On Our 20th Anniversary

rMarking anniversaries. I can’t help it! ubf conditioned me to mark each year and to write my own history. Each conference was so historical! But my wife and I noticed one glaring absence from this history-making: our wedding anniversary. We realized that even though we privately marked our wedding anniversary, our ubf community almost never celebrated such a thing. Wedding anniversaries, like all supposedly unspiritual family-centered activities at ubf, were acknowledged but not celebrated. In the ubf KOPAHN system, the number of years you have been studying the bible at ubf is far more important than the number of years you have been married. For example, I noticed that Christians I meet now often ask “How long have you been married?” ubf people ask (in Konglish no matter your native language) “How long have you been studying bible at ubf?” when they first meet someone. So today I want to share some sogamic reflections with you as my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.

Our divorce from ubf

Our divorce is final. No, not from each other, but from ubf! As my wife and I talked during our anniversary trip, I realized that for the first time in 20 years, it was just us two talking. For 19 years, there was always a third person in our marriage, a strange, spiritual ménage-à-trois if you will. When you go through marriage-by-faith at ubf, you don’t just marry another person, you marry the ubf ideology. Your shepherds, your chapter directors and even the General Director become the phantom 3rd wheel in your marriage. Often you don’t even have to check your decisions with your shepherd in person. After you have been conditioned by the 6 stage KOPAHN training, your mind already knows what your shepherd will say, so you and your wife check your decisions with this 3rd wheel in your marriage, often without even visiting your chapter director.

So today I joyfully announce to our ubfriends community that my wife and I are absolutely, permanently and unequivocally divorced from the KOPAHN theological system!

Our erotic getaway

We celebrated our 20th wedding by a honeymoon do-over. We spent a multi-day trip getting to know each other biblically :) We talked for hours on end, played games like Yahtzee, watched movies, went swimming naked, and went out for dinner each night. It was a wonderful time of getting to know my wife. After more than 2 decades of neglecting our marriage, we finally threw off our KOPAHN entanglements. Did I mention we went swimming naked?

At ubf, sex is a taboo of taboo issues. So I want to mention something here briefly. Our anniversary celebration included exploring sex for pleasure, rather than merely a chore that is required to “produce sheep”. I’ll just say that we have opened up a whole new world and leave it at that…

Our 3rd Anniversary

As our regular readers here know, I resigned in a blaze of glory from ubf on July 4th 2011, and shut down Detroit ubf forever. So because I am conditioned to mark the time, I now count the years since that glorious day. Independence Day 2014 marks 3 years of freedom from the muck and mire of KOPAHN theology! And later this week we will celebrate with our larger family back home. We will celebrate not only the freedom of America that was bought with the blood of soldiers, not only the freedom we have in Jesus Christ our Lord that was bought with His blood, but especially the freedom our  family has gained from KOPAHN ideologies that was bought with our blood.

I have been detoxing from our ubf life and finally I feel healthy and renewed, as if poison has been drained out of my blood. I am free. I am happy. And I am discovering my authentic self– the guy who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, the guy who loves sci-fi fantasy, the guy who loves philosophy, the guy who loves to write books and the amazing, family-centered guy that I need to be and love to be.

So what’s your story? Do you celebrate your wedding anniversary? If so, how will you celebrate?


  1. Thanks, Brian, for sharing your lovely sexy story! I learned a new word: “ménage-à-trois.” As I read this, I recollect a gospel spiritual I heard last weekend at a gospel conference that touched my heart:

    I sing because I’m happy.
    I sing because I’m free.
    His eye is on the sparrow.
    And I know he watches me.

  2. forestsfailyou

    LOL Ben. In other news Niki Minaj’s name makes more sense.
    I am not yet married. But my tentative plan for honeymoon involve tropical environments and beaches. Or Rome. Or both.

    Congratulations on 20 years Brian!One thing someone observed, and I am not sure it is a bad thing but I realized how bizarre it was. At a recent wedding I attended the bride and groom were absolutely forbidden from touching or holding hands before the marriage ceremony. And then after marriage it was suddenly ok. The person who noted this to me expressed dissatisfaction at what she viewed to be a strange rule, as if the ceremony suddenly allowed them to hold hands. As far as sex being taboo, this isn’t a unique thing to UBF. Most evangelical groups get weird about the topic. Interestingly in the hand full of marriages of highly conservative people I have observed the families have joked with the newly weds about the topic. It is always an off limits topics for singles, but with married people it varies from place to place.

    • “Most evangelical groups get weird about the topic.”

      Correct, forests. I hope everyone can start to see my point in my second book about something I call burden layers. ubf does indeed share several problems common with evangelical (and more specifically fundamentalist) expressions of Christianity.

      Speaking of arranged marriages at uhf, here are some more tidbits for everyone’s enjoyment.

      We were not allowed to “kiss the bride”. We had to argue and push to be the “historic” couple to do a cut the cake ceremony. We tried but lost the battle to have a reception after the ceremony, so the compromise was to have some food at the ubf center. Our wedding day ceremony was shared with another couple, TP and MP, who were also top ubf leaders and who also left ubf.

      There are literally thousands of more stories. Joe has already shared some of their wedding day heartache regarding the ceremony. The bottom line is that the ubf “marriage by faith” is disrespectful of the culture in which people live and cuts deeper into people’s lives than any other part of the ubf system.

  3. To provide some counter-perspective, there are countless marriages that have worked out well “through” UBF (and some might say “in spite” of UBF) among both loyalists and exUBFers. As you know, I am never ever tired of expressing just how unbelievably happy and joyful my own marriage has been, despite the quirky and culturally insensitive (even hurtful and disrespectful) practices that countless non-missionary couples have already expressed.

    The “mystery” of course, is why God would in his loving sovereign will use UBF to bring us happily married couples together, since God knows full well about UBF in all her eccentricities and ugly hurtful insensitive authoritarian practices, that some leaders still do not see or refuse to see to this day. Or they see it, but refuse to acknowledge it or address it.

    I don’t think that the problem was ever really UBF marriages, but certain leaders behind the marriages that simply soured the sweet memory of some UBF weddings, marriages and subsequent family life.

    Personally, I really don’t see how UBF can just “blindly” and insistently press on forward by ignoring the past, or by refusing to seriously address the past.

    • “The “mystery” of course, is why God would in his loving sovereign will use UBF to bring us happily married couples together, since God knows full well about UBF in all her eccentricities and ugly hurtful insensitive authoritarian practices, that some leaders still do not see or refuse to see to this day. Or they see it, but refuse to acknowledge it or address it. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/07/02/on-our-20th-anniversary/#comment-14320

      This mystery is not so mysterious Ben. God made some of us healthy and brought some of us Christians (like myself who was a Christian already before ubf) into the ubf ministry for at least one clear reason: to bring the abuse and harm into the light of public scrutiny.

      God in His wisdom knew that someone like myself, my wife, Beka and Andrew, and others, would survive the ubf system and be able to go through the exit process and then live to tell about it. God likely knew that there would be people like you and Joe who would speak up about the problems.

      Surely the ultimate reason is because the Lord is our one Shepherd who leads us all for His glory. I believe God wanted to reveal His glory in a dark place, and that place is the underbelly of ubf that ubf leaders refuse to acknowledge. Well, not only does that dark side of ubf exist, Jesus is there.

  4. “Personally, I really don’t see how UBF can just “blindly” and insistently press on forward by ignoring the past, or by refusing to seriously address the past. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/07/02/on-our-20th-anniversary/#comment-14321

    This is also rather clear to me, Ben. Why do they press on blindly? Because they have taken a vow unto death to defend the ubf heritage. Remember the ubf pledge? When you take such an oath, you become blind to much of the realty around you.

    Perhaps more ubf Koreans should take the following Holy Scripture as their key verses: Matthew 5:33-37

    • Think about that Scripture for a moment… how amazingly better would ubf be if the leaders would take Jesus’ words and simply say Yes or No? Why all the beating around the bush?

  5. An interesting perspective I did not consider (probably because I have been in UBF for over three decades!): “…to bring the abuse and harm (caused by UBF) into the light of public scrutiny.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/07/02/on-our-20th-anniversary/#comment-14321

    To say that UBFers “have taken a vow unto death to defend the ubf herigage” could be regarded as a kind of negative caricature that nobody likes, as well as straw-manning the other side, don’t you think?

  6. So… I was really hoping to discuss how married couples at ubf deal with the issues of married life. Anyone have to deal with guilt-trips during their honeymoon? What’s your story? Do you celebrate your wedding anniversary? If so, how will you celebrate?

    If ubf is so healthy and such a great ministry, were are all the healthy families?

    • Brian, congrats to you and your wife on 20 years together! I’ve been married for seven years, this year. These days I try to give priority to my wife and kids, above conferences, fishing (pretty much haven’t gone all year), and meetings. Honestly, I’m realizing more and more how I neglected them in the past and I regret it, especially since I always justified my actions to them and thought I was right. I’m also particularly guilty of not celebrating my wedding anniversary and I’m so sorry to my wife for this. Mostly, it’s my own lack of showing love. Partly, it’s because we married on Dec. 23. It’s too sandwiched in between holidays, extended family visiting, Christmas services, etc. that I always got too busy. I don’t make any excuse for it now and I’m ashamed of my actions. I’d like to give my wife another ceremony and honeymoon someday to do it right for her.

    • This is REALLY good news to hear Charles!

      Imagine the shock of realizing this 18 years too late… For my wife and I, we didn’t see these problems while “in” ubf. We only saw them after leaving. In our case (which is not everyone’s case) we had to get away before we could see all the problems. My wife was more aware of all the problems sooner, but I was too blind to see them.

      So now, after 20 years of marriage, we are dating :)

  7. Where are all the healthy families? UBF’s short answer is all the couples (95% plus) that stayed together and never divorced, even if they left UBF.

    The problem is really not this “good” statistic of 95%, but that some/many UBF leaders use it to claim and justify UBF as a healthy ministry, compared to most other churches that have a much higher divorce rate.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, what is the source of your 95%? As far as I know, there has never been an accurate count of how many marriages have been performed and how many of these couples are still married. And given that once you leave ubf you become persona non grata, perhaps never spoken to or spoken of again, how would anyone know if those couples are still married? Your 95% figure sounds like a wild guess and is probably an overestimate, as far as North America is concerned.

    • From my own personal knowledge and “limited sample size” it does seem that the divorce rate in UBF is closer to 90-95% than it is to the national average of 50-60% in the U.S. even among “Christians.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Why are you comparing to an overall U.S. rate? The marriages that have been performed in UBF are largely among Koreans who are culturally very different from people you find in the United States at large. I don’t buy the comparison. Nor do I buy the 95%. There are quite a few divorces that I know about and many that I don’t know about. To achieve 95% you would need 19 permanent marriages for every divorce. And just because a couple is still together today doesn’t mean that they will never get divorced.

    • Joe Schafer

      Some good discussion on Jesus Creed today about divorce statistics.


    • forestsfailyou

      I would very much like to agree that UBF marriages tend to last due to UBF, but honestly I believe if you adjusted for income and culture you would find little difference.

  8. “Where are all the healthy families? UBF’s short answer is all the couples (95% plus) that stayed together and never divorced, even if they left UBF.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/07/02/on-our-20th-anniversary/#comment-14330

    Ben, I used to use this defense on my priestlynation.com website. I can see now that this is such a lame, pathetic misdirection of an argument. Let’s think this through…

    If ubf leaders claim they have healthy families because they think there are only 5 divorces out of 100, then they have no idea what makes for a healthy family. The absence of divorce does not equate to healthy couples. That just means the couples stay together and says nothing about why. Perhaps they avoid divorce due to fear. Maybe they only stay together out of keeping face or because they are far too invested in the ubf lifestyle to back out.

    Why do couples marry in ubf through their arranged marriage process called marriage-by-faith? They marry each other because of obedience to the ubf authorities that put them together. And they marry because of loyalty to the ubf system. What are the vows of ubf couples? They don’t write vows. They answer “yes” to various questions about commitment to the ubf system.

    No one going through a ubf arranged marriage marries purely out of love for the other person. That has to develop after marriage. Sometimes, as in Beka’s case, divorce is the only option toward a healthy relationship.

    ubf couples need to wake up and talk about something other than feeding sheep, living on campus and serving one-to-one world campus mission in order to make their country a kingdom of priests and holy nation.

    If they don’t they may wake up one day to divorce papers.

  9. Here’s a topic for starters… Anyone out there have to bring your kid’s report cards to your chapter director for approval? If so, how did that make you feel? Why did you do it?

  10. Here’s another topic… anyone have a child who needs serious medical attention? If so, how did your ubf authority figures react? Did they tell you to just pray and keep going fishing? Did they demand you keep all your meetings while dealing with the medical issue? Did they give you the freedom to leave the ministry for several weeks in order to properly visit the doctors, etc?