My Dilemma Between the Dichotomies

dilemmaThe saddest dichotomy that I have experienced in my 34 years of being a Christian (all in UBF) is between those who are strongly loyal UBF defenders and ex-UBFers who are vocally critical of their experience in UBF and after they left UBF. When I hear both sides as best I can, my glass-half-empty sentiment is “never the twain shall meet.” Of course, I am not denying that God can–and often does–do the impossible.

There are countless dichotomies in Christiandom. Calvinism/Arminianism. Liberal/Conservative. Charismatic/Cessationist. Paedobaptist/Credobaptist. Salvation by faith alone/salvation by faith plus works. Justification: Reformed, soteriological, eschatological emphasis/New Perspective on Paul, ecclesiastical emphasis; imputation/impartation. Gospel: Primarily proclamation/Emphasis on works. Evangelism: discipleship/social justice. Silence and solitude/community and engagement. Countless eschatological views (Premillennial, Amillennial, Postmillennial, preterist, futurist, historicist, idealist and variations thereof). Various views of baptism and communion. The Filioque controversy. This is surely just the tip of the iceberg regarding dichotomies.

Right or wrong, dichotomies happen in life, and definitely in our Christian experience, even if we insist that we do not want to be dichotomous. For instance, I really wanted to enjoy the Superbowl yesterday. But I simply could not when the team I was rooting for got blown out 43 – 8. I could not bear to watch the second half, and did not watch even one second of it.

I love UBF. Let me simply state my dilemma as best I can. As a UBF lifer I love UBF, which I believe is my practical expression of love for Christ and for as his church, which is his bride, his household and his body. But some exUBFers have conflicting inner discordance hearing me proclaim to the world, “I love UBF.” At the same time, UBF lovers also feel discordant, because I am not afraid nor ashamed to air our dirty laundry for the whole world to see and to smell. So my sense is that when I say, “I love UBF,” I don’t feel the love from both sides. As much as I want or even need to be loved, I think I can handle not feeling the love, as long as I am sure of Jesus’ love for me. So don’t feel any pressure that you need to make me feel the love. As I have stated often, it is sometimes a lot of fun when others just “let you have it.”

Samuel Lee was my friend and mentor. Another dilemma is when I proclaim unashamedly that Samuel Lee was a good friend and mentor for me (while having observed and read many things he said and did which I cannot and will never agree with). UBF detractors who have seen or read or experienced what Lee said and did might be appalled that I refer to him as “my friend and mentor.” At the same time, long standing UBFers do not buy my positive proclamation about Lee at all, because again I am not afraid nor ashamed to clearly speak out about his negative and hurtful (evil) words and actions.

I’m staying in UBF. Anti-UBFers wonder, “How can I stay when I know all the horrible things UBF does?” Some UBF lovers wonder, “Why doesn’t he just leave or SHUT UP?” I just don’t feel the love, not that I’m looking for it, but maybe I am…God only knows.

What do you think?

Sorry if this is an odd question. But what “dilemma between the dichotomies” do you experience?


  1. Joe Schafer

    Breaking down the impossible barriers (walls of hostility) between people-groups is the work of the gospel. But it requires people to have an identity that is squarely rooted in Jesus. Not in something else. Not in Jesus plus something else. Just Jesus.

    Yesterday I read this essay which compared the contemporary YRR (Young, Restless and Reformed) movement to a cult. He calls it “the TULIP cult.”

    I am not interested in debating the merits of the YRRs or TULIP. But the author makes a very helpful observation. He writes:

    “By a cult, I mean a sect within the broad landscape of Christianity which takes as its operating center some principle other than Christ crucified.”

    What is the operating center of UBF? Is it Christ crucified and nothing else? No way, Jose.

    Here are the make-or-break issues for UBF leaders.

    When SL was alive, the make-or-break issue was whether you were personally loyal to him, whether you would back him up on everything or not. If you tried to challenge him either privately or publicly, he would label you as rebellious and train you to break you. If he couldn’t break you, he would see to it that you were marginalized and pushed out. How much you loved Jesus didn’t matter very much. What determined your status (in or out) was your degree of personal loyalty to SL.

    After his death, the make-or-break issues became a bunch of principles (preserving the UBF heritage) that served a similar purpose.

    Ben, your standing with most UBF leaders is not related to whether or not you love Jesus. Your standing depends on whether or not you are willing to continually sing the praises of all things UBF. Perhaps you can survive in that kind of environment. But many others simply cannot.

    Until and unless UBF leaders re-center their personal and collective identity around Jesus and him alone, there will be no end to division. The organization will continue to divide and divide.

    • Very good observations Joe. To do what you suggest requires death. We need more people willing to die for Jesus by engaging in bridge building efforts. I for one am willing to “die every day” for this because new life requires death and resurrection. It is the only way forward.

  2. Ben, I’m glad to see this article, which cuts to the chase and brings visiblity to an important topic for discussion.

    Here is my observation:

    There are two requirements needed to build the bridge between ubf and ex-ubf.

    The first requirement is that we must admit that various kinds of abuse have happened in ubf. This does not mean all ubfers experienced and/or created such abuse. It simply means that we must face the facts that the ubf heritage has created an environment for abuse to happen. If someone needs a bible verse to support this, take a look at Romans 4:19. Ex-ubfers are not asking ubfers to waiver in their faith, only to face the facts.

    The second requiremnt is that we must admit that shepherding ideology is flawed and actively work to remove it from ubf. To add all kinds of program changes and add committees and attend non-ubf conferences and to create education material is all just re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic. The ubf ship is sinking (in terms of attendance and offering and morale). The core reason is that less and less people buy into the ubf ideology. So for example, JJ flying all over the world doing “continuing education training” doesn’t help in this matter because he and others are just re-enforcing the ubf heritage version of shepherding ideology.

    As an ex-ubfer I can only speak for myself. I have no problem with anyone who says “I love ubf” and wants to stay in ubf IF that person has faced the facts about ubf and has given up the shepherding ideology. That is precisely why I can be friends with you (Ben) and Joe. The bridge is built between even though we disagree passionately on various topics. We agree that 1) there have been and continue to be various kinds of abuses in ubf and 2) shepherding as ubf has defined it is flawed. I think people who have dilemas about ubf/ex-ubf likely have not resolved something related to these two issues. I have no such dilema.

    For example, the ubfers I cannot build a bridge with are those who insist that abuse is not abuse, that abuse is just some misunderstanding or some cultural conflict or some inter-personal trouble. Those who insist the abuse in ubf is mearly mistakes or common sins or something to be overlooked or just between BK and PH are creating tension and roadblocks that prevent bridge building.

    In the end, for me, these two requirements are non-negotiable. And as long as ubf people try to side-step these two requirements, the split will only increase. I can put up with a lot of things, but I cannot call abuse anything but abuse and I cannot and will not accept shepherding ideology as expressed in the ubf heritage.

    So am I “driving the wedge”? Perhaps. I admit that I may be causing some of the ubf walls to crumble. But could I also be standing my ground causing the entire ubf organization to change?

    Sometimes something must die for new life to grow. Is not death and resurrection at the heart of the Christain gospel?