A Parody: Conversation NOT

I found MJ’s comment cute. Hopefully she does not mind me re-posting it. It is a parody of two people talking and disagreeing. I found this interesting because I believe that relationships deepen, blossom and become richer and more meaningful and intimate if and when we are able to get to the fringes and to the edges of discussing delicate and sensitive topics and issues. In UBF, perhaps a most sensitive, delicate and difficult topic to address and speak about is a person’s “sense of honor” and his/her seemingly absolute need to “save face” at all costs. This, I believe, has resulted in countless misunderstandings and strained or broken relationships among us in UBF. I hope that such topics may be discussed in depth privately, as well as publicly and openly more and more in order to improve communication and promote transparency. Here’s what MJ wrote (with some minor edits):

Whenever I read Genesis 18, I am shocked. How could God be a friend with Abraham? Abraham left God hanging for 13 years after Ishmael was born. Abraham used God time and time again. God is God and yet he shares his plans with Abraham. God listens to Abraham and in the end accepts his prayer to save Sodom for the sake of 10 people. (Ultimately, God does destroy Sodom, but he still listens to Abraham.)

If Genesis 18 had been a conversation between a senior missionary (SM) and a younger or junior missionary (JM),  it would go something along the lines of this (hypothetically):

JM: Please spare the city for the sake of 50 people.

SM: You are a young missionary. You don’t know what you are talking about.

JM: Please. I’ve been here for several years. I just have a suggestion.

SM: No, you will always be a young missionary. Humble yourself. If you are not happy with the situation then go and start your own chapter, and prove yourself. We will not compromise (as Dr. Ben said, “Shape Up or Ship Out”).

End of discussion….

I hope no one gets offended, but this is just a pattern that I’ve noticed. But, I don’t think this behavior reflects God’s heart.

I agree with MJ. Do you? Are there cultural nuances or blind spots that I am missing? (I am sorry if the picture does not well depict the parody!)


  1. Perhaps laughter really is the best medicine :)

    MJ’s conversation is exactly how most of my conversations have gone with Korean missionaries the past 24 years (not the new Koreans, by the way; I was able to have genuine conversations with missionaries younger than me…)

    Here is a literal email “conversation” that took place last month with a Korean missionary (the topic was the 50th anniversary publications).

    Me: “Would you read this very important lecture? Could you share your thoughts?”

    Missionary: “May God bless your life of faith. I hope I do not get any email from you again.”


  2. I’ve noticed something rather amazing and shocking (at least to me). I can carry on a conversation for hours on end or (days on end via email) with people like John Y, Ben T, Joe S., Mark Y., Mark O, and many others– even with my wife these days! and a senior missionary who is on the board of elders at UBF. But with certain people… the conversation ends instantly when I display any form of critical thinking or demonstrate anything that questions loyalty or authority or conformance to UBF ideologies.

    • By the way, for anyone curious, this technique employed in the example from MJ and Ben is called “thought-stopping“. Some psychologists teach thought-stopping in a positive way, such as a way to stop thinking about a bad situation.

      In the missionary conversation above, thought-stopping is employed to remove any dis-loyalty and keep the other person subservient.  By immediately changing the subject, the person’s thought about the city is “stopped”, and replaced with a new thought, the thought of the person’s own weakness.

      Another technique employed above by the missionary is “turning the tables“, where the attention is pushed back on the other person in order to further distract that person from their original thought and to direct the person’s energy into work that conforms with the missionaries’ ideology (i.e. forming a new chapter).

      All these kinds of conversations mixed in with Korean cultural ideas, leads both the missionary and the other person into a state of “han syndrome.” 

    • Another name for “turning tables” is “ad homien,” attacking the person instead of dealing with their ideas. It is a childish and immature logical fallacy. I’ve experienced it often.

  3. I am very sorry about that, Brian. That missionary, whether he realizes it or not, expects to be always treated by anyone younger, such as yourself, with “absolute” deference and “bite the dust” humility before him. Such missionaries or even indigenous native shepherds who have such an attitude will become more and more obsolete and irrelevant. But as you implied, such behavior is quite funny!

    • By the way, this was a woman missionary who replied this way. The men missionaries don’t even give the kindness of acknowledging my questions!  

      And yes, it is very funny to me these days. Such people will either wake up and change, or wake up and realize they have been obsolete and irrelevant for decades. Those who “converse” like this are living in a fantasy world of their own perception, like I did for many years.

      I am simply astounded the more I talk honestly with Americans, Germans, Russians, etc. in UBF. I can’t find anyone who genuinely supports the 50th-anniversary style of ministry nor this monologue-type communication style. They won’t say it openly or publicly, and they are almost all looking for ways to change the ministry.

  4. haha:) Thanks, Dr. B.  I was going to add a Korean accent (Konglish) to the Senior missionary’s word, but that would be really bad, politically incorrect and culturally insensitive…

     I thank God he didn’t call me to be a diplomat. I don’t have a drop of diplomacy in my veins. It comes from growing up in a Postmodern era:).

  5. Thanks, MJ, for teaching me a new phrase: “ad hominem.” I never realized how often we as Christians do this to one another. One whole post should be written to address it.
    The ad hominem argument is where you seek to discredit someone’s argument by drawing attention to their motive, character, authority, education, age, state of mind, etc., rather than showing what is wrong with the argument itself. It is one of the most common logical fallacies and ways to derail an argument.

    • The ad hominem argument is this parody is when SM said to JM: “You are a young missionary.” Sorry for stating the obvious. I’m excited about ad hominem.

    • Yes, thank you MJ for the proper term! I often use phrases that make sense to us “country folk” like “turn the tables” :) (Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sit on my davenport…)

      “Ad hominem” is exactly the kind of logic we need to learn and be aware of. Most shepherds in UBF don’t realize they are using such logic (in my observation), though some do. 

      “Ad hominem” is what sparked my leaving UBF, actually. About a year ago, I made a decision to address a big event that had hung over my head since 1990, as well as to become involved in the struggles my friends in Toledo were having. Instantly, before a conversation really began, I was told “you may be the problem.” Immediately, my thoughts of concern for my brothers and sisters in the Lord were replaced with thoughts about my own weaknesses. 

      Fortunately, God had prepared me in the “hell of Detroit” for 8 years, so I did not become “curved inward” and begin focusing only on myself and my situation.

      The monologue style of communication and these logical fallacies are harmful because they are the things that lead people away from the gospel of Jesus, away from the grace of God and push people toward self-sufficiency. 

  6. Hi Brian or Mary, I’m wondering if there is a way to distinguish the bold in our posts and comments. The same bold can be a verse John 3:16, or a link such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachurch. Or you can just bold anything for emphasis.
    Is there a way to distinguish between the 3 types of bold? Perhaps a different shade of color for links, so that we know it is a link?

    • Hi Ben…it certainly is possible to distinguish those three kinds of bold. The reftagger script allows some color customization to tell Scripture apart from a normal link. And we could modify our link color. I will defer to our Google designer, Mary J. on this one though. The reason is that we have her customized theme, and also I’m not the best one to choose a color scheme that would be safe on our eyes! We’ll see what we can do.

  7. I remember a similar “conversation” that one UBF shepherd had with one of the Korea UBF honchos – I think it was David Kim – when he visited our chapter in Germany more than 10 years ago. He told the UBF leader that he didn’t like to always be addressed with the title “shepherd.” The only answer he got was “well, then you can leave UBF.”
    Yes, these types of non-discussions were not unusual. But even more usual than “non-discussions” were “no discussions”. It was already very unusual that this shepherd dared to utter such a “heretical” opinion straight into the face of a top leader, and the top leaders were totally not prepared to deal with such things. There was no culture of discussing or questioning things that belonged into the realm of UBF tranditions.

    • Thanks for sharing, Chris. It’s sad that some leaders have this attitude: “Are you in or are you out?” It’s sadly either the leader’s way or the highway. This exclusive elitism is nauseating.
      Sadly, I was fully like this. I, though just a single voice, want to personally take responsibility if such behavior, attitudes and language continue or persist in our church.

  8. I don’t want to be “heretical” (i don’t even want to be perceived as “heretical”). And I definitely don’t want to be disrespectful. (but it might be too late for that, i’m sorry.)  I myself show SM behaviour when I tell my Bible students I won’t have Bible Study with them unless they write their testimony or when I get mad at fellow Christians when they are behaving in ways I don’t agree with. SM means old wineskin thinking. 

    I have it all the time. It is something that every believer must deal with. (unless you’re a monk locked up in a mountain and you don’t have to deal with people.) But the gospel is new wine, it stretches us. We must be flexible in dealing with negotiables (presentation of the gospel: multicultural, multilingual).  But inflexible when dealing with non-negotiables (the content: dynamic life-giving gospel.)

    I’ll use the bowl and soup analogy. It’s useless to have a soup-less soup bowl; it just looks nice, i.e. a white-washed tomb.  But if you have delicious soup (a good message), but no bowl to hold it, it is a mess, i.e. Christian Anarchists. Let’s not be legalists (pro law) and let’s not be anti-nominalists (anti-law). Jesus is full of grace and truth.

    • Well-said, MJ. I appreciate your self-inspection! I agree… I think we need to be careful to avoid promoting legalism (only law), anarchy (no law) and antinomianism (no morals). And at the same time, we risk being “heretics” or “disrespectful”. The only way I’ve found to do this is to hold Christ crucified as our true North of our spiritual compass, wear the glasses of grace so we can see people and Scripture and God properly, and focus on love as our expression of our faith.

      I like your bowl analogy. I spent many years decorating a beautiful bowl (in my mind) only to find a watery mixture inside. Now my bowl is tarnished, but I feel like I work for Campbell’s soup company! :) 

  9. As I read Mt 26:48-50 I am touched by Jesus’ vulnerability and friendship even toward Judas. The betrayal sign was a kiss and Jesus said to Judas “friend”. So I believe that kisses and friendship with disciples were usual. I would suppose parody dialogues where a UBF director is in Jesus’ place.
    Chief priests to Judas: May be you just come up to your beloved Rabbi and kiss him so that we would know whom to arrest?
    Judas: Are you crazy? To kiss him? To come up to him? I am afraid of him so much! He always says “I am the good director here, I am your senior, you must obey and lay down your life for the sake of sheep and world mission!”. I’d better point at him through an optical sight and stay at a distance.
    (Judas denies himself and comes up to Jesus-the director)
    Jesus: Why are you here, Judas? Do you want to say something? Do you want to ask something? I am the director here, I am your superior and I see that you have become proud and lazy and you have a rebellious look! You must obey me, you must listen to me.
    Judas (with trembling humble voice): msn Jesus, I just wanted to say that I heard that…ah.. you know in some other churches they use such words as “friend” and “love” and “grace” and they speak like friends and discuss something. What do you think about friendship and brotherhood and… love? Is it proper for a church to have that? 
    Jesus: What? What are you saying? Did you talk to someone outside UBF? Did you talk to satan? You have become satan yourself! Trust me. I know that satan always lies about me and UBF and says that there is some fear in our organisation and no true friendship. And now sit down and write a sogam and read it to me tonight. I’ll tell you one thing, there is no use talking about friendship and love (even with your coworker (wife)) so that you won’t become too sentimental, you must just obey the world mission command like a good soldier and work twice hard. 

    Once Dr.Ben wrote “Saying to someone, “I’m the senior. I’m older. I’m the leader. I’m the director. Therefore I am your superior, and you must do as I say.” Of course, no one ever says this directly”. I say that in our chapter the director always said this directly and this was the answer to any question. And it is not an ancient old thing, it was so in 1995-2011.        

    • Wow Vitaly :) Thanks for sharing. Most people would think that you are just making this up. But I testify that you are not making this up. This is actually real conversation and sounds similar to some of my conversations in 2011. And sometime around 2000 or so I was actually called “Satan” for attending my brother’s wedding. This kind of “discussion” was started way back in the early days of UBF.

      I firmly believe this: God’s calm, quiet voice whispers to all UBF members, “Jesus is climbing down your ladder of self-atonement to meet you because you will never get to Him by climbing upward. Stop climbing the ladder of UBF activity and wait for Jesus. Walk down the ladder to the foot of the cross with Risen Jesus.”

  10. Thanks for sharing, Vitaly. Someday, perhaps some good missionary friend who he may listen to, may share with him how unpleasant his words, attitude and behavior is as a Christian. So far, it is surely a spiritual blindness that he cannot/refuses to see.
    Here is a quote from an online book you can download for free: Straight Talk to Pastors by Frank Viola

    “Brothers, none of us thinks that we lord over God’s people. But let me tell you something: If your people are afraid of you, you are lording over them! Your motive may be good. But if your people feel controlled by you, you are lording over them! Brothers, if your people feel that they have to get permission from you to make decisions in their private lives, then you are lording over them! Because you are putting fear in their hearts. You are making them feel controlled. You are telling them what they can and cannot do in their personal lives . . . like whether or not they can attend a meeting held by another Christian. Therefore, you brothers are lording it over God‟s people!! And if that is not what it means to lord over God‟s people, then you tell me what it means to lord over them?!!” ~ Frank Viola, Straight Talk to Pastors