My Mother

hIt seems like every other week in the comments I see people arguing about Samuel Lee. Some think the judgment is if he was a terrible, or the most terrible man who ever lived. Others think he might have had some redeeming qualities but overall he was a bad guy. Others present a stance that he was ok but made a few mistakes which people soon point out don’t matter because he was such a terrible person. A common topic I hear repeated about Dr. Samuel Lee is that he was a man who loved God but he was overbearing. To be clear I have never met Dr. Samuel Lee, I never met him and did not know who he was until several years after his death. His teachings live on through his disciples to varying degrees. I have heard he was the worst man who has ever and will ever live. I have heard is the best man who has ever and will ever live. Although I never met him he in many ways reminds me of my mother.

My mother Kathy adopted me in 2001. Her and her husband Norman believed they were called to caring for disadvantaged children after seeing a very poor child at the Illinois State Fair being mistreated by a parent. My brother and I were put into foster care after the state removed us from our mother’s care. At the time the state believed that our biological mother Cathy would never relinquish her parental rights. In 2001 she did and Kathy and Norman adopted us. From the start Kathy was overly protective of us. We had never had our mother advocate for us and if we complained even slightly about being mistreated Kathy our raise hell until things were fixed. She wanted to give us the very best life possible since the first decade of our lives were so miserable by comparison. She was very much a “tiger mom”. She pushed me to do the best I could and I was involved in all the activities I could be in at school. When we were younger this was great but as we got older things rapidly changed.

As I entered high school two significant things happened. First my father Norman died and nearly left us homeless. Secondly my brother began to get in all sorts of legal trouble involving drugs and suicide attempts. My mother felt as though I should become Danny’s father. Not literally, but she believed it was my place to discipline him. I was wise enough to see that such a course of action would destroy my relationship with my brother and declined. As she became more and more restrictive on Danny she refused to stop treating us as children. She became overly controlling. She tried to have me diagnosed as obsessive compulsive because I spent all day reading. She would not give me access to a car until I needed one for a job. She would not get me a cell phone until my brother opened an account on one she couldn’t close. She became controlling about my money; not allowing me access to my funds I earned from work because she felt I would spend it on ‘foolish things’. She would not allow us to grow up. In short because she loved us she was overbearing. People I spoke to could not understand. She became abusive, hitting me when I would not obey her commands. The summer before I went to college was the worst. I called the police on her multiple times. Once she took my wallet and would not return it to keep me at home. In another case she grabbed me and I pulled away and she began slapping me. She would go on to steal thousands from me in government benefits on the basis that I “did not know how to control my money wisely.”

When I went to college I was finally free. I loved my time in college and I soon realized that there was life beyond this life that had come to be so terrible. My childhood had been in poverty with absolute freedom. In my later teenage years I had money but was strictly controlled. In college I had food to eat and the freedom to come and go. Summers were the worst. Every summer she would charge me as much money as she could get away with for rent. One summer that was nearly two thousand dollars. These days I barely have a relationship with her. She has more or less disowned my brother and I and I could care less. The woman who saved me kept me in emotional and financial bondage for years. It is worse with my brother who she had labeled with a mental illness he does not have. He cannot get a drivers license. I know what slavery under the guise of help looks like. Any man, woman, or child who attempts to control me as such invites the wrath of a man who was forged in the fires of oppression.

As I start my graduate study next week I remember leaving for college and how excited I was to be free. “You… were called to be free.” I remember leaving my mother’s house to move to St. Louis and how she did not even wish me good luck or good bye. My point is this. I am sure to many of you Dr. Samuel Lee was a great man who saved you. I am sure to many of you he enslaved you. You can be both. My mother was, and I know that good intentions are the best reasons that people come under the yoke of tyranny.

Love that is conditioned on obedience is not love. For it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

27 comments

  1. Thanks so much, Forests, for sharing your story. Having met you I believe that God has been with you to help you, and has guided and led your life thus far. Ebenezer! (1 Sam 7:12)

    It is quite interesting that you equate SL with your adoptive mother.

    I practically literally met SL several times a week every week, several hours each time, for the last 22 years of his life from 1980 to 2002.

    I understand that he said some horrible things and made some horrible decisions (some of which I personally observed), which anyone who does a google search can find recorded online somewhere, most of which I have read.

    As a result, some people are quite angry and incensed because I state unashamedly that he was my friend and mentor.

    I see the good and the bad in SL. I believe that he loved Jesus and invested his life for Christ and the gospel, which was unfortunately confined mostly to the world of UBF (and not to the church universal). To put it bluntly, he was very much sectarian, which has shaped UBF to this very day.

    To shamefully plug my own post, I still think today that what I wrote about Lee over 3 years ago still stands: http://www.ubfriends.org/2011/01/03/why-samuel-lee-was-deified-and-demonized/

    It is so interesting that many Christians outside UBF think I wrote a fair and balanced article about SL, while some or many older UBF lifers regard it as “slamming my shepherd” and as “UBF bashing.” Go figure!

  2. I thought I perhaps need to qualify my statement: “I state unashamedly that (Lee) was my friend and mentor.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/08/17/my-mother/#comment-14866

    Though I regarded Lee as my friend who served me in many ways for which I am eternal thankful and grateful, I have to say that I was NOT a good friend in return. There were things he said and did that were not good, but I kept my mouth shut and did not speak up.

    I understand, as many of you do, that Lee did not create a culture of openness and transparency, nor did he welcome his authority ever being questioned or challenged. Nonetheless, on my part, I lacked b_lls to speak up and question some of the things that were said and done, which were unhealthy, if not unbiblical. All ubf leaders, I believe, including and especially myself, are guilty in this regard.

    Today, however, I believe the ubf culture is very gradually changing and moving toward one of greater equality, fairness, openness, transparency, dialogue and justice. It may not be moving as rapidly as many would hope, including myself. But as Carl Jung interestingly wrote, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.”

    Nonetheless, I sense that gradually more and more people are beginning to speak up and question the status quo, whereas in the past, like me, many were simply dead silent and totally fearful and afraid to speak up. Thank God for this gradual change.

    • So Carl Jung wrote, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.” But Jung wrote this in the context of accomplishing things and becoming mature. This is not our context. Our context is admittance of and repentance for manifest wrongdoings, guilt. In this context, there is no time to lose. This is obvious and the Bible explains in many different passages and verses.

      When we know we have done injustice, we need to hurry to repent and reconcile, since we do not know how much time we left. I really don’t understand why you keep twisting and blurring such simple Biblical truth and tell people that things must go slowly and gradual change without repentance and confession should be the acceptable way of dealing with sin in a Christian ministry.

      God does not want gradual change. He wants repentance of the heart. Just read Rev 2 and 3 – it does not talk about gradual change, it talks about one thing only, that is repentance. Confession and repentance both belong together. Where is the confession of guilt of UBF?

      The Bible says “If we confess our sins” not “if we change gradually” – “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Do not thank God for “gradual change” without clear confession because that’s not what God wants.

  3. I have no problem with your perspective on SL, Ben. Your perspective however is in the minority. It might seem like the majority opinion if you are surrounded by a lot of SL supporters. But the reality is different.

    SL was a man who forced you to be for or against him. There was no middle ground. His teachings are black and white, for and against, yin and yang, North and South type teachings.

    The majority of people feared him, due to his ability to instantly switch from laughing to severe rebuke in all seriousness. Most people could not share their honest feelings around him. Most people were like the people in this picture with another Korean man: bad timing photo.

    Sometimes, Ben, you remind me of the army general standing next to the family in that photo.

    • I should rephrase that: Sometimes the 1998-Ben reminds me of that army general! Now-a-days you might be the photographer taking that kind of picture!

    • I might have liked to be like the army general in 1998, but if I am the present photographer, knowing how I am, Kim Jong-Un would’ve had my head in no time!

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian wrote:

      “SL was a man who forced you to be for or against him. There was no middle ground. His teachings are black and white, for and against, yin and yang, North and South type teachings.”

      I have already shared my perspectives on SL and won’t rehash them here. Brian’s comment reminds me of a great little article on binary thinking, and how it can be the very opposite of faith.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/08/faith-is-messy-which-is-where-god-is-found/

  4. These are good points, forest.

    I know that you were hyperbolizing when you said people believe that Samuel Lee was either the worst or the best man on earth. I’m sure you agree that in reality nobody thinks so extreme. Personally, since I have studied many cults and abusive churches, I know that there were far worse church and cult leaders. There are also much larger groups and movements with much more influence, UBF is really only a small fringe group that should not be taken so important (it’s just of personal importance for me since I spent too many years there). Personally, I do not “demonize” Lee nor do I think other critics do. So I believe it’s not helpful to repeat such claims that Samuel Lee was the “worst” or “best” man on earth. We just say that he had done (inside his small pond UBF that he and his followers believed ot be the whole ocean) many horrible things in a position of authority and UBF should repent for allowing him to do these things over decades, covering it up or denying it, and even expelling people who started speaking about it. There should be clear admittance of guilt, particularly guilt of leadership in all of this, rehabilitation of former critics – because their criticism was valid and legitimate, renouncement from unbiblical doctrines amd cult-like practices, and repentance. Then reconciliation and change can and will happen.

  5. Yes, Joe, Brian it is very unfortunate that Lee did this and perpetuated strong dualistic binary sentiments, which exists to this day in UBF: “SL was a man who forced you to be for or against him.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/08/17/my-mother/#comment-14873 Sadly, with reference to UBF, this communication is not uncommon: “Are you in or are you out?”

    A very strong dualistic binary sentiment regarding this site by some may be something like this: “If you want to use your time well and serve God, don’t read UBFriends, which is full of negativity and criticism, and which discourages new Bible students and cause them to quite Bible study.” I can’t count how many times I have heard this articulated in various ways.

    Till a few years ago I did not realize how such binary thinking has produced some very unpleasant, condemning, narrow-minded, exclusive, elitist, and sectarian human beings, Christian or not.

    Enns article, quoting Rohr, is great. Thanks. Hopefully, more and more Christians may understand his opening paragraph:

    “As long as you can deal with life in universal abstractions, you can pretend that the usual binary way of thinking is true, but once you deal with a specific or concrete reality, it is always, without exception a mixture of darkness and light, death and life, good and bad, attractive and unattractive.”

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/08/faith-is-messy-which-is-where-god-is-found/#ixzz3AkXhb2vY

    • Joe Schafer

      UBF leaders have been able to create and live inside a protective bubble. They have insulated themselves from people who think differently from them, and especially from the people who have been negatively impacted and hurt by ubf. Their conferences, events and meetings still operate within that bubble. They want their sheep to stay inside the bubble (staying away from UBFriends) so that their “faith” won’t be damaged. But that kind of “faith”, as Rohr points out, is not an incarnational gospel faith. The gospel brings us out of our ideological bubbles into the messy but real world of real people, real relationships, real ambiguity and real conflict. Because that’s where Jesus is found.

      I will no longer enter their bubble to talk to them, because I have found it goes nowhere. The communication that needs to take place simply does not exist within their bubble. If they want to talk to me, they will have to step outside into the real world. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen. I predict they will continue to stay inside the bubble for as long as they possibly can.

    • I think I hear you, Joe. I personally totally dislike entering the “protective bubble,” which you so aptly put. But as much as I dislike and even abhor it, yet if I do not enter it at all, then no dialogue is ever possible, even if it seems to go nowhere.

      On my part, as a concession, I will attempt to enter the bubble on occasion (which at this point is on the terms of leadership), without caving in to the bubble’s demands and expectations. As you have already experienced innumerable times, this really feels like dying, since it never seems to go anywhere, at least not on the basis of my expectation.

    • I burst that bubble. It keeps forming again though…

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, you wrote: “yet if I do not enter it at all, then no dialogue is ever possible…”

      Interesting choice of words.

      Dialogue outside the bubble IS possible. But they refuse to do it. They refuse to talk about much of anything unless it is on their turf, on their terms, inside the narrow box defined and controlled by them.

    • Yes, at this juncture, it is controlled by “them”–don’t know what other word to use, since I don’t particularly like a we/them characterization. I do not see this changing anytime soon, barring a supernatural miracle. In a sense I am hanging in there and I’ll take what I can get. If it’s nothing, then it’s nothing. My life goes on either way.

  6. forestsfailyou
    forestsfailyou

    “If you want to use your time well and serve God, don’t read UBFriends, which is full of negativity and criticism, and which discourages new Bible students and cause them to quite Bible study.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/08/17/my-mother/#sthash.LbTbebOk.dpuf

    I haven’t heard this expressed. The first time I found this site I mentioned it to my pastor but he didn’t say anything for or against it, just that he would read the article I mentioned. I vividly remember someone else’s interaction though
    “Hey I found this article on a site called UBfriends about something called marriage by faith.”
    “Oh boy…”

    • Forests, I’m quite glad you’re never heard just how “horrible and ungodly” UBFriends is, and that ANY supporter or even participant of UBFriends simply CANNOT be trusted.

    • Hey forest, one question: You often write about “your pastor”. At first I didn’t understand that you were talking about UBF, because in my time nobody ever called UBF leaders like that. You would say “my shepherd” referring to your personal 1:1 teacher who could be a missionary or a native shepherd, or you would say “the servant of God” when referring to the chapter director. The word “pastor” was only used as a title to the European director Abraham Lee, since he allegedly had attended some obscure Bible seminary in Korea, and since he had no Ph.D. title, so he probably felt he needed to have some other title setting him apart from the ordinary missionaries. But really Abraham Lee was the only “pastor” and nobody would ever think of using the word in the context of UBF.

      Has this changed, and “pastor” is a usual term in UBF now, or is this only in your chapter, or your personal way of naming him? Also, if you say “my pastor”, do you mean the head of your congregation (which is the normal usage of the word) or do you mean your personal shepherd (since pastor = shepherd actually)?

    • I’m sure forests will chime in, but yes Chris there was a change a few years ago.

      The titles are now:

      -director automatically became “pastor”
      -fellowship leader automatically became “elder”
      -shepherd automatically became “bible teacher”

      Some of the “mother of prayer” or “abraham of faith” or “ancestor” or “shepherdess” titles seem to have been used much less frequently.

      This is an attempt to masquerade publicly as a Christian organization instead of addressing the cultic issues that are still present.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      To add to Brian’s comments, even the general director is referred to Pastor AK. I believe it was a couple years ago, a few senior missionaries from the west coast were ordained as pastors by HQ. After a visit from the GD in April this year, the director in our chapter is now referred to by many as Pastor.

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      Chris ever since I have been in UBF the director is called “pastor”. In springfield there is no use of titles. People sometimes refer to each other as “brother”- even calling John Lee the one who runs the chapter, brother. The director in St. Louis usually has the honoric “missionary” although I have heard him called “pastor” as well. It was explained that he likes missionary better but he has never told this to me, and I have never heard or seen a command to use titles in my chapter. The chapter is 90% missionaries over the age of 30 who use them though. I have never heard the term “fellowship leader” used. I have heard of “chicago elders” which makes sense since all of them probably have AARP cards. On the other hand I have heard and seen the title “shepherd” used only for college age students who are not second gens. But in order to have this title you must be a “bible teacher”.

      I really dislike the titles because it stratifies believers with an arbitrary standard that is not based in church tradition. I might be hypocritical, because I see no problem with Catholic titles, probably because the titles involve something beyond “doing what other people tell you to do”.

    • That’s interesting and very different from how it was in the time of Samuel Lee. I wonder how many chapters made such changes, or if it is limited to the US. Some chapters like Bonn UBF in Germany are still following the old style, I’m pretty sure.

  7. ““If you want to use your time well and serve God, don’t read UBFriends, which is full of negativity and criticism, and which discourages new Bible students and cause them to quite Bible study.” I can’t count how many times I have heard this articulated in various ways – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/08/17/my-mother/#comment-14873

    Cult red flag #1 – discouraging any non-group material or criticism of group thinking.

  8. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    A friend recently shared this lecture by Jacob Prasch, on the fundamentals of ecclesiology which reminded me of this article and it’s comments.

    http://youtu.be/7N9EsbMsD9k

    His teaching about accountability and plurality in church leadership resonated with me and present issues in UBF which leaders don’t seem willing to address, as mentioned above. He also speaks about institutional unity vs unity by the Spirit in movements that become denominations and show signs of moral decay due to lacking right apostolic teaching.

    • The lecture sounds great but it’s almost 2 hrs long! Can you (or someone else) give us a synopsis?

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Hi Ben, The “fundamentals” of ecclesiology are basically the apostles’ teaching. The lecture considers what is an accurate apostolic foundation, with the primary text being from the last verses of Acts 2. It’s well worth listening to the full lecture. The first hour covers preaching for repentance and baptism (both of water and the Spirit). The last 35 minutes or so is devoted to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. The parts about the apostles’ leadership which was based on accountability and plurality is in these last 35 minutes. Lacking the apostolic example of accountability and plurality, he says, leads to “heavy shepherding” as mentioned in Ezekiel 34, which produces leaders that exploit the people, and so on.

    • So everybody in UBF should take the time to watch this.

      Lack of accountability and plurality is indeed the major issue of unbiblical shepherding models and the root of most problems.

      In the past, UBF had only a single leader for each chapter, and a single general director. A board of elders or board of directors did not exist or existed only on paper, but never held directors accountable or made collective decisions.

      I also observed that the total lack of accountability of leaders always go hand in hand with a excess of demanded accountability of members. For instance, in our chapter members needed to give account of their 1:1 studies and fishing efforts every week. Sogam sharing sessions were another way of holding members accountable. The fact that the leaders did not share their sogams in these meetings shows how this imbalance. In a healthy group, everybody should be held accountable, but leaders more so than ordinary members, not the other way around.

    • I agree, Chris. Sorry for plugging my own posts (maybe I am not really sorry :-), but I addressed this very question over a year ago: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/05/23/are-ubf-chapter-directorsmissionaries-accountable/