these women locked up. The husband goes off to work, for example, and she has a car. She gets in the car and she goes to the store, buys food, and brings it home, to the very place where she is being beaten and she makes dinner. She doesn’t keep driving. SHE COMES BACK. To what? More abuse.

It was back around 1991 when I first said to myself about UBF, “I can’t stand this cult anymore. I need to get out.” I stayed 10 more years, and in those 10 years said the same thing to myself several more times after experiencing or witnessing abuse after abuse. I am not the only one who has done that. A certain “spiritual giant” in Chicago has reportedly done that more than once. UBF praises people who “overcome their human emotion” and decide not to “run away.” But each time that we say to ourselves, “I can’t stand this any more,” and “overcome our human emotion,” it does not make us better, it does not make us better Christians, it does not make us better human beings. It makes us worse, it only worsens the hurt, it only deepens the wounds.

Movie Recommendation – Glengarry Glen Ross

December 8, 2003

In my previous post I alluded to the hellishly abusive experience of being a fellowship leader under Samuel Lee. The experience is really hard to describe in a way that people can understand. It was like being in a job from hell with a boss from hell, only worse because the boss from hell claimed to be a “great servant of God.” The Calabreses and the Duggals talk about it some in what they’ve written. For those who have a hard time understanding, I will always recommend that they watch the movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Here are a couple of messages I’ve posted about it at RsqUBF:

Author: Me
Subject: Glengarry Glen Ross
In reply to: Chris ‘s message, “Similarities Between UBF and the Animal Farm” on 10:26:04 01/05/02 Sat

If you really want to get to know the pressure and psychological torture that fellowship leaders have to endure at the hands of Sam Lee in Chicago UBF, watch the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.” The movie depicts almost perfectly the totally unchristian environment that Chicago fellowship leaders have to live in on a weekly basis, and especially during MSU/ISU preparation.

Author: Me
Subject: Re: Glengarry Glen Ross
In reply to: Joe ‘s message, “Re: Beat-up Men Beat up Women” on 20:52:45 11/01/03 Sat

>The pressure to produce numbers
>that was put on these men was so great (beyond the
>comprehension of most UBF members)…
If you want to get a good idea of the pressure that I speak of, try watching at least the beginning of the excellent movie, Glengarry Glen Ross. The movie is rated “R” for language, but then so was Samuel Lee’s language many times in his meetings with fellowship leaders.

That second message of 11/01/03 was part of a discussion thread called “Passive Men / Wild Women” that was started by Donna Adams, formerly of the Cincinnati UBF, whom Samuel Lee referred to as a “brainwashed vegetable woman” in one of his Sunday “messages.”