Puppets On A String

pA friend of mine brought the following list to my attention this week. I feel compelled to share this as an informative article in hopes that people might recognize how manipulation and control can be instituted in a systematic manner. Such control does not require violence or guns or force to instill. How is Christianity different from a system of control? How are the sins of such a control system different from the sins of individual people? How should Christ-followers react to such a system?

Officially, this is the late Dr. Margaret Singer’s list of six pre-conditions for thought reform. Bolded titles were added by me. And yes, this list describes my life as a puppet on a string in the ubf system. The list helped me understand how someone like me could commit over two decades to ubf ministry.

  • [1. Constantly re-orient them] Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.
    • Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader’s aim and desires.
  • [2. Keep them busy] Control the person’s social and/or physical environment; especially control the person’s time.
    • Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.
  • [3. Remind them of their weaknesses] Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.
    • This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members.
    • The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.
    • Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.
    • Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.
    • As the target’s sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgment and understanding of the world are diminished. (ordinary view of reality is destabilized)
    • As the group attacks the target’s previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it – leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.
    • This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired – the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.
  • [4. Make sure they see their old life as bad] Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person’s former social identity.
    • Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.
    • the target’s old beliefs and patterns of behavior are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.
    • Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group’s beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.
  • [5. Make sure they see their new life as good] The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group’s ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors.
    • Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group’s beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.
    • The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.
    • Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviors expected by the group.
    • The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.
    • Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member’s behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members’ relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts—new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.
  • [6. Ignore criticism] Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.
    • The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.
    • Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.
    • The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.
    • Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behavior in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change—begin to speak the language—which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviors.

Source: Cults In Our Midst,


  1. Brian, this list describes fairly well many of the practices I experienced in UBF. At the same time, I don’t think that any of my leaders had a specific desire to “thought-reform” me or manipulate me for their own ends. How do you think that it happened then, if it wasn’t necessary intentional?

    • Yes, the thought reform was and is intentional. The goal is noble-sounding and the hope is well-intentioned, but intentional nonetheless.

      From the moment you accept that first one hour one-to-one bible study, your shepherd has a very, very specific and highly intentional plan to mold you into a KOPHN shepherd/ess. I heard over and over in ubf that disciples are never born, but always made.

      The goal in ubf is clearly to make a young student into a KOPHN shepherd or shepherdess, correct? That is intentional. The hope is one day someone will justify the ubf system and that God will be pleased, correct?

      Those are good and well-intentioned but the system meant to produce KOPHN “products” becomes enslaving.

      So I’m not saying the goal is evil, the goal is quite good-sounding and inspiring. The ugliness normally only revealed when someone challenges the system.

      Because the end goal is noble-sounding, we shepherds in ubf easily justified all kinds of tactics.

    • @Brian: Looking back, I suppose you’re right that there is a clear intent: the intent is to make someone a disciple of UBF. If after several attempts, they don’t acquiesce to our control, they are let go and not challenged anymore. They may float around for a while, but we would say, “the Holy Spirit is not working in them; it’s time to fish a new person.”

      At least that was my experience.

    • Mark Mederich

      maybe overly noble goal, leads to overly questionable tactic

  2. namuehling

    Thanks Brian. After seeing this list, I started to wonder whether the motivations for instituting these practices were sinister or not. I think I agree with Joshua (although I’m not completely sold), but the fact remains that these practices are still in occurrence because they are seen as effective (which, they are an effective means of control). If UBF’s goal is not control, then they would be willing to stop these practices. However, time and time again, UBF has shown they are tied to these practices, they consider them part of the UBF heritage, they consider them as coming from God. I believe tying these practices to God’s will makes them even more insidious. It is this list that has convinced me that a Christian church can also be a cult.

    • “It is this list that has convinced me that a Christian church can also be a cult.”

      Yes indeed, and thanks for sharing this with me this week. Once I realized the strings controlling my life, I was able to then cut those strings. My puppetmaster had good intentions, but could not give up power and authority, and is obsessed with control.

      This letter from the makers of the excellent movie, “Paradise Recovered” should be the opening address at the ISBC. Maybe some former member could read it instead of the scheduled indoctrination lecture…

      A letter to spiritual abuse survivors

      Here are some snippets:

      “We all experience vulnerability in difficult emotional times. Most people find some sort of support to see them through.

      Sometimes that support is healthy, and people learn to grieve, learn, and grow.

      But sometimes when people are vulnerable and need answers, someone pretends to give support by exploiting the needs of hurting people, using their ‘answers’ as a recruitment tool to get people to do their bidding in the name of God.

      This is what happened to us.”

      “We thought we were specially called by God. We learned later that we were just a means to an end, with the end being the elevation of our leader.”

      “And then we learned something about our leaders that made us question all that we built our lives upon.

      We learned that there are a lot of people claiming that they are God’s exclusive one-and-only end time prophets. They all have their own franchises, and they all seem to know exactly when Jesus is coming back.

      We learned that some of our leaders are sexually deviant, dishonest, emotionally abusive, gossips, false prophets, adulterers, tax evaders, murderers, thieves, and/or general conniving swindlers. We weren’t told everything up front so that we could make informed decisions to follow.

      Or we simply learned that there are different rules for the leaders than for the followers. That there is this grand inequality that doesn’t seem, well, biblical.

      We learned that some of our phobias have been granted to us by leaders who manipulated us into believing that the world is really a terrible, horrible place.”

    • More quotes from the letter I linked to that describe my feelings exactly:

      “If we’re interested in talking about spiritual matters with you, consider the following:

      First off, you would never tell a sexual abuse survivor that the answer to all their troubles was to just get into a healthy intimate relationship. Please don’t prescribe a healthy church as ‘all we really need.’ We might want that someday, but we need a lot of space from anything that resembles our old experience.

      We should never be made to feel guilty about taking a break from church. What we experience as a Sunday morning service and what you experience are two very different experiences. Where you can feel empowerment and restoration, we often feel sheer panic.

      If you are compelled to tell us about Jesus, tell us first about how he hated spiritual abuse. Stick to the parts of the gospel accounts where he is all about peace and rest, and where he talks a lot about not being troubled or afraid.”

  3. big bear

    Seen all these systems at work in UBF. Yes, I had to write a schedule and give to director of all my time in my younger years in UBF, I had no time to be a rebel. My weaknesses were always thrown in my face and that my old life was terrible bad so better not go back there and the new life was awesome. I am not sure if the intent was to be evil but I do feel like I was emotionally and physically abused in this system that kept me extremely busy and in poverty for many years and our family. There is no room to think or do you have any strength to criticize the system because you are so weighted down with the rules and the legalism of the director who thinks he knows better than churches that have existed for thousands of years. I believe there is so kind of system that tears you down and makes you feel worthless so you have no choice but to stay. The Bible study is great but again it is the system that is behind the Bible study which is unbiblical and it is too controlling of one’s life by the time you wake up you are like me 50 years old.

    • big bear

      Puppets on a string is a good example of how UBF treats you. Since you are a sinner, you are expected to keep your mouth shut and let the director to run your life as if he knows all the answers. Our director was so stuck in the Bible that he knew nothing about practical life problems and did not care either. Even today he is the same, no growth and no budging from the UBF system, still fully Korean and military in his thinking. When ever I asked him a question, he never had any answers just would make me write a testimony or he would beat me over the head with the Bible. I got so entrapped in his way of thinking that I lost all sense of right and wrong. The day I left Cinti UBF to pioneer a new ministry was the greatest day of my life, got away from the most controlling and arrogant man in planet earth. Unfortunately, I learned under him for over 20 years, so I brought some of his bad theology and his ways with me and his ways of dealing with issues. When things fell apart, he showed his true colors and his true abuse self. Yes, I was a puppet on a string, but my years in the desert help me to see UBF in a different light and just reading and studying and writing books helped me to begin to see that UBF believes in works not grace. They are afraid of grace, because you can’t question their bad theology and their system which is clearly abusive and robs young people of their young years. My director told us that we were all prophets..he was good at blowing up peoples heads but in practical life he is just a puppet of the UBF system and has no idea how to shepherd people biblical. He only taught me force and loyalty but I did not see love of God in his life or freedom for us to express ourselves but we were like his puppets. He would always feed us on offering money..since I was poor and beaten down…a meal was everything to me. I challenge anyone to challenge the system just for a day, you will see the true colors of UBF. They love you when you are their puppet, but try to be a big bear, they will spear you as an evil monster.

    • “I challenge anyone to challenge the system just for a day, you will see the true colors of UBF. They love you when you are their puppet, but try to be a big bear, they will spear you as an evil monster.”


    • Mark Mederich

      the end of the spear..

  4. big bear,

    “I am not sure if the intent was to be evil”

    Correct. Their intent is not evil. Their intent (my intent in the past) was good. Good intentions that entrap people and manipulate, even for a perceived good purpose, is most dangerous. As Mark and others pointed out, that is the yeast of the Pharisees that Jesus pointed out.

  5. big bear

    BRIAN GOOD POINT….cults in our midst

  6. Another quote from the letter above:

    “We were as good as dead to everyone who once claimed to love us.”

    After two years away, this hurts the most.

  7. “Yes, I had to write a schedule and give to director of all my time in my younger years in UBF”

    Yes, me too and many of my friends. But I knew how to play the game…just prove your loyalty and the training ends, until you have to prove yourself again next time. One of my friends didn’t learn how the play the game, so he ended up having to give a “minute by minute” account as training. Daily accounts of your activity was rather common, even just 10 years ago. I wonder if any chapter director still gets away with this one?

    • Mark Mederich

      worse than get away with, believes it’s the only way? oh, Lord send your Spirit to renew the face of the earth

  8. sheepherd1

    Hey Big Bear, you kept saying that you wrote a book about your life and your experience with UBF. Have you published it yet?

    I have a question to all of you. I learned that people get send to Korea for training. I had a friend that was sent there. Then when she came back, she just changed and doesn’t talk to her (Christian) friends anymore?

    • sheepherd1, Big Bear has written books before which do include about his life. But previous efforts are flattering to UBF. I remember several years ago when one shepherd from my home chapter received a copy of maybe his first book. Presently, he is working on a new book which will give some insight and also reveal many errors of the past, present – hmm, maybe future of UBF.

      Yes, people do go to Korea for training. I am not sure, but maybe I know the story you are telling. Perhaps your friend was a second gen Korean? Maybe a non-Korean? Training almost always happens in Seoul chapters which are more strict. I am not in Seoul and (keep in mind) go to my wife’s chapter. But if I went to a chapter associated with mine in Canada I would be in Seoul for sure. Usually, the chapter where your director or shepherd went to is where you receive training. However, there are chapters which are in general training centres. So much depends on the language issue in the case of a foreigner.

      In Korea UBF you are surrounded by many members all around. If she chooses to no longer have contact with other Christians (I am assuming UBFers) than maybe she felt violated while in Korea. None of us can actually say what happened there. We can only confirm that the training was regimented under a shepherd and she would have lived according to a schedule for sure. But, no one can verify her account on her behalf. Unfortunately, it is up to you to push and pursue dialogue if you have also been cut out of relations. If I have misunderstood your question let me know.

    • sheepherd1

      thanks gc, She’s non-Korean.

    • big bear

      sheepherd 1…I wrote 4 books and are published…this was while in UBF…the one that is coming will be my 5th…no not published yet…

  9. sheepherd1, One of the common reasons for a person to be sent to Korea in ubf is marriage by faith training. One of my friends, who was not married, agreed to go on a Korean “world mission journey”. Several shepherds asked that marriage not be brought up, but of course it was. My friend left the ministry immediately upon returning from the trip. Not only was he introduced to someone, he was told he wasn’t smart and degraded verbally in an attempt to get him in a state of mind to accept marriage by faith in Korea.

    Heck, I was told I should marry by faith on my Korean journey…even though I was already married!

    • Mark Mederich

      guess a marriage mill has to keep track who’s already attached:)

  10. And this whole “Korean journey” thing needs to be exposed. A senior Korean confessed to me last year that the Korean missionaries proudly view the Americans, Russians, etc. who come to Korea as their “trophies”. He said the missionaries used to love seeing people from more advanced countries (at the time) paraded about like puppets, because Koreans had been beaten down so much throughout history. They saw the journey team members as evidence of the Korean victory. And of course the Americans loved to be paraded around usually, loving the attention. We admitted to each other that we loved to stroke each other’s egos. That needs to stop.

    • Mark Mederich

      let go my ego! (oh, that really was let go my eggo waffle:)

  11. A very good article. I’d say that my ubf experience is expressed very well in it. I think that all the ubf methods and technics and activities and practicies are about control and psychology not about God’s work. And for some degree they work and a university student becomes a member of the organization. But the psychology doesn’t work for ever, and the time comes sooner or later when the member sees he had been manipulated. And ubf is not afraid of that. It just keeps recruiting new members forgetting the previous ones. The only problem now is that internet doesn’t allow ubf leaders to be easily “self-fogetful”. If not the internet they would do absolutely nothing about the problems.

    “Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.”

    I remember that I started ubf Bible study with Genesis. At my 4th 1:1 study I asked a question about Gen.3:15. What was the answer? – “I have been teaching the Bible for many years but I have never heard anyone asking such a question. It is a satanic question! Why are asking such questions?!”.

    My wife during her first ubf Bible studies asked a question about Jesus’ geneologies in Mt and Lk. The answer was, “It is a satanic question! Only Satan asks such questions!”. Well this was our “fresh sheep” experience in ubf at the very beginning.

    • Vitaly, it’s interesting to point out that when you asked a question you were met with judgment in such a way. When finishing a Bible study my shepherd always asked me, “Do you have any questions?” I always expressed no questions, because I knew that the goal was to indoctrinate me. I never experienced such blatant insulting remarks however as a new student. I often find that questions are usually answered through restating the interpretation of the Bible and not actually through proper explanation. Often times things that were unclear remain unclear because efforts are placed on indoctrination and not actually understanding.

    • gc, our director never said, “Do you have any questions?”. sometimes it was obvious that he didn’t understand what he was speaking about himself. And there were always ubf question sheets. Those were the questions you were allowed to have ))

      I remember how once I helped a missionary to translate questions from Korean into Russian. She translated the questions into Korean-Russian and I put them into true Russian. The passage was Romans 4. Rom.4:4 says, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt”. In her Korean ubf sheet the question was put, “How does a person consider his reward if he hadn’t worked and if he had worked?”. I put the question based on the verse, “How is the reward reckoned to the one who works and to the one who doesn’t work?”. Well, she insisted ABSOLUTELY. She said that she didn’t care how it is put in the Bible, she cared only how it was put in her Korean sheet, absolutely. She rebuked me and didn’t allow me to “remake” this single question. I had to “just obey”. No possibility to make a step out of the ubf system.

    • So, basically, the UBF materials are more important than the Bible….hmmm….smells cultic to me. And readers, that’s why looking for outside commentary and understanding is discouraged. When even the Bible itself is not allowed to speak above the UBF questionnaire watch out!!

    • “basically, the UBF materials are more important than the Bible”

      Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I discovered that materials and the bible don’t really matter. As long as control and power and “spiritual order” are maintained, ubf missionaries and shepherds will normally concede to just about anything.

      I suggest any ubf bible student do a little experiment to find out if there are strings attached to what your shepherd says. Keep a journal of reactions to various things. Look back and notice the contradictions your shepherd or chapter director will make. Contradictions of thought are rampant in the ubf mind, and your shepherd normally doesn’t even know it. Point out these contradictions. This will be healthy for you and your shepherd. The easiest way to do this is to keep track of points made in your Sunday lectures.

    • About contradictions I think I would spend my whole life in pointing them out because they were always there, literally, in the director’s speech. Today he says, “Accidents happen not because of people’s sins”, tomorrow he says, “Accidents and misfortune happen because of people’s sins”. His messages could contradict each other. I never was able to “unite” the contradictions in my sogams. But I tried and did my best in order to understand the Bible. But I was rebuked by the director, “You should meditate about one word at a time”. I asked, “How can I meditate about this “one word” if it condradicts the previous one?” – He said, “Forget the previous one, it was last week, this week you should move forward and meditate upon the fresh word”.

      I stopped reading the director’s messages many years ago (and the daily bread books also), I just studied the Bible and looked at some commentaries for understanding difficult passages. I asked all the former ubfers in my chapter, “When did you hear a ubf message that spoke to your heart last?”. Nobody could remember such a message. And many expressed that ubf sws were a time of great struggle not to sleep during the message.

      And sometimes the contradictions were so obvious that I expressed a desire to leave ubf if the director insisted. But at such moments he used to step back and “teach” me tolerance toward different opinions. “You are a leader and you should know different opinions and accept them as possible for people to have. If you do as I say you will be a grear leader one day”. I agree that people may have different opinions on many matters, but there were and are truths which I personally can’t compromise, especially the truth that God is the Creator and GOD. (I don’t want to generalize but my former director had and has really strange ideas and beliefs about God and creation and he says that they are the whole ubf absolute beliefs and that all the classic Korean commentaries approve such beliefs). I told him that I don’t care what Korean commentaries approve what. I know what God I believe in and I’d rather find a church where people believe the same God. (btw I asked some pastors through internet about the issue and they all and my church now share the same beliefs I had and have). Some people left ubf later than me and they told me the director still insists his beliefs about Gen.1 (btw I found some sentences in Kiev messages and in JR’s messages which I find as at least “strange” so maybe the whole ubf share such beliefs… I mean such sentences like, “Before its creation the earth looked like… such and such”.)

  12. Today I had a talk with the church deacon. He asked me a lot of questions about God’s calling in my life. And he said that God’s calling has absolutely nothing to do with the feeling of guilt and with anyone telling you what to do. He asked, “Has anyone told you what to do in a church? Have you experienced guilt for not doing something?”. (I have never heard such questions before! Imagine someone asks such a question in ubf! I believe such questions can be asked in a healthy “not perfect” Christian church only).

    I told him that I was told what to do at every step in ubf and that everything was based on guilt for not doing something (perfectly and fruitfully) you were told to do. But now being 1,5 years outside of ubf I have freedom (from being very busy in ubf) and the possibility to think and to pray and to study the Bible and to do something ON MY OWN according to what holy desire God gives me to do. Now I can see what God’s calling to me is and has been, what gifts the Lord gave to serve Him and His church. Please pray for me and for my first steps in serving the Lord in a healthy church. And, brothers and sisters, who are in ubf, please try to stop being very busy, take some time to pray, to think about your life, about your calling from God, take some time to rest with God, to listen to Him, not anyone else keeping telling you what to do. Really, can you allow yourself just a day leave from ubf and not feeling guilty and not being accused of following Satan? Do you have time to listen to the Lord ON YOUR OWN and follow Him ON YOUR OWN?

    • Mark Mederich

      i think we can be stuck in the old testament of rules/works/guilt; that is a great failing of believer faith up to our time, whenever we don’t help one another move up to Spirit/grace/assurance;

      may God obliterate the old way if necessary, so that we may truly grasp/live the new way

  13. @gc, “Often times things that were unclear remain unclear because efforts are placed on indoctrination and not actually understanding.” Precisely, gc! Even though I spent over 15,000 hours in some sort of bible study over 24 years, I now have so little understanding of the bible and of Christian doctrine (as Vitaly and DavidB can attest to :)

    @Vitaly, “Do you have time to listen to the Lord ON YOUR OWN and follow Him ON YOUR OWN?” Good point. I found there were scheduled times to be “on your own” in ubf, such as at conferences. But I was never alone. The voices of Korean missionaries and other shepherds was always in my head, drowing out God’s voice and my voice. And after your time alone, your testimony always had to be checked by a missionary or other shepherd. This thought was always drilled into me: “You are not your own man!” Now I know that was a lie, meant to control me in order to “give glory to God”.

    • sheepherd1

      “And after your time alone, your testimony always had to be checked by a missionary or other shepherd.”

      That’s so true. They have to check it before you present it to the congregation.If the testimony doesn’t sound good to the shepherd, they asked you to change it and they ask you to use more “spiritual terms”. Even writing a message,the messenger always had to refer to the commentaries of SL and SB. They check everything and they can even change your testimony, with the shepherd typing word by word.

    • In ubf, you become an actor on a stage. Your life and your children’s life all become scripted. Your life becomes a movie…sometimes it is a horror movie.. but there is hope. You can turn the movie into The Truman Show :)

  14. namuehling

    Living under such a system has an impact, and after being out of UBF for more than a year, I wonder how long the impact will last. Among the lasting effects of living under such a system for me:

    1. I have less self-confidence. This is directly from the focus on my sin for 20 years.

    2. I am floundering in developing a relationship with God-It was good to understand that simply doing things did nothing for my relationship with God, but it is has been hard to develop ways to bring me closer to God.

    3. It has been a hindrance in my relationships with people-trust is definitely the issue here. Also, I never had time to develop healthy relationships, even with my wife and children, so this is new ground.

    4. It has been hard to find a healthy church-my experiences have made me overly critical.

    This is just a brief list, but I think it is important to look at the damage caused by such a system.

    • @nameuhling,

      I resonate with some of the things on your list. Thankfully, the Lord (almost supernaturally) led my family into a wonderful local church, which helped a lot to get the counseling, fellowship, and other needs we had met.

      I would add for me:

      5. Difficulty in making my own decisions. I had so much direction in UBF that I struggle now in making a large decision on my own.

      6. A tendency to try and please people. Not speaking until I have discerned what I’m expected to say, not acting until I know what’s the norm, how people will react, thinking about people’s reaction more than what God’s will is.

      7. Confusion over what my family’s “mission” or role is within Christ’s church and within the local church also. Before we were clearly a “house church” and “shepherd family,” but what are we now? There’s a loss of identity as a family.

    • In varying degrees, yes I’ve had to struggle with everything on your lists guys. My journey of recovery from ubf has been both a search for reality and a search for my true self narrative.

      I would add the following:

      8. How to be a husband.

      9. How to be a father.

      10. How to have an outlet for what I’ve learned.

      I have found some amazing things and feel that I could offer so much to a ministry, but there is no outlet. ubf ministry could be revolutionized with so much joy and hope and justice. But the response is either silence or forget your self or just forgive and move on or well, that’s great but how can we keep doing the ubf heritage?

  15. big bear

    Joshua and Nam..I agree with both your input on what happens when leave UBF..the best thing to do in my opinion is to first find a healthy church with many families…UBF helps you to see what you don’t want in a church..control and a church that is stuck in a system..just remember your experience it is a great discernment to know what you don’t need in a church…when find new church talk to Pastor (I arrange lunch with him and pray with him) find out if there is a way you can serve behind the scenes and a good Bible study is helpful…

  16. Just tagging my post since Ben tagged his :)

    Based on some recent conversations, I think this article should be revisited from last year. Dr. Singer passed away in 2003, but her contributions to the world are incredibly helpful.

    As I re-read this article, I’m thinking we need a new term. The word “cult” has been butchered and while it does accurately describe ubf, it may not be helpful.

    Maybe we should use a new term, like “EEC” — Evangelical Enslavement Community — for groups that have elements of Evangelical Christianity but who hold the values of control, authority and loyalty above the Christian values of faith, hope and love.

    Any thoughts? Comments?

  17. Yes, Brian, there are some leaders who turn UBF into an EEC, either without knowing it, or without knowing any better, or because they are convinced that this is what they should do.

    But you and I know that not every ubf leader behaves like the leader of an EEC.

    Also, so far, UBF has “allowed” me and West Loop church to function autonomously. There is virtually no explicit pressure to conform to or to submit to the powers that be or to the so-called “core values.” At best some have said over the last 5 years that “West Loop is not really UBF or is no longer UBF.” For some reason, whenever I hear this it simply exhilarates me!

    I no longer respond to arousals of pride (you should act like a leader, and as a leader you should do this and that), or to guilt-tripping (what’s wrong with you). So for the most part this has stopped.

    I believe that the “control and manipulation” will decrease (as I believe it gradually is) especially when younger UBFers decide not to cave into pressure or allow it to happen to them. This academy award winning performance might help, as long as you don’t go insane saying this classic line :D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WINDtlPXmmE

    • Yes, great quote, thanks for sharing as I had not seen that :)

      “Also, so far, UBF has “allowed” me and West Loop church to function autonomously.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/06/29/puppets-on-a-string/#comment-14896

      This makes perfect sense Ben. You’ve become a rogue chapter. The ubf echelon won’t shut down a rogue chapter and they knowingly allow many rogue chapters.

      You are different though, in that you are publicly rogue. That public element likely causes some of the friction you experience. If you weren’t public or didn’t challenge them with your ubfriends articles, your friction most likely would go away and you’d likely be welcomed a bit more warmly.

      What do the ubf echelon leaders want? They want honor, privacy and control.

      1. Honor. Honor the ubf heritage (include SL usually)

      2. Privacy. Keep your concerns to yourself; no public contact

      3. Control. Script out everything on their terms; conform students to their image

      If anyone is keeping tabs, all of my effort since 2011 has been to discover and share the Christian gospel and to counteract honor, privacy and control.

  18. “I believe that the “control and manipulation” will decrease (as I believe it gradually is) especially when younger UBFers decide not to cave into pressure or allow it to happen to them. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/06/29/puppets-on-a-string/#comment-14897

    I would not count on the control and manipulation to decrease. When such things increase, what happens? The control becomes more and more subtle, harmful, and explicit. The top layer becomes more explicit (more rules, more bureaucracy). The bottom layer becomes more subtle as the top layer rules are spun ever more cunningly to bring about conformance.

    I have seen a steady increase in manipulation by ubf worldwide to accomplish their three goals: 1) honor 2) privacy 3) control.

    That is why many ubf people report feeling that “everything changes but nothing changes”.

    What happens when manipulation actually does decrease? You will see the things that 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 mentions. You will see widespread earnestness produced by godly grief, eagerness to clear themselves, indignation over injustices and toward the abuses. And you will see genuine, healthy fear–fear of doing the wrong thing. You will see much longing, zeal, and even punishment for things that do not promote love, grace, peace and justice. You will see the echelon eagerly taking every opportunity to prove themselves innocent, making public connections and reaching out to many former members (even participating in ubfriends :)

    When manipulation decreases, you will see the Ethics Committee contact details posted publicly so everyone and anyone can contact them freely. You will see leaders stepping down, taking responsibility and an avalanche of apology letters.

    And finally you will see the $13 million put towards the ministry of reconciliation. Andrew’s family is a good start. Another family has to file bankruptcy due to poor financial decisions made “for the glory of God”. And I suspect James Kim’s wife and family are first in line for restitution payments.