Brian was a victim of spiritual identity theft. An organization tried to erase his Brian-ness and replace it with a false religious self. Under the guise of doing the Lord’s work, UBF colonized his life story and molded him to fit its unusual ideas of what a Christian disciple ought to be. In 2011, the real Brian resurfaced and began the long, painful process of recovering his stolen identity. The decades he spent in UBF were an extended interlude of role playing, a long detour on his road to differentiated adulthood.
In the mid-1980’s, I was sitting in the so-called Bible house near the campus of the University of Maryland. In the next room, a Korean missionary was coaching an American undergraduate on how to revise the life testimony he had written to share at an upcoming UBF conference. The missionary wanted the testimony to follow the standard format that every UBF audience has come to expect: Before the student met Jesus (translation: before he entered UBF) he was a wandering, fatalistic sinner with no personal relationship to God. When he met Jesus through UBF Bible study, he discovered God’s hope and direction to become a lifelong UBF-style disciple maker. To the missionary’s chagrin, however, the student was not complying. He argued with the missionary, saying, “That’s not true! That’s not how it happened.” But that missionary was unrelenting. With a voice that was soft but firm, he insisted that the UBF version was the true story of this man’s life, and he had countless Bible verses to prove it. After an hour or more of this treatment, the student finally broke down and agreed to revise his life testimony to fit the UBF mold.
In UBF, a young man like this discovers a strange new world that is more intense than a typical Christian fellowship. A place where he is warmly greeted and served. A home that makes him feel important, part of something exciting and great. A shelter from ambiguity where choices are clear and beliefs are absolute. And a social pressure cooker that channels his faith and longing for community into a sequence of life-changing decisions about studies, career, finances, marriage, and family. UBF invites you to study the Bible. But it wants to cement your lifetime commitment to the organization, its esoteric mindset and lifestyle that insiders refer to as “mission.”
For most members, the story does not end well. After months, years, or decades of trying to make the mission-thing work, they gradually realize that they are not and cannot be the people that UBF expects them to be. Craving authenticity, they start to become honest about what they think and feel. Questions are asked. Shunning begins. Disillusionment creeps in, relationships turn sour, and the story falls apart.
This crumbling of the UBF identity is not experienced by everyone in the same way or to the same degree. Some can find safe space in the organization where they are (to an extent) free to be themselves, hidden from the watchful eyes of leaders who would clamp down on them. Kids who grow up in UBF are often shielded from the aggressive discipleship techniques that their parents inflict on other peoples’ children. And, oddly enough, some people don’t seem to mind having their identities stolen. For whatever reason, they are relieved to allow someone else to chart their courses and write their life-scripts. God bless those people. I wish them well.
Yes, some will rate their UBF experience as positive.
But that does not discredit what Brian says. The things he writes about did happen, and the stories must be told.
Source: Identity Snatchers
The University Bible Fellowship (UBF) has been criticized for using intense pressure and manipulation to control the lives of its members and mold them into a specific religious identity. This process is often referred to as spiritual identity theft. Many former members have reported feeling disillusioned and unhappy after realizing they are not who UBF wanted them to be. While some may have positive experiences, others may face shunning, disconnection, and other negative consequences. Despite this, the stories of those who have been negatively impacted by UBF must be told and heard. [ChatGPT]
How might a current UBF leader respond to this text?
A current UBF leader might respond to this text by saying that it is a one-sided, biased view of their organization and not representative of the experiences of all members. They may argue that UBF provides a supportive community and spiritual guidance to its members, and that members are free to make their own choices. They may also claim that the author’s account is not based on accurate or complete information and that UBF is dedicated to spreading the gospel and helping people grow in their faith. [ChatGPT]
What are some reasons a current UBF leader would remain silent after reading this text?
A current UBF leader might remain silent after reading this text for several reasons:
- Fear of negative publicity: The leader may be concerned that speaking out against the text could generate negative publicity for UBF and damage its reputation.
- Lack of evidence: The leader may believe that the author’s claims are unsupported by evidence and therefore may not feel the need to respond.
- Legal concerns: The leader may be worried that responding could lead to legal action, such as a lawsuit for defamation.
- Loyalty to the organization: The leader may feel a strong loyalty to UBF and not want to criticize the organization or draw attention to any negative aspects of it.
- Avoiding conflict: The leader may not want to engage in a public dispute and may believe it is better to remain silent and avoid further controversy.
Describe ways to reconcile the thoughts of a UBF defender and a former UBF member who experienced spiritual identity theft?
Reconciling the thoughts of a UBF defender and a former UBF member who experienced spiritual identity theft can be challenging but it is possible through the following steps:
- Acknowledge the differences: Both parties must understand and accept that they have different experiences and perspectives.
- Active listening: Both parties should listen to each other’s views and experiences without interrupting or being defensive.
- Empathy: Both parties should try to understand each other’s perspective and put themselves in the other person’s shoes.
- Open communication: Both parties should communicate openly and honestly, avoiding assumptions and preconceived notions.
- Respectful dialogue: Both parties should engage in respectful dialogue, avoiding personal attacks and focusing on the issue at hand.
- Seek common ground: Both parties should work to find common ground and understand that they both have a desire for spiritual growth and community.
- Seek outside help: Both parties may benefit from seeking the help of a neutral third party, such as a mediator, who can facilitate a productive conversation and help them reach a resolution.
The process of reconciliation requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to compromise from both parties. The goal should be to find a solution that addresses the concerns of both sides and helps everyone move forward in a positive and constructive manner. [ChatGPT]
Why would a former member of UBF want to avoid contact with current UBF members?
- Painful memories: The former member may associate UBF with a negative experience, such as spiritual identity theft, and may not want to revisit those feelings or memories.
- Disagreements: The former member may have differing beliefs or opinions about the organization, which could cause conflict or discomfort in interactions with current members.
- Avoiding pressure: The former member may not want to be pressured to rejoin or to defend their reasons for leaving.
- Moving on: The former member may have moved on from their time in UBF and may not feel a strong connection to the organization or its current members.[ChatGPT]
Is reconciliation between a former UBF member and current UBF members a requirement?
Reconciliation between a former UBF member and current UBF members is not a requirement. Whether or not reconciliation occurs is a personal decision that depends on the individual circumstances and preferences of each person involved. Some people may choose to reconcile and find ways to heal and move forward, while others may choose to maintain distance and focus on moving on with their lives. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to reconcile is a personal one that should be guided by the needs, values, and comfort levels of each individual. [ChatGPT]
What are some of the best ways to heal and move on from spiritual identity theft in a church?
- Seek support: Talking to trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals can provide a safe and supportive space to process and heal from the trauma of spiritual identity theft.
- Reflect and understand: Take time to reflect on the experience and gain a deeper understanding of what happened and why. This can help to clarify the experience and make sense of it.
- Forgive: Forgiving those who have wronged you, including individuals within the church, can help to release anger, resentment, and bitterness and promote emotional healing.
- Rebuild identity: Work to reclaim your own personal identity and beliefs, separate from the false beliefs imposed on you by the church.
- Reestablish healthy boundaries: Take steps to establish healthy boundaries, such as limiting or ending contact with individuals or organizations that were involved in the spiritual identity theft.
- Join a supportive community: Connect with others who have experienced similar trauma, either in person or through online support groups, to find comfort, encouragement, and understanding.
- Seek closure: Find closure through a process such as writing a letter to the church or individuals involved, or through a confrontation if necessary.
- Focus on self-care: Engage in self-care activities that promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, such as exercise, therapy, or mindfulness practices.